Film Landscape Photography

Film Landscape Photography

…in Fuerteventura, Canary Isles.

Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica

December 2017

Leica Landscape Photography

Intro

I just returned from a short vacation to Fuerteventura in the Canary Isles where I met family who were out there on holiday. It was my first visit to this island but I have been to the neighboring island Tenerife a couple of  times. The weather in this part of the world is a real treat when visiting from the UK during the winter as the average temperature in the Canaries is normally in the mid 20s. (degrees Celsius).

Landscape Photography Camera Bag

  • Hasselblad SWC/M camera + finder
  • Hasselblad SWC focus screen + WLF
  • Hasselblad A12 6×6 film back
  • Hasselblad A16 645 film back
  • Leica M4-P camera body (film)
  • Leica M240 camera body (digital)
  • Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8 lens
  • Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 lens
  • Tripod

Before the trip I had bought the Hasselblad SWC/M wide-angle camera with the Zeiss Biogon 38mm f4.5 lens (equivalent to 21mm on a full frame 35mm camera). The SWC/M camera is well suited to landscape photography but I bought it mainly for people photography, weddings, fashion photography and environmental portraits. That said after the purchase the camera I found myself watching 10hrs+ of YouTube landscape photography videos (while eating my evening meals each day). I’ve never studied landscape photography so found certain aspects of the videos both interesting and inspiring.

Hasselblad SWC/M Landscape Photography

Hasselblad SWC/M Landscape Photography

After being inspired by the landscape photography videos I decided to pack my Hasselblad SWC/M to take to Fuerteventura together with a tripod and cable release. Being a family holiday I didn’t have as much flexibility to go and take photos at any time of the day compared to when I travel alone but I did go out early one morning before sunrise to take pictures. I soon realized I really needed to car to get to any of the wow scenes up in the mountains so instead settled for a few simple long exposure shots to blur the sea/ water in my images. It was a surprisingly slow process to me and I only took four images within the hour I was out. There was no sunrise to speak of and the 21mm field of view was often too wide for the scenes I was trying to compose and capture. My first landscape photography experience (with all the gear) was OK but it didn’t blow me away with excitement.

Ironman Training

ironman

Even though my first Ironman triathlon is complete I continue to enjoy training whenever I can and I plan to enter more triathlon events in 2018. My brother and I hired road bikes for three days I was there and we did a ride at first light followed by a run along the coast before breakfast. The next morning we did a 50 mile ride up into the mountains. The sun was already up and the landscape looked breathtaking in the low directional light. I really love the barren landscape in Fuerteventura with the red-yellow sandy ground contrasting nicely against the blue sky, the often derelict buildings littering the hillsides and the various cactus plants providing an assortment of shapes. Trying to take landscape photos in a ‘Brits abroad’ holiday resort yesterday wasn’t really working for me despite it being one of the nicer resorts. Getting out into non tourist parts of Fuerteventura and up into the mountains was much more my thing. I wish I had a camera with me on the bike ride but we only stopped once for a quick selfie at the top so I wouldn’t have had chance to use a camera anyway. It did however get me thinking.

Leica Landscape Photography

On my last morning in Fuerteventura my new plan was to cycle back into the mountains alone to take landscape photos. Sadly the weather had other ideas and I woke to cloud cover and an unlit landscape. I decided to have an extra hour in bed and then run along the coastline instead to give the sun time to burn through the clouds. Sure enough by 10am we had hazy sunshine so after the run and quick breakfast I grabbed my bike and headed off towards the mountains. The original idea was to take both the Hasselblad SWC and a Leica camera and shoot them both handheld in the bright light. Unfortunately both cameras would not fit in the back of my running hydrating vest main pocket. I therefore packed light and took my Leica M4-P film camera with Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8 lens, a Sekonic light meter and a spare roll of film. I think I would have chosen a slightly wider lens (15mm, 21mm or 25mm) but 28mm was the widest I had with me. One advantage of the Elmarit-M 28/2.8 is it is nice and compact compared to my 21mm and 25mm Zeiss Biogon lenses. Another benefit of using a 28mm lens is the M4-P has 28mm framelines in the viewfinder to aid composition.

