Oct 292012
 

The other way to scan positive slides, or, why I kept my big SLR.

By Stefan Schmidt

Recently I was asked by my father if I was interested in having his slides from when I was young since he never watched them and was thinking about throwing them out. In truth it was his wife who triggered the question since she had found out that he already had dumped two paperbags worth of slides in a container. “Of course!”, I said. And before I knew it I had two big boxes of slides delivered to my basement.

An idea began to form in my mind that I should do a book on my parents as a gift to them and my siblings. Obviously I needed to scan the pictures, but how? As it would happen a friend of mine recently had bought a Canon 9000F flatbed-scanner planning to do much the same thing as me. He graciously let me borrow it to scan the slides.

I installed the software, brought out the oldest magazine with slides and started scanning. The positives were mounted in glass frames and somehow there was a lot of dust between the glass and the film itself. Also there seemed to be small droplets of moisture or rather, fat, on the inside of the glass. I scanned in maximum resolution to TIFF and was really disappointed with the result. Not only did each slide take about nine (!) minutes to scan, the actual focus was off as well. It turned out that the scanner could not focus above the surface of the scanners glass. Meaning that it was the dirty glass in the slides frame that got sharp, making all the dust appear “perfectly”. Also, the picture got very pale colors and a really bad contrast. This simply would not do!

This is an example scanned in 4800 dpi. It’s my father on a vacation 1965 on Sicilian. I was born in 1966…

I was so very disappointed and my plan for a book seemed to vanish into thin air. In disgust I just stopped looking through the slides for several months. Instead I enjoyed taking photos with my spanking new OM-D and had a blast with it. Inspiration crept back again until one weekend when I realised that I had shot all through the summer with only my OM-D. The Canon 5D MkII and it’s lenses had been untouched for nearly four months and I started to debate with myself whether or not to sell it all off. I was so pleased with my Olympus.

Then it hit me! I had a full sensor 21 Mpixel camera and a 100mm macro f2,8 that shot 1:1 magnification, surely I must be able to use that! I realized that some things would be very important to make this work:

1. I needed to make sure that the slide and the camera was placed horizontally and vertically correct and in parallel to each other.

2. I wanted a good source of light.

3. The light needed to be soft, diffused.

I ran down into the basement, took an A4 photo frame and stole the glass from it. (Yes I know, I’m impulsive when inspiration strikes…) I then went into the workshop and quickly nailed together a box from a board of tree. I put the glass from the frame into the box fixating it with wooden pegs and a wooden strip across the glass.

Next I took a piece of spare MDF-board and placed the camera at one end focusing almost as close as possible with my macro 100 mm to be able to measure the distance to where the box should be positioned. I used a square tool to draw 90 degree lines across the MDFboard to be able to fasten the box in parallel to the wooden fixtures I use to place my camera correctly. Behind the box I put a milky white plastic cover from our basement lamps as a diffuser. A Leitz slide projector at the other end of the MDFboard was my light source. I measured how high up on the glass the slide needed to be and put a small wooden strip across the glass to put the slide upon. The slide wanted to topple over and fall off so I added an elastic band across the glass, by the top of the slide, as well.

O’boy, was I exited to see if it worked!

I set the ISO to 320 since I find that this is the best base-iso for the MkII. I set the aperture to F 4,5 in apperture-mode. I set white balance to halogen (warm lamp). I set the self timer to 2 seconds. Finally I set the camera to show each taken picture for 2 seconds after each shot in order to see if I would need to re-shoot it with any exposure compensation. As always I shoot with RAW.

Deciding to shoot the same pictures as before I went for the picture of my dad. I used live view to be able to position the slide correctly and AF-ON to fine tune the focus. Then I shot the first exposure.

I was stunned! Just watching the 2 second preview I could see I was really on to something here, and when I zoomed into the picture it was so sharp that I cold see the actual grain of the film! Amazing! This is the sample from that shoot. Notice the difference in sharpness, contrast and color. Even though the resolution is lower than that of the scanned file above. Another amazing effect is that nearly all of the dust and speckles above are out of focus here and most of it is not even visible.

Frankly, I’m amazed that it turned out so well! When I developed this in capture one pro 6 i did not alter exposure or colors. I did not crop it either because I wanted to show that I get a piece of the frame in the picture when I shoot the slides. This is by design since I saw that there was a difference in thickness and size between old glass frames and Kodachrome paper frames etc.

