Academia Portrait.

I love going on vacation with one camera and, at the most, two lenses.  You learn that camera and those lenses forward and backward.  And if you're really in the game you'll limit yourself to one kind of film.  Digitally is wonderfully convenient.  But sometimes, at least for my brain it's too convenient.  There's a digital camera I wish someone would make.  Kodak almost did it for a brief time.  I want one that shoots squares.  Only squares.  Not something I can over ride or change.  Just square all the time.  And I want it to shoot in black and white.  I know I can set that combination on a number of cameras but I know equally well, and more importantly the bossy part of my brain knows, that I can change right back to a different combination.  My brain works better when it's forced to work with inflexible tools at hand.

The year this was taken, 1993,  Belinda and I had planned a trip to Florence.  As we sat in the airport in Dallas, Texas the television played some breaking news.  A car bomb had just exploded outside the Uffizi Gallery.  We arrived the next day......

Hasselblad 500 CM with 100mm f3.5 and Tri-X.

Technical note:  Someone asked in a comment if I would share my scanning workflow for the black and white negatives.  I'd be glad to.  I have an Epson Perfection V500 Photo Scanner on my desk next to my little computer.  It came with film holders for 35mm and medium format.  I blast the dust off the glass and the negative with some compressed air and then I go straight into the Epson Scan software and set all the typical controls.  16 bit grayscale.  Sized to 10 by 10 inches @300 dpi if I'm eventually aiming for the web.  24 by 24 inches at 300 dpi if I'm aiming on making a print.  I turn unsharp masking to low and turn off any of the grain enhancement and dust removal controls off.  I make a preview, size it, hit zoom and look at the way I've cropped the image in a bigger window.

Then I go into level controls in the Epson Scan software and set white and black levels and the corresponding output sliders until I have what I want, image wise.  Then I scan and save as an uncompressed tiff.  It takes all of four minutes for the smaller size and about nine minutes for the larger size.  Then the image gets opened in PhotoShop CS 5 where I use the healing tool to spot the image.  I do my final sharpening in PS CS 5, usually (point)1 radius at 300% (unsharp masking) followed by a quick, "sharpen edges."

I used to think you had to get drum scans to get good images but once I was doing a big show of black and white images from a 1995 trip to Rome and I sent out twelve images to be scanned for something like $80 each.  I hated all the scans.  And this was from a famous scanning house.  They were too highly sharpened, to saturated and kinda dirty.  I knew I could do better.  I bought an earlier version of the scanner (I think the 3200 Perfection) and scanned the stuff over again on that $300 machine.  The lab I used to output the 24 by 24 inch prints with a Lightjet printer were very impressed by the scans and so have many other photographers.    There is a print of the Russian Girl on the Spanish Steps in Rome above my desk and it's as perfect as any enlarger print I've ever made.  Many times the high priced equipment is only necessary for the underskilled user.  Practice scanning and, like cameras, you can use just about anything to get a good image.

If I'm going to web I reduce to 1200 pixels wide and run the save to web in PS CS 5.  Always as sRGB files.  In fact, I use sRGB for everything except my Costco prints.  Those go out with the Costco profiles for specific printers embedded in the files.

Then I put the negative back in the protective sleeve or page and sit down and write the blog.....


Kyle Batson said...

Wonderful. I've always loved the look of Tri-X, and now that I'm shooting film of my own, I think I'll give the Tri-X 400 @ 250 with D-76 a try.

After getting my first scans back from a lab, I completely agree that they are far too over sharpened. I just purchased a V500 for myself last week and I'm more than happy with the results I am getting.

I look forward to seeing more of these beautiful Hasselblad images.

Bill Millios said...

Here's a scanner for those with budgetary constraints:


Wolfgang Lonien said...

Wonderful photo again Kirk, and thanks for the explanation of the scanning process - I think it was me who asked.

Oh, and that girl on the steps is from Russia? That was a great image as well, and also that one of the woman sitting on these steps.

Mel said...

Thanks for the scanning workflow - I might have been the one who asked. I have the V700 version and use a very similar workflow on my medium format with very nice results. I shoot a lot of landscapes at infinity and complain about sharpness and my scanning technique until I realize I can read billboards at over a mile away when I look at the images at 100% in PS.....

The only difference I might recommend to anyone scanning medium format is the use of anti-Newton ring glass to help keep the negative flat. It requires a different holder but I've found it works like a charm.

