So I have finally arrived at the last stop of importing my photos into Lightroom where I catalog, spot removal, exposure adjustment, final cropping and export to a print ready file, or export to Flickr or other website.
I have just sent off my first file for printing. The lab wanted the file as a TIF, in 8bit, at 254dpi. To make the best of the discounted printing deal they offer, it has to be exactly 20×30″.
This is easy to achieve as long as the original is slightly higher resolution, which it is when scanned at 2400ppi. The only slight downside with this deal is that 20×30″ is not the same aspect ratio as the 4×5″ negative.
I can either crop the 4″ dimension of overrun the 5″ side. For the moment I am printing a 20×25″ which incurs more cost. I’ll post an update shortly.
The photo I am printing is show here. It offered a good test of some spot removal and exposure settings. Whatever comes back will provide a good learning curve to future efforts.
Once the scanning process has delivered a 200+Mb file, it’s time to implant EXIF information. If it’s done now, before importing into LR or PS etc, it will be there forever (so to speak) and continue on in any of the forms of output.
I have found ExifTool with ExifToolGUI as the best way forward with this task. I can save a few version of a Workspace which declares certain repetitive EXIF properties and assign these default properties with one click. Then it’s only a matter of setting the Dates, FNumber, ExposureTime and saving the file. I source the latter from my film logs.
I have a Workspace version for each of my two lenses and as time goes on, I may have additional files. When I do a batch scanning of my Minolta slides, I can have a workspace for this setup.
The scanning process has been the most frustrating aspect of my workflow. It’s not just a matter of buying a scanner and clicking the scan button. The permutations surrounding the available scanner controls is already enormous. The variety of opinions found on the internet as to what settings to use and the sequence of workflow is overwhelming.
I couldn’t find a second hand or refurbished scanner, certainly not in a price range that suggested a saving over a brand new one, so I have purchased a new Epson Perfection V800 scanner. I did this before I spend any money on outsourcing any scanning and I’m hoping that I will never need to pay for a drum scan for the workflow I want to concentrate on. I see myself only ever wanting to print 20×30″ prints from scans of my 4×5″ negatives/transparencies.
The film holders for the scanner have four height adjusters. I’ve tried the minimum, maximum and central position. I cannot tell any difference. Someone has said the scanner actually has focus adjustment, some have said the scanner has autofocus. Page 16 of this paper at Luminous Landscape has argued for different heights for different media. Again, I cannot tell any difference at all.
The scanner came with Epson Scan software as well as SilverFast 8.0 SE. So that was the first choice. I tested and tested and tested some more, based on all the youtube videos I could find. I’ve concluded that Silverfast is my choice. The settings for the software are documented here. Firstly, I choose Transparency (some people even use Reflective for their negatives – I can’t see the reasoning). Then I choose Negative which provides the NegaFix dialog – see below. I select 48-24bit colour even though I am using B&W negatives, why? Well, if I were going only as far as the scan output, I would choose 16-8bit B&W, but since my workflow continues into Lightroom, I am convinced by others that it’s best to start the next step with as much information in the scan as possible. So I select colour output. I can select ‘Slide 4×5″ Holder for Frame but someone has commented that the standard frame includes areas outside the negative exposure and this effects the scan exposure. So it’s probably better to use Custom frame and make sure the red frame line is actually fully on the negative. This results in input dimensions for the frame at about 4.63 x 3.59″. We can’t expose the full 4×5″ film negative since some of it is hidden behind the film holder guides.
I spent a lot of time on the Scan dimensions. Bottom line: TIFF is lossless compression so if you continue on into LR or PS etc, you need to continue with all the scan information and not a subset of it like JPG. There is strong debate over whether the scanner can really deliver 6400. It actually allows selection of 12800ppi. But 6400ppi creates a file size of approx 1Gb. This might be good but it really slows down Lightroom during development. Finally, there is no need to scan at anything higher than 2400ppi since I wish only to print to 20×30″ and this is more than enough information to produce a downsized final export for my printer service. The filesize at 2400ppi is under 300Mb and this is reasonably fast to work with for spot removal etc.