Below is a picture from my first tests in daylight when I fixed my Lightbox in relation to the camera on the MDF-board. It was easier to do the measurements i daylight. Also I wanted to know if daylight provided even better color. It did not. When test shooting I had to cut out some black plastic and nail it to the box to block light from the sides to illuminate the slides from the wrong direction. Obviously I have no use for it in my basement but the picture gives a fair view of how my setup looks.

I would like to point out that shooting slides this way works best in a dark room. If there is surrounding light, scratches in the film or dust will be more visible. Also dust can be both white and dark if the slide is photographed in full daylight making a bit more tricky to clone away.

Here are som pictured from Venezuela that I “camerascanned” for a friend of mine ( he with the scanner by the way). I thank him for letting me mail them to you. Below are three pictures from Fuji Velvia 50. The pictures are very clean and sharp! They were taken 1997 during a two month trek and only a minimum of work was required on the raw-files (cropping obviously but also bringing back some details in the shadows because slides can have very hard contrast and dark shadows). My friend lugged his Nikon F3 with a winder and four lenses up and down the trails during those two months, along with 30 rolls of film, that is some seriously heavy gear.

 

By now I have shot over 20 magazines with slides and it takes me about 30 minutes to “scan” two magazines with 36 slides each. Compare that to around nine minutes for each if I should use the canon scanner. I hope that this is something that you, or some of the readers of your brilliant blog will have use for. It sure has inspired me! Now I don’t feel like selling my 5D MkII just yet. It has also inspired me to dig out my old Contax 167 and shoot some film knowing I that have a way to bring pictures with the character of the film into my computer.

Slides are easy to start photographing this way. Color negatives and black and white negatives works extremely well too but that is an article in itself. Especially when it comes to “processing” the negatives to get a picture on-screen that looks good. As always, thank you Steve, for running such an inspiring site. You make people want to contribute and share their experiences and that is a great thing in itself!

With my best regards

Stefan Schmidt

Sep 212012
 

How to create a successful blog.. 10 things you ABSOLUTELY NEED to do to be a success!

Something different today for the many who have asked me how to start a blog and get it to be known. I do not proclaim to be any kind of expert on this matter, not even close, but I do know a few things about blogging as I have been doing it every day for the past 3+ years (Now 5+ in 2014).  So this is for those who have asked me about it..here are my thoughts.

BTW, photos in this post were shot with a Fuji X-Pro 1 and Konica Hexanon 60 1.2 Leica M mount Lens. 

Over the past 3+ years I have been working every day of the week on this very web site/blog that you are now sitting down and reading. It has come a long way since the humble beginnings with my iWeb hosted and very basic site and today it hosts thousands of articles, hundreds of guest and user reports, hundreds of reviews of cameras, lenses and accessories. It started out costing me $10 a month to keep up and maintain and today costs me more than $900 a month to just keep it live (not counting all of the additional money I have to spend to run it and provide content for it).

It started out with 10-15 views per day and today enjoys anywhere from 90,000 to 180,000 views a day. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine this blog would be one of the well-known spots/hang outs for photography enthusiasts nor would I ever dream that I would get yearly visits from Sony to show me their new gear in my home. Never did I dream I would travel the world and be invited to Berlin from Leica to witness their new product unveilings, and I surely never thought I would make so many new friends from all over the world. THAT is the best part IMO..getting to know so many of you who read this very site.

Over these past three years I have noticed that Leica based sites went from about TWO to TWO HUNDRED. Some have been exact copies of mine, many have already disappeared and some are doing well, which I think is absolutely amazing. The more passion and excitement we all share the better off we all are. It can be infectious and what better way to be in life than to be happy, positive and full of life and energy and most of all ENJOY our lives by doing something we LOVE to do!

I get many e-mails asking me “How can I start a blog and get people to see it”..or “I want to be like you and start a blog about photography, can you tell me how to do it”..or “I put up a blog but not many people are finding it, how do I get the word out”??

Usually those e-mails go unanswered because the answer is not a simple one. It is not a short one either and there is not something that I can just say that will bring someone instant blogging success. Since I have just today received my 100th email on this topic I decided to write a post about it..so those who are interested in blogging can get an idea of where to start, how to go about it and most of all what to expect if you are trying to do this as a way  to make money because in my opinion that is never a smart reason to start a blog!

Know that this is a highly competitive area and in the last 3-4 years it seems that everyone and their mother has been starting blogs. I do not mean just Photo blogs…there are thousands of blogs about everything from photography to ghost hunting to fish bait and the internet is so full of information it is pretty incredible when you think about what we have today compared to what we had just 15 years ago. Information is like gold and today we have full access to just about anything we want to know.