Leica Film Landscape

I had 35mm Fujicolor C200 already loaded in the Leica M4-P and took another roll of C200 with me. Some of the images I was taking suited black and white film but I will convert the colour film to monochrome in post processing. Cycling along the open roads in the sunshine was amazing in itself but then being able to stop at any scene that caught my eye was fantastic. Often when traveling by car it is not possible to stop when I see a photo to capture but on a bike I could stop anywhere even on a busy road and just pull in to get my shot. I cycled 10 miles out stopping along the way taking photos both in front of me with sunshine over my shoulder and also back at the sun in the opposite direction. I wish I had brought a small circular polarizer filter for the Leica to cut through some of the haze but it was a nice practice session regardless.

I was out for 2.5 hours, covered 20 miles or so and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. This may well become my new favorite pastime combining training, exploring and photography and without the restriction of always being reliant on a model for my photography. Model photography is amazing when I have models but can be almost depressing when I have a beautiful location and then no one to photograph. This new past time of cycling and landscape photography means I can visit any country without the limitation of needing to consider if I can find models on my arrival.

Leica Elmarit-M 28mm Landscape

Possible camera gear for my next Leica landscape photography (on bike)

I would take a Leica M4-P film camera again due to the 28mm framelines for composition. I might look to take the Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f2.8 lens and use the full viewfinder area to approximate my field of view. As mentioned I will also consider the 21mm ZM Biogon and the Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 15mm f4.5 lens. One observation I didn’t mention above is for some scenes I wanted to compress a scene or take a crop of the landscape and the 28mm lens was too wide. I like the idea of carrying two lenses, one wide lens and a short telephoto lens. Because I need to pack small and light I think both my Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO lens and Summicron 90mm f2 lens will be too large and heavy. My plan is therefore to try taking a compact 50mm lens instead, the Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5 lens.

Leica Landscape Photography

My landscape photography research suggested that the best lenses to use for landscapes are often wider than the normal 50mm field of view humans see or longer telephoto lenses. That said I love a 50mm focal length for much of my photography so I will see if I can get it to work for me. The other thing I must pack for my next adventure is a circular polarizing filter and some colour filters for black and white photography.  Red and yellow filters will both darken a blue sky and lighten a yellow building or dust track road. Lastly I want to pack better suited film stocks. For black and white film I will try 35mm Fuji Neopan Acros 100 speed film for crisp B&W tones and perhaps Ilford Delta 100 for super high-resolution. For colour negative film I think I would choose Kodak Ektar 100 for saturated colours and fine grain but if I really wanted to invest in the art I would shoot the expensive 35mm Fuji Provia 100 E6 slide film for its superior colours and resolution. Fuji Velvia 100 film is often preferred by landscape photographers due to the super saturated colours but I already have 35mm Provia in my fridge so will try this first. Lastly I would be sure to take my Sekonic light meter as weather and light levels can change especially if cycling up mountains.  I would take the Sekonic L-308s light meter rather than the Sekonic L-758 light meter as it is smaller and light.  If and when I get really keen at landscape photography I will swap to the Sekonicl-758 spot meter for zone metering.

sekonicv2

Taking the Hasselblad SWC exploring

I have certainly not ruled out the Hasselblad SWC for future adventures and I think once I take it on one trip and see the images it would probably come with me on all future landscape trips. The Hassy SWC is a compact camera even if it is heavier than my Leica with lens attached. If I pack the SWC with finder, a few filters and a light meter I should be able to find one of my running rucksacks that will accommodate it’s size.

Bad weather landscape photography

Many of the best landscape photography photos are taken in less than perfect weather conditions, often mist, fog, rain, snow and varying degrees of low light-darkness. As such a tripod is usually a must have. That said, I want to enjoy my cycling as much as the photography and I like being out in the sunshine. If I am only doing fine weather photography at f8-f22 with a shutter speed of 1/60-1/500 I will choose to travel light and without a tripod. A full height tripod is out the question for my current lightweight cycling setup. If I find I enjoy landscape photography enough to do it without including the cycling aspect then I can look to drive to locations in the early hours in potentially bad weather and then take a tripod with me (and as much camera gear as I want in a normal camera rucksack.  If I find myself sticking to landscape photography (and by bike) but decide to do some early morning first light shots I may look to get one of the table top Manfrotto tripods like the Manfrotto PIXI EVO 2 tripod for a ligghtweight option.

manfrottopixi

My next cycling-photography adventure

After three days in the sunshine I am already set to book a follow-up trip cycling holiday / photography adventure to see if I can hone my camera skills and keep fit in the process. I will certainly visit the Canary Isles again for this type of holiday as I love both the landscape and the climate.

