Luigi Fieni

Fine Art | Last Updated: October 8, 2021

Hi everyone! My name is Luigi Fieni and I was very lucky when at the age of 25 I left Italy and started a prestigious project of restoring 15th-century wall paintings in Tibetan monasteries in the Himalaya.

I never cared about photography until I was forced to buy a DSLR (a Nikon D70 because I could not afford anything better) to document the conservation work in Nepal when I became in charge of the project in 2004. Well, life at times plays strange tricks to show you the way…

So, when some of my first shots with that camera got published in a National Geographic book, I started looking differently at photography. I thought maybe I had underestimated that gift.

Since I was spending more than 6 months a year in the Himalaya I didn’t have time to properly study photography, so I bought some books and studied them by candlelight after my work hours. Having a digital camera definitely helped to learn faster, but since I was intrigued by film cameras I was shooting a lot with an old Nikon F3 and a Mamiya RZ 67 PRO II.

I then started photographing humanitarian projects for the same foundation sponsoring the conservation project I was involved with. I used to go around Nepal doing reportage when I was not working in conservation and I slowly got the self-confidence to organise my first exhibitions and work with different clients.

At the same time, I was attracted by the different genres of photography, especially landscape, given that I had the luxury of working around the Nepalese Himalaya, roaming by horse, and to see places far off the beaten track.

The potential creativity in photography just hooked me up and I slowly wanted to try as many genres as possible, so I ended up working as a Fine Art photographer for galleries as well as doing reportage, shooting flowers and models according to my clients’ needs.

My camera equipment got upgraded and evolved over time. I’ve been a Nikon and Mamiya shooter since I got into photography but then I got lured into the mirrorless world and in 2017 I switched systems and entered the Sony realm.

My camera bag setup changes a lot according to where I am going and what I am going to shoot. For my landscape photography, I usually travel with an HPRC 3500C camera bag with cubed foam, but when I need more space I travel with a Bumblebee-PL-220 for my camera gear and an HPRC 2550CW for my flash and strobes gear.

My current setup is a Sony A7R III with Sony VG-C3EM hand grip and a few extra batteries. I actually never cared about the size and lightness of the mirrorless system. What I love about any high-resolution mirrorless system is the advantage of shooting more effectively in low light given the absence of the mirror.

One more advantage I love is the lack of micro-AF tuning. It used to be a waste of time to fine-tune the lenses in my past DSLR to get the best results from each lens (when you were shooting primes, otherwise you had to compromise when using zooms). With a mirrorless, your lens is either sharp when you buy it or just forget about it. And the EVF of course: it was a kind of revelation to be able to see the outcome of a photo before taking it.

Even though Sony is famous for its Eye-AF feature, which is definitely a godsend when shooting portraits and models, what I loved the most out of my mirrorless was working with manual lenses, which were in fact the first lenses I bought when I made the switch. Having the chance to magnify the subject in the viewfinder while focusing would secure critical focus all the time.

Laowa 15mm f/2 Zero-D: This is a great manual lens, wonderful for very wide landscape shots but useful for shooting close-ups as well. Given the 15cm MFD, you can focus so close that the lens hood can actually shade your subject. And it is a joy to see a beautiful Bokeh in an ultra-wide angle!

Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8: Only manual focusing, this is my standard for landscape photography right now. This lens is extremely sharp wide open and has a wonderful micro-contrast that gives each photo the right punch. No need for post-processing when using this lens.

Sony 24mm f/1.4 GM: This is my to-go lens when I’m working on reportage or photographing for humanitarian projects. Super sharp already at f/1.4, the autofocus is very fast and you rarely miss a shot.

Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2: Only manual focusing, this is my all-round lens and I use it for landscape, reportage and environmental portraiture as well. It has a lot of character wide open and it becomes tack sharp stopped down.

Sony-Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4: This is my reportage lens when I need dreamy environmental portraits. It is simply an incredible lens, super sharp already at 1.4 and it gives each photo a very special rendering.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM: This is probably THE lens for portraiture, and I use it as such – for shooting people. To use this lens is a real joy, and each photo is the perfect balance between great sharpness and beautiful rendering.

Sony 100mm f/2.8: this is a lens I use either for shooting flowers, given the near-macro capabilities, and for portraiture. The apodization filter gives a very particular bokeh rendering and it really helps the subject to stand out. It is the sharpest lens I have ever used, and you need to be careful when shooting people because you get every imperfection of the skin enhanced and well in evidence.

For my long exposure work, I also use a Nisi V6 filter holder with landscape CPL, a 6 and a 12 stops Haida Red Diamond square ND filters, a Haida Nano Pro MC Clear Night filter and a set of soft and hard grad ND filters from Lee Filters.

As for tripods, I always travel with my very old and still sturdy Manfrotto 055 with a Manfrotto 410 3-way head. When I want to travel very light, I just go with a Rollei Tripod Compact Traveler Mini M-1.

For my portraiture work, I like to work with a Godox AD200 and a small TT350S synced through the XPro-S TTL Wireless Flash Trigger, a Godox SB-FW6060 and a Rollei Profi Octabox 100. I use diffusers and reflectors as well because I like to mix natural and artificial light when doing portraiture.

…But even if I got caught up by the digital revolution, I still love shooting film with my old medium format Mamiya. | @luigifieni

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