PHLEARN MagazineHow Lucasz Waszak Captured This Cinematic Metro Scene

How Lucasz Waszak Captured This Cinematic Metro Scene

Street photography can be intimidating for a lot of new photographers, but it was the challenge of the genre that appealed to Polish photographer Lucasz Waszak shortly after visiting New York City in 2017.

Typically, Lucasz says, he takes advantage of warm weather by going on photo walks and looking for potential subjects. But with his eight-month-old son strapped to his chest in a baby-carrier while headed to a shoot in Warsaw, he decided to pop in to the Politechnika metro station to catch a ride, instead.

“I figured it would be easier to go one stop on a tube, not to waste my energy and time,” he says, adding that he had a different lens with him than what he generally uses for capturing scenes on the street. “I’d opted for a 35mm that day. My go-to is the 50mm, but I’ve been experimenting with 35mm a bit lately, and enjoyed being a step closer to my subjects.”

Although Lucasz admits he has no artistic background – he studied management and economics in university and is pursuing a career in the culinary industry – his interest in street photography has provided him with plenty of inspiration. And despite having different equipment than he is used to using in an underground setting, Lucasz found himself framing an eye-catching composition.

“I think this shot was somewhat inspired by two photographers, whom I’ve followed very closely since I started shooting,” he says. “Paola Franqui has been known to post a lot of hand shots, while Shane Taylor does a lot of fantastic work on the London tube. I guess, when you’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of images, these inspirations get stuck in your head and you just start noticing things like this.”

Camera & Settings

Nikon D810

36.3 MP FX-format CMOS sensor, 51-point AF system

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Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G

Aperture Range: f/1.4 to 16, Silent Wave Motor AF System

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Nikon 35mm f/1.8G

52.5mm (35mm Equivalent), Aperture Range: f/1.8 to f/22

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Shooting in a dark environment like the metro, Lucasz prefers using his 50mm wide open at f/1.4 and an ISO of 800 – but for this shot, he equipped his Nikon D810 with a Nikkor 35mm f/1.8. The result was Lucasz’s very first underground shot with the 35mm, shot in aperture priority at ISO 800.

“I don’t like the quality or the amount of vignetting when shooting the 35mm wide open; I usually stop it down to at least f/2,” he says. “The camera settled for a 1/100s shutter speed. Since I find that a little slow, I will never choose to go below ISO 1600 in a similar situation again. I guess these small errors sometimes result in something good, though, or simply just don’t matter – this still proved to be a fairly popular photo.”

Metering-wise, Lucasz takes advantage of Nikon’s highlight priority mode. By heavily underexposing to protect the highlights, he says he can achieve the cinematic effect he’s been drawn to recently.

“The shadow detail is, of course, far easier to recover than blown highlights,” he adds.

This results in a fairly comprehensive post-processing workflow, which Lucasz has been using for the last few months and has refined to a precise art. First, he says, he applies his own HSL preset in Photoshop, which drastically changes the hue and saturation of blue shades and punches up the reds.

“I desaturate the image as a whole, but make up for it with the vibrance slider,” he says. “I push the dehaze slider a little to the right, but will sometimes balance this with negative clarity.”

Correcting the exposure, Lucasz says, depends on the scene. He uses a medium contrast tone-curve, with blacks “crushed to around five percent,” and occasionally uses split-toning to replicate the look of vintage film and add some emotional depth to his images.

The final image, according to Lucasz, draws on the popularity of some typical “Instagram bait” like crossed hands and metro stations. The shot is cinematic, evocative, and intriguing – but Lucasz says he feels that, for a street photographer, it wasn’t challenging enough since he wasn’t facing the subject and the image could be recreated fairly easily.

“I think the best photos are the ones that can’t be easily replicated,” he says. “For example, my Movers photo, which is perhaps my first shot that got kind of popular, and might remain my best.”

Lucasz’s Instagram page is full of compelling street photography that offers a glimpse into his perspective on the world around him, and highlights his talent for capturing small, but beautiful, moments. His work can also be found on his website.

Jessi Gowan

Jessi Gowan is an award-winning writer and photographer who specializes in rural landscapes and fine art abstracts, with a focus on form and composition. Her photography has been included in a variety of publications, as well as in exhibitions in Canada and the United States.

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