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.....
The interesting thing to me about medium format Tri-X negatives is the long dynamic range they had when developed just right. I marvel at the detail of the cloth weave in the reflection of Belinda's blouse in the window and how gracefully the reflections roll from white to soft gray to middle gray. How smoothly the grays hold detail in the head rest cover behind Belinda's head and how wonderful the tones look in the over head lighting in the top, right hand of the frame.
I have no idea where we were other than somewhere in the middle of Italy. The old Compur shutter on the 105mm purred like a cat and, after the mirror came up the shutter was all but silent. I love the composition and the placement of lights and darks. I shot one frame. I discovered it twenty years later. I saw it when I shot it. And when I developed it. And when I contact printed it. But I only really saw it last night.
I am in love with love.
In 1991 Belinda and I took a trip to Italy to explore the country and celebrate the end of a long recession that had gripped Austin since 1986 or 1987. That recession was also caused by the real estate market and inept or criminal banking practices. Some, in the savings and loan industry were actually prosecuted. I took along one camera and two lenses. And a bucket full of Kodak Tri-X. The camera was a Hasselblad 500CM and my favorite two lenses at the time were the ancient 50mm and the amazing 100mm 3.5 Planar. Kind of a 28 and 60 point of view in 35mm terms. We were on a train heading to or from Parma and Belinda was making a note about something or another and paused to look out the window. I made it a habit, back then, to always notice the ambient exposure when I entered a room or a train compartment so my camera was already set at an approximately correct exposure. I looked down into the finder and focused and then I clicked the shutter button. Looking at the image and how quickly the pencil and the headrest go out of focus I am almost certain that the lens was set either wide open or, at the most, f4.
Weeks later, when we came home I had at least 100 rolls of film to develop and process. In those days I processed and contact printed any film I shot for myself. I did it to save money. After all, we'd just survived a big downturn and one that changed the advertising market locally for some time to come. And at my core I'm pretty frugal.
When you are developing 120mm roll film in a cannister that holds four rolls you don't do all 100 rolls in a day, or even a week. You have to leave time and space for hanging the film up to dry and harvesting it from the clothesline in the darkroom and then cutting it into strips and putting it in archival pages.
Once I'd made the contact sheets I'd go thru with a china marker and mark in red the frames I was interested in printing. A quick square around an image meant that it was "of interest" while an extra line over the top meant "keeper" and two extra lines over the top of the frame meant "print now."
Today, twenty years later, I've probably printed fewer than 10% of the 1200 images I took over the course of that month. Every once in a while I look through the three ring binder that holds this trip and I find another one. They appeal to me differently now. I'm watching my past with nostalgic glasses.