#935. The Hasselblad X1D does football

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Nov 30

It’s the most peculiar activity, football. Having recently been given the opportunity of an evening inside the shiny stadium that hosts Olympique de Marseille, probably France’s most notorious team, if not the most famous or successful, I thought this was a great opportunity to move mankind forward one big step by proving that the Hasselblad X1D, far from being the lazy slouch it is rumoured to be, can keep up with the pace of fine young atheletes. As is so often the case, I was wrong.


But this still gives me the opportunity to explain football to you. After all, most of DS’ readership is from the USA and the term football there has a very different meaning from its old Europe acceptation.

In the US of A, the term football appears to describe a group activity in which participants attempt to find as many ways as possible to interrupt and advertise an 80 m run while simultaneously protecting the shoulders of the protagonists and turning their brains into pudding.

Well, I’m sorry to say, guys, the European way is infinitely more refined and elaborate. Watch and learn how it’s really done!


Now, I say that, and realise how convincingly expert my tone comes across, but three elements conspire to dilute the efficacity of my exposé.

One. It was my priviledge to be invited to spend that lovely evening in expensive corporate boxes with fine food and fine drinks and fine ladies showing me to my seat. And it’s a good job I don’t suffer from vertigo. The need of the wealthy to retire from the crowds having so much fun together drinking beers and – by the smell of it – enjoying unlimited reserves of organic scooby doobies, and into isolated high places, meant that it kinda felt like scaling K2, getting up there where the euros flow. And, well out of reach of my puny 60mm (eq fl) lens.

Two. High on reefers or elated on bubbly, the crowds, they move almost as much as them youngsters on the grass, down there in the pit. And the shouting, and the singing, and the whistling … it gets to you, makes you want to join in, cranking up the animal’o’meter, releasing the inner child. So, it is quite possible that I may, ahem, have been jumping about a fair bit while shooting, without the pixel-saving goodness of IBIS to save my pics …

Three. Scentient beings who are more expert at the game than me, in Europe, probably include many newborns and, possibly, some marsupials in cages facing large screen TVs.

But let’s give it a go.


As far as I can tell, you place 25 fashion-conscious young men on a lawn, and submit them to a three-phase consensual sparring contest.

Phase one is the dancing. It seems to often start up like a square dance, all lined-up swell in matching costumes, then someone throws in a sphere to signal improvisation and chaos.

13 red is well’ot, here. Look at him go! White 8 forgot his moves, he’s going home. 21 and 17 white are still hesitant beginners, but the guys behind, they really have it going. White 18 desperately wants to watch. Oh, and white 10’s been naughty and has been sent to the corner.
Up top, the red guy does that great impersonation of a duck, while the synchronised moves of the trio below fights for attention with the Pulp-fiction action at bottom left. They’re getting all the attention.
Oh, red duck has lost the plot but his buddy with the beard is nailing it so hard. The white guy behind with the green and pink shoes (yeah, that’s a thing), I mean he’s just screaming “how are you doing this, bro?” White guy in blue shoes behinder still, he’s really giving it his best swing, really appreciative. But it’s the center right of the frame that has my attention. This is Gericault-level epic! I mean 2, 4 and 15, they are really rocking it like The Crystals, man. Look at’em go!

Phase 2 is the Sphere. The sphere must have a special signification as chaos automatically follows its arrival. Some joker always sends one into the square dance …


And this happens: a guy in yellow and a guy in black appear out of nowhere and the spectators start jumping up and down, shouting words my mum taught me never to utter.


Now, if you think the reds and the whites were rad, the yellow hornet will blow your socks off.

This is no longer dancing, it is poerty in motion (which was a song long before it was preempted by one of the least poetic brands in human history).

This is beyond even John Travolta, and deep into 1976 Nadia Comăneci territory. Nadia, my first love.


This infuriates the other dancers so they kick the sphere all over the place, usually way out of the field, out of disgust. Spectators poo poo accordingly, telling the sphere never to come back.

But it always does.

And some times, thankfully very rarely, it gets tied up in the net. This usually makes your ears bleed. Now, I am told not all stadiums and crowds are like that. And that Marseilles may have a shaky dance group but also boasts the most vocal supporters in the country by a safe margin – and universe-wide, this side of The Beatles. And, of course, no one ever exaggerates, in Marseilles.

Depending on the shirt colour of the culprit, the crowds either look like this:


or like that:


Phase 3 is the Fall. ’em guys fall often. It’s some sort of ritual that every time two of non-matching shirts come close to one another, one of them – sometimes, out of sheer generosity, the two of them – fall onto the ground and start shaking like Regan before a priest.

