As we approach springtime, it’s becoming clear that we really haven’t had a winter here in the southwest. One big storm came through, but in a week’s time, that was already in the rearview mirror. There have been some years where spring has produced several good storms, and salvaged what was otherwise a dismal water season. I’m hoping this is one of those years, because we really need the water.
I like exploring nature to find the features that haven’t been posted on social media over and over again. If I sent this one out with a location tag, I’m afraid it might join that not so elite group. As with an image I posted a couple months ago, this one is loaded with color, but I’m more inclined to this rendition.
I’m truly amazed at what a digital camera can see versus what the human eye sees. Anybody who has taken night sky images can tell you that. The original of this shot is on medium format transparency film, and I don’t see any details in the middle ground. Just pure contrast.
Since I’ve started “scanning” old film, this shot has stood out as as the biggest surprise. Even with Photoshop, I was not able to pull out any detail from the shadows from the file created with an actual scanner. I could have tried exposure blending, but I only used one shot and a little bit of Photoshop to create the final product you see here.
Apparently, our week of winter is over in the desert. Several days ago, it rained overnight, and as I was taking the dog for its morning walk, I passed by a neighbor’s rain-patterned hood. They must have recently waxed their car, because mine never looks like this after it rains. I was fascinated by the patterns and textures, so I returned with my camera.
Another shot from about a week ago, but a pulled back perspective. I loved the shapes created by this branch along with its reflection, in the Salt River. The bird – a Black Phoebe, part of the Kingfisher family – kept returning to a couple points on this branch to search for its next prey. The image from this series in my previous post is an uncropped full frame image; that’s how persistent this bird was in returning to the high spot on the branch.
As most of you know, when I’m outdoors taking photographs, I concentrate my efforts on the details of the landscape. In recent days, I have made trips with the primary purpose of capturing the animals and birds of the environment. This requires faster thinking and slower movement than with my traditional subjects, and has been an interesting change of pace.
As in photography, so goes life. While Covid still has prevented much of what I might have otherwise been doing, I have been making a point to not just sit around Netflix binging. I probably won’t be presenting the things which I have been learning on this site, but I have been using this newfound spare time to take on challenges which I never would have attempted years ago. As my recent birthday was one in which both digits changed, I’m glad to be pushing my limits at a time when many people stop doing that.
Additionally, I wanted to point out that while I have photographed more birds in the last few months than I have in the rest of my life, I really never knew which species most of them were. I tried identifying them via websites, but wasn’t getting results. Then I downloaded an app called Merlin Bird ID. The only downside to this app is if you don’t have memory space on your phone to download the databases for your region. This app has made life simple for someone like me who’s not a birder.
Finding running water around here is getting tougher, but there are some places that always come through. A normal water level here would be covering most of those rocks, and the algae has dried to leave a crusty white cap. I’m learning to make the best of cloudless skies, as that appears to be the trend this winter.
With ridiculously warm temperatures and fires throughout the west, I’ve had little incentive to want to be out photographing this year. A couple hundred people got to live out my worst nightmare earlier this year when fast moving fires in California required them to be rescued in the forest. Las Vegas finally ended a string of 240 days without measurable rain last week. That should be a forever-standing record, and if it ends up being broken, we’re in deep trouble.
Despite so much negative news taking place, there have been some wonderful rare events this year. The Comet Neowise and this week’s Jupiter-Saturn conjunction have been a part of that. I bought a long telephoto lens a couple of years ago with the hopes of using it for wildlife and moonrise photos. I did research on telescopes vs. telephoto lenses before my purchase, and realized a telescope would have too many limitations. My lens has had a learning curve, and I have been pleasantly surprised to find that I can see Saturn’s rings in a photo taken with this lens. All this from the comfort of my backyard. I guess the lesson we should be taking from 2020 is that good things are still happening and we just need to keep our eyes and our minds open to them.
The Navajo Nation has imposed more restrictions on travel, so it might be another six months before anyone can visit here the way Covid cases are going. I’m glad I’ve had opportunities to see many places on the reservation, including some not available to most. This is one of those photos that I think most people would show in color (with the saturation boosted as well), but the details are perfectly suited to black and white.
Every once in a while, I’ve come across a place where the seasons didn’t seem to be in alignment with the rest of the world. Sycamore Canyon was one of those places for me. It was late in the year and I was expecting all the trees to be leafless and the general mood to be winterish. To my surprise, all the trees were still holding on to green leaves and the mood was very energetic. The original of this photo is on color film, but with a new “scan”, the details in black and white make it difficult to favor the original.
This year has provided an opportunity to edit my film collection with ample time that I would not have had otherwise. Once upon a time, I had a 36″ legal depth file cabinet which had the upper drawer fully devoted to film. In addition, I had a set of antique library index card cabinets with one section (15 drawers) containing nothing but mounted film. A few months ago, I wrote about going through the 35mm collection. Around August, I went through the rest of it. I shot a lot of 4×5 film, but the majority of it was 2 1/4 film. I learned early on that a lab duplicate could never match the quality of straight-out-of-camera, so when I had something good, I made sure I had at least one backup, often many more. Now that nothing goes out as film anymore, It was time to dispose of the shots that no longer serve a purpose. By the time I finished, I had eliminated about 80-100 pounds of film and mounts. My life’s work now takes up about two shoeboxes.
The only question remaining after the elimination process was what to do with the remaining film. I wasn’t really happy with the scanner I owned. It usually did well with the 4×5 film, sometimes did well with the 2 1/4, and never with the 35mm. Reviews into newer scanners didn’t provide a good feeling about upgrading, and everybody said the only way to scan 35mm was with a scanner dedicated to that format. 35mm was never my bread-and-butter. I only used it when time wouldn’t allow for a larger camera, or a telephoto lens was called for. Buying a new scanner for the sole purpose of digitizing these slides seemed like a waste. Devices for slide duplication which fit onto a lens are available, but I had already tried something along those lines. Now I had the time to perfect it.
I tried to modify the way the scanner worked, first by changing the height of the film trays off the bed of the scanner. No significant results. Then, I thought removing the glass between the optical sensor and the film might help. That pretty much destroyed the scanner. No loss there. Then I made a lightbox with completely dark surroundings and played with all kinds of variables until I got it right. I did save the film holders from the scanner, as they have become invaluable.
There were three major problems with the scanner that are no longer present by using a digital camera. Most notably was the presence of chromatic aberration that was in the scans, but not the original film. Often this was time consuming to eliminate, sometimes impossible without adverse effects. Secondly, areas of pure black always had noise. Thirdly, there were occasions when the scanned image had a band of red, green, and blue pixels running through it. None of these are issues anymore, and the sharpness can’t be matched.
As if that wasn’t enough to keep me busy, I now had a reason to get some images sent out, so the process of rescanning my library has begun. After all this time of being on the computer, I had no motivation to be on a computer any longer than I already was, so that is why I have been absent from this site. I had a different perspective for saving film for scanning purposes versus what I would have considered the best shot going out as film. Many shots in the new collection have never been out in 30+ years. Here are some of my ‘salvaged’ images.
Here is the first image I have taken outdoors in almost three months. This is from this morning using the same lens I use for ‘scanning’.
As with last week’s post, I’m sharing an image of some place cool and wet until summer goes away. The weather people have put some obscenely low numbers in the long-range forecast, but then they tried that a couple weeks ago. As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…..not gonna happen.