Motorcycles and Medium Format

It is through perseverance, determination and careful calculation that we come to see extraordinary results. Testing Hasselblad’s H4D-40 during the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas took my breath away. MotoGP makes up the premier class of riders developing prototype motorcycles around the world. These machines can exceed 200mph on a single straight! It is not the speed that has intrigued me though. Instead my research lies in the subtleties of the track design—sweeping curves, tight hairpins, and the occasional sudden drop in track elevation––where champions are challenged. I knew the Hasselblad would top out at 1/800s, a shutter speed that is slow in comparison to the modern DSLR. It would also pale in comparison to any DSLR’s capture; the H4D-40’s 1.1 frames per second may not be acceptable to some. Here I was still interested in the subtleties; top of the line sensor and camera software, unbelievable lens mechanics, and editing software that would make the most of the innovative technology. Capture Integration supported my pursuit and let me have a go at my first medium format test! Riding the edge I packed the H4D-40 and flew out to Texas with my partner, Bruce LaFollette, to meet with Dorna Sports S.L., international sports management, marketing and media company holding exclusive commercial and television rights for the FIM RoadRacing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGPTM). We were well prepared to record the fine balance of focused concentration contained in a single decisive moment.

Motorcycles and Medium Format - Kelly Hudak

Lingering in my mind was John Parker’s article on the H4D-40 at hassebladaerial.com. He is one of the top air-to-air photographers and had used the Hasselblad camera, hand held on assignment, photographing the Breitling Aerobatic and Jet Teams. His stunning images and positive attitude towards medium format action photography inspired me to move forward and try it out for myself. While visiting with Dorna Sports in the past five years, Bruce and I have been exploring the idea of large scale race images, integrated into sculptural installation works—site specific in nature—further connecting a MotoGP host city to the race circuit itself. We needed the H4D-40 to interpret the depth of the scene our eyes were experiencing; full of light, reflections, shadow and texture.

Since 2008, I have been using DSLR’s at MotoGP events in preparation for public sculpture works and installation art. At 21 mega pixels, I found the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III and 5D Mark II perfect for requirements in printing larger mock up concepts for future art spaces. I ended up collaging several DSLR captures into one and then printing the results on a translucent material that would be manipulated in such a way that the image took on an ethereal form. Somehow it wasn’t enough. I needed more than the 36 x 24mm sensor that my Canon provided to complete a monumental work. I dove into the Hasselblad sensor CCD at 33 x 44 carrying 40 mega pixels. I was not interested in how many images I could capture in one second, though auto-focus and exposure would prove to be an important consideration. I started to look over my exposure data from the last five years of captures at various races. I did use high shutter speeds for many compositions—surprisingly there were some great shots below 1/800s. I determined that I was within the limits to photograph MotoGP’s first visit to the Circuit of The Americas with the Hasselblad. I would later work out any anxieties I had over the auto-focus mechanism not being one of multi-point caliber! Practice is key. Larry Hansen, CEO of Hasselblad wished for the younger generations to see the value of medium format upon the H4D-40’s release in 2010—at this point he officially had my attention!

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Original article written by Kelly Hudak