Posts in Category: Uncategorized

American Southwest Adventure

When I was in my late teens/early 20s, I spent some time in Southwestern Colorado and Northeastern Arizona. Life happens, I moved to Oregon, started a family, was diagnosed with ALS, and nearly 20 years went. I have lots of great memories from those times I spent there… going to Mesa Verde, visiting Four Corners, see the Grand Canyon… and for a long time I wanted to go back and see it all while I was still able. I mentioned this to my wife earlier this year, and we talked about it awhile, and came up with a plan that we were both really excited about.

On June 20th 2016, we loaded up the wheelchair van with all our gear, and myself along with my wife Tiffany, our daughter Etta, and my brother Jason, and we headed out. Over the next nine days, we would cover 2800 miles, through 6 different states, visit 5 National Parks, and eventually wind up back home.

When I first spent time in that area, I was just barely becoming interested in photography. On one trip from Colorado to the Grand Canyon when I was 18, I borrowed my dad’s Minolta SLR and shot 2 rolls of film and I think that’s when I first got interested in taking photos. It wasn’t until 10 years later that I actually got serious about properly learning photography. In planning this year’s adventure, it only makes sense that photography would be a major part of it for me. The American Southwest is a mecca for photographers, and I was really excited to be going back there with some proper knowledge of  image making. Of course, I had visions of finding never before seen vistas, and getting off the beaten path and making images that no other photographer has ever done, but when you’re confined to a wheelchair, the reality is much different. As good as the National Park Service is about accessibility, the National Parks are still primarily massive areas of wilderness. Most of the time I was really lucky if I could get my powerchair more than 10 feet from the road or parking lot. Considering all that, I think I did pretty good.

My camera gear:
I  chose (after much internal debate) to bring 4 cameras (all film) with me on the trip. For big tripod landscape work, I borrowed my friend’s 1949 4×5 Speed Graphic with a Kodak Ektar 127/4.7 lens. For more general photography and telephoto landscapes, I brought my Bronica ETRSI  with a 40mm, 75mm, and 150mm lenses. Another big reason I decided to bring the ETRSI is that I have a special panoramic film back that allows me to shoot 35mm film and get a 24mm X 54mm frame. After much debate, I decided to bring my 1955 Rolleiflex 2.8C Planar, mainly in case I wanted to make any triptychs. Finally, brought my Contax G2 with its 35/2 Planar, basically as my glorified P&S, for snapshots in towns and such.
For film, I brought 10 sheets of 4×5 Ektar, 10 sheets of 4×5 Kodak Portra 160VC (expired), 4 sheets of 4×5 Ilford FP4+, 3 rolls of 120 Kodak Ektar, 4 rolls of 35mm Kodak Ektar, and finally 3/4 of a roll of expired Ektachrome 64X that was previously loaded in my Rolleiflex.
In the end, I only ended up shooting the 10 sheets of Ektar, 1 sheet of FP4+, 1 1/2 rolls of 120 Ektar, 2 rolls of 35mm Ektar, and I finished the roll of Ektachrome 64X.

Here are some of the photos from the first 2 days of the trip. Day 1 we spent driving to Bishop, California. Day 2 we spent in and around Bishop.

 


Mt. Lassen, California.
Zenza Bronica ETRSi w 135W back
Zenzanon MC 150/4
B+W Circular Polarizer
Kodak Ektar 100 


Somewhere In Nevada
Zenza Bronica ETRSi
Zenzanon EII 75/2.8
Kodak Ektar 100


Mono Lake, California
Zenza Bronica ETRSi w 135W back
Zenzanon MC 150/4
B+W Circular Polarizer
Kodak Ektar 100


Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains
Zenza Bronica ETRSi w 135W back
Zenzanon EII 75/2.8
B+W Circular Polarizer
Kodak Ektar 100


Sagebrush and Sierras
Rolleiflex 2.8C
Carl Zeiss Planar 80/2.8
Kodak Ektachrome 64X