I have a naming convention for my exports which corresponds with my film logs. I use the very handy little film holder index tabs which imprint the negative to ensure I match the negative with my logs.
See Step 3- Setting EXIF information
Next, I leave the Densitometer in default, it’s only there to inspect the prescan, and doesn’t make any scan modifications. It’s possible to make inspections and modify the Picture settings prior to scanning but so too, with the Picture Settings, I will take the scan into Lightroom and not use any adjustments here.
I set the Negafix to my film type and ISO. I do see a lot of benefit in using the Automatic Orange mask Expansion. I notice a definite improvement in sharpness without loss of definintion. I also leave Color Cast Removal ticked. But I do not adjust Exposure or Tolerance here.
The Unsharp Masking also delivers good results. I have seen improvement but sometimes increasing the level from the default. But I certainly include this process in the scan by having the dialog open.
Finally, the histogram dialog. I include this in my dialogs but I have not had reason to use it yet. If the histogram showed any large areas being outside the range I would probably drag the left/right selectors back in towards the edges of the graph.
The use of iSRD (Dust Removal) in Silverfast is useless on B&W negatives, so don’t go there. I’m a bit puzzled why the software removes iSRD as an option if you already select B&W negative. But upon further reading I see people using so many alternative methods of scanning negatives and prints that it’s possible someone wants to scan a colour negative/transparency as if it’s B&W, in which case iSRD might work.
Most of the recent photos on this site have been taken with my Nikon D700, I now use a FujiFilm X-Pro2. Earlier photos are scanned from a Minolta XGM, Leica Minilux, Nikon F4 and Nikon F5. My most recent adventure in large format is taking place with a Shen Hao 4×5″ camera pictured.
I have a Fujinon f5.6/180mm, a Fujinon f5.6 90mm and a Fujinon f5.6/65mm lens. I’m not sure how the 65mm lens will go but I’m going to make my photography suit it’s capability with regard to field of view and focus.
Update: I have now installed a fresnel screen ‘correctly’ into the camera. Instead of being on the ‘eye’ side of the ground glass (GG), it is on the lens side of the GG. There is a small recess in the camera back allowing a fresnel to sit whilst not lifting the GG out of it’s focus plane. I’ve had to shave off the fresnel slightly to sit inside this lip but the difference in brightness of the screen is really impressive. The fresnel is installed ribs to the eye to create a collimator as per FresnelTech data.
I use the word ‘correctly’ loosely. It’s debatable.
The paper from Fresneltech, above, describes Positive/Collector, Positive/Collimator and Negative/Diverger
I know my fresnel is positive because I can see it under my loupe. I can’t actually believe that someone would use a negative fresnel in any of the positions I mention below so I assume negative fresnels aren’t supplied to LF cameras at all. By all means demonstrate an error in my thinking here.
I don’t know if the Maxwell fresnel is positive or negative but Alan Brock’s video shows dramatic fall off when you are not viewing in the sweet spot. He also documents that the ribs are placed pointing to the lens. This suggests to me that the Maxwell is positive and being used as a collector. Alan also comments that the focusing task with the Shen Hao fresnel is hampered by the ribs. I can testify that when the ribs are against the GG, their tops are more in focus and therefore more visible. If the ribs point to the lens, the ribs are not as visible during focus but the brightness almost ‘switches off’ as you move your eye from centre spot. This also goes to confirm in my tests that if you prefer less of this immediate switch-off, and you can tolerate the ribs being more visible to the focus task, then you place the ribs pointing to the eye. If you wish to remove the hard rib lines from the focus task (they are softer when pointing to the lens side), and you don’t mind the light switching off a lot when you eye moves from the centre, you can place the fresnel with ribs to the lens.
Either way, in my tests, as long as the GG is constantly in the same place, focusing still takes place on the GG and focus does not change with or without fresnel in place.
I think for people who don’t understand I am enclosing a photo of my Shen Hao back showing the ledge for the GG and the fresnel on its own ledge under the GG.
