There are houses and then there are dream houses, and the recently completed Villa Chameleon, built in a prime setting overlooking the sea near Palma in Mallorca, most definitely falls into the latter category. Quite simply it’s a home to die for, an individually designed classic that combines state-of-the-art luxury with the very latest in high quality materials.
Photo: Benjamin Anthony Monn
More than half of the façade is made up of fine crystal glass, for example, which is lit to perfection by a sophisticated LED display. It’s where the name comes from: it’s a place that, quite literally, can change its appearance to suit the occasion, being transformed from a party-friendly fiery red to more sedate and less headache inducing pastel colours at the flick of a switch.
Even with his vast experience of photographing some of Europe’s most epic buildings, documenting Villa Chameleon was still a special assignment for architectural specialist Benjamin Antony Monn. Considered one of the world’s best photographers in this genre, he regularly is asked to record some amazing exteriors and interiors, and when a German client asked him to work his magic on one of the most unique building projects ever to have been completed in Mallorca he could hardly contain his excitement.
“I started out working with moving images,” says Benjamin, “but since 2003 I’ve been a professional photographer concentrating on the fields of architecture, interiors, reportage and portraits. Working in this area I’ve always had a requirement for quality and flexibility, and I’ve been a Hasselblad user virtually since I started out. One of my first medium format cameras was a Hasselblad 503CW that I’ve used for over ten years, and I moved into digital more than five years ago when I invested in an H3DII-39.
“Unless you’re climbing mountains or working out of a helicopter architectural photography is not particularly action packed, and so I have time to focus on the image, overall composition and details. I work primarily off a tripod and have more need for image quality than speed. A slightly larger and heavier camera, therefore, has never been a problem for me: what I need is a combination of excellent wide angle lenses and reliable gear, and the Hasselblad system provides me with both.”
Working with the H5D-60 and the 200MS
When the commission to photograph Villa Chameleon came through Benjamin realised that this was the perfect opportunity to try out the very latest Hasselblad digital model, the spectacular H5D-60 with its extra large sensor and the 200MS for unprecedented detail. Featuring a host of new features and a shape that’s been ergonomically designed to meet the needs of the modern professional, it was the perfect partner for a special shoot.
“My first impression was that I really liked the redesign and the new black and silver finish of the H5D,” says Benjamin.“For me the best features of the new camera were the ones that had the potential to support and speed up my workflow, so I was impressed by the quick access to 34 custom options with only two main buttons on the new digital back and, of course, the 100% zoom-in function, performed via a Custom Function button on the back, with full scroll feature using the rocker switch. This was one of the best features because it allowed me to check the sharpness of a file quickly and also share the image with a client on the back of the camera.”
Photo: Benjamin Anthony Monn
In terms of ergonomics, the reaction from Benjamin was similarly positive. “My hands are pretty big,” he says, “and I love the larger buttons that control the main functions. For me, however, the best part of the body redesign is that you can now take off the digital back without removing the viewfinder and also use it on a Technical camera. This equates to less risk of dust and one very happy photographer! I was also able to test out the new HCD 24mm and HTS tilt/shift adaptor while I was on the shoot, and it was the perfect lens for my interior photography.”
Benjamin’s amazing coverage of Villa Chameleon, which began as the sun first started to creep over the horizon, did ample justice to a building that is set to become an icon of this holiday island. An incredible setting and two awesome new digital Hasselblad cameras: quite a formidable combination!