Tag Archives: scanning

A couple of ‘new’ images and some thoughts on patience

I’ve started to have a bit more time – not much, but a bit! – for processing images from last year that in part I hadn’t even had developed, never mind scanned.  However, a few weeks ago I took a substantial number of films away for processing (the fridge door is now half-empty again!), and I’ve been scanning film ever since.  The images here – added to the Assynt gallery – are both from the same bay, made an hour or two apart (at most).  The first image is on Fuji Velvia 50, and is actually the later of the two:

Ardmair/Cul a' Bhodha

The sea in the evening light, after the storm clouds lifted; Ardmair/Cul a’ Bhodha

I think I’m not finished with the processing of the second image, but I want to include it here since it represents a bit of a personal triumph (yes, this may seem slightly pathetic to you!), in that I feel I have finally managed to process Kodak Portra 160 the way I want it:

Ardmair/Cul a' Bhodha

Incoming storm clouds; Ardmair/Cul a’ Bhodha

What is interesting about this on a personal level is that I had tried using Portra quite a bit last year, in part because great photographers like Dav Thomas rave about the tones and dynamic range that it offers.  However, I spent much of my processing time fighting to get anything like a semi-decent image from the film scans: everything had subtle but unpleasant greenish colour casts that I couldn’t seem to get rid of: terribly frustrating.  Attempting to get skin tones on portraits right was impossible, and landscapes were no better.  I should add that this is very subjective: I felt I never managed to get them quite right for me.

Part of this, I now think, was about trying to force myself to get it right too quickly.  The key issue is in part simply a matter of white balance and temperature adjustment, but there is much more to it as well, and I just couldn’t get it right.  I stopped engaging with Portra last autumn, but in about March of this year I read this detailed article by another enthusiastic Portra user, Tim Parkin.  Whilst I didn’t think of this article yesterday when I had my Eureka moment, now that I look back at it, I realise that I had indeed begun to incorporate some elements of Tim’s processing technique.  I feel I can go back to the article in detail and work through the parts I really want to use on my images.  It’s as if I’m befriending Portra again.

What is key to this development is that it comes in several stages: firstly there was an initial enthusiasm which rapidly became an experience of frustration, eventually leading me to abandon Portra altogether.  However, subconsciously the wrestling with Portra was still going on, for why would I have read Tim’s article unless I had intended to use it?  Much later, when I had some time and what I loosely call ‘brain-space’, I found I could return to a Portra image and incorporate sufficient key elements of Tim’s techniques to make it work for me.  This image here happens to be the one that I started playing with, and at some point I need to finish working on it.

None of this process should come as a great surprise to me because in my academic work this happens regularly.  I will often read a book or an article, but struggle to fully understand or engage with it and then simply ‘forget’ about it and read something else.  However, I then find my subconscious has been working away at the first text, perhaps with the help of the second, and when I need to write something that would benefit from the first, it simply ‘works’.  I go back to it, for sure, but the key arguments and opportunities it offers to develop an argument are already clearly delineated and internalised.  I know that it just needs time and patience to let it seep into my system – at least, that’s what it feels like!

Now I can observe that my engagement with photographic techniques seems to follow a similar pattern.  I need to cultivate more patience, which those of you who know me will realise is something of a challenge! 🙂

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Working with the Epson V700 scanner

I’ve been busy scanning lots of images with the Epson V700, trying out all sorts of software settings.  The scanner comes with Epson Scan and SilverFast as the two software options.  I was gradually getting the hang of these, but was never completely satisfied with the results.  Looking at transparencies on my lightbox with a magnifying glass, I felt I saw more detail in the slides than in the scans (especially in the shadows).  My first transparencies with the medium format Mamiya were all on Fuji Provia 100F, which I was given with the Mamiya camera, but although I prefer Velvia 50, I’m sure that hasn’t been the issue here. With black and white film the results were a bit better, and I was gradually working my way through recent films and mostly liking the results, though for reasons I can’t explain, they were not always consistent.

But I think I’ve now cracked it – and this is largely due to a change of scanning software.  Yesterday I downloaded VueScan (in part on the recommendation of Tim Smalley, who bought the V700 shortly before me and from whom I’ve been learning a lot!), and the results are amazing.  Transparencies look just the way I think they should, with incredible detail in all areas, and my first scan of a black and white image has worked well too.  The interface is a bit clunky, but SilverFast is much worse (it looks as if it hasn’t changed much since Apple produced OS9!), and although I need to ensure I get to grips with all the settings, I’ll be upgrading to the full version at the beginning of the week.  The VueScan images are simply better.

Chicken house ruin, Kiesby, Schleswig-Holstein

Chicken house ruin, Kiesby, Schleswig-Holstein

For example, here’s a section of a ruined chicken house in a village in northern Germany, shot on Velvia with the Mamiya and the 80mm lens, and scanned using VueScan – the rich colours are a combination of early morning sun and Velvia doing its bonkers colour thing… believe it or not, I’ve toned down the colours a bit in Photoshop.  Even in this small jpg image, I think it’s possible to see that the shadows have considerable detail; the full size image is great.  Clicking on the image will take you to the version on RedBubble, where clicking on that version will make it appear almost full-screen.

I find it really quite surprising that the scanning software can have such a huge impact on the end result, but going by my experience of the last few weeks, VueScan is definitely the way to go with the V700.  I’m not quite there yet, but I think I’m now getting there.

First experiments with scanning medium format film

Yesterday my Epson V700 arrived – purchased specifically so that I could scan my images from the Mamiya and Rolleiflex.  I plan on this being by day-to-day scanner, with really special images being sent to Tim Parkin.