Some of my past attempts at landscape photography!

(Approximate order newest to oldest using a variety of cameras)

Hasselblad XPan Panoramic Landscape
Cinestill 800T Film Landscape
Fuji GF670 - Soller, Majorca
Leica M2 Landscape
Leica M2 Landscape
Portland Bill Lighthouse Fisherman
Leica Summicron 50/2
NT Packwood House Estate
ARAX Landscape
Samyang 24mm f1.4
Samyang 24mm f1.4 Landscape
Samyang Summer - 35mm/1.4 @f2 SOOC
Mount Teide, Tenerife
Autumn sunset, Devon

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Hasselblad SWC/M Super Wide Camera

Hasselblad SWC/M Super Wide Camera

Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica

November 2017

The Hasselblad SWC (Super Wide Camera) family of cameras had a production life span from 1954-2009.  From researching online my particular camera model, a Hasselblad SWC/M with CF lens attached and a spirit level built into both the camera body and the newer style view finder seems to be dated from around 1982-1988.

Hasselblad SWC/M Super Wide Camera

Hasselblad SWC – Intro

A Hasselblad SWC/M comes with a Zeiss Biogon 38mm f4.5 CF lens attached.  Unlike the more common Hasselblad 500 series / V-series camera models the lens on the SWC cameras does not detach.  The SWC is a camera designed and built around the very well-regarded Zeiss Biogon 38mm lens.  It is not like a normal 500 series Hasselblad camera (as I think of them) as it has no mirror/ ground glass / waist level view finder setup you normally find at the heart of every Hasselblad.  Instead it just has an external viewfinder to aid basic composition.  To focus the SWC camera I need to use hyperfocal distance (like I would on a Leica rangefinder camera for street photography) and dial in a preferred focus distance on the Biogon lens (such as 2 meters) and then roughly gauge by eye this distance from the camera to the subject.  As the camera is a wide-angle camera there is greater depth of field (DOF) than on say a long lens (especially once the SWC lens is stopped down).  The 38mm Biogon lens is roughly equivalent to 21mm on a 35mm camera sensor so gives a pretty wide field of view compared to the standard 80mm Zeiss kit lens on a Hasselblad 500CM Classic which is equivalent to 50mm in 35mm camera terms.

Hasselblad SWC – First Thoughts

My first thoughts when collecting the Hasselblad SWC/M were small, compact and lightweight compared to the Hasselblad 500CM + telephoto lens(es) I had been using prior to picking up the camera.  The SWC has a very solid and audible clunk when you release the shutter.  Much more so than my 500CM and 501C and much for fluid movement but then it is a newer camera so perhaps to be expected.  The SWC finder view is big and bright but also very distorted so it is difficult to retain a mind-set that the photos will not also look distorted.  The spirit level built into the SWC finder is a very nice touch as you can see if an image horizon is level without taking your eye from the finder.  Well done Hasselblad.  The CF Zeiss Biogon 38mm lens looks very similar to all my other Zeiss CF lenses and is solid and seemingly well-built.

Hasselblad Wedding Photography

When I do Leica wedding photography with my digital Leica M240 camera one of my most used lenses is the Zeiss ZM Biogon 21mm f2.8 lens.  I have a 28mm Leica Elmarit-M f2.8 lens but found the 28mm focal length not quite wide enough in situation with lots of people and/ or confined spaces.  The 21mm ZM Biogon is great for bridal prep shots with multiple bridesmaids in a small room or during a wedding ceremony to capture the bride and groom and some of the guests in the background.  For previous analogue film weddings I found the standard lenses on many of my medium format film cameras too narrow to capture everything.  For a Hasselblad wedding I have the Zeiss Distagon 50mm f4 which is the same as 28mm but nothing wider.  Sometime it is just nice to have a super wide lens to photograph a whole room such as the inside of a church.  A wider lens also has a great depth in focus so for moving people photos taken in a candid street photography / documentary wedding photography style it is easier to nail focus with a wider lens than with a telephoto lens (when using manual focus).  This was one reason/ ‘excuse’ to buy a Hasselblad SWC/M.

