Six weeks in San Francisco with a Hasselblad Xpan and a Mamiya 7
By Dirk Dom
For the second time I spent six weeks in San Francisco, photographing. Last time, two years ago, I used a digital Olympus PEN with Canon FD lenses. Now, I wanted to go with my Linhof Technikardan technical camera, but I got cold feet. I just didn’t have enough experience with that camera. So, I took my two favorite fun camera’s, the Hasselblad Xpan and the Mamiya 7.
For the Xpan I bought the 90mm lens, which turned out a very good choice, as I used it 90% of the time. I shot Kodak Ektar with it. The Mamiya 7, I have the 43mm superwide, and I used it with Kodak Tmax 400 black and white, pushed one stop because I’m crazy about grain, and an orange filter.
I didn’t bring a digital camera, which turned out a very good decision.
I walked the city for about five hours each day.
Well, let’s start with the Xpan.
In the beginning I carried the 45mm and the 90mm, but the last three weeks I just took the 90mm. This lens is equivalent (on 35mm) to a 50mm horizontally. Panoramically, the limited height of your image always makes for very nice framing, you can really get into details. Shooting the Xpan is immense fun, it’s a gem of a camera. I took some 220 images with it, only shooting when I had something which was really worth recording and taking great care of composition.
The colors of the Ektar 100 film are real nice and saturated.
I saw the extremely colorful tattoos on the arm of this British guy and I asked him if I could shoot him during the ferry ride to Sausalito. I got him with the Golden Gate Bridge behind.
Also on the ferry, this lady with fluorescent sunglasses. This is not a real panorama, but I like the calming width to the image.
Segway expeditions you meet regularly. This is my best shot of them.
Due to public transport schedules, because I had to get back to Pacifica every day I couldn’t really shoot during the perfect hours of the afternoon. Only a few times my ex-wife took me downtown between 3 and 6PM. The light is just incredible, then. I did this trip on a minimum budget, sleeping in a little tent on a deck at my son’s, but next time, I’ll go three weeks instead of six and spend the money on a rented car so I can go at any time and also explore the surroundings of S.F.
Golden Gate Park. Lots of opportunities. Still some poppies: the Xpan can also be used for other things than landscape.
I also continuously search for abstract opportunities. This is just a piece of pavement in deep shade.
The Mamiya 7
For some reason I’ve never used with anything else than black and white film. It’s strange, I have camera’s which feel like color and camera’s which feel black and white. Like my Mamiya C330 I have only used with Fuji Velvia so far. Shooting black and white is always very serious to me. These images are quickly postprocessed, the prints, I spend many hours on, perfecting.
Of course, I shot the Golden Gate Bridge.
See the grain in the sky? Love it.
The next picture I discovered with Easter, when I spent two weeks there. Now I had the Mamiya with me, and did it in black and white.
In a shopping center I saw a reflection of myself in an elevator door; I held the camera at my waist, after all I had a superwide, and got this shot: I look like a security officer.
I spent a weekend in Ukiah, about 130 miles from San Francisco. Nature was beautiful, and there was a park with Redwoods. Not like Muir woods, but here, there was no one and I could go averywhere. This is the first time I got good redwood shots. Next time, I’lll try it with someone posing to get the size. I shot from a tripod, with an orange filter, and a spotmeter. Shutter times were from 1/60th to 4 seconds. No way you can do this without a tripod. The orange filter made for very smooth images with lots of nice grey tones. There is a severe drought in California, and I read in the Scientific American that the Redwoods are beginning to die. Isn’t it horrible?
These trees are there from before Jesus Christ, and we manage to destroy them in 30 years. Bravo, Humanity!
The shot above and the one below are my two favorite ones from the trip. I’ll print them 4 foot longest side on Hahnemühle Baryta and hang them together. The lower shot, my son discovered when he saw the shade of the building on the sidewalk; He photographed it with his Iphone; it looked real nice, so I did it too. The iphone is an amazing camera. I made this composition in three tries, just not having the sun in and aiming for maximum diagonals:
A last one which is also a favorite, in the graveyard of Mission Dolores, a 300 year old grave.
Well, that’s it.
Which one is my favorite camera? The Xpan or the Mamiya? They’re both. I do very different things with them. The Xpan is very playful. The Mamiya can get very serious. I used it to its limit this trip, and I’m amazed by what is possible with it. So, they’re both my favorite camera. On trips, when it’s at all possible, I’ll take both. If I can only take one, like on a bicycling trip, it’s an extremely difficult decision.
The Mamiya images are so good that the urge to take the Linhof has gotten less. But I’ll spend a vacation in S.F. with that camera, with a car. The perspective correction possibilities and infinite DOF would do great things in the Redwood forest.