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.
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.
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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