To stand out from the field of “blogging” you need many things but one of them is PASSION. I have said this before and when I say “passion is needed” I am not really only talking about passion for what you are writing about, but a passion for life, success, and happiness. You must truly live, breath, eat and sleep what you want to blog about if you want it to be a rip-roaring success. These things are key. For example, if someone is only out to make a quick buck..starting a blog will not make you an overnight money bags..even after years you may find yourself asking “is this all worth it for such little financial reward”? If what you write about is filled with true passion then it will be worth it no matter what you earn from the site as money is not the concern. If you have no passion then no one will want to read your blurbs and popularity will be low. Doing this for the money is not a way to go about it as it is rare for a blog to make any real serious cash. Maybe 3-5% of blogs do.

I will try to keep this as simple as I can, sharing my experiences along the way. This blog is surely not one of the top 3 photography related blogs in regards to traffic, but it is in the top 10 somewhere and it took about 3 (2014 – now 5) years to get there. Sites that came out in the 90′s are the ones that have the rock solid reader base…sites like DPreview, Luminous Landscape, and the oh so popular and controversial Ken Rockwell. All of these sites register quite highly on the Alexa scale for popularity and traffic, as they should. They are very well established and just a few years ago DP Review was so popular that Amazon (supposedly) paid MILLIONS to buy the website from Phil Askey, the previous owner and originator of the site. Pretty amazing. But why did Amazon do this and why was DPReview so popular? Well, Phil started it at a time when there was zero competition. He was a pioneer. An originator. He worked his ass of for years and had the passion, the desire and the mental capacity to sit at a desk for 14 hours a day writing and testing cameras 7 days a week. He created the largest photography site online and his success was well deserved. Over 7 million visitors a month. Pretty impressive. I manage about 2 million here on this site so I can only image in the work it would take to handle 7 million.

So what do you need TODAY to start a blog that can break out from the sea of sites on the internet? I am no guru but here are 10 things to keep in mind…

1. PASSION

Numero UNO! If you do not have this you do not have squat! Do not start a blog for money otherwise you will be losing money and time. Period. Start a blog of something you are passionate about and you will not only enjoy what you do but you will most likely gain popularity as well.

2. DESIRE

You have to WANT to write and you will have to do it daily so having the DESIRE to go with the passion is a must.

3. LOVE

This one goes right along with the top two. You must have the passion, desire and LOVE for what you intend to write about because if you do not it will show in your writing and it will get old quickly.

4. POSITIVITY

Readers will flock to you if you are yourself and share your enthusiasm and positivity. If you are a negative person and just rant, bitch and moan then people will not want to read what you write. Be positive, be energetic and be fun. Most of all, be YOU. If you are a cocky type that is a turn off for many readers. Most people do not like to read the words of “know it alls” because the know it all rarely does indeed know it all. Just be yourself and if you are genuine and have an enjoyable personality things will flow very well. 

5. TREAT OTHERS AS THEY TREAT YOU

If you have someone helping you out in the beginning then PLEASE be nice to them and do what you can in return for them. If you have someone who is out for you or jealous and attacking you then that is a GOOD thing because it shows you are getting some attention. Best thing to do about those people is to ignore them as they do not deserve the attention. As your blog grows you will gain people who like you and you will find others who for some reason or another dislike you but always be grateful and kind to those who help and respect you. 

One man I insanely respect is Ken Hansen. He helped me from day one by loaning me lenses that Leica wouldn’t. When I started Leica ignored me and for good reason! I had no readers! Ken believed in me and loaned me lenses and cameras and in return I linked to his e-mail. Turned out he is not only one of the nicest guys I have met in this business but he is also one of the absolute best Leica dealers on the planet. It’s not just me  that says so, there are thousands of others who say the same. This site is mine but I didn’t build it alone..others have indeed helped me along the way, in one way or another as they do with any venture but I have also helped then in return. It’s the right thing t o do.

6. STAY  TRUE TO YOURSELF AND STICK WITH IT

Be you and only you. Don’t try to copy other sites or personalities as it will show and people will see that. Copying will not help anyone gain success in blogging. You can take ideas of others but be yourself all the time.

7. DEDICATION

When this site started I worked 12-14 hours a day on it..and I did this for at least 2 1/2 years. These days I work 8-9 hours a day, 6 days a week. I am dedicated and I love what I do. I do not wake up and say “Damn, I have to go write an article or answer email”..instead I say “I am blessed to be able to do what I love to do”. So I am dedicated because I love what i do! Dedication and hard work will pay off over time. TIP: Update your blog daily but do not burn out!

