Nicolas Claris featured Sinar Photographer for 2008. How OPF and Sinar got together to look at the Hy6 in the most physically challenging shoots on the high seas.

Asher Kelman © Nicolas Claris

The Claris Agency in Bordeaux France creates “the face” for their elite clients. Nicolas Claris, photographer and a principal, now is adding MF digital photography to his imaging tools after a two-week trial with the Hy6. This Flagship Sinar MF digital system has hooked him. His work, in return, captivated Sinar’s PR folk. As a consequence, Nicolas Claris is now a featured photographer for Sinar for 2008.

This is such special news that I wish to start way back to give Nicolas Claris my personal thanks and recognition for his work in OPF. Most of you know that Nicolas Claris, along with Michael Tapes, have, from the outset, labored for OPF. That initial setup help was invaluable. Once we were going as “OPF”, we were interested in finding out more about our nascent community. So I visited the galleries of our members and thousands of images. We highlighted a selection for rotation in the front of OPF. I needed to learn more of who we were.
So I decided to meet a few photographers and really get to know them and their work. Nicolas' photography drew me to Bordeaux as did the work of Rainer Viertblöck, to Munich, (more of Rainer in this story later).
Our visits were so enjoyable with both of them that our budding friendships became sealed. I wrote articles on their work, convinced that they were cutting-edge photographers to follow. The stories, we presented on Nicolas in OPF can be found here and for Rainer, here. Well, as you know, both of them have subsequently received further National and International awards. So I feel good for them and admit a vicarious pride in that I had the declared to myself that they were both photographers worth following!

We have made many friends on OPF and shared meals and worked together. However, no one has been closer to me than Nicolas in steering OPF. So this particular report is especially meaningful to me.
Let me digress. My interest in the new Medium Format Digital and Film camera, the Hy6 is longstanding. It dates back to our 2006 meeting with Rainer in Munich. I saw his files using various digital backs from photographs of architectural projects in Europe and Asia. This primed my interest in Sinar technology. Still I was at a loss to see how MF could survive in the chaos of no common platform for the current and upcoming diverse and competing digital backs. Worse, Hasselblad's inward looking policy of making there own MF system “closed” to other back makers, seemed to be an existential threat to Hasselblad’s competitors. Then, when the Hy6 was announced, I saw this as the required common MF platform for the near future. This one body would allow Leaf, Sinar and Rollei to have their various digital backs all thrive on one camera. Furthermore, the availability of so many great Rollei lenses from different lens MFRS seemed to clinch the whole idea. So to me, this was likely the single most important news in MF photography in 2006-2007 and exactly what we hoped for!

Credit Sinar - More on the Sinar Hy6

Immediately we wanted that camera for testing! I sought the assistance of Thierry Hagenauer of Sinar (covering the Far East), who, although not involved with the USA market, is such a helpful and approachable fellow. I then corresponded with and finally spoke at length with Lorenz Koch at Sinar headquarters. He was positive and promised his support in getting us access. We planned for a special opportunity to test a working body in Switzerland that May 2007. This slipped by. So we tried for a session in New Jersey in August 2007 before Sinar Bron distributed the camera to dealers. Never happened! I still worked on OPF getting the camera. We were actually listed to get the camera after Michael Reichman in September 2007! So that was good.
However, things didn’t happen! Unfortunately, just then, the most prestigious photography magazines in Europe were clamoring for the camera. Then, to our dismay, that itinerant Hy6 skipped OPF and flew back to Europe! Here in the USA, dealers still had to compete for access and salesmen had to be trained. There was no Camera in the USA to beg, borrow or steal! With the camera in devilish short supply, I thought of our European photographers.
What could we offer that was unique? The solution it seemed to me was to get the camera to Nicolas Claris in Bordeaux. Taking super yacht pictures in fast water or from helicopters had never been tried with a flagship MF digital camera. I started to write again, now pressing on Lorenz Koch and Thierry Hagenauer at Sinar advocating for Nicolas to test the camera for us. I argued that he was uniquely positioned to test the potential of high-level action lifestyle photography with such cameras. The idea of someone holding a precious Hy6 Sinar from a chase boat or dangling out of a helicopter seemed so far-fetched, I must admit.
Still, I knew Nicolas could take good pictures even from a broken Coke Cola bottle and so, for sure, he’d read up and would, no doubt, master this MF camera in no time at all. My enthusiasm, however, faced the reality of catching Nicolas on dry land! Socially, Nicolas is soft, humorous and easy-going. When he’s working, however, he’s obsessed and ”not-to-be-messed-with”, not for anything! So even with the camera, the problem was of getting our long-awaited Hy6 review from a photographer who was already so very busy! The recent awards for his work are fine but there’s a downside. New clients were swamping the agency.
At this time, he was already totally equipped with the latest 1Ds Mark III. How could anything be better? I had the feeling from Sinar, anyway, that it seemed counterintuitive to them that their new camera would excel in Nicolas’ high-pressure shoots. After all, MF was not generally used much outside the expected areas of fashion, beauty and product photography. I argued that a 2008 Professional camera could and should operate in much more demanding situations. Certainly my belief, that this new camera must operate at the cutting edge, meant a lot to Sinar.
However, really daring photography was a tough premise to sell! Persistence, Nicolas’ recent awards, the press reports, his work in luxury nautical photography and encouragement by Thierry Hagenauer finally led Lorenz to give my indefatigable “British Bulldog” enthusiasm a reality test. They’d send Nicolas their camera to review. I thought, at last! But not so fast; it got held up in customs! Why was it so difficult to get one camera!
Let me share with you, nothing stops Nicolas from the sea. He has such an affinity. He started as a boat builder, then sea captain and finally having found a sweetheart named Marine to marry as long as they were both married to the sea! The both set out to provide the image for luxury boats and yachts from the architects’ conference room, early drawings and laying of the hull to the first time the boat was speed-tested at sea.
So you can see he’s addicted beyond reason! Anyway, even if he had wished so, Nicolas couldn’t delay sailing of a multimillion-dollar yacht just for his new camera choice, whims and fancy! I admit I was about to call Nicolas to find an excuse to delay, but somehow I held back.
The camera finally arrived within hours of departure for the next shoot. The Hy6 and Nicolas were to be tested together! Still he got his wings using the camera under the most trying conditions. Nicolas completed the first round of his Sinar Hy6 tests in the Caribbean waters and in Spain during the past several weeks.

