It follows a pattern, every time: I am convinced that I have tried enough, that I have found the photographic technique I like the most. Then there comes another photographer who showcases great work done with [please fill in: a camera / lens / film type / film format / aspect ratio]. At first, I am just curious. Sentences like “Really nice, but that’s nothing for me.“ will cross my head. Then, doubts start to creep in: “Why not? What if I miss great fun?” This process culminates in panicking: “I am sure, they will stop producing film X any moment.” Or: “Camera Y has seen an enormous price increase during the last months. If I don’t buy one now, it will become unaffordable!” At this point, I typically place an order.
In this particular case, my inspiration originated from Jan Staller’s Frontier New York. His colorful 6×6 photographs of a dirty and dark 1980’s New York hit me hard. I felt spurred on to try the square format myself. A year ago, I had dealt with panoramic compositions – I enjoyed working with the width, and thinking about how to fill the frame. The square seemed to be the exact opposite. How can I compress a scenery to fit into the square?
From a Zenza to a Hasselblad Medium Format Camera
Initially, I bought a Zenza Bronica EC for my 6×6 adventure. The Zenza impressed me with its sophisticated detail solutions, an ingenious marvel. HOWEVER: It had serious focusing problems, I encountered a pronounced front focus. I suspected a mirror misalignment and/or deteriorated foam under the ground glass (a common issue with Zenzas). My attempts of a do-it-yourself repair failed, as the repair of professional camera service failed – twice! The wasted film frustrated me, the spoiled photographs even more. Enter Hasselblad. Confronted with this situation, I stumbled across a 500C in fine condition, offered by a dealer with a good reputation. Order placed.
Love, peace, and harmony with the Hasselblad? Definitely not in the first place: Although I generally mounted the camera on a tripod and used the mirror pre-release function, every photograph suffered from camera shake! Damn. As it turned out, the cable release was the culprit. The cable’s relatively stiff jacket transferred a light nudge onto the camera body each time I pressed the button. This resulted in further 24 – more or less – spoiled frames. Now I use a cheap and far more flimsy cable release I found in my dad’s boxes and got rid of the camera shake.
Still Work in Progress…
Unfortunately, after more than ten exposed rolls I’m still struggling with the focus, especially when shooting wide open. I got suspicious after a fair amount of my images had suffered from a minor back focus. The effect seemed to be just a tad too consistent to be random. On the other hand, I also obtained complete rolls without any issues.
I eventually contacted the dealer: He suspected increased humidity and temperature could cause the film to slightly bend itself (in the range of hundredths of a millimeter). The uneven film plane would result in a shifted focus plane. The Hasselblad medium format cameras should be further prone to this behavior due to their film magazines: They redirect the film strip two times what would literally torture the material. I’m not quite sure whether his explanation is accurate – and how to deal with this effect as it would be difficult to foresee. Maybe one of you can help?
Thank you very much for your support – and thanks for reading!