Shooting a “short film” with Hasselblad X1D & Rotolight Aeos

The “Orchid House” is a short film capturing the deep tones of the Hasselblad X1D-50c and mysterious light of the Rotolight Aeos… with subtle undertones of… Murder…

When Michael North from the SunshineCo. presented me with an unexpected opportunity to shoot with the Hasselblad X1D, I grabbed it! With only a couple of days to prepare, I almost hit panic mode… When I remembered that one of my fav models for creative projects was in town. I quickly got in touch with Sarah Forsyth, who not only made herself available, but also arranged access to Misty Hills as location! All that was left was to reminisce through my visual journal and draw up some ideas.

“The Orchid House”, A short film by Natalie Field

This short, art film evolved around the idea of shooting in, you guessed it… an orchid house.

What unfolds in “The Orchid House” will remain a mystery, but something happens there. To a girl. There is always a girl.

This post is not a review as such, rather I would like to share the things that excited me the most about this experience.

Hasselblad X1D-50c

Short film created with Hasselblad X1D medium format camera for review by Natalie Field, Johannesburg, Conceptual Fashion and Fine art Photographer

The beauty of Medium Format Capture

There is something about the quality of an image produced on medium format that woos me.

For those who know me, you will know that I am a pixel peeper. For both my fashion and fine art work, I often retouch at pixel level, deconstructing images to create new realities. For me, size matters.

However, Megapixel count isn’t the only factor to consider when looking for high resolution files. The image sensor itself is of great significance. And a larger image sensor, like those found in medium format cameras, captures superior resolution.

Take for example the newly released Nikon D850 or Canon EOS 5DS. For all intent and purposes, both cameras can be considered 50MP, same as the Hasselblad X1D. The difference is that the DSLR cameras still have a 35mm sensor (35.9 x 24mm), whereas the X1D has a medium format 43.8 x 32.9mm sensor.

This greater sensor surface allows for larger pixels, which in turn gather more light; resulting in a higher (14-stop) dynamic range with larger transitional tonal value, and greater colour accuracy. The latter has resulted in one of Hasselblad’s most sought-after features: The Hasselblad Natural Colour Solution.

There is something almost tangible about the images. And it brings my story-telling to life.

Short film created with Hasselblad X1D medium format camera and Rotolight Aeos LED continuous light source review by Natalie Field, Johannesburg, Conceptual Fashion and Fine art Photographer

But, the problem with large image sensors have been that they results in large cameras. This is fine for studio work, and some (who are both brave and strong) even take medium format out on location. Either way, you would still want to stabilise your shots with a tripod. However, this is no longer the case…

Medium Format goes Mirrorless

Short film created with Hasselblad X1D medium format camera for review by Natalie Field, Johannesburg, Conceptual Fashion and Fine art Photographer

By exchanging an optical viewfinder for a digital one, Hasselblad has created a petite beast. The compact body of the X1D is surprisingly small in comparison to its medium format predecessors. My hands wrap comfortably around the sleek and elegant X1D. Its ergonomic design makes it easy to hold and I can support the weight without further thought… I am ready shoot.

Short film created with Hasselblad X1D medium format camera for review by Natalie Field, Johannesburg, Conceptual Fashion and Fine art Photographer

The last time I had an opportunity to shoot with a Hasselblad, I played with the exceptional flash sync speeds of up to 1/2000th. This time around, I wanted to feed my growing interest in moving images and experience the quality of medium format video capture.

I was especially keen to combine this feature with those of the Rotolight Aeos.

Cinematic Lighting

Short film created with Rotolight Aeos LED continuous light source review by Natalie Field

Another innovation in technology comes from Rotolight, who has produced a range of LED light sources with flash capabilities!

Now I must confess, this was my first experience working with continuous light, and I am absolutely blown away by the versatility of this product. This will most certainly be the next light source I invest in! I was already excited about it just watching the promo video prior to the shoot!

The “ultra-thin” Aeos has been designed with portability in mind, making it the perfect accompaniment for the X1D. Weighing only 1.5kg and just 1cm thick, it is the perfect light for both stills and video location work. The ball head allows you to position it in any direction when on a light stand, while the inclusion of aluminium handles on the frame makes it possible to hand-hold when fluidity is required.

Short film created with Rotolight Aeos LED continuous light source review by Natalie Field

Featuring a powerful light output (5750 lux @ 3ft) when in continuous mode, the light also offers High Speed Sync Flash with zero recycle time!!! You can literally put your finger on the shutter and fire away, the light never skips a beat!

BI-colour LED lights allow control over the colour temperature, from warm golden sunset tones to daylight. But more than this, these tonal variations come into play with the “CineSFX” feature: Customizable cinematic lighting effects imitating lightning, sirens, fire or TV flicker and more. And I knew I had to include some of this drama into my short film!

And so, the story of a girl unfolds

We started the four-hour session with a show and tell, and I tried to come to grips with the touch screen of the Hasselblad! Once I was comfortable with capturing stills, we moved on to some video so I could try some of the CineSFX.

Short film created with Hasselblad X1D medium format camera and Rotolight Aeos LED continuous light source review by Natalie Field, Johannesburg, Conceptual Fashion and Fine art Photographer

Short film created with Hasselblad X1D medium format camera and Rotolight Aeos LED continuous light source review by Natalie Field, Johannesburg, Conceptual Fashion and Fine art Photographer

Then we moved the party into the orchid house so the real fun could begin. I had brought along some Vaseline to smear onto the glass, and then sprayed it with water to create a humid jungle feel. We also pressed flowers onto the glass to create the effect of a raging storm blowing flowers and leaves around. And then added the lightning effect from the Rotolight as a final touch. The scene was set. And our protagonist played the part of the alluring damsel perfectly.

Short film created with Hasselblad X1D medium format camera and Rotolight Aeos LED continuous light source review by Natalie Field, Johannesburg, Conceptual Fashion and Fine art Photographer

Short film created with Hasselblad X1D medium format camera and Rotolight Aeos LED continuous light source review by Natalie Field, Johannesburg, Conceptual Fashion and Fine art Photographer

We then made our way to what we believed to be a heated pool, but alas, it was not.  Even so, Sarah braved the cold waters to give us the final scene.

Short film created with Hasselblad X1D medium format camera and Rotolight Aeos LED continuous light source review by Natalie Field, Johannesburg, Conceptual Fashion and Fine art Photographer

I honestly don’t think I had put it all together until I reviewed the footage. Suddenly the story unfolded and even some random bits made the cut into the final short film. My partner in work and life, Matthew Harvey, and I had hours of fun editing the story line. And I would like to give him a special shout-out for creating the beautiful intro to “The Orchid House”.

I feel that we have entered the next chapter of photographic capture. Gear continues to become more mobile and integrated, inspiring photographers to take their creativity out into the world.

I have fallen in love with photography once again.

Short film created with Hasselblad X1D medium format camera and Rotolight Aeos LED continuous light source review by Natalie Field, Johannesburg, Conceptual Fashion and Fine art Photographer

Special thanks to…

Michael North from SunshineCo. for this opportunity, I loved every minute of it!
Sarah Forsyth for being my muse!
Misty Hills for the gorgeous shoot location!
Corinna Tannian for being my cheerleader! And the BTS pics!
Mattew Harvey for working with me on this project, it is our best work yet!