Street Market Impressions

April 30, 2010

Thailand, 2010: This is one of the street markets in Bangkok where tourists can buy all kinds of clothes, souvenirs, furniture, art…basically everything! It’s a unique atmosphere, in dim light with stall after stall. It’s hot and humid and the people working here spend the whole day in a neon lit box, waiting for people to buy something. The atmosphere is rather peaceful though. Thais are not aggressive sellers and you can spend the whole day strolling through the market without being pulled inside all the time. In China I usually get claustrophobic after one hour.

I am surprised that it was possible to take images with my Hasselblad and a Fuji Provia400x slide film. Fortunately, neon light is a superb source of lighting for photography!

Here are the images:


bali beach encounter

May 15, 2009

Bali, April 2009
Bali 07

This image was taken during a week’s holiday in Bali in April 2009. The guy was one of our scuba-diving guides. Everyone was very cheerful and friendly. Bali is a wonderful place with friendly people and it is very easy to photograph.
The photograph was taken with a hasselblad 500cm and a 60mm wide angle lens on TMX400 film. I like the light you get at a beach. The sun is very bright but the indirect light is filtered by palm trees. The fact that the sand in Bali is (volcanic) black and therefor doesn’t reflect as much as white sand also contributes to the lighting conditions.

The overexposed sky first seemed to be a problem. Viewing the end result i find that it actually provides a nice white backdrop for the portrait.


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.

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.

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.
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…