Hasselblad (In the) Wars

5th Sep 2013

It wasn't so much of a war, as a skirmish! But it annoyed the hell out of me. 

 Big pack, cameras, flash system, 3 light stands, tripod, waterproof (essential in Briton) walking poles (it helps when you get to my age) food and water. A flat, easy 45  minute Hike  to the location, it's day and attempt number two to shoot a portrait, a portrait that illustrates the man, the equipment behind the man and the environment the mans been training in.  

"The Running Man" as he's affectionately becoming known, is Si Homfray, a semi retired entrepreneur who's lifetime dream is to run round the world! Via Mount Everest! 

So for the second day I'm in the middle of The Peak District National Park, just outside the city of Sheffield in South Yorkshire.  I thought rain might well stop play yesterday evening and eventually it did, the heavens opened and the deluge that followed was instantly "game over" But not before my flash triggers decided they really didn't want to work, which was annoying because it had all worked during a run through earlier in the day. 

The idea had been to find a photo location that best illustrated the type of terrain that Si would be running on during his trip. I'd thought about using natural light out on the trail, but it was fluctuating so wildly between the two extremes at either end of the spectrum that in the end I'd opted to use flash and decided on a 3 flashgun setup, using 2 rim lights and a main light fired through a small softbox. 

We drove out into the Peak District, this time the weather was behaving, it was a beautiful sunny evening with great big clouds racing across the sky. We quickly started to hike in to a section Si thought would really work for a photo. On the way we passed a huge puddle which took up the entire track, in order to circumnavigate it Si walked on one side, me on the other. We were having a conversation about which route he'd finally decided to run and as I looked over at Si I realised his refection in the puddle looked really quite dramatic. "HOLD IT" I yelled across at him. "Lets take a photo right here" and went on to explain to Si my new idea.

We set up, at least I set up, Si "tweaked his trailer" whatever that means! I wanted a low angle to get the water in, but not so low as to hide the wonderful reflection we were getting in the smokey coloured puddle. I opted to shoot on the Hasselblad with a 28mm lens. I placed the camera on a tripod, didn't really fully extend the legs, just held on to it and walked around looking for the best angle. When I found it I locked out the legs and left the camera to go and sort out the flash. No sooner than I'd turned my back and reached into my bag than a high pitched girlish shriek from somewhere behind me signalled something awry. I spun round just in time to witness "The Blad" nose diving into the huge puddle, which for obvious reasons didn't seem to be quite so attractive to me anymore. I leapt towards the camera but it was to late, the camera fully submerged before I had time to get anywhere near it, Ooops! I don't remember reading anywhere in the handbook that they're waterproof. I reached the camera and pulled it out and quickly started to shake off the excess, muddy, sandy water. It was gut wrenching to say the least, in fact "slightly nauseous" probably best describes how I felt. 

I spent best part of ten minutes drying it off and cleaning it as best I could. I left it for a while and set my flash up for this shot I only needed one flash to add a bit of fill, as I had the biggest, brightest light I could hope for above in the sky. I used a small Nikon SB900 powered by an external battery pack to speed up recycling time, and then zoomed the head to it longest setting of 200 and set the power to 1/2, a good starting point.

I turned back to my bedraggled camera, It was one of those "now or never moments" would it work, should I even be switching it on? I guess we'd see.

Testament to Hasselblad and how they build their cameras, It worked just fine, the fact that it had been totally submersed in water for what was perhaps only a few seconds, but felt like an eternity didn't effect either body or lens - well perhaps the lens very slightly, the focus ring grated a little for a few days after, but it seems fine now, three weeks down the line.

A few minutes later and we were both firing away enthusiastically to create some great images, the trauma of what might have been firmly behind us. I made Si run past that puddle quite a few times. in fact that old "just one more time" did sound a bit worn out by the time we finished and moved on to try and shoot that elusive portrait.

                        Si Homfray the running man Houndkirk Moor 25/07/2013

www.roadofmanycolours.com - Si's excellent blog about his trip, updated on a weekly basis.