You can also place the fresnel on the eye side of the GG. It makes a difference in (improves) brightness but no where near as much an improvement as it does on the lens side of the GG. And, if the fresnel is on the eye side of the GG, you can probably, on some cameras, more easily remove and replace it. But not on my camera. It’s the same screws.
This probably all explains why some camera manufacturers place it on top, some below, some ribs in, some ribs out. All the positions have some merit and some trade-off. You choose what’s best for your taste. I can at least say that I now understand the trade-offs and can choose which way I prefer.
For the moment, I’m leaving it lens side, ribs pointing to the eye. Maybe I’ll report back sometime if I decide to change that setup and the reasons why.
I have a Calumet roll film holder back for this camera so I can shoot medium format 6×7 as both a test vehicle and as might be required for using the 65mm lens.
Update: Well the roll holder has a light leak on the hinge side so I have to try some tape inside the trap and over the hinge to see if it can be fixed this way. Seems the original has felt in some of the light trap which is missing in my eBay purchase. I can fix this but other things have taken over. See below.
I’m going to process B&W film myself using the Stand Method (see below) and so I have a Photoflex Change Room (tent) a Paterson Multi Reel 3 tank and an Ilford-Paterson MOD54 for my 4×5″ sheet.
Update: Well I’m happy with all this gear. The change tent is fine – just big enough for 4×5″ equipment. I can confirm that if you were thinking of 8×10″ gear, you’d need a larger tent. The tank is perfect to do roll film as well as the MOD54. I made my first processing and was left with tooth marks on 3 negatives which meant they weren’t developed. I was sure I loaded the film correctly but two more loadings and I am sure now that I must have loaded the film emulsion side out instead of emulation side in. The next two processes worked fine. See below.
I’ve read up on all the Stand Development techniques suggested by numerous people on the web and I’ve boiled it down the following process which I’ll try to maintain as consistently as possible.
For 4×5″ sheets, I use the Lisco Elite Mark II holders (pictured). These Mark II units have the little safety button to prevent you pulling the dark slide out unless it’s held in by either the camera body or your finger. Hopefully this saves me from losing some film by mistake.
Stand Development – Rodinal + Ilford Rapid Fixer
Assumes film is loaded in the tank – All temps 20°C unless otherwise noted
Update: Well, I can’t be more impressed with this procedure. Not only does it answer my desire to be expedient but it delivers something I was not expecting. The dynamic range of exposure provided by this method is quite surprising. It’s almost as if you could just guess the exposure setting (aperture and shutter speed) and let the development process do the rest. I’ll never go back to the old method of development. I see no need to consider the zone method or the ‘beyond-the-zone-method’ of exposure and development. At least with HP5Plus 400 film, things are looking all very good.
Prepare esky/cooler bath to below the height of 120 reel (in my case 6cm) or 4×5″ film rack (in my case 11.5cm) and include the tank in the cooling process. At this point only the film is in the tank after being loaded in the change room.
Prepare filtered prewash water, 500ml or 1000ml to 18°C.
Pre-soak the film for 4 minutes and leave tank in the bath while it’s soaking
Mix the Rodinal Developer: 4ml per 500ml in distilled water – to cover 4×5″ film 1050ml
Empty the tank of pre-wash and fill it with developer solution
8ml+1000ml of R09 (slightly less concentrated), I shall invert, very gently at the start and every 2 minutes for the first 16 minutes (8 inversions), then again at 30 minutes, and let stand for a complete 2 hours. It’s important to invert at 30 minutes so the bottom half of the developer does not remain so stale as to make the bottom half of the negative darker than the top half.
Fill the tank with tap water, agitate 5 times (roll over end for end slowly), pour out the water, fill again, and agitate 10 times (roll over end for end slowly). Fill one last time and agitate 20 times (roll over end for end slowly), and then empty.
Fix for 4 minutes – agitate (roll over end for end slowly) every minute.
Empty Fixer solution into water bottle for re-use.
Fill the tank with tap water, agitate 5 times, and empty it. Then, fill it again and agitate 10 times, then empty it again. Refill and agitate 20 times, then empty again.
