Featured Photophile, our recurring series showcasing talented amateur photographers, is back with more photo inspiration for you. Today’s FP features a young photographer whose well-honed eye adroitly captures both the intimate detail and the larger feeling of some well-known European locales.
Kristian’s shots came to our attention via Instagram and the hashtag #featuredphotophile. If you’d like to chat with our readers about your photography philosophy and show some of your favorite photos, tag your shots so we can see them.
Hi there – please introduce yourself.
My name is Kristian Pankulych. I’m 23 years old, currently living in Prague, Czech Republic. Originally from Europe, I’ve lived in the US for most of my life, and now study and work in Europe. I love to read, travel, explore the outdoors, hang out with friends and family, and nerd out over my hobbies. In addition to photography, I also play guitar and record music. Thanks for featuring me on your website!
When did you start shooting? What’s your favorite camera, and why do you love it? What type of film do you use, and why?
I started shooting in earnest about three years ago, when I received a vintage Soviet Zorki 4K rangefinder as a birthday gift. I really enjoyed the challenge of learning how to use an all-manual camera, and understanding the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and film speed. Film offered a lot of creative possibilities and required a lot of attention and research on my part to get the results that I wanted. Over time, I acquired some more gear as I progressed, and my current go-to camera for 35mm is a Leica M4 with 35mm f2.8 Jupiter-12 lens [see our review here]. The Leica is just far more reliable than the Soviet rangefinders, but I love the look produced by Soviet glass, so I’m fairly happy with this setup. For medium format (and my overall favorite camera), I use a Pentacon Six with Zeiss Biometer 80mm f2.8. There are a lot of myths out there about this camera. Don’t believe them! Provided they are in good condition and recently serviced, they are really capable shooters, and the Zeiss lenses are legendary.
As far as film goes, my favorites are from Kodak. I tend to switch it up, but my favorite is Ektar 100 because the colors are so vivid and saturated, especially in good light. I like Portra 400 if I’m going for a more subdued and moody look in the fall and winter, and my absolute favorite for black-and-white is Tri-X 400. It has this timeless look to it that is instantly recognizable, and still looks good pushed to ISO 3200 (for those handheld night shots).
What are your favorite subjects, and why?
I love architecture and history, so Europe is the perfect place to explore these subjects, as it has so many different styles to offer from country to country. I typically like to capture a mood, or the essence of a place that I visit. It could be a small landmark or culturally significant detail that will make the viewer recognize, or at least have an idea of where it is. For example, living in Prague, I’ve tried to capture that famed, moody and mysterious “Kafkaesque” atmosphere in my night photography and black-and-white shots in the older parts of town.
Why do you shoot film? Do you also shoot digital? What do you think about the differences between film and digital?
I find the natural characteristics of film aesthetically pleasing, and how it varies depending on which type of film I use. I also like how it forces me to slow down and choose my moments and consider my composition more carefully. I used to shoot digital, but found myself editing my pictures too much and simply taking too many pictures. However, I think that if I went back now, I’d enjoy it more after what I’ve learned. Digital is definitely more convenient, and I think it’s great that people have been adapting legacy glass to digital cameras. Ultimately, it’s all about the look you’re going for and what you’re trying to achieve, as neither supersedes the other.
What is unique about your work?
I’m not sure if it stands out in a particular way. I think we all have a different perspective to offer, and what I may have seen when I shot a particular scene may be something completely different for someone else. Photography is something I do for myself, so I just shoot what satisfies me, and try to capture memories that are special to me.
How do you achieve your results?
It varies. If I’m out exploring somewhere new, I just go out and shoot. In such situations, simplicity is best, so I just follow the sunny 16 rule and try to be quick about it. I’m not a strict adherent to the rule though, I tend to err on over-exposure by a stop or two, and adjust by guesstimating the available light. I like the Leica for this very reason, adjusting the settings has become second nature and focusing is quick, easy, and accurate. When I’m shooting medium format, I tend to be more methodical and go out with a purpose. I might plan my shots out more and give them some more thought than I would otherwise. As a result, I sometimes inadvertently develop some sort of theme.
Where do you hope your photography goes from here?
I would like to get better at photographing people. I’ve seen some inspiring street photographers in action, but find it difficult to get shots of people in their environment without drawing too much attention. I’d also like to branch out into more portrait work, and I think film would be the perfect medium for this.
Do you have any advice for new photographers?
It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of gear, but I think it’s important not to lose sight of the real goal, and that is to create beautiful pictures. The cameras are just a means to do so. The other thing I would say is to try out different kinds of film, and eventually develop a preference for your favorite emulsions. Find a good film lab, and stick to it so that it’s easier to monitor the consistency of your results, as there are so many variables in film photography. This will allow you to more easily narrow down the look you’re going for.
See more of Kristian’s lovely photos via his Instagram.
Many thanks to Kristian for sharing his work with us. If you’d like to have your photos featured on CP, tag your photos with #featuredphotophile on any social media post, or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.