Handholding Hasselblad (and notes on Tri-X 120)
The past two weeks I had the opportunity to try out two new things: to use my Hassy like a Leica and the combination of Tri-X and Rodinal (for the latter, I posted another thread). Some people might think that MF is too cumbersome and a reflex not as well suited for documentary as a rangefinder, but I can prove them wrong.
Last week, I was invited to the party of the nine year old twins of a good friend of mine (see my pictures of the Iconpainter) and brought my 501CM and 80 Planar loaded with Tri-X 320. It was great. The kids run around like crazy in and out of the house in the garden. They danced, played exhausting games (including Gameboys) and I had to chase them around or stand in a corner and wait. I metered the general ambience with my Gossen Sixtomat Digital and fiddled with the exposure as to keep the speed at least above 125 and the f-stop around 8. I got some slightly blurred shots indoors as I could have dropped to dangerous speed of 60 and some motion blur but nothing that ruined the images. It was mostly due to my not very trained focusing and the Hasselblad featuring a precise but slow focus wheel. I shot about seven 12 exposure films.
The 6x6 format is great. I really got into it and can’t think of going back to a rectangle save for a real panoramic frame. I don’t have any trouble with the square and instead I find compositing in it more natural to me.
Thursday 28 of October was Greece one of the two national holidays that feature parades throughout the country of schools, organizations (such as veterans and Red Cross) and the army. For the first time I took a camera to take shots and it was the same combination of 501CM/80 Planar/TriX-Rodinal. Not only I managed to get images that pleased me a lot (including of my brother and some friends) but the whole experience was very pleasing. The 80mm Planar was just fine for the job. I could have used a telephoto for some close ups of parading people and to blur the background in the portraits but not really important. I only shot my brother parading anyway. The square was again just amazing. My Hassy made me feel special too as I must have been the only one with a film camera along all the digital pros and compacts in the crowd. Without really wanting to sound racist, I felt a bit superior too! ;-) I shot five films and almost each frame is a gem. Not a problem to load film or navigate in crowd. I did not miss not a single focus this time. Yeah! I’m getting good!
In both cases, I used a metallic L bracket with my left hand from an unknown company that my father used to hold the flash on his Nikon F. It made the hold of the 501CM more secure but made rapid winding more difficult. It is not really needed but gave me a touch of security inside the crowds. I also hang the camera with the neck strap.
I wish there was a leather “dress” for the Hassy like I have for my Nikon F that protects a bit the camera and the lens without needing a whole case that slows you down.
Note: I encountered on the street an old photographer with a battered Leica R3 who asked me how can I carry this “beast” on the street. I told him it is just a matter of habit and he replied that he considers Hasselblads and Leicas as the best cameras. Unfortunately, I also met the Iconpainter with his sons who scared the old Leica guy away with his temper!
Notes on Tri-X 120:
- Great images. I love its tones with Rodinal.
- Quite fog-proof against a sunny day.
- The spool has only a single notch for the film compartment catch and that makes loading more slow and difficult compared to other cross-notched spools.
- The sticking paper strip has to be uncovered under more than a little paper which slows you down and can be scary (of fogging the film).
- I developed the films soon after the parade and they were a pain in the ass curly and resistant to loading the tank spools. The ones of the party were left untouched a few days. Maybe that “softens” them?
I include some samples of the parade.
Real photographs, created in camera, 100% organic,
no digital additives and shit
Arigram, thank you very much for all the info!
I also have a Hasselblad 501c/m with 80mm planar. Any tips on getting the focusing right at various f-stops would be most appreciated!!!
Looks like you're off to a good start!
Rollfilm cameras were designed to be handheld. If you look at period photo guides, they are often called "hand cameras" as opposed to "tripod cameras" like view cameras. Of course one always gets sharper results with a tripod, but at the expense of mobility, which may be necessary for certain kinds of photography.
One thing to think about when shooting in this mode is that with the waist-level finder, you're always looking up the subject's nose. Sometimes this can be effective, like in the photograph of the officer in the uniform, and other times it's just an artifact of the way the finder is made. Flipping up the magnifier or using a chimney finder gets you up to chest level, and other options like a sportsfinder or prism get you to eye level. If I'm going to be shooting candids of people, I often use a prism for this reason, or if I'm using the waist level finder (which is lighter and more compact), I'll pay a little more attention to where I'm holding the camera.
Film loading will get quicker with practice.
I have the CW Winder with my 503CW. It is shaped ergonomicaly and feels very, very comfortable in my hands. If I combine that with the 6093T Flash Grip and the PME45, I swear I can shoot handheld at an 8th of a second! Alright, maybe not an eighth, but it feels very, very comfortable and solid. Like the cameras you'd see in the old B&W movies held by the newspaper photographers. The ones with the big flash bulb that were held with two hands.
I use my Blad handheld all the time for street shooting. Generally I use a 50mm lens and work with hyper-focal distances as much as possible so I don't have to always stop and focus.
Good on you. Keep it up.
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Hi Eric, would you mind explaining how best to focus with the Hassie? May seem like a silly question...
Originally Posted by EricR
Hyper focussing is a good technique. I too use it a lot depending on the image I want to capture. With my 40mm for example at f16 on a sunny day, I pretty much don't have to focus at all! What I often do though is set the infinity marker just before the f16 mark to ensure I get it all in focus.
I have shot a huge number of weddings with a handheld 500CM and an 80 or 50mm.
For one thing I used the HAsselblad speed focusing ring which is a big help in focussing quickly.
On the Hasselblad lenses there is a depth of field scale. If you are working in a certain size room mentally play with the distances in your mind that your f stops will give you and even if you can't always focus fast enough at least your depth of field will look after you.
Outdoors learn what ten, fifteen, twenty thirty, feet look like and it helps to know what is a safe place to put the f stop if you need shots in a hurry.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
The beauty of the square format is that you don't have to look down in the waistlevel finder. If I want an eye level perspective I just turn it sideways, or if I want to shoot down on something I turn it upside down and hold it over your head. It looks a little strange but works for me
Thanks Michael. Is there a DOF chart for the Hassie anywhere to attach to my camera? Otherwise I'll make one up.
Originally Posted by blansky