8. CREATIVITY

To create, design and maintain a website does require some creativity. So be sure you know the basics and every day could be a new learning experience. Be creative and do not be afraid to explore things outside of the box.

9. ORIGINALITY

BE ORIGINAL!! Ties in with being yourself but if I have to repeat it I will. Do not copy others..pave your own way. When I started my site 3 1/2 years ago NO ONE was doing real world reviews. They were ALL technical and boring. ALL OF THEM. Some love the tech reviews but I could never sit through all of them and read every word. I started this site because it was what I WANTED to see in a photography site. It has since morphed into exactly what I wanted from the get go..a site created by me and by all of you with a community that participates not only in comments but in guest articles as well. I remember posting guest articles and months later DPReview, the head honcho of all photo sites started to do the same and then other sites joined in doing it as well. Other sites would even e-mail guys who wrote for me to try to get them to write for them. Lol. Community is key and this site does not even have a forum yet most major articles get hundreds of comments. I think this is awesome and is a testament to positivity, energy and real world reports as well as the amazing people who come here to visit and hang. Awesome.

10. NEVER FEAR and JUST DO IT!

It may be scary starting a blog from scratch but never fear! Go forward and do what you feel. Don’t be afraid to write what is really on your mind. Don’t be afraid to make someone mad if it is warranted and do not be afraid to tell the truth all of the time. Push the envelope and always create but the most important 1st step after having the passion is getting of your behind and MAKING the blog. Once you get it started it will flow like water…just have to make it over the initial hump. 

Follow those ten points and your blogging adventure will be off to a great start. There is much more of course to the whole big picture but most of it can be figured out as you go. I am still learning and imagine I will still be 5 more years from now, just as I am doing with Photography. Blogging can be fun, fill up spare time for hobbyists, make some extra cash for those who want to do something they love at the same time and it can also be a life changing experience. It’s not and never is easy but for me, I wouldn’t dream of doing much of anything else right now.

Jun 222011
 

Know your camera and you can do great things…

By Steve Huff

So last night I was shooting the Seal show in Vilnius Lithuania and upon arriving to the venue I realized it was going to be my biggest challenge yet for shooting. Why? Well, the arena was sort of drab, dark, and dull AND I was sort of forced to shoot SUPER close to the stage, like, right up against it. To add to that, the stage was VERY high up, almost as tall as me, so I knew any shot I took would be from a bad angle. What to do? How about throw on a 24 Summilux to the M9 and hope for the best? Yea, thats it. Luckily I had a 24 in my bag.

I decided to use the 24 because I KNOW my camera, and I knew exactly what kind of results I would get from slapping on a 24mm lens in the situation I was in. I also knew how the 24 Summilux would render and how I could get away with slow shutter speeds due to the M9′s capabilities with a steady hand.

The fill in temporary drummer Obed at sound check.  24 Summilux at 1.4 on the Leica M9

For most shows I shoot the 50 Noctilux 90% of the time but last night I shot the 24 Lux 90% and the results are quite different, but I like it. I liked it so much that after the show I was inspired to write yet another article, this time on “knowing your camera”. How many of you really know your camera? I mean, really know it? I know I do, and that helps me out more than you know!

Do you know what settings give you the best results for different situations? Do you know what lens will give you the best result for a given circumstance? Do you know its ISO performance max limits and the way to get the best images you can from it? Have you “bonded” with your camera? Yes, BONDED.  It sounds strange but I know there are many of you reading this who do indeed have a certain bond, a certain “oneness” with your camera. I know I have this with my M9, and I am actually starting to get there with the Fuji X100.

Shooting the 24 meant I had to be CLOSE, and since I was stuck up next to the tall stage I knew I could get some dramatic shots and great audience interactions.

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Once you have this “bond” with your camera you can shoot without stress, without worry, without hassle. You go by instinct and by “seeing” and “doing”. When I walk around the crowd or near the stage I am always looking for the next shot, and at the same time I try my best to not repeat myself every single night. The last thing I want is to stress about settings or lenses or whatever. By having this bond with my Leica, I do not have ANY worries when the night starts as I know that as long as my camera is working, I will have many opportunities to capture the spirit of the performance.

The 24 Lux ROCKED last night in Vilnius! As always, I shoot these lenses as they were meant to be shot, wide open!

