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Morten Qvale

“The H3D is the best camera I have ever worked with.”
Morten Qvale

“Beauty Lips” was shot with the H3DII-39 and 120mm macro lens. © Morten Qvale

“Elle” was shot with the H3DII-39 and 50-110mm lens. © Morten Qvale

“Synsam” was captured with the H3DII-39 and a 120mm macro lens. © Morten Qvale

High-End Solution for Fashion/Beauty
H3DII-50 Converts Long-time Film Shooter

Morten Qvale (www.mortenqvale.no), a top fashion, beauty, and art photographer based in Oslo, Norway, has been shooting professionally since 1986. With support from two full-time assistants, two post-production houses, and agents based in Paris and Milan, he creates his signature images for magazines, advertising agencies, and collectors of art photography. A Hasselblad film shooter for two decades, Qvale wasn’t captivated by digital technology. Then, in December 2006, he tried the 39-megapixel H3D. He hasn’t shot with film since.

I bought my first film camera in 1982 and started the fashion magazine Tique in 1983. I hired some of the best fashion photographers of that time - Bill King, Guy Bourdin, Terrance Donovan, Andre Rau, Knut Bry - which is how I learned to take pictures. I studied Ansel Adams’ black-and-white work for some time, which taught me about contrast and how to see a good picture. I have used Hasselblad film cameras since the mid-1980s, and scanned my images with an Imacon for years. When I finally tried the H3DII-39, I realized the incredible value digital technology could bring. I have used it exclusively now for my fashion, beauty, and landscape images for almost two years. 

Perfect Color, Fantastic Details
I recently tested the H3DII-50. It has the quality of a large-format camera and is almost as easy to handle as an SLR. Of all the camera’s features, the focus button on the back of the camera is my favorite. Phocus, the new software, is a lot faster than FlexColor, which we have used to make digital files as good as possible before working on them in Photoshop. We always “tif out” the files in 16 bit 400 dpi, with as much info in the file as possible. Sometimes I use three or four different files to get the best out of each - best hair, best skin, best texture, etc. - then put them into one file for finishing in Photoshop. 

The H3D combined with Phocus, or FlexColor, gives you almost perfect color and fantastic details. When I use a silver light, the sharpness is almost too good. The speed of the center shutter is fast enough to turn the sky dark when you use a flash outside. There is some noise in neutral gray colors and in specific fabrics, most of which can be removed in Photoshop. If I use one light on one side of a person, the dark side of the face can look a bit dirty, so I use a second light, which creates better skin tones. 

For my beauty pictures, I use the 120mm macro lens, which is very sharp and lets me get in very close. Clients are always impressed by the image quality and sharpness. For my fashion images, I use a 50-110mm zoom lens a lot, mostly at 60-70mm, because it gives the girls long legs. With a 50-110mm zoom lens, the H3DII-50 can become heavy, but with a normal lens and a good grip, it is very easy to handle. Hasselblad also makes a 65mm lens. 

In studio, I have started to shoot a lot with HMI lights again. The H3DII works well with these lights. On location, I use natural light with some reflectors or Profoto battery packs. 

On Assignment
The Elle fashion image was shot with the H3DII-39 and a 50-110mm lens in a large studio with HMI lights, the same lights that were used on the film Titanic. They filled the lights with helium and sent up as many as they needed to provide enough light for the scene. The ball was hanging in ropes, so we could move it around easily. The 8000 watts of tungsten light gave it a soft light, which I mixed with flash. I tried out different colors on the background with color gels and used different exposures to get the right amount of texture for the ball. It creates a nice soft light for the skin as well.

I captured “Beauty Lips,” an extreme close-up, with the H3D-39. The color quality is amazing, and with the highlights it looks great. I used the 120mm macro lens to get in close, lit the subject with a Broncolor beauty dish and a softbox, with no diffusion, at f/22 for 125 sec. I hand held the camera to get as good an angle as possible. I am quite strong, but shooting this way is tiring when you want 100 percent focus. I look forward to using the H3DII-50 for similar close-ups for even better skin tones.

The “Synsam” image, captured for Synsam, a chain of Scandinavian eyewear stores, features top model Siri Tollerød.  Shot in the studio, with the H3DII-39 and a 120mm macro lens, the image was lit with Arri and Dido lights. The main light is an Arri 12K HMI, Arri Sun 6Ks reflect light down onto the car through a Butterfly, a 2.5K HMI lights the car’s interior, and a 4K HMI lights the background. A 400K Dedo HMI lights the model’s glasses. The background image was added during post-production.

Whether I am shooting for large ad campaigns or magazine spreads, the H3DII-39 - and the new 50-megapixel - is the best camera I have ever used.

Meet Morten Qvale on location here

Text: Alice B. Miller