Congratulations to our Top Pic of the Week, Filippo Nenna! Fil specializes in portrait and cityscape photography in which he uses a mixture of digital and film cameras. He captured these photos in the state where everything is bigger: Texas! Read on to learn more about the production of these digital and film photos. 


I’m a geologist, and I’ve used cameras to capture wide landscapes and close-ups of rock formations for research since the early 2000’s. Science and the arts are not mutually exclusive. I still shoot digital, but I got interested in film for my personal work because it is either more affordable than equivalent digital systems (medium format) or can do things digital can’t (tilt-shift with any lens on large format cameras, stereo cameras, pocketable “full frame” cameras).


Portrait of Julia, a classical singer in Houston

This was shot in a narrow hallway with a speedlite in a 24” softbox and a collapsable black background. I focus the camera slowly so the subject gets bored or impatient and that’s when I release the shutter. Everyone, and I mean everyone, loves having their picture taken with an old Hasselblad.

Location:  Houston, Texas

Camera Used:  Hasselblad 500cm

Lens Used:  Zeiss Sonnar 150mm f/4

The square windows of the district courthouse

Simple geometry and shadows. Knowing when the shadows would fall across the windows was the key to this picture - and I used a heavy keystone correction in lightroom to make this upwards shot  look like it was taken straight on. The Rollei 35s is my everyday camera because it is so small. I get a lot of keepers with it.

Location:  Downtown Houston

Camera Used:  Rollei 35s

Lens Used:  Built-in Sonnar 40mm f/2.8

The Gus Wortham Fountain at night


The bayous of Houston are great places for photography. This shot was from an after-dark stroll with a large format camera. A one minute exposure makes the fountain look like it is in a cloud of cool mist - and a cool mist would be welcomed when your under a focusing cloth in Houston’s summer heat.

Location: Buffalo Bayou, Houston

Camera Used:   Intrepid 4x5

Lens Used:  Rodenstock 210mm f/5.6

Lightning over the city

 I must have taken 50 fifteen-second exposures to capture this bolt of lightning striking behind the skyscrapers. It was the perfect situation of having a heavy storm in the distance, but almost no rain from the vantage point.

Location:  Downtown Houston

Camera Used:  Canon T3i

Lens Used:  Canon 20mm  f/2.8


I ‘scan’ black and white negatives using a DSLR and a light table. The images are inverted to positive in Lightroom and tailored like my digital images from there. The blacks slider is my most used tool in Lightroom.

Many of my photographs are dark and moody. Quite often my cityscape work is purposefully two-dimensional to reflect the sheets of materials used to build three-dimensional spaces.

Like with physical activity, you need to warm up before you can perform your best. People need to hear the shutter fire a bunch of times to forget the camera is there. With cityscapes, getting the cliche shots out of the way allows you to explore for what no-one else has found. When the camera is out of the way photography can begin.

My hunt for inspiration was often erratic and unfruitful, so I have tried to focus my search using some advice from Da Vinci. He wrote in his notebook, ‘it is better to imitate the antique, than modern work’. This is working out pretty well. I get lighting inspiration from renaissance artists like Caravaggio, composition technique from graphic design fundamentals, and posing inspiration from body language books. Ideas from these sources can be a point of departure for experimentation.

Your style already exists as a sum of all your experiences up to this point - it is a function of where you have been and where you want to be. Your personality is your style. Give it some time to work its way to your camera.

Thank you, Fil, for allowing us to share these photos! Check out more of his photography on his website and on Instagram  at @filnenna.

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