Lake Sabrina, California
Pacemaker Speed Graphic 4×5
Kodak Ektar 127/4.7
Kodak Ektar 100

Mountains and Clouds
Zenza Bronica ETRSi w 135W back
Zenzanon EII 75/2.8
B+W Circular Polarizer
Kodak Ektar 100


Town House Motel. Bishop, California
Rolleiflex 2.8C
Carl Zeiss Planar 80/2.8
Kodak Ektachrome 64X

 

In the coming days I will be posting more photos from the rest of the trip, so stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Underdogs 9

I’m super excited to have my work shown in the 9th issue of Underdogs!
I have been a fan of Underdogs for awhile now, so this is really special to me.

Thank you Isa Gelb for the work you put into this webzine, and John Koch for the great editorial.

Underdogs 9

Spring Blossoms

Spring Blossoms in Medford 

Hasselblad 500cm
Carl Zeiss Planar T* 80/2.8
Expired Konica Professional Color 400 

Photography Without A Viewfinder

Living with ALS is all about adapting yourself to the ever changing conditions of your body. Something you can do today, you might not be able to do tomorrow. ALS affect every person differently. For me, I started losing strength in my hands and arms before anything else, and so though I can’t walk anymore, and my speech is slurred, my hands and arms have lost the most strength. As a photographer this can be somewhat troubling. Many cameras require you to lift them up to your eye to compose the photo. Sure there are digital cameras with flip out LCDs that I could probably use and make my life easier, but I like shooting film and using old film cameras. Some of my medium format cameras have Waist Level Finders so I can hold them in my lap and compose with a viewfinder, but most 35mm cameras don’t, and if they do they don’t work that well anyway.

Since I can’t lift the camera up to my eye to compose, I have had to learn to compose and take photos without any viewfinder whatsoever. For a few years, I could still lift the camera but it was fairly difficult, so I would try to only do it when I absolutely knew I wanted to take the photo. This meant learning to see a composition without the guides of framelines or the edges of the viewfinder. Nowadays, I have to take photos holding the camera in my lap and just point it where I think is right, guesstimate focus distance if I’m using a manual focus camera, and shoot and hope it works out. All things being equal, I think I’m getting pretty good at it.

Here are some of my 35mm film images taken without the use of a viewfinder.

Contax G2, Zeiss Planar 35/2, Kodak Ektar 100

Fed 3, Industar-61 L/D 53/2.8, Kodak Gold 200

Voigtlander Bessa R, Jupiter-8 50/2, Kodak Portra 160VC

Fujifilm Klasse, Fujinon 38/2.6, Kodak Portra 400

Asahi Pentax SV, Auto Takumar 35/3.5, Mitsubishi MXIII 200

Voigtlander Bessa R, Jupiter-8 50/2, Kodak Portra 160 VC

Getting the most from color negative film with your Epson flatbed.

You may or may not have read my previous article on scanning color negative film, but since originally writing it, I’ve learned a lot more about it, and I’ve changed my method somewhat.

There are a few things I should mention before getting into the technical stuff though.

Firstly, this article primarily pertains to C-41 color negative film, and to a lesser extent, C-41 B&W film. Most of this will help with true B&W as well as E-6 slide film, but those films have certain characteristics which may make this method not work well.

Secondly, it is not my intent to claim that this is the best way. It’s also not the easiest method. I also understand that there better scanners available, and also that doing a 16bit linear scan and inverting in Ps can theoretically give better results. I primarily use Epson Scan to create a positive image from the negative, and so that is what this article is about.

Thirdly, I am not a trained professional in the field of scanning and digital imaging. For that reason, I will be the first to say that I may be wrong or misinformed on some of the technical aspects of film characteristics and digital imaging. This article is written based on things “as I currently understand them”.

