And now for something totally different. My latest foray into "Camera Scanning" medium format film. I started with the worst case scenario; color negatives.


1991. Woman with keyboard. From an Agfa color negative. 

"My high school physics teacher looked at my photos again and again, declared me to be a genius, and finally suggested that I should consider becoming a photographer."  No. Wait, that's someone else's story. I didn't really pick up a camera until I was several years into an Electrical Engineering major at UT Austin. I had a beautiful girlfriend and it seemed like a waste not to photograph her. A lot. Which spiraled into...well...a career. 

From the late 1980s all the way through till about 2005 I shot a lot of film. A lot. Tons of it. I souped endless rolls of black and white film in my own darkroom and spent so much time picking up developed rolls of color film from the local labs that I think they were considering putting in a cot so I could just sleep there. And in that time span most of the commercial and fun work I was doing got shot with medium format cameras. Mostly Hasselblads but an assortment of Rollei cameras, the Mamiya 6, and even a few Bronicas. 

I loved the medium format because it could be worked with. It was flexible. And the quality was excellent. But when digital hit us in the face and all the work went into the digital camp I got rid of the darkroom, the big studio and even the ponderous scanners I was using to (slowly, slowly, slowly) scan my favorite frames. With a commercial career, some board obligations at a college, a mess of book projects and the raising of a bright young man I figured my scanning days were over and done with. But now, years later, I keep finding folders full of great negatives that I want to share before I decide whether to toss the whole mess into the trash and start a new career as an air conditioner repair person, or president of the World Bank. Or maybe a spy. 

I wanted a solution that would be fast to implement, fast to shoot with and which would give me a certain level of quality that would hold up well to just about anything I needed, web-wise. 

My Atlanta area friend, Ellis Vener, had written for a magazine about doing "camera scans" and I thought it sounded like a good idea. So I looked around the studio to see what I could cobble together. 

My basic apparatus is a Smith Victor boom arm with movable connection points on either side of the middle attachment to the tripod. I ending up putting a NanLite panel on one end, covered with an additional piece of white Plexiglas and I gaffer taped an old Epson film holder that I scavenged from one of the long departed Epson scanners. 

At the other end of the rig I set up a Sigma fp outfitted with a Sigma 70mm f2.8 Macro lens. Since this was just a trial run I only checked for every thing to be parallel by eye. And I used the most convenient camera at hand. Now that I know it all works I'll make everything parallel and locked down. 

On this, my first erstwhile attempt, I shot with the camera in the Jpeg mode and let the chips fall where they may. I pulled the resulting file into PhotoShop and inverted it. Then I set the area outside the active image to black with an eye dropped in curves. Then I color corrected using the new PhotoShop color grading tools. Time elapsed from concept to final image? About half an hour. Give or take a bit of time out for sipping single origin Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. 

I'm happy with the results. I'd love to see what a Sigma fpL would do for the files with the expansive 61 megapixels but I think I'll be just fine if I substitute the fp with a Leica SL2 and use the 47+ megapixels and the raw format wisely. The lens is cracking good. So no waffling there.... And the light source is smooth and even. I think I like this whole approach to scanning film. I'll keep working on it. Next up?

( just added a thought... Leica SL2 scans with multi-shot high res mode. I wonder what film looks like when the files are a whopping 185 megapixels?)

A BIG F-ING BOX OF BLACK AND WHITE 6X6 NEGATIVES!!! Ho boy. I think I see a tar pit just ahead. 

(Added the next day: Got frustrated trying to get everything adjusted for parallels, bought a nice copy stand from B&H instead. The light source works well as does the negative carrier. Just the camera aligning to flat target that miffed me. More reporting when the copy stand gets here....  KT)

I used gaffer tape because I'm out of duct tape. It would have sounded better, I think, if I'd said it was all held together with duct tape... Don't you? 

Fun projects to do while waiting for the refrigerator repair guy....

Now? Off to lunch.