Sunday, July 4, 2010

Macro in Patapsco

Ok, back to actual photography. Today I took my 5D and 50/1.8 to Patapsco Valley State Park in Elkridge, Maryland. I was somewhat confined to a particular part of the park though, so I decided to take my extension tube (EF25II) and explore my little corner of the park in macro. As always, God is in the details, and if you're shooting macro, the world is suddenly a whole lot larger.

I was shooting everything handheld today, which is somewhat tricky for macro photography. A couple things that helped though:
  • Use AI Focus or Continuous focus mode. With such a shallow depth-of-field (millimeters), you and the subject will inevitably sway towards and away from each other. AI/Continuous focus can help compensate for the constantly changing distance between you and the subject.
  • Switch to manual focus when auto-focus fails you (it will at times), or as a starting point before you turn on auto-focus.
  • Shoot subjects that are in direct sunlight, with shade in the background. The sunlight/shade contrast will help your subject stand out from the background. The direct sunlight will also give you the high shutter speed you need to compensate for all the little movements that can occur in the macro world.
  • Don't be afraid to shoot without looking through the viewfinder. Good macro subjects are sometimes high, low, or in tight spaces. Aim the camera as best you can and give it your best shot. If your camera has a Live View feature, then definitely use it.

Here's my top five for the day. There's a little more detail in the flickr comments for each photo, so click on the image if you want to know more.



Tanning Insect

Red Invaders

Crooked Little World

Happy shooting, one and all, large or small.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Xpan repair story

Ok, so this travel blog is turning into more and more of an Xpan blog. But hey, why not run with it for now...

After my Shendandoah trip, I started to notice that the parallax focusing prism was just not right. I would focus on the same object from the same location with the camera in different orientations (i.e. horizontal vs. vertical) and get different distance readings on the top of the lens. Not really a problem when shooting landscapes at f/16, but nonetheless, just not right.

I briefly entertained the idea of trying to fix it myself, but after loosening a few screws to remove the top, I concluded that I was only going to do more harm than good. It was time to bite the bullet and ship it in to someone who knew what they were doing. But where to begin? listed Greg Hollmann as the regional partner for Maryland, so I dropped him an e-mail at
The rangefinder focus on my Xpan does not seem to be completely accurate sometimes. I'd like to have it looked at, but I don't know where to take it or ship it. I'm currently residing in Baltimore.

He promptly replied:
Hi Bill,
We have a service center in NJ, they will be able to take care of you. Here is the contact info:

Hasselblad USA - Camera service center
333 New Road, Suite no. 5
Parsippany, NJ 07054
Phone number +1-973-227-7320
Fax +1-973-227-1063

Great! I carefully wrapped and boxed up the Xpan with a formal letter enclosed (headers omitted here):
To whom it may concern,
The parallax focusing mechanism on the enclosed Xpan (serial no. xxSSyyyyy) appears to be loose. It seems to go completely out of alignment after I have the camera tilted to the right (i.e. right end of the camera pointed downward). By tilting the camera to the left, then shaking lightly, the focus mechanism seems to fall back into place. It's difficult to be certain that I'm getting proper focus again though. Please examine and repair if possible.

I shipped it off via USPS with delivery confirmation and $800 of insurance for $17.95. Not bad at all. Three days later I received an e-mail from Maryann Murphy at Hasselblad:
Mr. Allen
We have evaluated your camera and determined it needs to be cleaned and calibrated. It also needs the Prism to be tightened. The cost of the repair is $193.00 including shipping.

Please advise if you want to proceed. Your repair # is xxxxxx.

Generally when I think Hasselblad, I think big $$$, so it was a pleasant surprise to get a quote of $193. Of course I gave the go-ahead. The following Monday I received another e-mail from Maryann:
Hi Bill,
The repair has been completed to your xpan. It has been calibrated, cleaned and the prism tightened. I just need a credit card and it will be shipped.

Now I can be slightly paranoid when it comes to credit card numbers, so I decided to give her a call the next day instead of simply e-mailing her my credit card number. She was ready with my order when I called though, so the call was about as painless as possible.

The camera arrived a few days later via UPS (after a three rounds of delivery tag). I took it out of the box and was very pleased with what I saw. The viewfinder was pristine and the focusing mechanism was smooth, tight, and accurate. If it weren't for the wear on the finish, I'd have thought I was holding a new camera. The only down side of the whole thing was that the battery had run down during the journey, but that's no big deal. I keep spares in my Xpan Go Bag.

So if your Xpan (or any Hasselblad) is starting to show its age, I hope this article helps quell your fears a bit. Of course, this is the USA, so I have to list the following disclaimers:
  • Your mileage may vary greatly in terms of pricing and timing depending on what's wrong with your camera.
  • I have absolutely no relationship with Hasselblad; I did not get any freebies, discounts, or other compensation for writing this article.
  • Please confirm any contact info I have listed here, as it may have changed. Do not blindly ship your beloved camera to Parsippany, NJ.

And don't worry, I'll get back to posting pictures soon.