Dutch silver mining and beyond

Sake Elzinga lives in the tranquil Dutch town of Assen. Approaching his front door you can’t miss a print displayed in the window. It shows bumper cars on an abonded fair. This turns out to be a photograph made near Chernobyl, the Ukrainian city struck by nuclear disaster in 1986. Sake has been a contributor to one of the larger national Dutch newspapers for decades. A role in which he mainly covers events in the northern (often rural) parts of the country. However, he does so much more.

Photo: Sake Elzinga – Pripyat 1996.
Elzinga was distinguished with the 1996 Fuji Award for this and other photographs about the Chernobyl disaster’s aftermath

A view camera is probably not the preferred tool for most photo journalists. Sake Elzinga however, has as solid background in technical photography. For several clients in the cultural heritage preservation sector and museums he photographs interiors, estates and architecture. Alongside his Nikon gear, he likes to use a Hasselblad. He must have owned every digital back they made to fit his 503CW. Nowadays his favourite camera is the CFV II 50C and the nifty 907x that comes with it. When the job requires perspective control, the Hasselblad back is attached to a Flexbody. Yes, now we’re talking!

Nijsinghhuis, Eelde, The Netherlands – Photo: Sake Elzinga
An extreme wide angle like this Actar-15 enables photography from a viewpoint that otherwise couldn't be used. Whereas view camera techniques keep the lines straight.

An extreme wide angle like this Actar-15 enables photography from a viewpoint that otherwise can’t be used. Whereas view camera techniques keep the lines straight.

Here a pole made it impossible to change the camera’s position. The Actar 15 lens and some rear shift still got the whole museum building and the statue within the frame.

Sake likes to use his classic Linhof Technika when occasionally shooting film. There’s also an old Sinar which he uses for portraits. Tilting the lens gives this nice blur that only leaves the eyes in focus. And there’s the aforementioned Flexbody for use on location. A great tool, but the inability to rotate the back makes it impossible to apply rise and fall when working in portrait orientation. Something more versatile replacing the Sinar and the Flexbody was due. So we handed over an Actus-DB2. When you’ve been a Hasselblad photographer for decades, owning a bag full of legacy lenses and a CFV-50 back, the Actus-DB2 is a fine addition. The ACB-HVSA adapter enables the use of the Hasselblad lenses with full leaf shutter versatility. Like the Flexbody does, yet more flexible. It’s light and compact enough for use on location and still offers enough camera movement to do those signature studio portraits.

Portrait of colleague Michael Kooren. Made with the Actus-DB2 and a Carl Zeiss 120mm lens from the Hasselblad collection.

A photo journalist who started his career in the early 80’s must have exposed tens of thousands of rolls of black and white film. That makes an archive which is a real treasury. A silver mine if you like. Sake started to digitise his negatives years ago. A massive amount of work, when you have been that productive for such a long time. The resulting book is called De Zilvermijnen van Drenthe*. It’s a beautiful testimony of the 80’s in the country side and small towns of The Netherlands.

*Silver Mines of Drenthe, the latter is the name of a Dutch region

Assen 1986 – Drenthe, The Netherlands – Photo : Sake Elzinga
Assen 1988 – Drenthe, The Netherlands – Photo : Sake Elzinga

Sake Elzinga won many awards during his long career. These also bear testimony of his versatility as a photographer. 1990 he was awarded the 2nd prize in World Press Photo’s Sports category. He won De Zilveren Camera (Silver Camera, probably the most prestigious prize for Dutch photo journalists) twice; 1994 in the category Documentary National and 2001 in the category Art, Culture, Architecture and Technique. 1996 Sake was distinguished with the Fuji Award for his series of photographs made in and around Chernobyl, ten years after the nuclear disaster.

Nijsinghhuis, Eelde, The Netherlands – Photo: Sake Elzinga
Sake’s Hasselblad CFV II 50C attached to the Cambo Actus-DB2 with a Distagon-40 in front.

More about: Sake Elzinga

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