First impressions are very good.  The scanner is really solid (and pretty big), though as many others have said, the plastic film holders seem to be very flimsy  – a strange contrast to the heavy scanner.  Even just from one day’s careful use, I’m wondering how long these will last (it feels like a ‘when’ not an ‘if’ question).  Replacements are, apparently, available.  I find it slightly irritating that although a FireWire 400 connection is available, there is no Firewire cable in the box, meaning I need to make do with a USB connection for now (I expect the FW connection to be faster).  Photoshop really struggled with saving these large files (several minutes the first time), but I did have a number of applications open and I don’t have much memory for this kind of thing on my Mac.

Regarding the scans: I have done the typical male thing (according to my wife) and just plunged straight in, scanning some colour transparencies and monochrome negatives.  I had used the monochrome film (Ilford FP4 Plus) before in 35mm form so had some idea of what to expect, though I didn’t know exactly how the Rollei would impact on it, and my use of my lightmeter obviously needed to be up to scratch.  The colour transparency film was completely new to me: Fuji Provia 100F, and I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect; this was shot using the Mamiya and mostly using the camera’s meter, rather than relying on my lightmeter.

So, with auto sharpening, broadly similar settings (though I am intrigued that the Silverfast software has a specific setting for the Ilford film, which I used) and general playfulness, I think I can say with some certainty that buying the Epson was a good choice.  Here are two images that I have scanned yesterday at 6400dpi, along with 100% sections – this is not necessarily the best dpi to choose, but the files were already coming in at around 500mb with this size, and for playing I didn’t want even bigger files as they just slow everything down.  I don’t want to make excuses but these are the first (monochrome/Rollei) and second (colour/Mamiya) rolls I have shot on these new (to me) cameras.  I can see from other scans that I need to work on greater stability for the Mamiya when I’m not using a tripod – it’s heavier than I think, and perhaps my recently injured arm means it’s harder to hold still at slower shutter speeds.  Neither of these images have had any post-processing.

With this first image of my friend Toni (taken on the spur of the moment in a pub garden, and yes, that is a fresh pint in front of her!), if you can ignore the fact I didn’t have e.g. a yellow filter with me, there is clearly a richness in the tones that does just what I would expect the Ilford to do – and the Epson scanner captures the depth of these tones rather well, I think.

Ilford FP4 Plus/Rollleiflex

Ilford FP4 Plus/Rollleiflex

And here we have a 100% detail of the edge of Toni’s glasses.  It’s hard to know if I had focussed entirely accurately (almost certainly not, and depth of field was very shallow; I think I was resting the camera on the garden table as I had no tripod with me), but even so, I find the definition reasonably ok (bear in mind that at 100% and the more usual 300dpi, these images would be enormous!).

Ilford FP4 Plus/Rolleiflex

Ilford FP4 Plus/Rolleiflex

Here is the Provia, first the image as a whole (which, if I use it, I will ultimately crop, rather than leave at this size/aspect ratio):

Fuji Provia 100F/Mamiya

Fuji Provia 100F/Mamiya

And here is an excerpt at 100%, which again shows considerable definition (and the tif file shows good shadow detail – some of which seems to have got lost in the conversion to the jpg file):

Fuji Provia 100F/Mamiya

Fuji Provia 100F/Mamiya

I’m not sure I like the Provia 100F that much, but perhaps that is because the colours didn’t quite come out the way I thought they would; everything seems to have a slightly purple tinge, even when there is no obvious purple in the scene as there is here; I think that is very unlikely to be the scanner.  In any case, I look forward to using the Velvia I recently bought – I already ‘know’ the Velvia from 35mm photography (the Provia was given to me by the same person who is passing on the Mamiya – he had it in the fridge but never really got around to using it, so it is quite old and maybe not at its best).

My preliminary conclusions: getting consistently decent scans will require some effort, as well as consultation with the manuals (don’t tell my wife!).  But early results are certainly promising, and working with something like the Epson V700 will be enjoyable, I think; the time needed to learn how to do scans properly is perfectly normal (I expect to learn how to use a new camera, so why not a scanner?). There are some early niggles: for example, I would like to use a different colour space/ICC profile: I’m using the recommended proPhoto RGB in Lightroom as Adobe itself says this is better than Adobe RGB, and yet the scanner defaults to this older setting (somewhere in the manual there must be something on this…!).  Above all, using something as good as this Epson scanner will require me to produce much better images in camera to get the best out of the scanner – and creating better images is, after all, what this is all meant to be about!

Help with identifying a photo scanner for larger format film, please!

Now that I’m beginning to move towards larger film formats I need to invest in a scanner that can cope with these films.  The Canon 4400F that I have is a pretty good all-round flatbed scanner (that I occasionally used for 35mm film), but now I need something that can deal with much larger film sizes.

My film requirements at this stage are smaller medium format (specifically 6×6 and 6×4.5cm – for a Rolleiflex and a Mamiya 645), but having seen what happens to people who start down the route of larger format cameras, I want to be prepared for perhaps larger formats in the future!  Over time, films may get bigger…

I would love to get a Nikon 9000, but can’t possibly afford that.

As far as I can tell there are two flatbed scanners on Amazon of the quality that I’m after, and that are just about in my price range (well, if I don’t tell other people in my household…): the Epson V700 and V750.  The 750 can use a glass holder for mounting film, which is obviously good for ensuring the film is completely flat and in focus from edge to edge.

Do you have any thoughts on this?  If you have used either of these, or have experience of another comparable scanner, I’d love to hear from you, either in the comments below, or on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MichaelMarten.

Thank you!

[NB This posting was imported from another blog I once used, and the comments do not therefore follow the exact pattern of normal posts.]