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My job on this tour, if you can call it a job (I don’t as it’s been my lifelong passion..a dream come true) is to document this tour while I am along for the ride. Concert shots, video, behind the scenes stuff..whatever I can capture. Seal is not really my boss, but rather a great friend who puts ZERO stress on me and gives me 100% creative control on what to shoot. With that said, I always strive to do my best every show even though when I look at my photos I usually only end up really liking one or two shots. But as may of you know, as photographers we are always overly critical of our own work.

But as I said earlier, by really KNOWING my camera gear I can let my mind be free and just shoot organically. Does that make sense? I hope so.

So how does one bond with their camera? First, you have to really like your tool of choice. You have to enjoy holding it, shooting it, controlling it. If you do not even like your camera then it will be very hard to get this bond. The most important thing for me is to really enjoy USING the camera. This is why I am such a HUGE fan of the Leica M series. Film or digital, the usability factor is HIGH and once you know it inside and out you can shoot quicker and more effectively with an all manual M9 than even an auto focus blazing DSLR.

The 24 Lux with the M9 sitting on the stage captures Gus Isidore  - love the rendering of the 24 on the M9. Gorgeous.

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Again, the 24 Lux wide open. We met this Mother & Daughter the day before while street shooting and here they are in the front row.

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Of course I did slap the 50 Noct on every now and then…

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Knowing my camera allowed me to get this shot of Seals silhouette.

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To bond with your camera you also have to know its menu system. Learn it, know it and set it..them FORGET IT. I never change anything in my M9′s menu, ever. It is set the same as it was months ago. This way I know EXACTLY what to expect from it. No surprises. Again, when you know what to expect, you have that freedom to capture without the stress of technical details. Stress free shooting equals better images IMO.

In order to really connect with your photographic tool, you also need to be passionate about photography. If you have a true desire to shoot and create then you are 90% of the way there.

Once you have the passion along with a camera you really enjoy using, and you know its menu system and have set it up to your liking, then it is all about SHOOTING as much as possible. Before you know it you will have that connection with your camera.

Also learn all of the characteristics of your lenses. For this shot I knew the Noctilux would give me this amazing flare, and IMO it adds to the atmosphere of the shot.

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Also knowing your depth of field – what will be and wont be in focus is key to creating images that match the vision you have in your head.

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Carol Jarvis rocking out during “Amazing” – check her out on facebook HERE and press like!

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I get asked all of the time how I create these photos with a manual camera. How they are so sharp, focused correctly and capture the feeling of the show. I’m not any kind of photography master, far from it. I chalk it up to really knowing my gear and my passion for what I do. SO stick with your camera and learn it, live it and take it with you everywhere. Before you know it, you will have that same bond with it and your photos will improve dramatically.

Hope you enjoyed the post! I am leaving for Brussels Belgium in 2 hours so have to get packing! I’ll leave you with a few more shots from last nights show…

Paul Summerlin, a new and awesome addition to Seals band as well as guitarist Mark Summerlins brother!

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How about a shot from the Fuji X100? Here ya go! f/2! BTW, the title image at the very top of this page was also from the X100. Seems to do quite well but I can focus my M faster every time.

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after the show its all about winding down, having fun and hanging out for a while

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Feb 162010
 

Film…it’s simple…and beautiful!

By Max Marinucci

First of all, I want to pile on and say that Steve is doing a great job here and we should offer our support for such informative, no bull site. Photography is fun and weʼre here to enjoy it and get inspired without worrying about chromatic aberrations and lens sharpness. Again, thank you Steve for putting so much time and effort into this. (From Steve: Thanks so much!!)

I have written this article for those who want to take some time away from digital photography or simply want to get back to basics for a bit and have never considered or experienced shooting black & white film.

For many who have grown up with nothing but digital photography and files, the notion of black & white film feels like some foreign relic which may be nice to look at but have no idea on how it was produced and if it can be replicated today. This article is for those who may be interested in discovering (or re-discovering) the simplicity and beauty of black and white film and are willing to spend a little time engaging in something that will not give instant gratification. Before I go on, let me extrapolate a bit on this point: instant gratification. We have become the society of NOW, where waiting for something just doesnʼt seem acceptable. If we take a picture, we want to see it NOW on the back of our camera, on the LCD screen. It sucks…well, letʼs take another one, and another, and another. While this is the norm these days, patience and parsimony are virtues to be cultivated and nourished. When shooting film, you immediately accept the fact that it may be a little while before you see the fruits of your work and, by living with this, you will become more disciplined which will in turn carry on to your digital shooting as well It also means that shooting everything in sight without any thought into basics like light and composition is out of the question since you only have 24-36 shots in a roll of 35mm and it makes no sense in spending time/money developing thoughtless junk. This is a valuable exercise in restraint and it brings us to actually THINK before we shoot. Would you have taken a picture of your toes with film just because you can? I sincerely doubt it. I personally have become a better photographer by shooting film because again, when I do, I pay more attention to details, and, since time is money I donʼt want to waste either by developing and scanning too many duds.

