More from Paris

Paris 1984 © Peter Marshall

I’ve photographed this little crossing in the 10e – just along from the famous Hotel du Nord – many times and this is one of my favourite images. Last month when I stayed at home rather than going to Paris I got out some of those old negatives and scanned several hundred of them using the Epson V750.

The scans, despite what’s often said about flatbed scanners and 35mm film aren’t bad at all, and I could certainly make decent 10×8 prints from them, probably larger.  As a compromise I chose to scan at 2400 dpi. The scanner has a maximum optical 4800dpi, but at that resolution scan times get a little too long for volume production – roughly 4 times as long as with 2400. Of course I could have gone a little faster at a lower resolution, but given the time taken in removing and replacing the film from the filing sheets, putting them in the film holder, cleaning the negs and various glass surfaces  etc, the process as a whole wouldn’t be a lot faster.

Just for rough proofing of course you can scan  negatives still in their filing sheets – so long as you used the fairly clear transparent type, and its something I’ve done for making digital contact sheets. A normal full filing sheet doesn’t quite fit on the scanner bed, so you need to make two scans for each sheet – which I then usually join in Photoshop. Working at 600 dpi gives reasonably sized files where you can view individual images at roughly the size of an 8×10 print on screen, but aren’t too great for printing, though you can make postcard sized images.

Paris 1984 © Peter Marshall
One of several ‘corners’ that Atget probably photographed

After a few experiments with the Epson software, I scanned the 35mm negs in 16 bit grayscale mode and saved them as TIF files. These are around 13Mb and roughly 3300×2050 pixels. I then made any basic corrections needed to the levels and/or curves as well as using the Polaroid dust removal filter and in a few cases a little bit of work with the clone tool, and saving them as 8bit gray scale jpeg files for use. Any I want to do much more work with I can start again with the TIF, archived on external storage. Although the files need some cleaning up if looked at 1:1, most are fine for use if reduced to web size, and I’ve now started to put some of them on line.

Paris 1984 © Peter Marshall
I think I took this a little straighter – and certainly printed it so

The main problem I’ve had with the scans is cropping. Although the Epson film holder can show more or less the whole negative, the automatic location of the images by Epson Scan seems to prefer a little cropping, especially with images where the edges of the negatives aren’t quite parallel to the edge of the film, which seems to be the case with quite a few of my negatives (I think it was a speciality of Leicas that it was easy to load the film slightly out, though working with M series cameras I never managed it quite as obvious as M Henri Cartier-Bresson occasionally did with the older models.

Paris 1984 © Peter Marshall

If I want to make new prints (and I hope some people may want to buy them) my first step would be to find the negatives and scan them at higher resolution in my dedicated film scanner, A Minolta Multiscan Pro. Especially when used with two devices made available by enthusiasts, this model produces some of the best possible film scans, as good and sometimes possibly better than drum scan.  Unfortunately the scanner is no longer available, but the idea of the Scanhancer, produced by Erik de Goederen from Holland, has been incorporated into some later scanner designs – though without acknowledgement. The other thing that improves the quality of the scans are some custom-designed and specially machined masks from another member of the user group, the MultiPro Xpander from Drazen Navratil in Zagreb. These hold the negs as flat as possible and the oversized 35mm mask allows the entire negative to be scanned. Altogether the Multipro group is a good example of how the Internet enables people from around the world to gain from each other’s ideas and experience.

Using the Epson V70 you can of course locate the negative edges more accurately manually, but it would slow down the whole process to a snail’s pace and isn’t really feasible when scanning several hundreds of negatives. I did recently get a mailing from Silverfast who claim that their latest software does the job better, but an upgrade to that supplied with the scanner was at a special offer price of 299 Euros, which I found not in the least attractive.  Of course I did install Silverfast when I bought the scanner, but soon decided I preferred to use the Epson software. Though some people do swear by Silverfast, I found myself more swearing at it.

So far I’ve put the first set of 28 black and white pictures from my visit to Paris in 1984 onto the web, where you can already see 45 of my colour images from the same year:

Paris 1984 © Peter Marshall

as well as more black and white work from 1973.  More from Paris later.

While thinking about Paris, I can’t help but think of some of my friends there who I missed seeing in November, among them Jim and Millie Casper.  The LensCulture web site has been running since 2004 , establishing an enviable reputation in the world of photography, and attracting around three or four times as many visitors a day as this site.

I’ve often linked to audio interviews and other features on Lens Culture from this site, and I’m happy to give another link to the site, this time to a request for donations to keep Lens Culture going.  Like these pages, it carries no advertising – as the site says:

Since our inception in 2004, Lens Culture has been completely self-funded, without revenue from advertising or any other outside source. We prefer to keep Lens Culture “content-rich and clutter-free”, and your contribution today will help it stay that way.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.