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Apr 102017

Making panoramic compositions with a Fuji GX617 and Hasselblad XPan

Dirk Dom

Shooting panoramas is extremely easy nowadays. Either you stitch, or you use a panoramic camera. The images below are made with a Fuij GX617 and with a Hasselblad Xpan.

The big Fuji shoots four 2.2 by 6.6 inch (5.6 by 168mm) images on 120 film. The image ratio is 3/1. I have a 90 and a 180mm lens, which are equivalent horizontally to full frame 20 and 40mm. Shooting it is serious work and needs to be done from a tripod. The images it makes (equivalent to 300 megapixel) can be printed many feet wide, with a crazy resolution.

The Xpan shoots 0.94 by 2.56 inch (24 x 65mm) images on 35mm film, 20 images a roll. Image ratio is 2.7/1. I have a 45 and a 90mm lens. Full frame equivalent, horizontally, is 24 and 50mm. I’ve never yet fired an Xpan shot from a tripod. It’s an extremely playful, spontaneous rangefinder camera with stunning image quality. Motion blur from hand held photographing limits printing to five feet wide.

Panoramas are in principle landscapes with a wide image view. Some examples:

However, one is not limited to landscapes at all. You can use the wide aspect ratio image (let’s say 2/1 and wider) for completely different shots:


You’re also not limited to wide angle. Most of the time I use the normal 180 and 90mm lenses. People say I’m out of my mind that I use camera’s like the big Fuji, because digital stitching is so easy and practical.


Try these, stitching:

As you can see, exposing a strip of film at once has its advantages. As seen in the fireworks shot, you’re not limited to a horizontal image. If the composition fits the aspect ratio you can get quite beautiful compositions:

I make lots of vertical images. Digital cameras have more than enough pixels to crop to a panoramic image. So do medium format film camera’s. This is a cropped digital image:


I think that, digitally, the best way to work is to tape off your viewing screen and use live view to compose your image. Trying to imagine my panoramic composition in a normal viewfinder image doesn’t work for me.

Discovering panoramic compositions.

 You need to fill your image in a beautiful way. Don’t shoot 1.5 to 1 image ratios with a 3/1 camera.

An example. Here I have lots of space left on the sides of the subject:

This is better:

Your viewfinder is your friend to discover compositions. Take plenty of time.

A longer lens allows you to fill the image:

Panoramic composition.

Just as with the square image of 6×6, you need to be able to discover good compositions for the panoramic aspect ratio. It’s possible this is not for you. It’s also quite possible you absolutely hate any vertical wide aspect compositions. Borrow or rent a camera before you take the plunge of buying one to see if it works out.

The rules of composition of course all apply, but my experience is that you have to keep to them more strictly. A panorama has more space and needs more structure, it needs to be sort of calmer. It also takes a longer time to discover the image. Let me give you some rules, of which I’m sure you all know them and some image examples:


Ideally, from left, up to right, down.

Rule of thirds.

Often, you need to put two subjects in a panorama because the image is too wide:


Negative space is the part of your shot not occupied by your subject. I like images with lots of room.

Camera view point:

This one is taken with the camera at ground level, 45 degrees up without looking through the viewfinder:


Fore- and background:


Can be extremely powerful in panoramic compositions. Take great care composing.

Clean up your image.

My sincerest apologies to the purists, but I get rid of junk and wires:



Making vertical and parallel.

Very important with architecture.



Well, I hope you enjoyed this and it was a bit useful,


Mar 312017

Film Friday! Downtown Antwerp with the Hasselblad Xpan and Kodak Tmax 3200

By Dirk Dom


When I just had my Xpan, a few years ago, I felt like going downtown and shoot at night with it. I only had the 45mm lens (field of view horizontally equivalent to 24mm full frame) and used Kodak Tmax 3200. Because the Xpan only does automatic exposure with shutter times shorter than 1/15th second, I kept the camera at 1/15th or 1/30th manually and eyeballed it. All shots hand held. The Xpan shoots 24 x 65mm negatives on 35mm film, 20 shots a roll. It’s a rangefinder, but with the 45mm I always zone focus except when I need it to be super accurate. It’s one of my most favorite camera’s.

The Xpan with the 45mm lens

The 24 x 65mm vertical shutter

The park near where I live, between the houses and the railroad

These are old water cisterns from the time when there were still steam locomotives. They’re a very beautiful sight, very close to my place

An old building they refurbished into apartments

A pedestrian / bicycle tunnel under the railroad

The Antwerp cathedral is beautifully lit

A group of statues at the Cathedral, commemorating the building. They worked at the Cathedral for over 200 years. Take that, 21st century!

A shop window, downtown

The Meir, a big shopping street, completely deserted at night. The stone pillars were later removed as in the very crowded street during the day people didn’t see them and got hurt walking into them.

An office buillding on the Melkmarkt

Of course a Mac Donalds on the Meir, and to the left the Antwerp Central Station. This was a difficult composition and exposing the very brightly lit Mc Deonalds and the tower was difficult. Burning and dodging are your friend!

A last one of the Cathedral,

And a last shop window

Walking the city at night is fun. Hope you enjoyed them!

Film exposed at 3,200 ASA and normally developed in Tmax developer, developing time as on the bottle.