So, you may ask, why do you need to shoot black & white film anyway? Well, first of all, film still looks better (in my book at least) and second, you may start enjoying photography again in all its glory. I use Leica gear and enjoy my digital M9 but, there have been instances when I have shot the same picture with film and it very often blows the digital away. Even with today’s advanced technology, it is very difficult to reproduce the look of film in digi-world. Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro does a great job converting to b&w but the picture still looks, well..digital. Film still has that extra latitude and dimension that makes it unique and special. I will not get too technical here because I want every novice to understand the process and be enticed by the small challenges, be excited about producing something unique while having a feeling of satisfaction, not frustration, at the end.

You will probably not be able to reproduce the works of Ansel Adams (no one can) but certainly use those as your inspiration and take comfort in knowing that such beautiful masterpieces were taken with now ancient equipment, film, and most of all, an thorough understanding of nature, light and composition (yes, along with lots of technical stuff as well). There is a deep sense of pride that comes into play when one catches that moment, nails the exposure and develops a good negative which can bring life to a special picture. The process, the anticipation, the fact that YOU are in control (not your camera or digital software) will bring forth a sense of accomplishment that, in todayʼs digital world, we now rarely get to savor.

Before I go on, let me explain that what I have outlined below is a “hybrid” system designed to work well in today’s digitally oriented world and it will bring outstanding results once you have mastered a few steps. As Ansel Adams’ famous quote goes ” the negative is the composer’s score and the print is the performance”. But, few these days will go through the trouble of darkroom printing, which requires time and dedication (oh yes, and a good amount of talent). So, what do we do with the negative? Well, if you are just taking pictures of your kids or casual snapshots, you can just bring them to your local lab and get prints within one hour. They will probably look okay. Now, if you are getting a little more serious and want more creative control, today’s digi-world let’s us do what one would do in a darkroom but on a computer screen. To keep it simple, you need a good scanner (I use the Epson 750V Pro) and Adobe Lightroom (yes, you can use Photoshop if that’s what you like and you’re familiar with, but in the interest of keeping this SIMPLE and for someone just starting out, Lightroom is THE ONE). The new version of Aperture is also great and these, unlike Photoshop, do a fine job at keeping things simple and well organized. Also, most of us today look at pictures on computer screens, iPhone, etc so most never actually get printed. The following system will easily let you upload your favorite b&w film pictures onto Flickr, Zenfolio, etc with great output quality.

Please note, everything written below refers to 35mm film.

Film: you have choices.

As always, photographers (like musicians) get bogged down by too much gear and too many choices. It’s okay to try different films and you will eventually choose different ones for different situations or looks. Having said that, for now, try to find a favorite and stick to it. By doing so, you will achieve some consistency, results you can predict and, more so, repeat. It’s okay to experiment but only when you have mastered the task at hand and you know what you’re doing. Don’t try to be a jack of all trades, master of none.

Film Speed: faster is not always better, just different.

If you start looking on the internet, you will once again be bombarded with tons of information. Much is useful but it may also confuse you and prevent you from starting out without getting extremely frustrated and, ultimately, give up. Every film has an ISO rating on the box. Shoot it at that speed. More on this later but let’s just leave it at that. Now, generally speaking, slower film (50-100-125) will give you tighter grain (or close to none in the case of Kodak T-Max100). As speed goes up (400, 800, 1600, 3200) grain will increase noticeably (also your choice of developer will

determine that but again we want to keep things simple so we will not dig into this one at the moment).

Camera: it does not matter!

When it comes to shooting film, you have so many choices and many of them dirt cheap these days. Frankly, your choice of camera may be possibly dictated more by the lenses. I love Leica because of its simplicity, timeless design, ruggedness, and most of all, lenses. You can buy a good M3 for less than the price of a new digital pocket camera and use lenses made all the way to the 1930s. If you shop eBay, you can get a nice M3 with a 50mm Summitar for about $1500. The Contax G2 system is another winner with Zeiss lenses. Nikon also made some great film cameras and the Zeiss Ikon is also just fine. Having said that, I am partial to Leica because it is SIMPLE. There is only one adjustment knob on an M3 (or a modern M7 as a matter of fact) and that is shutter speed. You will not get bogged down by dials, knobs, menus or tons of useless junk designed only to sell the newest and greatest without respect for a user who demands simplicity and just wants to shoot without getting his/her brain cluttered with junk. Trust me, the less you have to think about camera settings, the better off you will be.

