Learning any skill is difficult, but unlearning old habits so as to improve upon one’s technique is supremely frustrating. Case in point: learning how to shoot food with my Hasselblad CFV 16 digital format back. I love this new piece of used gear. It feels solid, the files have a completely different look than my other work, and it allows me to use all of my Hasselblad V lenses without an adapter. The problems arise however when I try to use dslr technique (multiple exposures, low light, shallow depth of field) or film technique (big shot wide, fast shutter speed) while shooting with the medium format digital back. Try these tricks with the CFV and you might as well try to draw the photograph with a crayon. Get your technique down, and the machine is brilliant. Tonight I decided to work on technique while baking a rhubarb pie from scratch.
Medium format has a much more shallow depth of field than a dslr. It is a sliver really, and since I had been using a V lens to Canon body, the image circle tended to only show the focal sharp area. Do not get me wrong, the bokeh (blur) is gorgeous and artistic, but getting the focus to where I want it to go is a challenge. The next challenge is actually getting in close enough for the lenses to focus or to get back far enough. Without lights being set-up I need to use my 80mm f.2.8 just so that I can get an exposure at 1 second with 100 ISO. The 80mm still shoots pretty wide, so then I need to add either a 16E or 32E macro extender…then I am too far away. Basically I need to relearn what the lenses do, which is kind of fun, but also a nightmare if I need to do a paying session before I can visual each focal length.
Colour. Colours. Arrgghh. I need to shoot with a ColorRite target if I want my white balance to be accurate. Simple. Stupid. Simple. When I shoot for clients I always use the target to ensure that I can get accurate colours if they need them, but lately for the blog I have just shot with the iPhone or my Canon. Worst case scenario and I might tweak the shots in ColorFX Pro to give them a pleasing color cast. Good luck with the CFV files.
The good news is that these are all techniques that I can improve. Each of these areas will be what makes me a unique, masterful photographer which is my life goal. I am not in this business to be uber-cool and shoot the Pepsi ad campaign, to cover of Vogue or even for Martha Stewart; I want to create a personal art style that expresses how I see the world while still delivering a compelling visual product. Lighting with the Profoto D1s should help exponentially. With a simple, proper set-up like I normally do I should be able to transform the inaccurate, fuzzy shots from above into the sharp, colourful image below which I shot with the SWC and the same back in the midday sun off tripod with not focusing at all. The blue is like an ocean, the lines of the buildings are crisp, and the image knocks you down ever though it is nothing special.
What does the final pie look like? I am waiting for it to bake, but then I will shoot the rhubarb pie with Profoto lights, a 120mm lens, a ColorChecker passport and at a reasonable f.8 aperture. Given that I have been working on getting my mom’s pie crust recipe right for 20 years, it only seems reasonable that it will take a few weeks to get the Hasselblad CFV 16 up to spec and running perfectly. The final pie shot will be added in a few minutes when I update the blog post. Until then…dream of Rhubarb Pie.
Okay…I am getting closer. I used one Profoto D1 light overhead with a beauty dish. The aperture went from f.4 to f.8, but I forgot to take a grey card reading (or light meter for that matter). Would I be happy with that photo? Actually, yes. The framing is an issue because what I see in the viewfinder is not the framing of the sensor so I am not sure where the crops occur. While I can shoot loose and then crop without issue due to the sensor resolution, I will probably pick up a new focusing screen at BH Photo in NYC next month that has the screen crops engraved on it already. Plus, in a real situation I will be shooting the CFV tethered to the MacBook Pro. What I can tell you is that the smells of three rhubarb pies baking in my studio is going to send me to sleep easily tonight, but with a bit of desire for pie in the early morning.