Doing The Maths

Doing The Maths

At the recent AIPP conference in the Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s most famous wildlife photographers – Steve Parish – presented a two-hour talk with a lot of his iconic images. The most glorious underwater pictures you could want.

These days the old Carousel projector has long since been replaced with the laptop computer feeding into a video projector. Professional ones seem to be every bit as good as the old slide projectors, and the whole thing can be extremely slick with segues to video clips and music – you can be a real showman with the material.

But of course, some of the material may have started out in the film era and has had to be translated to a digital file. Steve’s best work is in the digital domain now but he showed us a really disturbing thing – his core base of colour slide material was caught in the Brisbane floods last year and a substantial part of it was ruined. The flood waters that lapped around his storage warehouse came up into the lower drawers of his files and as the water was contaminated with fuels it just dissolved the images off the slides! The whole audience literally gasped and groaned when he showed the slide drawers – we all recognized the artistic loss that it represented. I bet a lot of us vowed to digitize our slides and negatives right then.

So how to do it? I own the Epson V700 scanner -wonderful machine – and I use it to throw 35mm, 120, and 4 x 5 negatives into the computer. It can do the finest detail scanning for flat art work and thing section objects. It has a plate that can take 12 mounted 35mm slides at a time. Surely this will be the best answer.

I”m not so sure, Shirley. When I translate the 120, 4 x 4 , and 8 x 10 material into the computer this will be my only option. I have the settings worked out for each of these situations so it will just be a case of grinding through it, minute by minute. The minutes add up, however, which led me to think of the title for this post.

When it comes to the 35mm mounted slides, the scanner will need at least 180 seconds per set of 12 slides to scan and drop them into the hard drive. I’ve got 6400 slides to do. 6400 divided by 12 times 3 minutes is
1600 minutes. 26 hours of solid scanning plus the time to get the slides out of the pages, put them back, and reset the scanner for the next batch. I’m just going into the darkroom, fellows. I may be some time…

Rather than doing a Captain Oates I think I might re-think. I have a Nikon D300 and can fit a Tokina 35mm macro lens. It can focus precisely on the 24mm x 36mm aperture of a slide mount and render it onto the sensor. I have an unused enlarger chassis that can suspend the camera vertically over a lightbox. Taking a custom white balance from the lightbox is a one-click affair and the only additional bit I need is a locating template for the top of the lightbox. Matt board, Stanley knife, and gaffer tape…

If I sit quietly in my old darkroom dropping the slides into the gate on the light box and triggering the cable release on the camera I should be able to do them at a rate of a slide every 10 seconds – that’s dropped the mechanical time to 17 hours. I should have time for a sandwich.

Will it work with the 35mm negatives – of which I have far more than colour slides? Considering the handling of the negative strips is going to be more problematical than the slides, perhaps this is a job for the scanner. I will investigate the situation and let you know in a future blog.

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