Getting To See The Picture

Getting To See The Picture

And a big picture at that.

Newbie, you are not so new as before. You went through the entire process of buying film, loading it, taking pictures with it, and developing it. You have a black and white negative in a plastic sleeve or paper envelope – not in a hot and sweaty hand, thank you. That negative is a precious thing, and, unlike a digital file, can be irreparably marred if you put fingerprints on it. Those plastic sleeves that CE sells are there for a purpose.

How do you go from the neg to a positive picture? Three ways:

a. Take the negative sleeve to the professional laboratory and ask for prints of the pictures. You can have them in many sizes, but remember that the traditional photographic sizes are still running in Imperial measures. This you may get a 4″ x 6″, a 5″ x 7″, an 8″ x 10″  an so on. Photographers are dinosaurs, really, but take some comfort from the numbers. If they start asking you whether you want half-plate or cabinet size you’ll know they are just mocking you.

The lab will scan the negs and print the results on real photographic paper – or on inkjet paper if that is their workflow. But they can also just burn them onto a CD for you or even pop them on a USB stick – and you can run home to see them on your computer.  I shouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t some way they could be sent to your home electronically anyway, but we’re playing with the old toys here.

b. Scan them yourself.

My wife is currently passing my slide files through a small scanner and digitising them for family record. The scanner is not even scanning – it’s rephotographing them with a small lens and sensor and spitting out a small jpeg file. And it is quite capable of doing this with a 35mm slide or a strip of 35mm negatives – colour or black and white. CE has sold devices like this for years – they are not expensive at all and are simple to use.

The technical point around which this turns is the small size of the sensor and the small file it produces. Think 8″ x 10″ as the biggest you’ll want to see it, in contrast to the bigger results possible with the professional laboratory scan.

If you are willing to pop for an expensive piece of gear, consider one of the Epson flat-bed scanners. I use an Epson V 700 scanner that will, indeed, produce larger files and bigger pictures, and do them with better resolution. It will accommodate anything from a 35mm format to 8″ x 10″ and sails through slides automatically – but it is a slower vessel than the little cheapies.

The newer models of the Epson V series – the 800 an 900 ones – do even better. My workflow and writing would be impossible without using mine, and it is one reason I do not upgrade my computer past a certain point – I do not wish to lose the facility of that scanner.

c. Get yourself a second-hand enlarger and developing trays and plunge in.

If you thought your housemates hated you for splashing up the bathroom developing film, wait until they find you locking them out of the facilities for hours on end while you make paper prints.

The new enlarger has disappeared, but the second-hand one – like the poor – will always be with us. I see numbers of them sold or given away at camera markets and many are still surprisingly fresh in boxes. Even the simple ones work and most are bombproof. You’ll need an orange safelight bulb for the bathroom socket, ( CE  ), and paper developer, ( CE ), and Ilford paper ( CE ). If you have that A-P developing kit from CE , it has the trays and tongs inside that you need. This time you don’t need to worry quite so much about time and temperature, as you’ll be developing by sight.

Darkroom workers of precision will say that you need an electric timer to work in conjunction with the enlarger – and you do if you are going to be a long-term enthusiast. You’ll still see Novus and Meopta timers at the second-hand markets. But remember that every enlarger also has a line switch you can click on and off and you can count a-one, a-two, a-three in the glow of the orange safelight.

It will keep you from hearing your housemates banging on the bathroom door.

 

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