Getting the Hasselblad up and running

(This post has been sitting in on my notepad since Friday May 17, but I need to get it out so that I post the follow ups. You wouldn’t want to miss a chapter of this exiting story, would you?)

This weekend (May 18-19) I take my 1971 era Hasselblad 500 C/M – 80mm CF T* lens out for it’s inaugural shoot.

I’ve had a few set backs in getting this kit up and running, which, as I think about it, shouldn’t surprise me. When the camera came, I wanted to make sure I understood how to use it. There are three basics to Hasselblad operations:

1) It doesn’t shoot unless the “dark slide” has been removed.
2) You need to make sure the camera is wound/cocked before you do most stuff (like put the lens on and off).
3) The body red/white indicator and the back red/white indicator should match before you put the back on or off.

The camera is ordered in pieces – a body, a lens, a view finder, a film back (or magazine). Each piece can work, or not. Long story short, I went through two magazines from KEH (both rated E+), both with distinct operational problems and by now it is Friday afternoon and I really want to bring this camera out to Morro Bay this weekend.

I started calling local camera stores. Samy’s Camera in Los Angeles to the rescue. I came in with my camera. Mike, at the repair desk, confirmed that my magazines (film backs) were bad and brought me over to the sales desk where Sean showed me a nearly perfect 1990 magazine. Mike took back to the repair desk and checked it out thoroughly giving it a clean bill of health.

Tonight my Hasselblad is finally loaded with Kodak Ektar 100. I’m ready for some color landscape up in Morro Bay.

There’s something Medium in my future

Hasselblad 500CM

As my photography has gotten stronger over the past several years, I’ve become to appreciate how different camera systems impact my photographic approach and results. For most of the past year I’ve been concentrating on my street photography and shooting with micro-4/3rds system, the Olympus OM-D E-M5. Organized more like a ranger finder camera than an (d)SRL, the OMD is small and nimble and does not raise undue suspicion or attention when walking through the streets. At a pixel-peeping level, the image quality may not meet that of the current generation of large dSLRs, but not only is it more than adequate, is has a very pleasing look for street images.

Street photography in Cuba with the Olympus OM-D E-M5
Street photography in Cuba with the Olympus OM-D E-M5

My other camera, a Canon 5dmkII, though now a generation behind, was once the cat’s meow of dSLRs. It renders beautiful images but in my day-to-day photography has been relegated to nature photography like the flower macros I recently posted and this subtle image from Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley.

Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley taken with a Canon 5dmkII
Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley taken with a Canon 5dmkII

I don’t do a lot of landscape and nature photography, but when I do, I pick out intimate slices of the world to show. I fill the frame with trees and their leaves or other shapes and patterns. I’ve always been rather unsatisfied with the modern recipe of screwing on a wide-angle lens,  plopping and interesting object in the foreground, and shooting in HDR (ok, I’m being dramatic). I’m more drawn to the old-fashioned esthetics of showing a beautiful window into the world at the human “normal” field of view. With this approach, unless I chose very small slices of the landscape, the 35mm frame always seems too small.

Ironically enough, the 35mm system invented as a compromise format to create smaller more nimble cameras, is now being housed in giant behemoth bodies like the Canon 5d’s and DXs as well as the Nikon D4 and D800.

So after years of thinking about this and a week of careful consideration and intense research, I just pulled the trigger on a used Hasselblad 500 C/M – a model that was manufactured between 1970 and 1994. The camera shoots a 2-1/4″ (6cm) square format and takes 120 film.

Yes, you heard me right, *film*. And while I’m not exactly thrilled that using this format means going to a film-based system, I feel that this will be a necessary evil in my quest for my photographic vision to see what it is like to shoot in a larger format.

The camera arrives on Wednesday along with 5 rolls of B&W and 5 rolls of color film and I will get my opportunity to see if it lives up to its description on the front of the Hasselblad manual to “provide unlimited photographic scope” and will be capable of taking my “photography to inter, or outer space, and almost anywhere in between.”