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Ron Kimball

"The first time I saw one of my H3D final images I was blown away." 
Ron Kimball, Photographer

Blastolene Head on: This head-on image of the “Blastolene B-702” was shot with the H3D-39 and 50-110mm zoom lens at 110mm © Ron Kimball

The Great One: This head-on image of an African elephant, was photographed at John Madden’s studio for stock © Ron Kimball

Taking Flight: Kimball captured this Eurasian Owl image, “Taking Flight,” for the Harry Potter movies; final images exceeded eight-feet tall © Ron Kimball

World-Class Animal and Auto Collection 
Captured and Transformed by Hasselblad

Kimball Stock is a rights-managed animal and automotive stock photography agency based in Silicon Valley, California. The company’s million-strong image collection was created by high-profile wildlife and domestic animal photographers and by automobile photographers who have captured vehicles dating back to 1897. Driven to exceed the needs of his worldwide clientele—advertising agencies, book publishers, greeting card companies, and calendar publishers—Ron Kimball, owner of Kimball Studio (www.kimballstudios.com) and Kimball Stock (www.kimballstock.com), has relied on his Hasselblad H3D-39 and Imacon Flextight 848 and 949 scanners since going digital six years ago.

A professional photographer for over 30 years, I have been witness to some of the most exciting changes in our industry. Back in 2002, when the pace of new technology and software development was accelerating, I knew our studio would have to adapt to the digital realm to stay in business. We began by digitizing the tens of thousands of animal transparencies in our archives and the thousands of new slides produced by the photographers that we represent.

Superior Equipment
From the moment we bought the Imacon Flextight 848 to scan our archives, it was in constant use. Two years ago, we bought a 949 Flextight—a considerably faster model—and now we keep both machines busy digitizing our files. The scanners are the best ones out there. The quality of the images they create is second to none.

After capturing animal images for 30 years and autos for 22 years—our first car job was that white Testarosa from the Miami Vice TV show—we’ve developed a reputation for doing whatever it takes for clients. We never give up, we step in and fix things up when others fall short with animal shoots, we have the logistics capability to shoot one assignment during the day and another at night, and if we don’t have a particular image in stock, we can shoot it.

Self-trained for the most part, we’ve kept up with digital technology and software, so the learning curve wasn’t too great with the H3D-39. Each successive update of the Flexcolor software has been better than the last. I haven’t tested the latest version, Phocus, yet, but I look forward to doing so. 

For decades, every image we created had been captured with a traditional film camera. As much as I loved film, in the past few years I had become frustrated with the time lost between capture and the delivery of my final prints from the pro lab. I was ready to try digital capture. As long-time 4x5 shooters, we were looking for a camera that would produce images the equal of film. After months of serious testing, we decided the best solution for us would be the Hasselblad H3D-39. The first time I saw one of my H3D final images I was blown away. I was amazed that something so small could produce images so rich with vibrant colors and sharp details. I converted to all-digital capture that day.

In my 30 years of shooting, I have never tested a better lens than the Hasselblad 120mm lens. The performance of this lens brings a whole new level of perfection to the camera and to my photography. The H3D itself is esthetically pleasing, as well as ergonomically superb. Whether I am in the studio or out on location, I know that the shoot will be successful because of the technology and advancement of the cameras.

Superior Images
Because the H3D creates images with higher resolution, superior picture quality, and more pixels per inch, it is the perfect solution for projects requiring super-sized prints. We recently completed a project that involved some stunning images of local landmarks. The final prints were reproduced as six-foot displays. I couldn’t have accomplished this demanding task without the H3D.

In 2007, our studio had the privilege of photographing several of the custom hot rods built by the Blastolene Brothers. “B-702,” designed by Michael Leeds and handcrafted by Randy Grubb, was inspired by the 1930s Bugatti. Measuring 20 feet in length, eight feet in width, and weighing in at more than 4,500 pounds, the vehicle and its exquisite details could have presented problems, but I just picked up my H3D-39 and begin firing away. Lit by Norman D24s with Series 900 lampheads, each shot was a stunning image of this unique car. The colors were electric, the details were sharp. The Blastolene Brothers were very pleased with the end images, which were ultimately used for posters, general stock, and advertising. I would not have been able to create such striking images without the H3D-39.

“Poetry in Motion,” created for the Cheetah Preservation Fund at the Cincinnati Zoo in the mid-90s, was scanned on the Imacon Flextight 848—like all of our animal images—then digitally manipulated. I previsualized this image, the curve of the neck, the beautiful line, the speed. At the time, no one had captured the cheetah in motion that way. Created for the Fund’s logo, the image was later used in advertising and general stock licensing. More recently, I used the image for a Christmas card I called “God’s Speed.”

Whenever I have a big assignment, such as photographing a $13 million Ferrari, I have to trust my equipment and not be distracted from the subject and the shoot. With the H3D-39, I have a digital workflow that is reliable, flexible, seamless, and successful.

The next few months will be an exciting time for Kimball Stock. I will be collaborating with top professionals from various advertising agencies to create new auto imagery and products. I also will be working with the best auction houses and high-end car collectors in the world to capture the best images of their automobiles. Working with the top car collectors, the largest publishing houses, and the most creative designers, I will be challenged and inspired to create my best images yet. The Hasselblad H3D-39 will help make it happen.

Text: Alice B. Miller