The light in that image is wonderful, falling softly across her face and fading to shadow with details in the background. You've got the eye for film or digital!

Tom Shay said...

Love it... I've been suggesting to friends for some time the merits of working with a camera that isn't considered to be up to snuff.

I've used an Olympus E-510 for years mostly for sport photography. Not very good in low light. only three focal points. Average AF speeds. Great camera for it's time, a feature packed entry level camera.

I had to learn it... all of it's strengths and weaknesses and both tweak it and use it where and when it would work best.

After 3 years (I'm a slow learner LOL) I shot the IBU Biathlon Races last Feb. I got some of the best shots of my life. The camera was cooking and producing.

I regularly go back and look at them. They are just incredible.

What did I do next... well I upgraded LOL. But the restricted environment that the E-510 gave me, taught me a lot.

Swoop57 said...

Thank You soo very much, Kirk!
That made all the difference. I've been trying to scan film for a while and I've never got it this good before. I've done some research but your process did make it a hole lot easier.

Jim said...

I have one of those Epson Perfection 3200 scanners and after buying it had a similar experience. I had made some slide scans with a CoolScan 4000, all the rage at the time, which were okay. I redid them with the Epson 3200 and "Wow". The older scan files were promptly ditched. One of these days I need to upgrade to the V500 but I'm not doing as much scanning as I did back then.

Anonymous said...

Darn it Kirk,
I did not need to go out and buy a new scanner just now... I blame you!


Dave Jenkins said...

Quoting Picasso again, as I've done before in comments on this blog, “Forcing yourself to use restricted means is the sort of restraint that liberates invention."

My scanner is an Epson 4990, a version between the 3200 and the V500. I use a similar workflow.

As I have time, I'm scanning medium format (and some 35mm) family negatives and transparencies, starting with the late 1960s. I enjoy it, and it's something nice to leave for my kids and grandkids.

Neil said...


This is a fabulous picture, and on so many different levels.

Do you remember how you managed to meter the scene? The quality of the light is wonderful.


kirk tuck said...

Neil, The light was the same as where I was standing so I just popped out my incident light meter, aimed it the same way I would have aimed it if I were standing right next to her and.....metered.

adam said...

I'm totally with you re a black & white digital camera. I'd buy one in a heartbeat. Seems to me that getting rid of the Bayer filter would increase the effective resolution by a factor of almost 3 - only one of the benefits! Pete Myer did some marvelous work with an old Kodak 760 (I think it was), before he switched to a Leica MP.

Martin G said...

I've been reading your recent posts with great interest. The images are so compelling. But this one of Belinda in the airport, I keep coming back to it. When I first saw it I thought it was taken in a museum or somewhere else that was designed to have great light. It's just a fantastic portrait. It makes me want to just sit and look at it. At the same time it makes me want to go out and make a great portrait. Thanks for sharing that with us.

Richard Alan Fox said...

Thank you Kirk

I too asked for the scan workflow.

kirk tuck said...

Thanks for the comments. One clarification. It was not taken at an airport but at the Academia in Florence. Part of the series of galleries that also house the original statue of David by Mike Angelo....

Timothy Gray said...


Beautiful images you've shared with us. Thank you.

As someone who still shoots a ton of film, medium format, both color and black white, and scans using an Epson scanner (V750), I found the information on your scanning workflow enlightening and refreshing.

I was beginning to think I was the only one (or one of the few) who found the current generation of flatbeds more than adequate for medium format work.

Yes, drum scans used to be the pinnacle of film digitization, but when you have a knowledgable fellow like Graham Nash of Nash Editions stating the V750 produces results which are "indiscernible" from his Tango drum scanner, you have to ask yourself, "is it worth the time, money, service hours, parts availability, materials, and overall trouble to even mess with drum scanners?"

I recently inquired about purchasing a new drum scanner from Aztek, the only manufacturer of drum scanners left in the United States, and the quote I received made my jaw drop! They wanted $42K and that only included a single drum!

The feelings I had toward that quote echoed your sentiments regarding medium format digital backs with their similarly astronomical pricing.

Kudos on your passionate return to black & white film and for not being afraid to go against common convention in pursuit of technical craft and artistic vision.

Alan said...

Thanks for sharing your workflow. It's pretty close to what I'm doing so I feel less like I'm not doing it right and just need to fine tune my process. I'll be working on Mamiya 6 and Xpan negatives, two of my favorite cameras of all time.