Filters:

With black and white film you need them for some creative work. On a beautiful day, with sun and clouds, without a filter you will get little separation between the sky and clouds so you want to add a yellow filter (light or medium) or red to dramatize those skies even more. Yellow or green are also essential for skin tones when shooting outdoor.

Do you need a darkroom? NO!

Unless you are willing to do your own optical printing with an enlarger, no you do not need a darkroom. You can get a simple setup to develop your negatives with little money and use your laundry room, kitchen, bathroom to develop. B&H sells black changing bags and the few other supplies you need to successfully develop your roll of film. You will basically need:

Black changing bag to load your roll into the tank

A Paterson plastic tank (single roll is fine to start with) as these are much easier to load than metal ones. (can be found at B&H Photo)

A film retriever (to get the lead out of the exposed roll) Graduated containers to mix your chemicals Developer Fixer (can be found at B&H Photo)

Wetting agent (B&H Photo)

Film Clips (B&H Photo)

A sponge squegee (B&H Photo)

Thermometer (B&H Photo)

A cheap baby medicine syringe to measure developers to be used straight such as HC110 or Rodinal.

The Steps are simple

Load film into tank, developer, stop bath (to stop the action of developer), fixer, wash, hang to dry. That’s it. Basically, two chemicals, as I use a water stop bath to be gentle to my precious film which doesn’t need an acid environment to stop development.

Developer

Again here we have a bunch of choices. Photographers have their favorites with certain films and we donʼt want to turn this into a complex subject. We want to keep this simple and to give consistent, repeatable results. Enter Kodak HC110. It was good enough for Ansel Adams, it’s good enough for all of us. It comes in syrup, can be mixed straight from concentrate and has great shelf life. HC110 can be diluted in a few different ratios but again we won’t confuse anyone with that here. Let’s just say that DILUTION B (1 ml of syrup for 32ml of water) works for everyone. So, for a single roll Paterson tank, you squeeze 9ml of syrup (with those plastic baby syringes you can get at your local pharmacy) and mix with 281 ml of water to make your 10oz (290 ml).

Fixer - Ilford Rapid Fixer. Mix 72ml of fixer and the rest water to make 10oz.

Temperature: you can use tap water but I say DON’T. I use a gallon jug of Poland Spring distilled water for each roll of film developed. I use 68 (20c) temperature so you will probably need to put the jug into a water bath and bring it to temperature. With black & white, temperature is not as critical as with color but you still want to get and stay very close. Very important.

Real World Example:

One of my favorite films is Ilford FP4+ (iso 125). At this speed, you can comfortably shoot outside in daylight, with or without filters. Developed with HC110 it gives great tones, grain, and it scans real well.

Developed in HC110 Dilution B, I use 9 minutes developing time at 68 (20c) degrees.

Using your film retriever, take the lead out of the roll and cut it straight with a pair of scissors. Put your tank, roll and scissors into your black changing bag and zipper up!

Load your roll into the spool (practice with a roll in daylight just to get the hang of it first) in the black changing bag. Make sure you have closed the tank and take everything out.

With a timer (I use an iPod touch and Digitaltruth massive development chart app) pour the developer into the tank and immediately start the countdown. Close the tank as quickly as you can and perform 4 slow and gentle inversions followed by two-three firm taps on tour table surface to dislodge any air bubbles. From this point on, you will perform 3 slow and gentle inversions at the start of each minute and one single inversion at the 8 minute mark. Again, two firm taps on the tabletop after each inversion cycle.

Start pouring your developer out five seconds before the time expires and then pour your distilled water stop bath. Agitate (invert) continuously for one minute. Pour the water out and now dump the fixer into the tank. Four inversions the first 10 seconds and the same at the start of each minute thereafter for a total of four minutes.

Washing process: dump the fixer out and fill with 10oz of water. Agitate/ invert five times. Pour water out, fill again and agitate 10 times. Pour out again, fill and agitate 20 times. Repeat this last step two more times, as you want to remove every trace of fixer. Some people use hydro clear prior to this washing method which is intended to cut washing time from a normal ten minute rinse. I have done this with and without hydro clear and I have found no difference, for whatever it’s worth. Dump the last round and fill with another 10oz of water plus 1-2 drop of wetting agent (this will prevent water from drying on the negs and create water spots) and agitate for one minute. Dump this out and take the roll out of the tank. You could also use tap water (make sure you can get it a constant temperature) and rinse for ten minutes, with a final minute in distilled water with wetting agent.