Fill the tank with the water and a squirt of washing up liquid made earlier. Agitate 40 times and empty the tank. Unscrew the top of your tank, take the negatives off your reel, and “squeegee” by putting the film in between your two fingers, and pulling them down to removing the bubbles. Afterwards, simply hang the negatives to dry with a weight on the bottom so they don’t go curly.
Develop – 30 secs of gentle inversions followed by 1 x gentle inversion every 2 minutes for 16 minutes (8 inversions), then one gentle inversion at 30 minutes, 1 hour, 1.5 hours and let stand for total 2 hours.
Standard recommendations for the stand development process have proven unreliable for a lot of people. Forum messages are plentiful on Flickr, Photo.net and LargeFormat Photography about the results of the method and how negatives are tainted with drag marks and uneven development. I’d like to show my progress in removing these issues.
The raw scans shown here are examples of the popular Stand Development Process and the modified Process I shall describe below. The final published version of these shots can be seen here: Trenerry Reserve which required a graduated filter on the right hand side and here: Skate Park which required no such graduated filter.
The popular process typically involves a solution of 1:100 of your favourite developer. The developer is placed into the tank and the tank receives a minimal amount of agitation (inversions), tapping, to the remove air bubbles and then just letting the tank stand for 1 hour.
But the shortcomings frequently cited, include ‘drag marks’ from the film sprocket holes and or over-developed edges to the negative as seen in the first raw scan here.
Some operators have recommended better temperature control to avoid convection currents within the tank, some argue about bromide ions, some recommend longer stand times with lower concentrations and yet others recommend semi-stand methods which include greater levels of agitation.
The temperature control and convection current arguments centred around my, now mistaken, assumption that higher temperatures generated by the development process (reaction) caused a current which logic would suggest was an upward current in the tank. This, however, contradicts drag marks which appear to be going downwards on the film or away from the sprocket holes.
So I had the idea that I would sacrifice a piece of film by placing it in a transparent measuring jug with the measured solution of developer and watch what happens (with no agitation at all). What was immediately interesting was the appearance, after only a relatively short time, of brown stained developer, moving down the emulsion side of the film and settling on the bottom of the jug. On the bottom of the jug was a thin but rather dark layer of this brown stain.
As a consequence of this movement, at the top of the jug, was a very definite layer of very clear developer about 1cm high. This all occurred within 30 minutes of the starting the process. After an hour, however, the development solution was quite homogeneous again and light brown throughout. In other words, after an hour the current downward had continued until all areas of the solution were equally ‘contaminated’ with emulsion residue.
My conclusion from this observation was that the development reaction was taking place on the vertical face of the film, causing a denser liquid to fall to the bottom of the jug. This movement subsequently caused displacement of the fresh, un-exhausted solution to rise to the top of the tank and replace the 1cm against the film with clear. developer. This was the cause of the film in the tank to be over-developed (darker negative, lighter positive) along this top edge.
The possible solutions were narrowed by the unavoidable need to agitate, as gently as possible, during at least the first 30 minutes to avoid this congregation of fresh developer against the top edge of the film. But increased agitation risked going against the accepted logical relationship between agitation and over-development.
Instead of 1 hour stand time, Addicted Light used a much weaker solution and a 2hour stand time. But he recommend agitation during first 30 seconds and again at 60 minutes. This obviously would not avoid the convection effect described above.
So I decided to try the weaker solution, and the longer stand time to counterbalance the weaker solution, but to see just how much agitation I could introduce without over-developing the entire negative. I had to start somewhere, but watching my measuring jug test, I got the gut feeling that as a basic requirement, it would need to be gentle inversions for at least the first 15 minutes.
The second raw scan above is the result of this process. In fact the entire batch of 6 pieces of film in the Paterson Super System 4 Tank + MOD54 has delivered the exact same outcome. Significantly improved evenness of negative density.
So for anyone wanting to give this method another go or for those who haven’t yet tried it but are still deciding, I recommend you at least try this method and see for yourself. I’m sold and all future processing will be done with this method.
The gentle inversions I use, can be described as one slow and gentle turn-over of the tank with a slight side roll. The a couple of taps and the tank is returned to the temperature bath.