Hasselblad SWC for Street Photography

Leica cameras are popular street photography cameras when focused using hyperfocal distance.  As mentioned briefly above it means I set a desired distance and aperture on the lens and this gives me a certain range in focus (say everything between 1-3 meters).  Once set it basically makes a Leica camera a full frame 35mm point at shoot camera (if you keep your subjects within the area in focus from the camera (Ie. if something is 4m away I need to walk closer before taking the photo or move the distance on the lens to further away before taking my shot).  The same methodology can be applied to the Hasselblad SWC camera, setting an aperture and focus distance on the 38mm Biogon lens.  As the 38mm is equivalent to 21mm in 35mm terms it gives quite a deep depth in focus. (Telephoto lenses have a much shorter distance in focus at any aperture).  The SWC camera can them become a 6×6 medium format point and shoot camera for street photography, weddings or otherwise.  The biggest restriction in the UK is sufficient light so the SWC is more suited to bright conditions or high ISO film stock than low light photography for this technique.

Hasselblad SWC for Travel Photography

One big selling point of the Hasselblad SWC for me is the compact size and relatively low weight.  The Hassy SWC/M weighs under 1.4kg (with camera, finder and film back attached) and in comparison a Hasselblad 500CM camera + 80mm kit lens + film back weights closer to 1.6kg (but for the lenses I use the Zeiss Sonnar 180mm f4 CF lens alone weighs 1.1kg!)  For my overseas model photography photoshoots I tend to take with me the smallest cameras that provide sufficiently high image quality (and are fun to use and reliable).  It could be argued that my Mamiya 6 and Fuji GF670 are more suited as medium format travel cameras but I much prefer the rendering of Hasselblad lenses to the Mamiya glass and I find the GF670 fragile (currently awaits repair) and not exciting to use (even if it is a very capable camera).

Hasselblad SWC/M!

Hasselblad Fashion Photography

Another reason to buy the Hasselblad SWC is for my Hasselblad fashion photography.  I love the Hasselblad telephoto lenses such as the Zeiss Sonnar 180mm f4 lens and Zeiss Macro-Planar 120mm f4 lens for portraits but to photograph clothes full length a wider lens is often easier.  The Hassy SWC 38mm Biogon lens could be deemed too wide but many fashion photographers have used wide lenses in the past to give their fashion photos a different look.  I think I may use the SWC camera more for wedding photography but I hope I can also use it for some of my model photography to add some variety to my work.  For environment portraits a wider lens is also very beneficial as it helps to capture both the model and their environment.  I have shot many times in Budapest for example and taken headshot / half body portraits yet the surrounding location detail outside the field of view might have added additional interest to the images if included.  I think of all the locations I have done model photography the city that screams “use a wide lens” the most is without doubt New York city.  I need to go back soon!  On a previous visit to NYC I used my 35mm Hasselblad XPan camera for a wider view but found I usually prefer 6×6 format to panoramic for my model/ fashion portraits.  Using both the wide-angle Hasselblad SWC/M and a standard Hasselblad 501C /500CM body side by side gives me the best of both, with the option for wider environment portrait / wide angle fashion look photos and also shallow depth isolated headshots and portraits with a longer telephoto lens.  When using two Hasselblad bodies I also have the advantage of the Hasselblad V system being modular.  (See more below).

Hasselblad SWC Fashion

Hasselblad Modular Cameras (Specifically Film Backs)

One huge advantage of investing into the Hasselblad 500 series (V-series) cameras (including the SWC camera) is the cameras are modular in their design.  This means I can unclip a standard Hasselblad A12 film back (or any other film back) from any Hasselblad 500 camera and use it on my new Hassy SWC/M.  Having multiple film backs to use can be really valuable during a Hasselblad wedding for example.  If I was using a Mamiya 6 camera for group photos and finished my roll of film mid-session I would need to halt proceedings, rewind the film and reload with fresh film to continue.  When using a Hasselblad I carry multiple pre-loaded film backs and as soon as film finishes in one back I can quickly unclip and attach a second back with film loaded ready to go.  Another advantage of multiple film backs is I can load one back with colour film and one back with black and white film.  For Hasselblad fashion photography (or film weddings) or any client shoot I can shoot a mix of colour and black and white film and swap the backs between cameras.  For example shoot a wide scene in B&W on the Hasselblad SWC then take the back from the Hasselblad 500CM (loaded with colour film) to capture a colourful confetti group photo straight after.  The 500CM can then capture some B&W wedding portraits on a long lens and so on.  I would travel with at least two film backs for model photography trips and if possible carry 2 Hasselblad bodies too, the SWC/M and a 500CM or 501C.