If you find this article to be helpful, and wish to help me, please send $3 via paypal to coltonallen@hotmail.com

A bit about digital imaging and color film (as I understand them) before we get going. I think it’s very important to understand digital imaging, and the way color film works, especially if you want to get the most from your film. I know that many people choose to shoot film for the very reason that they don’t want to deal with digital imaging, which is fine as long as your happy with your lab scans or prints.
Color negative film, in a basic sense, is simply three separate layers, each of which records only red, green, or blue light. Once the layers are inverted (and the orange base accounted for) you end up with a full color image.

A digital image is essentially the same concept in digital form. A digital color image is made up of a grid of pixels, each pixel being made of three color channels, red, green, and blue. Each pixel is given a value (0-255) for each channel. 0 being darkest, 255 being the brightest. A pixel value of 0, 0, 0 would be the darkest black, and 255, 255, 255 would be the brightest white. The image histogram is a sort of map that shows the breakdown of pixels and their values throughout the image, so it’s very important to understand what the histogram is telling you. Here’s a great article on understanding image histograms histograms http://www.marginalsoftware.com/HowtoScan/image_histograms.htm.  Most basic histograms are only showing greyscale or luminosity values though, so it’s very important to look at the histograms for each individual color channel. 

The trick with scanning, is to get the scanner and software to output the maximum range of tones in each color channel, without clipping tones at either end of the histogram. Since writing my previous article on scanning, I have changed my method somewhat, and I thought it was worth sharing.

If you read my previous article, I’m using basically the same settings in Epson Scan. For this article, I’m using a V750, but Epson Scan is basically the same for the V500. Here’s my settings anyway,

I’m in Professional Mode, Color Negative Film, 48-bit Color, 2400dpi, and Target Size is set to Original.
Everything is unchecked except Digital ICE. Using ICE is a matter of preference. I use it because I don’t think it affects IQ that much and it greatly reduces the amount of dust/spot removal in Ps.

I typically scan most of my film at 24 bit color and save as jpeg, and then if it warrants it I’ll scan select images at 48bit and save as a tiff file. If you are scanning at 48 bit, make sure Epson Scan is set to save as tiff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how I have Configuration set up.

I have it set to ICM, with Source set to Epson Standard and Target set to Adobe RGB. If you don’t have Adobe RGB as a choice, you need to download the profile from Adobe and install it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With film loaded in the scanner, run a preview scan (make sure Thumbnail is unchecked), cut a marquee over the frame you want to scan, and then zoom in on that marquee/frame. Once it is zoomed in, adjust the marquee edges so that some of the black edge (unexposed film border) is inside the frame, but none of the white area beyond is inside. After adjusting the marquee, open the Histogram Adjustment dialog. It should look like the image below now. If the settings in the Histogram dialog look different, then click the reset button at the bottom. For those interested, the particular negative I’m using is Kodak Ektar 35mm, and was made using my Contax G2 and Zeiss Planar 32/2.

 

 

The first thing I do from here, is some basic settings. I set the Output Whitepoint from 200 to 255. Then I set the Input Midpoint from 1.50 to 1.00. Then I set Input Blackpoint by using the eyedropper on an area of unexposed film within the marquee. It should look something like this,

 

 

Then I go to the Red Channel, and set the brightpoint triangle to the very edge of the right side of the red histogram.

 

 

Then the Green Channel,

 

 

Then the Blue Channel,

 

 

Now comes the tricky part, and needs be done visually. The above preview scan has (to my eye) a Red cast. To deal with it, I go back to the Red Channel and remove some Red by changing the Red midpoint from 1.00 to 0.88. Moving the midpoint slider to the left adds that color (whichever color channel you’re working with) and moving it to the right removes that color. If your image has a Blue cast, then move the Blue midpoint to the right, and for a Green cast, move the Green midpoint to the right. Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow, are opposites of Red, Green, and Blue. For a Cyan cast, add Red. For a Magenta cast, add Green. For a Yellow cast add Blue. This has more to do with the relationship of the 3 channels to each other, and not really the actual number values of the three points. Another way of looking at it is, if you have a Magenta cast, you can add Green, or you can remove both Red and Blue. 

