The Fine Art of Going DigitalDigital Capture
H3DII Eases Still Life Shooter’s Transition
Tommy Flynn (www.tommyflynnphoto.com/) is a Getty Images photographer whose food and nature photography has been showcased in museums and galleries worldwide. Inspired by Edward Weston’s plants and vegetables series from the late 1920-‘30s, and Irving Penn’s still life images, his photographs combine a fine-art aesthetic with a natural accessibility. His ongoing project, “Sliced Open,” surveys the delicious world of exotic fruits and vegetables. Among the companies that have purchased his work through Getty Images are Apple, Charles Schwab, Coca-Cola, Ernst & Young, IBM, and Ford Motor Company. At PhotoPlus Expo this past October, Flynn won a Hasselblad H3DII-31. He tells us how this good fortune has smoothed his transition to digital.
In 1976, I moved to New York City, where I freelanced as an assistant to many photographers, learning about studio photography and advertising. I became active in the New York Gallery scene, working as an assistant to Sol LeWitt, building open-cube painted wood sculptures and wall drawings. Before starting Tommy Flynn Productions in 2000, I worked with Chris Collins for 14 years as a still-life advertising photographer.
Throughout my career, I have loved shooting with a medium-format film camera. I tried shooting digital in 2006 with a Canon EOS 5D, but I wasn’t comfortable with the small format. Then I won an H3DII-31 in a Hasselblad drawing at PhotoPlus Expo in 2008 and my transition to digital was eased dramatically. I was invited to attend the Hasselblad University in New York City, where Jim Rooney, Hasselblad regional sales manager, presented the camera to me. The full-day University was a valuable hands-on workshop, where Paul Claesson, Eric Peterson, and their staff did a great job explaining the camera’s unique technology and Phocus software. I recommend the experience for every new Hasselblad owner.
These days, I think about all my work as fine art that can also be marketed in the world of stock photography. Shooting with a Hasselblad, I know my images will have the highest quality color and sharpness, which is critical especially for my gallery work. The files are huge compared to those from a DSLR, and incredibly sharp. Shooting with ISO 100 gives me noise-free images.
I enjoy shooting fresh fruits and vegetables. Nature is so perfect. I prefer to keep the backgrounds simple to allow the subject to be showcased alone in the frame. That’s why a black or white background works so well.
I captured the fine art images shown here in my Tribeca studio with the H3DII and an 80mm lens in January and February. All of the photos were shot with the camera synced to a Profoto acute 2R 1200 strobe pack mounted on a Bogen Manfrotto tripod and tethered to an Apple PowerMac G5 using FlexColor software. I exported the TIF files and worked on them in Adobe Photoshop CS4.
The “Bok Choy” photo was taken on white Plexiglas, using two Profoto heads.
The “Eggs” image was shot on black felt with a single Profoto head through a diffusion screen.
For the “Red Cabbage” image—part of my ongoing “Sliced Open” project—I used a Profoto ring light.
I'm still learning about the H3DII and love being able to control everything through the computer. One of my favorite features is Live Video, which lets me compose while looking at my monitor. I can operate the camera and see the image, check the focus, exposure, and lighting on my 24” Eizo Color Edge monitor.
My PowerMac is not Intel-based, so while it can run FlexColor, it can’t handle the new Phocus software. FlexColor has been enormously helpful. When I shoot tethered with the software, it’s easy to change F-stops and check the exposure. Although I have only used Phocus when working at other studios, I found that with the advanced toolbox I was able to set up a workflow that is comfortable and efficient. I also export files to Photoshop CS4 to work on them.
I've been working with a digital tech assistant for five months, who helps me get the most out of the H3DII’s features. From the beginning, I’ve been amazed at the sharpness of the files. The first 13"x19" prints I made on my Epson Stylus Pro 2200 with Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster had unbelievably vivid color. While my print sizes vary with each image, most have been in the 16”x20" range. Now with the Hasselblad, I’m planning to move up to 30”x 40". Berkshire Digital, which outputs my gallery work, makes even larger prints on a Canon ipf8000 printer on Moab by Legion’s Entrada Bright paper.
Shooting with the Hasselblad H3DII-31, I know the image quality will be astounding; the color, perfect; and the sharpness incredible—all of which make my clients very happy.
Text: Alice B. Miller