Drying: do this in the shower stall. Run the hot water to create steam for a minute or so, as this will prevent dust from flying around and forever be stuck on your precious negatives (this is a great tip as I have often seen negatives with tons of dust on them). Unspool the negative, examine if you’d like and hang with clips (one on top and one on bottom to prevent curling) and squeeze the water out with the damp squeege a couple of times. In about one hour your negs will be ready to be scanned. One more tidbit: I have found that Kodak films (Tri-x in particular) curl like crazy and Ilford films do not. When it comes to scanning time, you will learn to love ilford film just for that!

By the way, once you master these few steps, you will have a roll of film developed with a total time of about 20-30 minutes, excluding drying time. You will feel like a kid again, trembling with excitement and waiting to see the fruit of your work. When was the last time you have experienced that with your digital?

Ok, now that you have your dry strip of film, cut it in smaller strips of five pictures and you are ready to scan.

Scanner:

When it comes to scanners, unfortunately you do not have many choices if you are looking for high quality. I use the best flatbed there is at the moment, the Epson V750M Pro and I’m very happy with it’s features and final output. The only other choices would be a dedicated film scanner like the perennially out of stock Nikon 5000 or 9000, which are more epensive, or an Hasselblad X1 which will set you back $13K. You could also find an old Agfa Duoscan on eBay. Going back to Nikon for a second, unfortunately, they donʼt give a damn about film anymore so their scanners are old and merely an afterthought. They are too busy pumping out a new camera every 18 months to keep everyone spending money. More megapixels, 200,000 ISO so we can shoot raccoons and skunks in the middle of the night and new, useless features. By the time we barely figured out how to use the camera, a new one comes out and more money goes out the window. Okay, rant over :)

Again, I personally think that the Epson V750M Pro does a very fine job and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (B&H has it in stock @ $849 and again, you would have to spend A LOT more to get something better). It also comes with SilverFast Ai 6 which is expensive but FREE with the scanner.

MAJOR TIP HERE: You want these for you scanner! http:// www.betterscanning.com/

These guys sell MUST HAVE adapters and glass plates for your scanner. They hold the film in place and FLAT. Trust me, you donʼt want to scan without them. Like I have said above, Ilford film is okay but Kodak..forget it. Without these, you would have to leave the film flat under a weight for a day or so before even attempting to scan.

Once you have your scanner up and running, create a master folder on your desktop and name it, for example, “scanned negatives”. Then, inside that folder, you will create folders for each roll being scanned and that’s where your scanned photos will go.

Once you have scanned your negatives, you are ready to import the master folder, with its contents, into Lightroom (or Aperture). Once you have that, your pictures are available for any editing like dodging, burning, curves, contrast, brightness, vignetting, etc. If you wish, you can even open your scanned negative into Nik Silver Efex Pro and make use of some of the great features available there.

Once youʼre happy with your picture, with a Lightroom plug-in (which will be standard with Lightroom 3, I believe) you can easily upload your photos directly to Flick or Zenfolio, or export them as a jpeg into a separate folder and then upload directly within Flick, Zenfolio, or any other website that allows you to do so. (Note from Steve: Aperture 3 has this feature as well :) )

Printing:

Okay, some of us still like to see our precious work on paper. Before we start, even though weʼre not working in color here, you still want to have your monitor properly calibrated to match on paper what you see on the screen. There are great papers available today for inkjets and with some of them you can get extremely close to matching the beauty of optical, darkroom printing. As far as printers, the new line of Stylus Pro from Epson are awesome! I use the smallest (which is not that small) 3880 and I am super happy with it. You can also use older Epson models (like the 3800) and get superb prints. As far as paper, my favorites for black and white are Epson Velvet Fine art, Hanehmule Photo Rag and the superb Harman Glossy FB AI, which can give absolutely stunning prints.

Well, get out there and shoot. Have a great time, pay attention to light and your surroundings, and remember…keep it simple. You will enjoy photography a whole lot more.


From Steve: WOW! Thanks so much Max! This was a VERY informative article and makes me want to get out there again with some film. Truth be told, I have been checking out some used film cameras and hope to buy one soon for those times when I really want the B&W look. So thanks Max!

Max Marinucci is a Leica enthusiast who enjoys shooting film with his M3,  M7 and classic Leica lenses. He also owns and operates “The Wine Connection” in Pound Ridge, NY. You can some of Max’s fun film images at his flickr page HERE!


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