If you have something grey in the frame, you can use the combined RGB midpoint eyedropper tool to get your overall balance close, but I usually find that I need to fine tune the individual channel midpoints to get it closer to my eye.

Here’s the preview with the adjusted Red Channel,

 

 

Then I decided to to warm up the image a bit by moving the Blue midpoint from 1.00 to 0.98,

 

 

Then I decided to brighten the overall image by moving the combined RGB midpoint up to 1.16,

 

 

I was fairly happy with the look of the preview, so I went ahead and scanned the image. After scanning, I opened the file in Photoshop, where I rotated, flipped, and cropped the image. Here’s how it looked in Ps, with the Levels tool next to it,
 

 

 

From here, I fine tuned the Levels by adjusting all channels to where it looked good to me,

 

 

 

Then I adjusted the Tone Curve to preference,

 

 

 

And here is the final product. I should note that after adjusting the Tone Curve, I felt the image had a very slight Green cast, which I fixed by moving the Green midpoint from 1.00 to 0.98

Regarding the Blakpoint/darkpoint…

I have found that it is easy to clip the shadows in Epson Scan if you start moving the the darkpoint sliders. I like to use the film base as a good start point for black balance, and then adjust from there in Ps. With Kodak Ektar, the Blue Channel almost always has a rather large separation from where the darkpoint is on the unexposed film and where the left side of the histogram starts. This is why Ektar can very easily have a blue cast in the shadows. This is probably part of how Ektar was designed. When scanning other films, I’ve noticed that (because of the orange mask?) you can often end up with the Blue Channel clipped in the shadows to begin with, and you can’t do anything about it. If you look at the image of the Photoshop Levels, you’ll see that I moved the Blue darkpoint up a bit.

Depending on the image and exposure, you may not necessarily want the darkpoint sliders set right to the left edge of the histogram. That’s personal preference though.

 

 

Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps.
If you have found this article to be helpful, and wish to help me, please send $3 via paypal to coltonallen@hotmail.com

 

Emigrant Lake

Ashland, Oregon.

Flowers on B Street

Ashland, Oregon.

Orange Cream

Ashland, Oregon.

Scanning Color Film

This is something that I originally posted on PentaxForums, but I decided to move it to my personal website.

If you have found this article to be helpful, and wish to help me, please send $3 via paypal to coltonallen@hotmail.com

I originally wrote this as a guide for scanning Kodak Ektar, but the method works equally well for all color negative films.

Recently I have had quite a few requests to share my method for scanning Ektar, so I figured I would do an in-depth write-up, and try to cover as much as I can.

Firstly, I’d like to point out that I don’t in any way claim that this is the “correct” way, it is just my way and I get results that I’m mostly happy with. It is also something that I’m always trying to learn more about and get better results, therefore my method is always evolving.

Secondly, I take no credit for coming up with any of this, I’m just using tools built into the software.

Thirdly, I think it is important to think of any scan of color negative film as an interpretation of reality. I don’t believe there is such thing as perfectly “correct color”.

My Setup.

I use an Epson V500 and the supplied Epson Scan software. I’m well aware of all the “better” scanners and software available, but the Epson works for me.
Ektar has a reputation of being difficult to scan. For years, I never shot much Ektar because I always found my results to be wildly inconsistent. I think most of the problems I was having came from using the auto-exposure mode in Epson Scan. There are two main reasons for those inconsistencies. First, the auto-exposure system sets color balance automatically for each frame, and seems to have difficulty finding good color balance with Ektar. Secondly, if you’re using a color profiled system, the preview scan (in auto-exposure mode) is displayed without any profiling (AFAIK), so what you’re seeing in prescan will be very different than the final scan.

