Category Archives: Black and White

On Scanning Film Negatives at Home

It’s a fun thing, developing and scanning one’s own black and white work at home. 

With very few exceptions, I’ve been left with that familiar, shoulder shrugging feeling when reviewing the scans I get back from a lab. After the anticipation of receiving the developed film’s scans, seeing them for the first time was a let down.

In fairness, the labs – and I tried several – did a fine job with the development part of things. That is to say, at least as good a job as I did at the time of exposure if not better.  Scanning just seems like sort of an afterthought. A down-the-middle accommodation to the fat part of the bell curve. 

I don’t like bell curves.

So I did some math and determined that for the price of 7 rolls of film sent out for developing and scanning at a moderate resolution I could just buy a refurbished Epson v600 scanner. No brainer. 

The scans are now ‘better,’ or closer to what I saw when I made the photo. Some are downright good, if I do say so myself. 

The tones are there for the most part. The images look pretty good, for the most part. Nothing like prints on paper, but for web sharing, they do nicely. The next stumbling block I’ve run into is that of resolution. 

I look at the negatives with a loupe and see so much more detail in them than what winds up being captured by the Epson, and that doesn’t sit very well. 

 

The venerable v600 is an inexpensive tool and it does a great job at what it is designed to do. There are better/more expensive/higher quality solutions out there, but one has to pay to play. Or pay someone with a drum scanner to guess at how I want my scans to look.

Anyway, I found myself wanting a bit better quality in my scans. Some well-spent time surfing various sites made me aware of a couple of promising options, and now I’m in the process of setting up a copy stand setup that should (if the internet is to be believed) result in more details being pulled from the negs. More details on that next week when the hardware shows up. 

I can’t wait to dive in.

 

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Returning to Film Photography (and to blogging)

For the last couple of years I’ve shot the images you see on the main site – http://www.redcentphotography.com –  with digital cameras. For some applications such as long exposures and a few other specialty applications, I still shoot quite a bit with the Fuji X Pro 1 and XE-1 that have been my bread and butter since 2012. When I do paid work, the digital cameras are still the correct tool.

For the rest, though, I’m choosing to shoot more film. 

The cameras are wonderful to hold, to operate, to own. Using them helps remind me that there was a time before. Before everything became a question of ‘Right now.’ Fast. Faster. Immediacy.

It has its place, but not when I’m shooting and enjoying some time to myself.

The way I learned to shoot was to grab the camera, pick up a small box with a roll of film contained in an even smaller plastic container. It smelled funny when you removed the lid. You’d diddle around with the film until it loaded correctly…which could take a few tries.


Advance the film via that lever under your right thumb. Look through the viewfinder at your scene, cast around that scene using an analog meter (or no meter), adjust shutter speed dial, aperture dial or both. Don’t think too much. Press the shutter release. That was it.

 Back then, there was no way to indulge the compulsion to check the work. No immediate sharing to social media and/or immediate gratification. There was no digital, no LCD. There was no social media. No likes. No comments. Not much of anything until much later.

There is a great deal of freedom in that. There is a great deal of freedom in not knowing what precisely is on a roll of film that may have been in the camera for a week or more until you remove it from the developing reel.

The throughput has gone down, but my process and enjoyment have improved. I would like to think that the image making is improving, as well.

Developing my own black and white film at home is a meditative process that has been practiced by photographers around the world for decades. I find it soothing to complete the development of a roll of film, hang it, check it out under a loupe, scan it and see on a larger screen whether it represents what I saw.

More later.

 

Being pleased with my own work

Is a foreign concept.

With that in mind, imagine my surprise at the smile that crept over my face upon seeing the results of this roll of film as the scanner finished its work.

This roll is Ilford HP5+ rated at ISO1600, exposed at ISO800. In this bright light on a sun-drenched California afternoon, there wasn’t much opportunity to control depth of field as aperture was made small and shutter speeds at 1/500 or 1/1000. Even so, I’m extremely happy with the tonality and range of this film.