One of two things then happens: either the man in black takes notice and the shaking amplifies or the man in black looks away and the fallen rise again. Profound stuff.

Should I shake or should I go, now?

All of this is great fun, made even better by the apparent lack of meaning of it all and the realisation that you might never again have to listen to rap because you have gone deaf. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

It ends, after a deceptively short 90 minutes of dancing, sphering and shaking, with one team of dancers making more points on artistic merit, until the following week-end. It all seems very tiring but I’m told the dancers get paid several thousand euros per minute spent on the lawn, so it probably makes sense for them to sweat it out.


But what about the real star of the show? The X1D? How does a sedate, fat Swede, fare in the company of machine-gun bodies with white bazooka lenses?

Was I really wrong about thinking it could keep up with the pace? You bet I was. I didn’t just keep up, it laughed at the challenge. I shot roughly 30 photos during the match, some while actually jumping up and down, and my keeper rate is about 70%! Pre focus on the goalie, finger on the shutter release and let your instinct click. Easy.

Of course, there’s the small matter of being up there in the elite sky, miles away from the less fortunate who can actually see things up close. And of using a desperately short focus lens for the task. So, most of the dance photos are 100% crops or are even more enlarged. I hate to crop (particularly in public). But what choice did the distance leave me? This, below, is how small puny humans appeared to me with no cropping, and those weren’t even on the dance floor.


All things considered, let me once again laugh at the dominant market trend of gazillion frames per second. Timing it old-style is fun! Give me great ergonomics, great colours, great per-pixel info over speed, high-resolution and high ISO any day of the week! The X1D conquered Formula One, now it’s conquered footie. All that is left is … nah, nothing is left. This thing is perfect.


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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    ROTFLMHAO – well I share your views on grid-iron – to me, it produces much the same reaction you get from Americans if you try telling them about cricket.
    But the X1D at a football match? Scanning these shots, the ball is largely out of frame! I’m pretty sure I could detect it heading for the goal (unless the goalie got to it first) in one shot, and I’m almost sure I found it in one more – but that was it.
    Anyway, so what? – you had fun (and something nice to wash it down with), and the photos are great (if rather unconventional, for sports photography! 🙂 )

  • Sean says:

    Love it, Pascal!
    Never had the patience for the game myself but your words “… a deceptively short 90 minutes of dancing, sphering and shaking…” have finally given me insight and understanding to a game that at times gives an onlooker the impression it’s chokers full of overpaid prancing ponies. 🙂 Your accompanying images give a good metre and record to the enormity of the spectacle called soccer, oops football. 🙂

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    finally some vague understanding of this ritual dawns on me…
    Could it have its roots in Square dance?
    A square enlarged to a field?
    But the introduction of this sphere seems strange, perhaps to direct the dance and shift it from corner to corner in the field?
    I must say your photos show an artistic choreography, but perhaps another couple of rehearsals might have perfected the discipline?

  • Andy says:

    I’m not one to comment often, but I absolutely PMSL as they say. Love your take on football, especially phase 3, falling down. Best description of the game, ever. Thanks for making my Sunday


  • Joakim Danielson says:

    Love the photos from Phase one (One?) with their strong diagonal lines and the fact that there is no football in either of them makes them visually stronger to me.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Joakim, lovely to hear from you. I’m glad you like those photographs. It was my intention to create photographs without the context of the football, that show the players absorbed in an action that we can’t understand to create a sort of “Raft of the Medusa” effect. It’s cool that someone picked up on that 🙂 It’s not that easy to do during sports coverage but it kinda worked 😉 I hope you are well!

  • Steve Mallett says:

    Pascal, that gave me a good Sunday evening giggle. And I love the b&w silhouette of the guy with his hands near his head. Just as long as you and the Hassy stay away from cricket; I don’t want to see any blasphemous heresy and ridicule devaluing DearSusan;-)

  • Alan says:

    Very funny! I like your attitude. And the photos were my kind of sports photos. Lovely.
    Is your obsession with things large and unwieldy perchance an inherited trait? Did your grandfather work for the Times Picayune in New Orleans? https://www.photo.net/discuss/threads/long-lens.465954/

    • pascaljappy says:

      Oh wow, not that’s telescope, not a camera lens 😀 😀 I would love one of those on a tracking mount. Bringing it to a sports match? Hmmm let me think 😉 Thanks, Alan!

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