© Nicolas Claris

Nicolas, as usual, was reserved about the work. However, the initial results surpassed even my enthusiastic premise and hyperbole! Sinar’s Lorenz Koch was equally impressed and moved!
The camera had proved up to the task. The Sinar back and lens combination was able to resolve nuances of tone and hue in the water that delivered a sense of “really being there” on the ocean. The pictures now could be enlarged to wall size with no loss of that impact!

© Nicolas Claris

Of course the camera did fine for the easier shots, as shown above. That was the time when the people rested and that was a welcome respite. However, on the real test, racing behind in a small chase boat in the wake, slamming up and down, everything was literally, “on the line”. Nicolas and the camera kept shooting. Being responsive to the creative demands of the photographer under such conditions was convincing. This was, for Nicolas and OPF, a final proof of concept that this Hy6 digital platform could meet that challenge and more! When the pictures were received in Switzerland, Sinar PR became very interested!

© Nicolas Claris

As a result, Sinar turned to Nicolas to be a featured photographer for their campaigns and for Photokina 2008! This decision gives me pride in Nicolas, in OPF and the quality of our photographers. Also, we are promised that we’ll get an inside look at the camera as never before. Here’s where we are: Sinar has decided to establish close relationships with Nicolas. So, for 2008 he will shoot for Sinar. He’s tasked to capture speed, motion, emotion, energy, and movements with the Hy6 MF camera. Sinar will use Nicolas Claris' yacht images as a principal theme for their upcoming 2008 advertising campaign. This will especially illustrate the new capacities of this new digital combo (with the Sinarback eMotion 75 LV - 33 million pixels and Sinar lenses from 50 to 180 mm). This particular back is claimed to be the fastest camera in its class.
I like this focus on the Hy6. It’s a valuable addition to our nascent MF activity for OPF. This doesn’t mean any lesser devotion to Professional 35mm DSLR’s or even film. However, we do need to serve professionals with a choice of the very best tools available. Only then can we really discuss available options. MF, especially digital photography, is an important area for professional photographers.
So we’ll continuously highlight, within our website, work done with all the available cameras and backs. Especially with the Hy6, this will include much more than yacht pictures. It will involve other subjects showing movement and aerial forms. There will be a “Nicolas Claris Hy6 diary” in the "Medium Format & Large Format Cameras" section, updated regularly. Nicolas will address technical and artistic questions and illustrate this with 100% image crops. In addition, OPF will shortly publish an in depth article showing real life use of the camera under professional shooting conditions "in the field".

Asher: So Nicolas, Congrats! How do your react to all this change in your life! Quite a surprise!

Nicolas: This is exciting for us at Claris. We're quite proud that Sinar (one of the world leaders in their field) have recognized both our artistic and technical skills to offer such opportunity. Believe us for now, for those who has never seen an eMotion Sinar back file, the image quality is incredibly beautiful… You will shortly see examples of the work.

Asher: What other plans do you have for the Hy6?

Nicolas: The new Sinar will be an exciting tool to make our images to show our clients at their best. Some splendid assignments are already being targeted so we’re going to be very busy. Of course, OPF will have "la primeur"… This opportunity is generating a new phase in our work. Claris offers to clients an “Image”. We present a face for our clients. This is what we do! The Sinar relationship will enhance this, adding a new level of picture quality and exceptional look. We’re already planning an exhibition in Bordeaux at the end of 2008”…