Hasselblad Focusing Screen Adapter 41025 SWC/M

An obvious disadvantage of the Hasselblad SWC/M is the fact that the viewfinder does not allow for critical focusing.  Maybe it is because I have used Leica rangefinder cameras intensively for a prolonged period but for much of my photography I like to line up straight lines (horizontal and vertical) in a scene with my frame lines in the viewfinder. For example at a church wedding I would centre the viewfinder to the church aisle to capture equal detail on both sides and ensure it is aligned to the straight edges of the walls.  With the Hasselblad SWC the finder view it is only a rough guide of composition.  I would hate to have to crop every SWC photo after scanning to straighten and centre each picture.  Luckily there is another option

There is a Hasselblad Focusing Screen Adapter 41025 for SWC (SWC/M) cameras which basically makes the SWC into a mini 4×5 camera/ large format camera.  On my large format cameras like the SpeedGraphic and Sinar F2 I compose an image upside down on the ground glass on the back of the camera and then critically focus using a magnifying loop.  The Hasselblad focusing screen adapter is basically a ground glass as you would use on the top of a Hasselblad 500CM but on the back of the camera.  The SWC has no mirror so a photo is composed by just looking through the lens at the image displayed on the glass.  On a large format camera in bright conditions I put a jacket over my head and the back of the camera to block light glare.  Luckily the clever engineers at Hasselblad have a much neater design.  The focus screen adapter accepts any Hasselblad 500 viewfinder such as the pop up waist level viewfinder (WLF), a 45 degree prism finder or a chimney finder as examples.  To critically compose the Hasselblad SWC I just unclip the A12 film back, clip on the focus screen adapter (with WTF or prism already attached), compose (with camera on a tripod for example), unclip the adapter, reattached the film back and take the photo.  This process is not for every photo as takes more time than quickly estimating a composing and focus with the standard SWC finder on the top of the camera but it is a nice option to have for when I have more time (and it will be more rewarding to get the planned composition rather than cropping something in/ out of frame that was not desired.

Hasselblad and Leica Cameras

I like and use Leica cameras as they are well-built, enjoyable to operate and have great lenses that capture sharp pleasing images.  To get ‘better’ than what Leica film cameras could give me I had to look at larger film formats.  I have tried and use various highly regarded medium format film cameras but it is Hasselblad cameras which I seem to enjoy and appreciate the most.  Hasselblad 500 system cameras are of a similar build quality to Leicas and with equality good optics made by Carl Zeiss.  I have enjoyed using Hasselblad 501C and Hasselblad 500CM cameras and this gave me the confidence to buy the Hasselblad SWC/M.  The SWC/M is more Leica like being more compact and operated more like a Leica rangefinder (in terms of composing via the external finder) and I would argue for my particular SWC/M model the film advance lever and shutter release sound and feel even better than it’s 501C/500CM siblings.  Like a Leica M3 and the Hasselblad 501C / 500CM, the Hasselblad SWC/M is 100% manual and has no batteries or electronics.  I love the simplicity of manual cameras without batteries and the knowledge that they cannot develop electrical faults in the future that may not be able to be repaired.  I enjoy using my Mamiya RZ67 Pro II camera but I often have battery related issues that I don’t get with a 500CM.  I have some nice Fuji 645 format film cameras but the GA645 specifically relies heavily on electronics and one of mine seems to have sadly developed a terminal electronic fault.  At least manual Hasselblad and Leica cameras are in theory more likely to keep going into the future even if they need a CLA (clean, lube, adjustment) every so often.
L1008609LR

Hasselblad SWC – Specifications

As with many of the cameras I own and have talked about on this blog, Ken Rockwell has also reviewed the camera and kindly details all the specifics of the Hasselblad SWC on his site.  Rather than me repeat the same camera facts please see a link below to Ken Rockwell’s SWC review

Hasselblad Resale Value

One good thing about investing in older Hasselblad film cameras is they seem to hold their value quite well (and even appear to increasing in value/cost over the last 12 months or so).  If I find the Hasselblad SWC/M camera isn’t really for me at least I can say I tried it.  I would never have discovered my love for Leica and Hasselblad cameras if I didn’t take the chance and move away from the camera(s) I used at the time.  I never know, the SWC/M might become my new most used most loved film camera!  Either way I will enjoy finding out!

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