Thanks to the collapse of film photography as a mass-market phenomenon, development of new film scanner technology has essentially ceased (outside of the motion picture industry where development continues but the products are professional tools priced like cars and houses). Since many photographers own capable DSLRs with modern sensors it has become popular to use one’s existing digital camera in preference to a dedicated film scanner. Whilst this sounds sensible results are often disheartentingly disappointing. Why should this be and what can be done?
Take 2 On Disentangling Colour Negative Film and ICC Profiles
Or, the longest titled blog post I have yet made.
In my previous post Scanning Colour Negative Film Using ICC Profiles I discussed my experiences in using ICC profiles in conjunction with negative film scanning. This lead to a lot of questions and much more research.
In this episode we will embark on a journey into the depths of colour management and go where no colour negative film-shooting photographer has gone before. Well, I bet they have but I can’t find anything else like it on the internet…
Consistent Colour For Negative Film Scans
Not happy with all-over-the-map colour from negative film scans? If you have not already familiarised yourself with my introduction to scanning colour negative film I am more than happy to wait until you have read Scanning Colour Negative Film 101, Scanning Colour Negative Film 102 and Scanning Colour Negative Film 103?
All done? Then read on…
Technical considerations are definitely important. Sweating the details is what will make the difference between OK and wow. But there is always a time to stop being squeamish and just shoot!
The above is an example.
I saw this scene and barely had time to run and set up the equipment against a not-entirely-clean window. Shooting through windows is not normally a great idea but just look! This was not a scene to miss by obsessing on perfection.
Can you live with it?
We live in a sea of photography. Every day a wave of tsunami proportions of new images washes over us. Every image creator competes fiercely for a few precious seconds of your eyeball time. Every new technique is done to death. To be heard you must shout!
I was reading a post by an Austin commercial photographer named Kirk Tuck. He has a good blog about photography in general and the post is here:
Basically, I think he is right. I think we are all sorely tempted to jazz up the “KERPOW!!” factor on our images.
But could we live with them?
One thing I find I have always striven for is “livable” images. If I were suddenly wealthy one of the first things I would do is have the best of my work printed mural size and fastened to my walls. I strive to make images that I could live with.
The above image is one of my recent favourites from a trip to San Francisco. I thought it was very liveable but it seems I was distracted by the lovely colours and tones. They had blinded me to the flawed composition. A few minutes at full screen were enough to tell me that. I had to fix it before linking to it here.
It takes an awful lot to make a good photograph and very little to ruin it. Maybe it is time to look at your own photographs again. Are you making photographs you could live with?
What equipment do you need to take a great photograph?
This photograph was taken with a cheap plastic camera with a plastic lens bought at a drug store in South Africa. It was loaded with the cheap Fuji film that they give you for free in Qatar when you get your film processed and pay for prints. Whatever redeeming qualities this picture have did not come from the crappy camera or the crappy film.
So what equipment do you need?
I recommend the following equipment list:
- One or two eyes. You should keep these open. Try to use them to really see the world around you. If it seems like everything is the same hour by hour and day by day then consult your user manual. You are not using them properly
- One heart. Keep it soft. Allow things to move you. If you have set up a firewall and access control list to limit what has access to your heart consider drastically opening the ruleset. A lot of mundane things are often part of a default “ignore” list. Although this is considered an industry standard “best practice” I strongly advise you to consider removing most items from this list
- One brain. Use this to store as much technique as you can. Try every new technique you hear about that interests you until you don’t have to think about it. Store macros for all your commonly used camera equipment. Consider not adding to your equipment until you have all commands for all your current equipment automated. One word of caution: use your brain to automate the process of capturing what your heart and eyes are captured by. Do not expect good results from simply firing off these automated processes at random objects that your eyes have not been captivated by or your heart has not been moved by
Well, that’s it. Take with you the above three items and use them as directed. Along with that you should have some sort of camera or camera phone (or even pen and paper). If you make proper use of your equipment you should have no trouble at all making stunning world class photographs!
Sometimes you just need a tripod and don’t have one. Other times you need two tripods and you only have one. This photo relates to the former. I am currently experiencing the latter.
Here’s the thing. Are you going to let life stop you just because you don’t have an 800WS monolight, or an 85mm f1.4 lens, or the latest super camera body? Good tools can certainly make the work easier and give better results than poor ones when skillfully and artfully used but even bad tools are better than no tools and you may be surprised at what you can build for yourself if you think through your exact requirements.
As I write this I am timing an eight minute exposure. I’ve taken a few frames tonight with the Crown and I like the way it looks out there on the balcony with the lights behind but, of course, it only looks like that on its tripod. What is the Retinette supposed to stand on to get the right angle? Why, my makeshift tripod. Here’s the bill of materials:
- One Polaroid back for a large format camera
- One TV remote control
- One camera bag for a large format camera
- One chair (stood on end) from inside the hotel room
- One outside chair (already on balcony)
To assemble, simply stack all of the parts with the highest number at the bottom and the camera resting on top.
Now this is certainly not the finest tripod known to man. In fact, I won’t be surprised if I later find out that it shifted at some time during those eight minutes and ruined my shot. However, neither was the roof of someone’s Jeep a perfect tripod either. But without it, I would not have the picture you see above. If you later see the picture I made tonight then you might want to remember this emergency tripod recipe!
Postscript: it worked! The result is here:
Ah, the magic of urban long exposures!
As I sit here in my San Francisco hotel room I really need to get to bed but the travel half way around the world seems to have whacked my body clock. So I’m exposing.
I made a very conscious decision on this trip that I didn’t want to be wasting my time getting sucked into “tourist snapping”. No digital, no 35mm SLR. I took only the Crown Graphic to force myself to be selective and not be tempted into any “casual” photography.
Large format is not casual.
However, I did want something carryable so I also took along my Grandfather’s old tourist camera from the 1950s — his Kodak Retinette. No exposure meter, no rangefinder for focus. Just a peephole for framing.
It is so freeing.
I’ve just taken two shots off the balcony at f11 and two minutes. Well, two minutes felt right. That should be about EV0. Assuming that there is iso100 film loaded in that camera. I’m actually not sure. Just did this last one about four minutes twenty. It should fill in the shadows a little more.
Now I’m off to try to sleep. I won’t see anything that I’ve taken until I get back. Maybe even some time after I get back depending how busy I am. I know I’ll have some thick tasty negatives to work with at some point. And that is good enough for me.
If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.
I firmly believe that you can never succeed at an art form like photography unless you can learn to see, sometimes in an instant, the finished artwork as you look at the scene in front of you. This skill, which takes years of practice to hone, is essential and no meaningful work will be produced (except occasionally by accident) without it. This skill of pre-visualising and “seeing” is essential.
The craft of photography is learning how to translate the captured scene into a finished product that matches that previsualisation. This is a suite of skills that encompass camera handling and camera settings (at capture time) as well as various image editing and other intermediate procedures that come between capturing the image and presenting a finished version. This is the suite of skills that garner most of the attention on internet sites because it is easiest to talk about and it is also the subject of most marketing by companies with products to sell to photographers. This suite of technical skills is not essential for the photographer to have, however. In a good partnership, it could even be outsourced since the vision is the essential part. However, it is necessary and if you are a photographer who does their own image processing it can often make a real difference in how close to its potential a good image can come.
I find that I have one or two images that I have never been satisfied with my ability to process into what they should be. Into what I visualised them to be. This is one of them.
This is the fifth time I am presenting a version of this image and I doubt it will be the last. I think it is good to have benchmarks for yourself. We only see how far we have come when we look back.