May 202016

Winter Day… Resolve

by Dirk Dom


Last month I spent €1,400 on prints. That’s crazy. I have credit card debt, and I want to get out of it. So, I told myself to spend no more than €300 a month on projects etc. I’m really, really serious about it.  Main thing is that I’ll stop black and white photography for eighteen months. Black and white, for me, needs to be postprocessed and printed in very high quality, and with €300 a month, that’s not possible. When I have images, I can’t resist printing. If I don’t generate images, I won’t have the urge to print.

So, goodbye Linhof and Mamiya 7, for a while.

Will I be miserable?

Certainly not. There is so much else I can do with photography. It’s only a matter of selecting what else I will do. I’m going to shoot the Hasselblad Xpan and my Canon F1. (Lost all interest in digital a year ago) Color neg, prints cost only a quarter of black and white. A 6 by 18 inch Xpan print costs me 3 Euro’s.  Today, I’ve been looking around my Xpan shots, just to get an idea of possibilities and potential.  Here are some which I like, but be warned: with me, anything goes in post.

So, I said, no black and white. Well, that’s going to be tough. A few minutes of post on this Fuji Superia 400 color image yielded this:

Note the nice silvery greys of the Cathedral and the great grain in the skies. I don’t often convert color to black and white.


Looking a bit further in my files, I found a shot of a sidewalk in San Francisco.

Popping saturation up to 50, made it into this


Cropping and converting to black and white:


And saturating red:

I shoot just about anything that shows potential. Not that I take many pictures: I give every shot careful thought.


The silver screen behind a windshield, solarized and made it high key:

I got less and less frustrated with my resolve not to shoot black and white for 18 months, but I got a little worried I’d start printing.


I fooled around with solarisation and converting to negative, and I found this image of a box full of oranges:

Now, isn’t that cool? Images which convert in such a nice way are extremely rare.


I can even shoot normal stuff, the 90mm is very nice for close ups:

My son, with the Golden Gate, 90mm.



I’m going to walk around with the Xpan and have fun. In a more serious way, I’m going to shoot Antwerp for a year and a half. This Summer, I’m bicycling from Antwerp to Benidorm in Spain and I’ll also take the Xpan, with the 45 and the 90 and a batch of Ektar 100. That’ll cost me less than staying home. At first I wanted to take the Mamiya 7 with the 43 and 150mm and do masterly black and white, but it’ll be for another time.




May 192015

Return to film: Spring flowers in San Francisco

By Dirk Dom


The last two years I’ve been serious about black and white on film and I grew to enjoy grain very much. With my Hasselblad Xpan I shot Kodak Ektar and fuji Superia 400 and I immensely liked the results. My Olympus PEN digital camera is extremely good, but I got tired of color noise. Film grain is beautiful, digital color noise is ugly.

So when I went to san Francisco this easter, I had my Xpan, my canon F1 and my Olympus PEN with me. And, not to my surprise, I didn’t shoot a single digital shot.

I wanted a creamy and graphical look for my flowers. The cream comes from shooting with a Canon FD 85mm f/1.2, at f/1.2. The graphical part comes from Fuji Superia 800. I used a 3 stop ND filter all the time. I used extension tubes. I don’t think there is any modern camera system that allows this kind of shots with modern lenses. Digitally, the Sony A7 with Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 and extension tubes and a $30 adapter would do the job perfectly. But I shot at ground level a lot, you’d need to use the screen, then.

Today I got my negatives back and I’ve met my objectives. This was what I had in mind. Sharpness freaks will be disappointed: this is not about sharpness but about beauty and atmosphere.

Film is beautiful.


California is in its fourth year of draught, so there weren’t many flowers. Still, I got nice shots.

Pacifica. A lily.


At the beach.


Also near the beach.


Poppy, Golden Gate Park.


Golden Gate Park. Shot through a flower in the foreground, focused on a flower behind. With the Canon F1 speedfinder I can shoot right to ground level.


Cherry tree.


The 85mm sometimes gives rainbows.



Beach near the Golden Gate: great diversity of flowers. Unfortunately, they were mowing the path when I got there. 


Poppies at f/1.2.







Grain. Love it!


Bernal Hill, all the flowers were already gone.



Apr 172015

Hasselblad Xpan and Kodak Ektar: Port of Antwerp

By Dirk Dom


Last Monday, my friend Ivo Smets and I went to shoot in the Port of Antwerp; Ivo with his M240, and me with the Xpan. I think that is the most delightful camera I own; I shot Kodak Ektar and because that film is so special, I expected some sparks.

First, we went to the Berendrechtsluis. The weather was nice, sunny and a bit hazy, which gave for sort of a high key atmosphere.


We were lucky enough to find a gate open so we could get right next to the water.


But shooting through the wire is fun, too. It sort of adds to the composition.


Here’s some more fun, looking through stuff:


In Lillo, a little village right in the middle of the port, we ate lunch. The tide was low, which made for a nice image:


Lots of current in the river.


We continued through the port. Antwerp is the largest petrochemical industry center in the world.



There used to be a lot of fortresses around Antwerp. This one is from Spanish times. It’s covered by sand. It’s a forbidden entry zone, and right next to it is a lake where birders set up and shoot.



We continued to the old crane museum near downtown Antwerp.



We walked along the river to downtown Antwerp; the sun was setting. I had taken 4 films with me, which is 84 photographs, 21 a film. I was running out of film.



My last shot of the day:


I shot the Xpan with its 45mm lens. The negative size is 24 x 65mm, which makes the lens (horizontally) equivalent to 24mm on full frame. I scanned with an Epson V750 with Silverfast. Ektar scans great.



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