Saturday, January 15, 2011
Like most people who came to digital photography after years of shooting film, I have a lot off stuff sitting around that's not digital -- black and white negatives, color slides, and color negatives. How to convert them has always been a thorny issue for me. The easiest way is to scan prints, but I never made all that many enlargements, and the prints I have are too small to create a really good file. (I've rephotographed some of my old drugstore prints and it works pretty well, but that's strictly a low-res option, only useful for screen resolution on a computer.)
Scanning slides and negs is problematic. Scanning film and slides on a flatbed scanner is better than it used to be, but it's time-consuming and still doesn't give great high-res files. Film scanners made to do the job can do it, alright -- but they're expensive, and I never could justify the expense for my old photos, most of which I just don't like that much anymore. (It would be different if I planned to shoot a lot of film in the future, but that's not likely, although I really respect the people who do. Me, I'm too impatient.) So what to do?
I solved my problem with the Opteka Slide Duplicator -- $29.95 at Amazon. And with it I can get better digital copies than most flatbed scanners produce, comparable to the results of a film scanner at a medium resolution setting. You can get them for most digital SLRs and a few compacts.
Yes, it's a plain old slide copier with a 52mm thread that screws into many of my Nikon lenses, including the tack-sharp 50mm f/1.8, which seems to work best. It has a built-in closeup lens, a tube that holds a slide at the appropriate distance (there's an attachment for holding negs, too -- and, surprise, it also works pretty well).
Slides are the easiest. They slip right into the holder from the top. You'll need to manually focus. It's a good idea to stop down to about f/11 for the extra depth of field needed to keep the entire (slightly curved) slide in place. Aim at any neutral light source and set your white balance on auto. Crop and tweak in any photo editing program, and there you are. This digital copy, which I took in Times Square in 1976, looks better than the slide, since I could make minor adjustments that weren't possible on the original.
Black and white negatives are also a breeze. I took this photo on Tri-X in Madison in 1985. There's an adapter the size of a slide that has slots in the side for film strips. Insert the adapter, and then slide in the negative strip from the side. You'll get an image of the negative, which you can "invert" in any photo editor so that it becomes a positive image. Tweak brightness and contrast to your taste, and there you are.
I took this photo in Miami Beach in 1985 on Kodacolor. Color negatives are more of a challenge, because of the orange mask that is part of the color negative process. It has to be properly removed, or you will end up with colors that can't be fixed by any amount of photo editing. Click on the photo to see my description of how I did it myself. You could also buy scanning software like VueScan that does it more or less automatically, and which works with jpeg files as well as scans.
I used to have bad associations with slide copiers from the days of film: The colors would never come out right, there was an awful contrast buildup, and you had to bracket the hell out of every shot to even get in the ballpark. You had to have just the right light source. And there was visble image degradation from the second-generation copy effect, going from film to film.
But digital cameras have come so far they're eliminated these problems. You see what you get and can easily reshoot. Auto exposure and auto white balance take care of most of the problems. You can tweak in postproduction. And a 12 megapixel camera like my D90 will give you resolution comparable to a 3,000dpi scan on a film scanner. Good enough for me, and a lot quicker.
Will it work for you? That depends. If you're mainly trying to digitize lots of old photos of friends and family so they can be viewed on a computer or TV, or made into snapshot-size prints, use a flatbed scanner with a film and slide attachment. It's faster, and you can set up a regular production line. The quality will be sufficient for your purpose, and the software will help with the orange mask on color negs. But the files you make won't be real high-resolution files suitable for large reproduction.
If you're a serious film shooter today, or have a large quantity of film images you want to digitize at the highest possible resolution, you've probably already invested in a film scanner, which at the high end gives by far the best results. But, again, they're expensive and not exactly speed demons compared with the instant it takes to make a copy with the slide duplicator.
If, like me, you only occasionally want to reach back and make a high-res digital copy of a film image, and you want to do it quickly, the slide copier is perfect. I'm having a ball with my little "Opteka Digital Duplicator," my personal Wayback Machine.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
According to CNN, LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals, has listed the ten most overused resume phrases.
With national unemployment at 9.8 percent, Americans are looking for ways to make their job applications stand out.I, for one -- with my extensive experience as an innovative, motivated, results-oriented, dynamic team player with a proven track record that speaks for itself and documents my achievements as a fast-paced, entrepreneurial problem solver -- have no idea what they're talking about
However, peppering résumés with tired or empty buzzwords probably isn't the recipe for becoming a standout job candidate.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
For more examples, see Colors of the Fog, a set I posted on Flickr.
Nice 10-digit binary string on the calendar today with a decimal expansion of 2¹º-1, or 1024-1=1023. 1024 is, of course, a number frequently encountered -- either directly, or as a factor -- in computer related things involving chips. For example, the "Large" size on Flickr is 1024 pixels wide. In honor of the occasion, I made this 1023 pixels wide and posted it on Flickr at 1:11:11, 1/11/11.
"Red, Yellow, Blue II," Ellsworth Kelly, 1965, Milwaukee Art Museum
I'm a pushover for primary colors, especially in combination, so it's not surprising that I've always loved this Ellsworth Kelly work at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I was going to post this photo, but then wanted to add the work's date, and so I went to Google.
I found the date, alright, but I also found an ekphrastic poem -- one that is written in response to a work of art and tries to capture its spirit or essence. The poet, James Gapinski, thinks of Kelly's three colored rectangles as imprisoned within white, close but unable to touch or even really meet.. This inspired Gapinski to write "The Color of Life," which is about two people in an analogous situation. I enjoyed the poem and thought I'd pass on a link to a post at the JSOnline art blog, Art City, where you can read both the poem and Gapinski's essay about it.
There's also a link to an earlier post about the huge controversy that ensued when a suburban mommy blogger posted indignantly on her family blog about the same work, which she encountered on a visit with her young daughter, and which she described as "those primary colored rectangular pieces of crap."
It's sort of touching that they care so much about a 45-year-old modernist painting as to argue about it fiercely in Milwaukee -- where, apparently, one person's crap is another person's poem.
Monday, January 10, 2011
What a tragic weekend. Words fail me.
Especially after reading about the Insurrectionism Timeline at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence website.
On June 26, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court embraced the National Rifle Association's contention that the Second Amendment provides individuals with the right to take violent action against our government should it become "tyrannical." The following timeline catalogues incidents of insurrectionist violence (or the promotion of such violence) that have occurred since that decision was issued.Check out the Insurrectionism Timeline for yourself. The incidents it documents make for troubling reading.
This morning Gabrielle Giffords' brother-in-law, astronaut Scott Kelly, observed a moment of silence for the victims in low earth orbit with the crew of the International Space Station and then made a brief statement.
"As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful," said Cmdr Kelly. Unfortunately, it is not. These days, we are constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions but also with our irresponsible words."Indeed.
"We are better than this. We must do better," he said.