Michael

March 30, 2009

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This is Michael, my friend’s Sharon son. I like this portrait for its subtle colors and intimate connection between subject and photographer. This is a bold look into the camera!

Taken with a Leica M6 and a 35mm lens on Kodak Gold 200.

the boxer

March 19, 2009

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Two weeks ago I was in Bangkok again. There was some free time so I decided to go to the area where I had stayed as a backpacker, back in 1992 (Yes, I am that old!). Strolling through the small alleys behind Kao San Road, I discovered a kickboxing hall where a foreigner was practicing with his Thai sparring partner. Lighting conditions were far from ideal and I only had my Leica with a 50mm lens. Not quite the stuff to take images of fast moving fighters.
However, a few shots came out quite nicely and reflect the dim and steamy atmosphere of the place quite well. Bangkok’s back alleys are fascinating, full of life and character.

Most of these shots I am converting into black & white. However, this one is doing great in color, too!

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After I wrote a short summary about the Leica M3 some months ago, this time I would like to introduce one more of my favorite cameras, the Hasselblad 500C/M which I have been using for a couple of years.
Again: This is not about technical questions or lens quality. Technical reviews are all over the web and I have to admit that I do not care very much about them. For me a camera is mostly about user friendliness, durability and the “look” of the images, while my favorite look can be quite contrary to the common perception of “quality”.

The Hasselblad is a 6×6 medium format film camara that has been around for many decades. The design of Hasselblad’s V-series cameras hasn’t changed very much since the 1930s. That’s why it doesn’t really matter if I talk about the 500C, the 500C/M, 501 CW or any others. They are all very similar. It’s basically a modular system. The corpus + mirror, the waist level viewfinder, film cassette, and the lens are all separate and can be disassembled very easily. Every part is exchangeable and can be bought seperately. This makes the hasselblad a truly professional camera.
The Hasselblad is mainly designed to be a studio camera. It is clunky and quite heavy, the mirror is loud and it works better with a tripod. Even though compared to today’s professional DSLRs I find that the weight seems to be rather moderate. I use it a lot on the street and during travels because I like the high image resolution and the fact that I don’t need to raise the camera to my eyes when taking pictures of people.
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What makes the Hasselblad special and in my view superior to other Medium Format systems is the quality of its viewfinder. Its waist level finder (especially with the accumate version) is the biggest and brightest that I know. Looking through that viewfinder is almost like a three dimensional experience. Together with the super sharp Zeiss lenses this produces christal clear images. This combination of sharp lenses with a very bright viewfinder makes the “Hassi” perfect for portrait photography, fashion, and (in my view) medium format street photography.
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Hasselblad cameras are widely available on the second hand market. Older models like the 500CM are not very expensive anymore and are often sold as a package version, together with lens ad film back. This is not necessarily the best option. I advise everybody not to buy an old mechanical camera without personal inspection. There is a lot that can be spoiled, especially in a Hasselblad that has the shutter in its lens and needs all mechanical connections to be perfectly working.
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Another weak point is the film back. I have struggled quite a lot with light leaks in “cheap” second hand film backs. This is particular annoying when you come back from a trip to Tibet only to find out that 70% of your output is spoiled. So I advise everybody to buy a new film back, even though it’s not cheap (at all!). The same applies for lenses!

The Hasselblad is not only a beautiful classic camera but also quite a bargain compared to a professional digital system. The handling is not easy in the beginning, but the results can be stunning. No wonder it was the medium format system of choice for many famous photographers incl. Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon etc etc etc…

Sam Abell; “The life of a Photograph”
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In January I stumbled over this book while trying out the photo art section of a book store in Singapore that I hadn’t been to in a long time.
Sam Abell’s book didn’t seem to be very impressive at the first glance. Color images about places in America, in a modern fashion, very subtle and without a lot of people. Usually not my peace of cake. I prefer images of people, characters that make me wonder about their lifes, how they feel, perceive the world etc.

Well I bought the book anyways. And after looking at the images for a few times, slowly the whole collection about ‘American Impressions’ started to make sense.
This book is not only about America but mainly about the dynamics of photographic images. The whole collection of photographs reveals how LOCATION, COLOUR, and first of all COMPOSITION actually make an image. Sam Abell’s photographs have a magic about them that is only revealed after looking at them a few times. They are well composed and thought through but at the same time natural, following the human’s way of looking at things. I recomend this book for anyone’s collection.

With US$ 26.00 this book has become an absolute bargain. It can be ordered here.