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Roberto Bigano

"Hasselblad Helps to Create High-Quality Reproductions of Da Vinci Drawings."
Roberto Bigano

The Orvieto Cathedral, Coronation of Mary. © Roberto Bigano

“Ritratto di fanciulla” (“Portrait of a Girl”), 1485 © Biblioteca Reale di Torino

“Bugatti Atalante” © Roberto Bigano

Capturing the Classics

Roberto Bigano (www.bigano.com ), based in Verona and Naples, Italy, has been a professional photographer since 1980. With a diverse client base that requires wide-ranging commercial art and fine art photography, he has some 30 books to his credit, including Divina Bugatti and Il Cavaliere Inesistente. In 2007, Alta Cucina in Alto Adige won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for best food photography in Italy, and Locks was named best photography book of antiques by a jury at TEFAF, the world’s leading arts and antique fair. Bigano teaches digital photography at international workshops and conferences, including Photokina 2008. Upcoming projects include a book on art masterpieces housed in the museums of southern Italy, in December 2008, and an exhibition on Naples architecture, in September 2009. 

My specialty is being able to do what most photographers usually cannot. For instance, the silhouetted Bugatti that opens my website slide show is a good image, but many photographers can make similar shots in their car-specialized studios. Not many are able to capture that image in a museum, however, where reflections and control of light are a big problem. I also specialize in overhead shooting. I shot a fresco in hundreds of shots then blended them, revealing a virtually unknown 10th century Byzantine masterpiece.

Big companies, such as Bogen/Manfrotto and Gitzo, have been my top clients for the past 15 years. I also do a lot of work for large Italian, German, and Austrian technology companies, for museums and cultural associations, and for Franco Maria Ricci (FMR), one of the top art book publishers.

I am a digital photography consultant, specializing in Hasselblad software and Adobe Photoshop, and a field tester for Manfrotto and others. As a Hasselblad Photo Partner for Italy, I have been asked to work on important and complex projects. For instance, in 2007, a company called Leonardo3 contacted Hasselblad about creating high-quality reproductions of the work of Leonardo Da Vinci. They wanted these reproductions so people would become aware of the previously inaccessible masterpieces, and to allow in-depth analysis for offsite study. As Hasselblad’s main partner in Italy, I was assigned the project.

Capturing Da Vinci

I have created thousands of high-resolution reproductions of Da Vinci’s Atlantic Code, The Flight of Birds, and drawings from the Royal Library of Turin, including his famous "Self-portrait.” I have used many different Hasselblad backs in multi-shot or microstep mode, up to 88mp. The 120mm macro lens is extraordinary, able to support unbelievably high resolutions. The sharpness, without any unsharp mask, is incredible and the ability to show every last shade is incomparable. I also used Manfrotto’s IFF Repro Stand and Photon Beard HMI lights throughout the project.

Our first assignment was to photograph Codex Atlanticus or Atlantic Code, Da Vinci’s most important work, which includes some 1,600 of his drawings. The project, shot at Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan, called for low-res and high-res images. I used the Ixpress 528 to make “low-res” 22-megapixel images in single-shot mode and lit the drawings with two Photon Beard HMI lights.

When we were about to start the high-res images, a technical team discovered, thanks to our very detailed images, that the drawings had conservation problems—not from our shooting—and we had to stop the job. The ultra high-res picture of Codex Atlanticus will be taken after the restoration, probably next year.

The project continued with the Da Vinci drawings housed in the Royal Library of Turin, including his famous “Self-portrait.” We used the Ixpress 528 in microstep mode here. I placed the lights only on one side. Using a single light complicates the work, but gives an astonishing tri-dimensional look to the files. All the files revealed unexpected discoveries. For instance, while it is known that Da Vinci used bianchetto, an opaque white covering similar to Wite-Out, only in the ultra high-res file of “Portrait of a Girl” can you see and appreciate his unique technique.

From V to H3D

In 1982, I started using the Hasselblad V System with a 500CM body with the Distagon 50mm, Planar 80mm, and Sonnar 150mm. Great lenses. I started using Imacon scanners almost eight years ago. Six years ago, Andrea Mariani, the boss of Hasselblad Italy, gave me a beta of Flexcolor 3F software, which transformed analog data into digital. The software was an important discovery that gave new life to my 100,000-image archives.

I continued testing the digital systems on the market, but they were disappointing. I liked the Imacon 3020 digital back, but not the software. With Flexcolor 3.4 the situation changed. My adventure with Imacon/Hasselblad digital backs began: Imacon 3020, 6-mp; Ixpress 384, 16-mp; Ixpress 528, 22-mp, up to the current 39-mp. Starting with the Ixpress 384, every model has been state of the art. In 2003, I moved to digital, abandoning film completely.

For me, shooting with a Hasselblad digital camera, the H3D especially, is much easier than using film. The super-sharp files, amazing color rendering, ability to capture subtle details, absence of noise and moiré, portability, and versatility—the H3D-39 is all quality.

Text: Alice B. Miller