So I finally got me an Epson too. It is the world amateur standard for film scanning in this current age but it’s film holders suck, as everyone knows. I needed a holder for the 4×5 film that I scan on it that didn’t suck and I didn’t want to buy one. This is what I did instead.
The Nikon Coolscan 9000ED scanner is an excellent scanner. The included holders are of a very good standard and many extremely useful and high quality optional holders are available. None of them, however, are cheap.
I have been scanning happily for many years with my Coolscan 9000 ED and never seen the need for glass scanning. For the most part I use high quality film that is not difficult to make lie flat and my only medium format camera until recently was a 6×4.5 model that I never used anything but Fuji and Kodak film in. Nevertheless I had ordered some glass insets some time back from Focal Point — mostly out of curiosity. In my limited testing the gains were modest and the extra effort significant so they mostly stayed in the box.
In the past six months my camera stable grew to include two medium format folders: the new Lomography X 6-12 6×12 camera and a beautiful German Agfa Record III 6×9 folder with the high quality Solinar lens. All of a sudden I was having significant challenges with film flatness. Try as I might I could not get the flatness I needed out of Nikon’s “tension” holder.
The product offered by Focal Point for the 9000 is a pair of glass inserts that fit in the standard FH-869S film holder. The standard way of doing this is to make a sandwhich with the AN glass on top facing the “shiny” side of the film and the standard glass on the bottom in contact with the emulsion side of the film. Since the shiny side is usually the side that has bad Newton Ring problems this is meant to work well. However, in my experience with the films I shoot (and maybe the climate I’m in) I often find that the emulsion side is smooth enough to give rings and I invariably only find these later when I’m editing. These problems disuaded me until my new cameras prodded me to solve the problem.
Lomography BelAir X 6-12
My first roll processed and scanned from my new Lomography BelAir X 6-12 puts me in the position to share some notes about the camera that you won’t find elsewhere.
The moment it clicks.
I was just going through some old photos. Sometimes it is good to look back. As I look back I can see when I first acquired some key pieces of equipment. There is a flush of creative energy as I dive in to what can be done with it. Then, at some point, comes the first photo where I looked at the scene and knew I needed a certain tool.
This is the picture where it clicked for me with the Nikkor 15mm f3.5 AI lens. It was a lens bought for passion, not logic. At the time I thought that daring but now I can see it is really the only way an artist should acquire tools. Almost all cameras and lenses are “good enough”. If some particular exotic optic or system gets you all fired up inside it is probably going to result in some good creativity.
I was in South Africa with my family. I hadn’t really been using this lens much. It is very wide and a bit specialised. This awesome sunset was unfolding before our eyes and I suddenly saw this composition in my mind. I knew I needed the 15mm to get it.
That was the moment it clicked.
Give it time
I took a lot of pictures from my balcony during the week I spent in San Francisco this past winter. Initially it was hard for me to choose between them because I was too close to them. I remember I particularly had to do some work to get the nighttime colours looking right on this.
It is only with the passage of time that you can really decide between your best pictures. Here’s how to give yourself the best chances:
* take fewer pictures
* throw more away
* once you are down to your few best, treat them as such
How do you know what to keep? Easy. Ask yourself, if this was on my wall would I be tired of it in a month?
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?