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Hans Strand

Flying High with the H3DII
Digital Aerial Photography That’s Easy and Incredibly Powerful

“If you are a quality freak like me, you will never regret buying a Hasselblad. The joy of taking pictures has returned.”
Hans Strand

River Markafljót, Iceland, March 2008, H3DII with 50-110-mm zoom lens at 50mm

Maelifellsandur, Iceland, July 2008, H3DII-39 with 80mm lens

Maelifell, Iceland, July 2008, H3DII-39 with 80mm lens

Hans Strand, of Strand Photography (www.hansstrand.com), in Hägersten, Sweden, has been creating landscape and nature imagery for Getty Images, Corbis, Briljans, photo magazines, and calendar companies for 19 years. A Hasselblad Master Award winner for 2008, Strand was named Nordic Nature Photographer of the Year 2003, European Landscape Photographer of the Year 2001, and was featured in Canon’s International Calendar in 1999. Photographing everything from the Arctic to steaming rainforests and dry deserts, he has displayed his signature images in numerous exhibitions, been published in many international photography magazines, and has lectured on photography internationally. He has published three books with landscape photographs and is finishing his fourth book, Arctic Impressions: A Story on a Vanishing World. Since 2007, he has taken to the sky to shoot his aerial landscapes with the Hasselblad H3DII-39.

I have had several creative inspirers throughout the years. At first, I looked to the work of North American landscape photographers. Now I am more oriented toward my Scandinavian colleagues. My evolution as a photographer has come in steps. A few years ago I started to create aerial images of Iceland, and that is now my main project.

My passion is composition and complexity. I am not fond of capturing overly beautiful objects, such as flowers and cute animals. I took my first exposures at the age of 25. Since then, I have studied photographs in books, magazines, and exhibitions, and have tried to analyze their qualities and how to implement that into my own photography.

I bought my first digital camera, a Canon, in 2003, and stayed with Canon until I bought my Hasselblad H3DII-39 in 2007. The difference in sharpness of the H3DII files was dramatic. They were almost three-dimensional. I could see more roundness in tree trunks, etc. There were no big shooting challenges switching from Canon to Hasselblad, but I needed a lot more computer power to work with the bigger, medium-format files. Since then I have upgraded my computer to a MacPro with 4 cores and 7GB RAM to match the camera.

Compared to shooting film, digital capture has very few complications. Color temperature is no longer an issue. Before you needed several color filters to compensate for deviations in color temperature. With a digital camera, you either take a color temperature reading before you shoot or correct the temperature in the computer afterward. I find very few reasons to use filters at all with the Hasselblad. The major difference is exposure latitude. The tonal range with the Hasselblad is about 12 steps; with film it was five steps. With this change, you are talking about a major revolution for photographers.

The H3DII is easy to use, compact, and incredibly powerful. I am getting large-format quality—and better—with a speed of 1 frame per second or faster. In my aerial work, nothing in the world could match it. Even clients are amazed by the quality. I am still using FlexColor software, but plan to switch to Phocus with my upgraded operating system.

The H3DII in Action
I have been working on my Iceland Landscapes project for nine years, since August 2007 with the H3DII-39. Here are some of my favorite images from this ongoing project.

- In July 2008, I had been shooting aerials for a whole day and we were on our way back to Reykjavik. The air was getting rough and bumpy. Down below, a sand storm was forming a big sand cloud. As the sun was setting, the light got very dramatic, coloring the sand cloud in intense orange. It was so bumpy that I could hardly take the picture. To me the scene of Maelifellsandur looks like the view of Mordor in Lord of the Rings. For this image I used the 80mm lens at f/9 and 1/750 sec at ISO 200.

- I was shooting the great delta of River Markafljót in March 2008 when I saw this little section of the delta. The scene with the merging river branches was minimalistic, which was what attracted me. We were flying very low and I was only able to get one shot of this scene, however, it as one of my best aerials ever. It is the simplicity, the light and color, which appeal to me. I used my 50-110mm zoom at 50mm with an f/7 exposure, 1/800 sec, at ISO 200.

- I have taken aerials of Maelifell many times, but one time in July 2008 our airplane flew right above the mountain so, I was able to get a very tight composition with the 80mm lens. The air was rough and bumpy. All of the images, except this one, came out blurred due to the flying conditions. In the background of the single razor-sharp image, you can see rivers and a dust cloud created by the heavy winds. I used an f/4.5 exposure at 1/750 sec and ISO 200.

The Hasselbad H3DII is a major step up in image quality. I am obtaining large-format quality with a very compact, fast camera—at no cost per frame. I can shoot as much as I like, without concern for the expense for film and processing.

If you are a quality freak like I am, you will never regret buying a Hasselblad. The joy of taking pictures has returned.

Click here to watch the great "behind the scenes"-video of Hans Strand's volcano shooting in Iceland 2010.

Text by Alice B. Miller