First and foremost, let me make clear that I have never used the Hasselblad H6D-100c to photograph a football game. If you are a sideline photographer and shoot games, you should be in any other section but medium format as the cameras are not fast enough.

With that said, using the H6D to photograph football players in the studio or a controlled location/environment is perhaps one of my favorite things to do. Recreating the action we see on the field and transposing it to the correct form is an almost artistic practice in moving design. There are many different approaches one may take, and that is what makes this part of photography so special, as no one way is correct or wrong.

For 13 years, I have had the good fortune of photographing the sports campaigns for my alma mater Arizona State University. It started with small photoshoots done in classrooms with the lights shut off and small off-camera strobes, and has become a full production that ends with great BBQ when we wrap.

This year we went with a different angle for the campaign. Instead of recreating the chaos and confusion of the field, we decided to isolate the actions that occur with the player as a solo performer. With this creative license, the form that the player took to do their move would be the lines that present the art. My job was to see where the pinnacle of this expression existed and light it to complement and enhance the drama within the scene.

For the shoot I used the Hasselblad H6D-100c that I have been growing more and more fond of by the day. As small as it sounds, Hasselblad released a firmware update that enables the camera to play a tone telling me where my exposure was without me having to view the back of the camera. This was the first shoot in which I was able to utilize this feature and now I have become addicted to it.

The shot that would eventually become the hero image of the campaign actually began the year prior. We were doing the campaign in 2017, and the star receiver for the team wasn’t able to make it. I had drawn out an image on my computer for it, and wound up saving the file and pulling it back up when the shoot came back around in 2018. The image called for a very low angle camera placement that would be shot extremely wide to exaggerate form.

We built a small platform and foam crash pad so that I could position underneath the horizon line and the player could be safe to “go all out.” (A quick side note, when photographing anyone, safety should never be compromised for the image, especially when you have the ability to control the environment.) I mounted the HCD 35-90 onto the camera as I felt the 35-40mm range would give me enough angular bend without taking on too much distortion. As for the camera, I knew going into this photo that I would be leaning on the 1/2000th shutter sync, so I had to double bulb the softboxes in order to deliver the light fast enough.

Shooting a medium format system takes on some challenges with action because there is a larger mirror that has to clear the frame, so in turn there is a distinct lag to the exposure. For this image I practiced releasing the shutter based on cues I picked up from the player’s action preceding the jump. I fired the shutter when I saw his left arm become perpendicular to the horizon, and this is the image that resulted.

For me, the color and dynamic range were reason enough to use the 100c. I’m extremely pleased with the final image, which was really more a result of the many people that helped make this shoot happen. Despite the system’s limitations for fast-paced action, the outstanding dynamic range and incredible resolving power keep the 100c as my absolute go-to.

Photo copyright Blair Bunting