 

 

The Bluffs above Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

I spend a lot of time at this cypress grove above the beach at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

I’ve walked here with Jen, with the kids, all 4 of us together, by myself.  It is both a destination and a waypoint on our treks down the coast for the day or for brunch to our hometown of Half Moon Bay.  For some reason I never knew of this place until Jen showed it to me a few years ago.  She called it one of her favorite haunts from when, as she puts it, she was an angst-filled teenager.

A few weeks ago on a different visit, I lost and subsequently found my keys about 150 feet from the spot where this photo was taken.  I only found them after retracing my steps around the quarter mile or so loop I’d walked around the grove.  When I did ‘find’ them, it was as much by accident as was losing them in the first place:  I stepped directly on the keys while framing a shot after having given up my search and was forlornly waiting for Jennifer to arrive with the spare.

The light here is always different and is often breathtaking. Some features have disappeared – the ring of fallen trees shaped into a corral has been taken down. Several trees are marked for felling. The foliage ebbs and flows with the seasons.

It feels like home.

bw cypress tunnel

Architecture, San Francisco

Couple of images I made today and yesterday in the Financial District.  The first, ‘Gap,’ is a 15 second long exposure shot in daylight with a 10-stop ND filter looking straight up as the fog began creeping across the sky.

The second, entitled ‘Illusory Support,’ has the potential to be a bit of a mind bender.  Most of what you’re looking at is a reflection of the buildings behind the camera.   What caught my eye as I walked by is that these columns inside the window appear to support the building reflected ‘above’ them.

Both shot with Fujifilm X100, post in LR5 and Silver Efex Pro.

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Gap

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Illusory Support

Pillar Point Harbor with XE-1, a series in black and white

I grew up just across highway one from the harbor and have visited here many times.  I still live close enough to make frequent trips to Half Moon Bay and count myself fortunate to be able to do so.

In the summer, the coast is frequently fogged in in the afternoon which puts a damper on photography.  Occasionally, however, the fog stands off in a most agreeable fashion and we get treated to a wonderfully warm, sunny late afternoon.

Half Moon Bay-5
Rock labyrinth

Half Moon Bay-13
No really, keep out.

Half Moon Bay-12
North of the harbor fishing

Half Moon Bay
Out for a row

Half Moon Bay-11
Iceplant and golf ball

Half Moon Bay-10
North breakwater

Half Moon Bay-9
North breakwater and sea wall

Half Moon Bay-8
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Half Moon Bay-4
Slow shutter

Where I’ve been, and where the OM-D went.

Few words, lots of pictures. Life is good.

I grew more and more frustrated with my X Pro 1 and 35mm/1.4 combo as time went on (I’d owned it for a year as of June first). I missed too many moments because I relied on the autofocus system of the camera and decided it was time to try something else. I traded away the X Pro 1 for an OM-D EM5 plus a couple of lenses (the 17 and 25).

That camera is FAST. Autofocus has been described as blazing. Instantaneous. It’s faster than that. 🙂 The camera is also tiny. A flip out, touch-screen LCD. Excellent. In-body, 5 axis image stabilization. Excellent. Why didn’t it make the cut? Well, the image quality sort of left me flat. I would never say that the images looked bad, they just didn’t really appeal to me. I got some great photos with the camera, like the shots below of which I’m particularly fond.

In the end, though, the little camera that does so many things well just didn’t get it done for me. It is an excellent little package, but there were some niggles that wouldn’t go away. I have sold the OM-D and jumped back to Fuji with an XE-1 and the stellar 18-55 zoom. I also kept nearly all of the legacy glass adapters when I moved the X Pro 1, so I have a decent selection of manual focus primes from which to choose, still. The 50/1.4 FD and 35/2.5 FL Canon glass I own have been revived with Fuji’s addition of focus peaking to the camera’s repertoire via firmware. I find the peaking function – when paired with the higher resolution of the XE-1’s Electronic Viewfinder where compared with that of the X Pro 1 – to make using manual glass much simpler and more rewarding.

So au revoir, OM-D, and thank you for the fun time.

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El Músico

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Prepared for any eventuality

Image7th Street, Oakland

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Serving one’s self

ImageComstock Saloon