Just some stuff about photography


Ethical quandry

in Film , Saturday, May 21, 2011

I recently spent some time on the Eolian Islands, out of season, avoiding the (extreme) heat and the tourists. While I was there I visited one of my favourite locations, the main crater of Vulcano, a couple of times.

I was to find that since my last visit, the crater floor had been adorned by some “urban art” in the form of stones spelling out various declarations.

Vulcano crater scan

Straight from the scanner: the crater floor

I don’t really want to start a rant about this. Some people will find it unacceptable, to the point of wanting the perpetrators skinned alive (and they’ll likely as not have British or German passports), others will just take it as part of the scenery, others will find it amusing. The question is, should I include it in my photograph ? Certainly the last I time I visited, it wasn’t there, or at least if it was I didn’t notice, so it wasn’t in my pre-conceived photo either.

Vulcano crater scan zoom

Not quite what I had in mind

So should I edit it out ? It’s not a very challenging task in Photoshop CS3. Possibly even less so in CS5. But is it “cheating” or “wrong” ? It is after all a fairly major part of the scene, and there’s a very long tradition of graffiti in the Mediterranean area. Pompeii, for example, has plenty. So in fact it could be considered to augment the interest.

To start off with, I didn’t think too much of it. I’d decided right from the outset that first I was going to edit it out, and second, most probably, it was going to be converted to black and white. Like this:

Xpan vulcano11 2 07

What I had in mind

Apart from any ethical issues, am I actually playing it safe and traditional here, and churning out yet another boring, bland photo with nothing to say for itself ? Justified, worthwhile edit - or lost opportunity ?

I’m really not so sure…



Posted in category "Film" on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 05:23 PM

Wet mount scanning: postscript

in Film , Thursday, March 03, 2011

Just a quick update on my experience to date with the ScanScience kit.  I’ve now tried scanning negative film (35mm Kodak Ektar 100), and the benefits are much clearer, although mainly due to the fluid mount keeping the film flat.


Here, the top scan is using the standard filmstrip holder, and the bottom one is using a fluid mount.  These 100% screen shots are from the edge of the film: the scans were manually focussed at the centre of the strip, and there the difference is minimal.

The colour differences are not significant - I didn’t take much notice of this during the scan, and just let Silverfast do its thing. You can’t see it here, but the fluid mount scan has slightly more detail and micro contrast. Nothing overwhelming though.

So the conclusion is in this case that it is well worth the trouble - but the advantages over a carefully prepared dry glass holder, for 35mm film, remain small.

Posted in category "Film" on Thursday, March 03, 2011 at 10:53 PM

Wet mount scanning

in Film , Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Back in October, a blog post by Ctein on The Online Photographer first alerted me to existence of 3rd party fluid mounting kits for many scanners.  Specifically, he mentioned ScanScience‘s kits, based on their Lumina fluid.

I was intrigued enough to check this out, and eventually ordered a kit usable on my Minolta Dimage Scan MultiPro from ScanScience. Since they are in Canada, and the fluid cannot be carried by air, it takes quite a while to arrive, and it’s also better to order a reasonably generous supply.  So there’s quite an element of flying blind here, but my feeling was, well Ctein knows what he’s talking about, what the hell.

Anyway, it arrived a few days ago, and I started playing around with it. Precision scanning is both fiddly and something of a black art. My initial impression of fluid mounting is that it certainly increases fiddlyness, and also adds several more ways in which you can screw up a scan ... or indeed a scanner, in the worst case scenario.

My initial attempts were not too successful, and I had to dismantle a 6x9 glassless holder to fit the fluid mount assembly as recommended. But after a few tries I started to get the hang of it. The main challenges are getting the right amount of fluid onto the various surfaces, and avoiding dust and dirt contamination.

The basic idea with fluid mounting is to keep the film flat, and to avoid optical path degradation which arises from various factors in dry scanning - I won’t repeat the explanations here, you can find them at ScanScience and various other resources.

The following images show the best result I’ve obtained so far. Comparing a couple of sections of a 4800dpi XPan scan of Ektachrome E100G, wet mounted and dry mounted, shows some advantage, at 100% magnification, for wet mounting.



At the top you can see the wet mount version on the left, dry mount on the right [CORRECTED!]. Colour differences are down to slightly different settings in Silverfast HDR - ignore these. The images have suffered a little in JPG compression, but looking at the rightmost telegraph post, and the background forest, you can see a touch more resolution. But it’s not exactly jaw-dropping.

