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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

Photographer Profile: Peter Dawson

“Trust my instincts and creative voice, and keep it simple, positive and joyful.”

 

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When asked about the start of his career, Peter Dawson states:

“I was the designated family road trip photographer starting at around grade 4. My father handed me his manual Ricoh and showed me how to focus and read the internal light meter and I took it from there. We road tripped all over the West, and that is how I first learned to see natural light, and appreciate form and composition.  It also served to plant seeds of some of the more thematic aspects of my images: mystery, beauty, and wonder.

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Fast forwarding to my college years, I was originally a pre-med student in Seattle but always maintained photography as a hobby.  I was an avid hiker and snowboarder, so was constantly toting my camera to the mountains to photograph the landscape and outdoor lifestyle. After two years of studying science, I was burned out and decided to enroll at Brooks Institute of Photography for a change and to explore the more creative side of my make-up. I finished my degree in photography at Brooks and immediately pursued assisting opportunities in Los Angeles.  Before graduating I also Interned at an Ad Agency in LA with an Art Buyer, which was so valuable to see how photography is viewed from the buyer’s side, and the inner workings of an agency.

I was a horrible photo assistant! There were a few photographers who kept me on as a third assistant, but I just wasn’t handy enough with rigging, and all the different types of equipment that I hadn’t been exposed to yet.  I learned what I needed to about the industry (how an advertising shoot works, how the photographer interacts with everyone on set, etc.) and then started pursuing my own assignments.

I slowly gained a few editorial clients and music industry clients, then began showing my work at ad agencies.  Many Art Buyers loved my landscape photography and encouraged me to shoot cars as a natural fit for my aesthetic in the advertising world.  I followed their advice and developed a car and landscape portfolio, gained some editorial clients, and then moved into advertising.  I now have a diverse group of clients in advertising and editorial, shooting cars, people, and location-based conceptual work, and have representation with Anderson Hopkins in NYC.

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For me, I honestly can’t point to one moment. It has been a steady climb of very hard work, risk, generous help and interest from others, artistic development, and business skill development.  It’s truly a marathon, and each press of the shutter or hand-shake is another step. I still have much to learn and am excited to keep going!

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I learned much of the technical side of photography in school to where it is now second nature.  The greatest way I have found to learn technique is to simply look at a lot of photography.  Find aspects of an image that I am drawn to, dissect how it was made, and apply it to my own vision.

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My photo heroes actually aren’t photographers, but people in different disciplines who see the world in a unique way, and in a way that I connect with. Examples would be Terrence Malick, Sergio Leone, CS Lewis, Albert Bierstadt, Lewis and Clark, Henryck Gorecki, and many others.”

Like any career, the job has it’s ups and downs. Dawson discusses his favorite, and least favorite part of being a photographer.

“I was only half joking with a friend the other day when I said that being a photographer now means 14-hour days in front of a computer!

The freedom, exploration, and creative thought-life. And of course, the people I get to meet and interact with,” says Peter on his favorite aspect of photography.

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When asked why he chooses to shoot with a Hasselblad, Peter states:

“The file size and quality….Especially when shooting for my car clients, they frequently need to do extreme cropping to accommodate very different media layouts from a single page vertical to a billboard horizontal. The file quality and sharpness needs to hold through some pretty adventurous cropping!

I love the H-series lenses.  The 3.5 50mm is my go-to.  Many wide-angle lenses claim to be sharp edge-to-edge, but this is the best one I’ve found.

Long exposure capabilities: I’m frequently shooting long exposures for all kinds of reasons…low lighting, night images, motion blur for cars, rig shots of cars, light streaks, water blur in my landscapes, etc.  The image quality at long exposures is way better then any 35mm dslr, and this may seem small but i love it: easy mirror lock up, and the mirror stays up for sequences of exposures until you press for it to come down again.

The viewfinder is mind-blowing…somehow it looks better than real…it’s difficult to explain but for some reason it’s easier for me to pre-visualize the final image when looking through compared to other cameras.”

See more of Peter Dawson’s work at www.peterdawson.net

An Interview with broncolor Featured Photographer Elias Wessel

We caught up with Elias Wessel on a shoot this week.  Here’s what he had to say:

CK: How did you become a photographer?  Describe your career development?

EW: I would have to say that graffiti was the catalyst for my love of art. At the age of 16 meeting Sigmar Polke at his huge retrospective in Bonn, Germany made me even more interested in fine arts. Following that, I started to draw and then  had paintings exhibited about 2 years later.   Also during that time, my best friend, who I had a crush on, moved to London.    Our only source of communication was through mail. I wanted my mails to look good and make her feel special on top of what I wrote to her.   I created my own envelopes by cutting out my favorite pictures out of hundreds of magazines.   I collected thousands of tearsheets and still remember vividly pictures by David La Chapelle,  Guy Bourdin,  Jeff Koons and others who caught my breath.   Since then I have always wanted to be able to re-create these wonderful feelings that those pictures gave me and started to draw pictures and take photographs of everything I loved.

CK:  More specifically, was there one or more life changing moments that helped you move to the next level and become the photographer that you are now?  Perhaps a big break, a perfect mentor, a movie, a mystical moment?

