As a travel photographer, Laura Saffioti often finds herself in exotic countries like India, searching for the stories of the street. Her shots of street life transport the viewer into the everyday life of cultures foreign to Europeans, placing the European value system in a new light. The performance of ZEISS lenses is vital to Saffioti’s work.
Saffioti’s favorite picture is the image that came 8th in the Carl Zeiss Photo Contest 2012 that had the theme “The moment that knows no limits.” It is also the picture that shows best how ZEISS lenses support Saffioti’s photography.
The picture of the man pulling a loaded cart was taken with the Makro-Planar T* 2/50 from a moving tuk-tuk in the city of Maduai, India. The exertion from pulling the cart through the street traffic is written on the man’s face and we can see quite clearly his pearls of sweat. Through the use of f/3.5 the man is detached from his background, while the bus in the background appears in a pleasant bokeh, helping to keep the viewer’s attention focused on the man. The motif was captured in movement, and the optical performance and fast handling of the Makro-Planar made the image possible.
To create such an image the photographer must act quickly, which is why Saffioti appreciates the len’s reliable and fast focusing. When working with her ZEISS lenses, she uses the autofocus help function in the viewfinder rather than live view so she can work quicker.
Saffioti likes the excellent color rendition you get with the Makro-Planar T* 2/50, shown to excellent effect in her photo depicting two women building houses with holy sand from the River Ganges. According to the Indian faith, everything modeled with the holy sand of the Ganges becomes reality in the future. The image was taken at the festival Kumbh Mela, India with a 5D MK III.
With the same equipment and again at the biggest Hindu festival Kumbh Mela, Saffioti took the picture of a street hairdresser. Remarkable in this image is the sharpness of the hands and the pores on the head. Saffioti chose a short exposure time in order to reveal the quickness of the hairdresser’s right hand. The black-and-white photography serves as a stylistic element here in order to keep the viewer focused on essential details where color might have shifted the attention away from them.
The image of children at the water pump was taken at six in the morning at Kumbh Mela with a ZEISS Planar T* 2/50 ZM. The early morning light meant that very good contrast and focusing were required across the entire image width.
The image of the woman and the elephant comes from the Minakshi Temple in Mandurai. Fascinating is the 3D effect of the small bells around the elephant’s neck. Saffioti again used a 5D MK III and the ZEISS Makro-Planar T* 2/50.
The street scene with the burning garbage was taken in the city Kochi at eight in the morning. The smoke from the open fire creates an unusual, almost mystical atmosphere.
We put three questions to the photographer:
What are your favorite lighting conditions for taking photos, and why?
I don’t like bright sunlight. I prefer a diffuse light. With sunlight I can’t create an atmosphere with the light. I like the morning dew, the setting sun and rainy weather with wet, glistening streets. The latest lighting situation that I have discovered is night and the very early hours of the morning. In these situations the light has a very special charm.
Which settings do you prefer?
Working with an open aperture is an important part of my work. I like using f/2 in order to detach the motif from the background. Despite the use of a wide-open aperture, I look for a convincing focus and plasticity in the focal plane. In order to take advantage of the full performance of the camera system, I only photograph in RAW. With JPGs you have too much loss of quality. For me, fast lenses are more important than the high ISO values of a camera system because the ISO quality loss with high ISO values is often more decisive than the loss of quality with an open lens.
What do you consider the most important differences between a ZEISS lens and the lenses of other manufacturers?
The single most important difference is the performance with a wide-open aperture. I also have the top lenses from other manufacturers. But the color rendition, contrast and sharpness at f/2 from the products of other companies have not been convincing. The quality of workmanship of ZEISS lenses is many classes better than that of the “plastic” competition. I had to really struggle with whether I should use an MF lens for my ‘fast’ photography. In the end the difference in image quality made me decide on ZEISS lenses.