Here is a screenshot of my main Epson Scan window, and all my initial settings. I scan most of my photos as 24bit jpegs, if I have a special image I will scan as 48bit tiff. Note that I have everything unchecked except Digital ICE.

Note: Depending on your screen resolution, you may need to scroll down within this dialogue box to be able to access all settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is my settings in the Configuration dialog and Color tab,

 

It’s very important that both “Color Control” and “No Color Correction” are left unchecked.

Also, you’ll see that I have Adobe RGB selected as my target. This is because I do all my image processing and printing using the Adobe RGB profile and color space. If you are working in sRGB, or another color space, then you should select the profile that works best for you.

 

 

 

 

 

Scanning Setup

Once I have the previous settings all set, and film loaded in the scanner, I do a preview scan. For initial scan settings, it’s nice to have a well exposed negative of a generic landscape with clouds and blue sky, or even a incident metered shot of a color chart or black, white, and grey cards, set in normal daylight.
For now I’m going to use a photo I took in Portland a few months ago using my Bronica ETRSi.

Once the Preview Scan finishes, I cut a marquee around the frame I want to scan, and then click the Zoom button in the Preview dialog.
Here’s my unaltered preview scan,along with the Histogram Adjustment dialog, before I’ve made any changes.

 

You’ll notice that the preview scan looks very flat and boring at this point.

The first thing I do at this stage is to make some quick initial changes in the Histogram Adjustment dialog.

First, I adjust the Output from 10 and 200, to 0 and 255. I’m not sure why they are preset to 10 and 200, maybe someone who knows can reply and tell me 🙂

Second, I set the Grey Point (Input, right below histogram) from 1.50 to 1.00

The preview and histogram should now look like this,

 

After that I do an initial Black Point setting. This is done selecting the Black Point eyedropper, and clicking on the unexposed film, just outside the frame.

Now it should like this,

 

Now comes the trickier part, setting the White Point and color balance. This is why a landscape with blue sky and clouds is nice. Usually the whitest and brightest part of the image is in the clouds somewhere. By using the White Point eyedropper in conjunction with the Desitometer, I look for the brightest pixels (254,254,254), and use that for my White Point. It may take 3 or 4 times, but eventually you should get to a point where there isn’t any clipped pixels.

If it worked right, you should have a preview image with a color balance that you like. This part is tricky because some of it is personal preference, and it may be different than you imagined or hoped.

Here’s what my preview looks like now,

 

For me, this is a good base point to work from. At this stage, I would click on the preview tab at the top of the Preview dialog, and then click “Save” under Settings in the main Epson Scan dialog. I would also start a txt file in Notepad (or similar) and keep track of your Settings since Epson Scan won’t allow you to name your saved settings.

Once saved you can use that as a starting point for future scans from the same film/camera setup.

Fine Tuning

I’ve found that I usually have to do a bit of fine tuning from frame to frame, even on the same roll.

This particular frame seems a bit dark and contrasty to me, so I brightened it a bit by moving the Gray (Mid tone) Point, from 1.00 to 1.30.

Here’s how that looks.

 

You may also find that Ektar has a bluish cast to the shadows, which is common and makes some sense since Ektar is daylight balanced and the color temperature is different in shadows.

You may have noticed that my Black Point changed slightly in the last screenshot. What I did was… first I reset my Black Point with the eyedropper and using the darkest, blackest point I could find in the preview scan. By doing this, it fixed the slight color cast, but it moved the black triangle up into the histogram too far, so after I did it, I just moved the black triangle manually to about where it was before.

 

Scanning

Now I’m ready to scan.

Here’s a screenshot of my settings in the File Save dialog. Make sure you open up the Options and set the jpeg quality and also set it to embed ICC Profile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s pretty much it.
I should note that your final scans using this method may seem a bit flat, especially if you’re used to the auto mode scans. I will sometimes do a levels adjust and apply a tone curve adjustment in post processing.
And here’s my final image,

 

Signs

Medford, Oregon.