The next example is a bit more convincing:


Here, the lower scan is wet mounted.  Certainly there is a touch more resolution here. Or maybe I focussed better… who knows ?

ScanScience claim a number of things, including:

- Better edge to edge sharpness: hmm. Probably, but with the “sandwich” mounting technique I’ve evolved over the years, and the relatively deep depth of field of the Minolta, I’m not - so far - seeing any benefit.

- Better contrast and detail: as shown above, yes, but we’re splitting hairs, to be honest.

- Extended dynamic range and saturation: Nope. Well, not for E6 slide film, at least. The Minolta covers the range of E100G and other low(er) contrast films quite happily, and has no issue at all with higher contrast.  However, this benefit may apply more to negative colour and black & white. I’ve yet to try this.

Hides dust & scratches: no. Absolutely not. If anything it makes things worse due to more places for dust to get in, and if dust gets into a fluid layer, it’s pretty much game over, time to remount.

So, in summary, I’m seeing minor improvements which don’t really appear to justify the cost and time.  But it’s not quite as simple as that. First of all, one thing is clear: to get any benefit at all, the image has be well exposed and sharp. Secondly, it seems that the benefits are more towards negative and larger formats.

There’s actually a lot of discussion out there on the interwebs about wet mount scanning, and by & large I’d say the overall impression is of mixed results. In particular, this discussion thread confirms my findings. Pity I didn’t do a bit more research…

At the moment I would tend more to reserving it only for “top picks”, but it’s early days yet.


Posted in category "Film" on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 01:38 PM

Dust Free Scans

in Film , Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dust, hair, particles of whatever. They’re the slide scanner’s nightmare. Although fixing all the various blotches in Photoshop can at times be a relaxing activity, it’s still one in all honesty I could do without. And sometimes there’s no real fix.

So the ideal solution would be to get rid of the dust BEFORE it gets scanned. Simple, eh ? Well, not so much. Maybe if you live in a clean room and handle everything with surgical precision, but even then you’d better hope the film was processed in a similar setting.

I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried scanning straight from the box. I’ve tried air blowers in a hundred shapes and sizes. Nothing really works.  Until now. I may have found the solution, or at least something close to one. It isn’t really my idea, I’m sure I read somewhere else that somebody suggested it, but anyway here it is: the Arctic Butterfly digital camera sensor brush.

I actually needed a solution to clean my Olympus E-3’s sensor (yeah, that SSWF, well it does work, but it isn’t infallible), so I decided to take a chance and ordered an Arctic Butterfly 724 from Visible Dust.

And it works.  Both for the intended task, cleaning the sensor, but far better than this, also for putting dust free films into the scanner.

Of course, it isn’t 100% effective: I’m sure there’s plenty of dust swirling about in the scanner itself, and when you’re magnifying a 35mm film strip to 4800dpi, stuff which is totally invisible under the loupe sticks out like a sore thumb in Actual Pixels view in Photoshop.

But it makes a big, big difference, and if you’re having similar problems I strongly recommend giving it a try.

Posted in category "Film" on Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 05:43 PM

Free Nikon F3!!

in Film , Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Want a Nikon F3? For free? Well, Rob Boyer’s giving one away right over there!

Personally, I can’t really say that I want one enough to get in the way of somebody else’s chance, although since it would involve getting back into (stomach lurch) Twitter and even (stomach heeeeeave) Facebook I’d have to want it a LOT.

I’ve got film cameras. I’ve got a Canon A1, the last of several I had, which I’m keeping because I’ve got a Canon FD 50mm f1.2L lens to put on it.  I’ve got a Ricoh GR1v which doesn’t work so well any more but still… and I’ve got a Minox GT something-or-the-other which I bought the Ricoh’s predecessor to replace!

Not so long ago I sold my last medium format film cameras, the Hasselblad ArcBody and the Fuji GW670III (mainly to fund my XPan II).  Here’s a shot off the last roll from the Fuji.  Hmm. That was a gorgeous camera.

F670 171009 lugano 04

I spend an inordinate amount of time scanning XPan transparencies to HDR and then processing them. Would I really want to do that for standard 35mm film ? I don’t think so, really. Somehow 35mm is just a little too small, too fiddly, and 36 of them at a time is just too much. Hell, I’ve got boxes full of unscanned slides even now!

I can certainly see the attraction of a Nikon F3 though…  Now, if he’d been handing out a Canon F1, this post might have turned rather differently.

Posted in category "Film" on Wednesday, February 09, 2011 at 09:37 PM

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