EW:  What incredibly changed me and my work was the break up after 8 years with my former personal and professional friend and partner in 2008.   I had to start all over and ask myself what makes me unique as a photographer.   I figured the only possible answer can be:  Myself!   Beginning with my “Falling Up” story my work tells so much about me and that what makes it special.   However I am very often asked how I consider myself as a photographer and my style. There’s no straight answer which feels totally adequate to me.   You can say it is the way I play with time and freeze a moment or a motion.   V magazine recently published a selection of my work and wrote “When time stops, your pose had better be fierce”.   You can mention the saturated colors or the sort of magical realism.   It can be cheeky happiness,  subliminal concepts,  beauty or sensitiveness.   It always depends on the content of the story I am working on.   Those who know me can say it may be my personal experiences which are always somehow reflected in my photographs. I would say as everything changes and develops in life all this can change and develop from picture to picture as well.   There are moments every day which make me and my work more and more sophisticated.   You just have to be aware of them.

CK: How do you learn your techniques?

EW: Working at advertising agencies, design bureaus as well as assistant, production and studio manager made me understand the different parties who are involved in the process of creating photographs.   I know about their expectations, their thinking, their needs, their fears and about the whole process from the point of view of all participating sides.   Studying with a huge focus on theory helped me to achieve a general idea about any field of the arts, a basic knowledge about anything which deals with art, visual communication and its reception.   It can be a deep source for new ideas. Schooling didn’t really teach me about the technical side of photography or lighting.   That is something I learned by assisting and working in the fields of photography but even more by realizing one personal project after another.   It taught me how to create, communicate and realize ideas. And it can give you the time to experiment and to develop.   A while ago I met David La Chapelle here in New York and I remember how he reminded me how fortunate I can be of being able to do my own thing.   Even if it is not without a struggle.   Studying also taught me to get up and motivate myself every single day to work on my ideas because nobody really cared about what I did.   It can be dangerous depending of what kind of character you are but it also can teach you confidence in what you do and that you are the only one who is responsible for anything you do.

CK:  Who are your photo heroes? Or who has inspired your career?

EW:  There are so many.   It wouldn’t make sense to drop names.   Most of all I´m inspired by the reason why I´m doing this. I want to experience a feeling, that goes into bowels.   But I also want to create a transcendency so that this feeling reaches the viewer.   I also find very interesting the intersection between fashion and fine art photography and how to merge those genres. Typical fashion images focus on beauty and clothing as their central elements.   To me it is not fashion itself but the image that suppose to fascinate the viewer.   I believe that this is what appeals to clients who really care about being exclusive. At the end it all comes to the feeling you get from the picture you are looking at, not just the picture of the product.

CK: What is the worst part about doing what you do?

EW: If I could I would be out there taking pictures everyday. A huge part of photography deals with everything else than creating and taking pictures.

CK: What is the best part?

EW: All my works you see in this story have given me the most satisfaction because there are a lot of photographs that don’t make it. Every picture I’ve taken is from the past but it is the ones in the future that I’m looking forward to taking most.

Learning from the Pro

EW:  What are we going to shoot today?

“Falling Up”. A personal project which will be exhibited in New York and also be published as editorial. Falling is something involuntarily. Something threatening you get forced to.   In contrast “Up” is a synonym for success.   This aporia results out of the two contrary moving directions: Down = falling and Up = Up.   A conflict which was indissoluble at that current period of my life.   “Falling” as well as “Up” relate to my very private and professional areas of life which were strongly linked over 9 years.   “Falling Up” is based on personal experiences, thoughts, symbols and metaphors. Analogies to “Mary Poppins”, “Rumpelstiltskin” and the “Shock Headed Peter” finally allow to express my emotions as well as making a statement about the current art and fashion industry.  “Falling Up” is a modern fairy tale out of my personal past, present and future.

CK: How did you learn how to do what you are about to show us?

EW: It’s probably the same answer I gave when asking me how I learned my techniques. To sum it up in one word I would have to say it’s experience.

CK: What tools are you using to make this image?

EW:  503 CW Hasselblad with a Leaf Aptus II – 7 with lenses from 25mm to 150mm. SBI ParaFb 170, Pulsoflex 80×80, Verso A4 and A2, beauty dish and P70 reflector, 2 Pulso heads, Ringflash P, the sun, clouds as well as my heart and my brain.

CK: Why did you choose these tools?

EW: “Falling Up” was shot on location in Long Island City, New York with a great mix out of different set ups including day and night shots. So being flexible without sacrificing quality and to be able to control every situation on set
was my first priority.   I took advantage of the para 170 using it as a soft filling light. With the heads and reflectors I was able to adapt to every single situation, setting highlights, focus on different parts of the scene. The Verso allowed me to add crunch and a little magic at the best possible speed.

CK: Did you use competing products in the past? What made you change?

EW: I worked with pretty much all available lighting and camera equipment and used everything from 35mm to large format cameras – film and digital.   I’m in the lucky position that I got into photography by using film and digital equipment at the same time. The experience of working in the dark room, processing my own films, making my own contact sheets and prints help me to understand what happens in digital photography and post production. Same with the lighting gear.   I always like to test all equipment which might be of any interest.   Currently I prefer working with the 503CW Hasselblad and the Leaf Aptus II always in combination with broncolor lights.   It just works for me and gives me the consistency and flexibility I need. The decision of the equipment I use as well as the decision of shooting in studio or on location depends on the pictures I have in mind. Not the other way around. The cooperation with Bron Imaging Group is based on how I use my lighting which plays a big role in my work and gives it it’s consistency.   No matter if I have a huge set up of lights or just a bare bulb in combination with available light. It always defines the look of my pictures and bron recognizes this.   But this cooperation is more than that.   The guys from bron are part of my team, part of my photo-family and they care about my work and about photography just as much as I do.   That is what really matters to me.

ELIAS WESSEL
VISUAL ARTIST / PHOTOGRAPHER
www.eliaswessel.com