Nightmares from the Dream Machine

It has been a full week, but I thought that this week I would focus on the photography more and what is going on in my head about that. 

On Wednesday I took a full day workshop on the Hasselblad medium format system. Once a year Hasselblad rolls into town to give a workshop on their equipment and software, and I decided that this would be a great way to figure out if this is where I should take my professional aspirations. For anyone asking “What the heck is a Hasselblad?”: it is probably the camera responsible for most of the fashion, lifestyle and product photography you see on the printed page. It has a certain look to its files, and it carries a hefty fee to enter the club of users. In the days of film, it was the studio camera that all photographers hunched over and shot models/musicians/celebrities with. Think Austin Powers in his infamous photoshoot and you got it. Back then it was made in Sweden with Zeiss lenses, now it is made in a few countries and borrows on Fuji technology. 

The workshop taught me how to take the camera apart, put it back together, tether it to my laptop and then process the images. The file size was monstrous (70MB a photo…about 15 photos  on a 1GB card), but the clarity on the final samples was undeniable. During the break I was able to try out every lens they had on a 50 megapixel H3DII camera, and I must admit that I wanted one. The H Series 120mm Macro f4 lens was something to drool over with its close-up vision of the world, while their 80 mm f.28 kit lens was also quite special – but at $3,500 and $2,000 respectively they should be. Did I mention that the actual camera itself would set you back a princely $34,000 with a digital back and the 80mm lens. 

I wanted one, that is, until I tried to take pictures with it. We went outside in the lot to snap some images for about half an hour, and in that time I did not manage to get a single image that I felt looked like an image I would normally take; there was a lot of blur, bad exposure and weak framing.test hasselblad

Since then I have been wracking my brain to figure out what happened, and what I have decided is that I am not that photographer yet. It is never easy to admit when you just don’t have the right skill set yet to be able to use a machine properly. It is akin to being given a Lamborghini Gallardo after you get your learner’s permit: the drive is not going to be what you imagined it to be because you do not have the knowledge to control the machine. The Hasselblad is the Lamborghini of cameras and I had to accept that I can take much better photos with the Canon 1DmkIII – a Porsche Boxster, if you will. When I am ready, then I will know it, and I know that I will be ready soon. Until then, I may rent a Hasselblad for the next client, just to see how it works in a studio, on a tripod, with the Profoto lights. 

So where does that leave my other medium format camera: the Mamiya 645 afd? Last week I had a sales rep from Vistek come into the studio to do a full demo of the new Phase One 30 megapixel digital back. Basically,  Mamiya and Phase One are tandem companies now, so Phase One’s lenses and backs will fit on my camera body. Going this way would allow me to keep shooting black and white film like I did in Paris, while still being able to competitively shoot product and corporate work. Unfortunately, the sales rep showed up with a dead back. Not a great way to sell someone a $15,000 piece of equipment! I was quite disappointed, so I am reluctant to have him back next week. Can you blame me? Come on people, if you are going to make it in this world you gotta deliver and if not, then you had better keep trying and up the game.

Regardless of the digital situation with Vistek, I love the Mamiya’s black and white abilities with 120 film and will get some special images in Japan with it. 

So it’s back to the lab again. I am spending the next week learning to how use my lights in different situations, will customize the presets on my Canon and am thinking about the new “masks” project for portraiture for the Fall. Japan will undoubtedly open my mind up to a whole new edgy world, and it is the land of the camera people, so I can’t help but be inspired by the precision, the simplicity and the perfection of Tokyo. As well,  I am almost ready to produce the Chasing Light series. Unlike my large prints, I am going to do this as giclee prints on fine art paper, and I do think that these can be a solid way to get my work out there onto walls.


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