The Ultimate Camera for Ultimate Quality
In 2004, around the time Hasselblad and Imacon merged, I was in the market for a high-end digital camera system. As an advertising and entertainment photographer, I knew I had to be competitive, had to have cutting-edge technology.Clients expect professional photographers to have cameras that set them apart.
I’d always preferred medium-format digital for its quality, its larger pixel count, and ability to come close to or exceed what film is in quality. After testing a few brands, I chose the Hasselblad H1D for its quality, dependability, superior lenses, and top-of-the-line color engine. Flex-Color is the best color program I’ve ever worked with. It’s so easy to teach my assistants the program that I can have any of them work on it, rather than dedicating one tech to work on my color. And by using the Image Bank for real-time image storage, I’m able to keep shooting all day without having to stop, download, and clear the drive. The newest Image Bank is the lightest, smallest, fastest one yet. No question: Hasselblad is the Rolls Royce of photography.
Around this time I was asked by Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), to create a book that showcases the skill and professionalism of mixed-martial arts fighters. I wanted to help elevate ultimate fighting to a real sport, as well. He knew my photography work, and just as important, he knew that with my understanding and respect for the sport and its athletes, I would give them the fair treatment they deserve.
I began the Octagon book project with my Hasselblad H1D in 2004, moving on to the H2D and then the 31- and 39-megapixel H3DII in 2007. Octagon is an artistic documentation of the Ultimate Fighting Championships’ mixed-martial arts fighters, from UFC 40 through UFC 70. The project includes fourcolor portraits of each fighter before and after their grueling physical and mental matches in the Octagon competition ring; black-and-white close-ups; an action study; and coverage of UFC events in the Octagon.
I had all my Hasselblad lenses with me on every shoot, which gave me total flexibility and spontaneity in and around the ring. When I went to the locker room with my 39-megapixel H3DII, for example, to shoot the before and after images between each fight, I used the close up 120mm lens or the 50-110mm for even greater flexibility. Wanting to stay true to the subjects, the lighting we developed for the before and after shots was a globe light, since it was portable and mimicked locker room lighting. The images had amazing intensity, detail, and resolution.
I shot the black-and-white close up images with my 120mm lens. The critical resolution and stunning detail of the H3DII and lenses compound the power of these insightful portraits.
I used my 100mm lens to capture the fighters in motion in a controlled setting in the studio, with HMIs and strobes. I dragged the shutter to show the flow of movement from where it starts to where it ends.
For coverage in the Octagon itself, I would often start out shooting with a 120mm, change to a 50mm, then do a wide shot with a 28mm and 35mm to a get an entire audience of 19,000 people from a high angle. I had another camera with a 28mm or 35mm lens to capture the audience and the whole arena. And I’d have a third camera up in the nosebleed areas powered by a PocketWizard to show the whole arena.
For those who may not be familiar with the UFC or their athletes, mixed martial arts is a combination of many ancient sports, including boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai, kickboxing and Jui-Jitsu, which makes it a much more athletic, demanding sport. No boxer would ever survive in the Octagon with an overall fighter. Yes, it’s violent, but it’s a controlled violence. I put a harsh image right on the book cover to get it over with, so I could move on to the virtuosity of these fighter athletes.
Published this past December, Octagon is a limited edition, 400-page book with 800 images, measuring 21x27-inches and weighing in at 60 pounds. In January 2008, we had our first opening at Hamiltons Gallery in London and launched the book at the Setai Hotel during the Basel Art Fair in Miami. We also had high-impact front-window displays at Barnes & Noble in New York’s Chelsea store, in California’s Santa Monica location, and at The Grove in Los Angeles. For these shows, Studio P in Los Angeles produced 50x40-inch and 60x120-inch Chromagenic prints of the before-and-after shots, black-and-white close ups, and action shots. Their quality, sharpness, resolution, and color balance are astounding. Viewers kept asking me, ‘What camera do you use?’ and ‘How can you do this?’ Those blowups, along with viewer feedback, echoed what I had already discovered: investing in Hasselblad equipment had been an outstanding business decision.
Throughout this five-year project, my Hasselblad cameras have been user-friendly in every sense of the word, with quality that surpasses all competitors. To me, there’s no reason to try anything else.
Text: Alice B. Miller