Slides are back

But not edited or scanned.

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In the past, I had a cheap x-ray light box but got rid of it some years ago when moving. I recently bought a very thin LED lightbox that just fits a sleeve of slides. It was originally designed for animators but works well for x-rays, slides, and so on. On the sleeve of film are the 50mm lens of my Zeiss Ikon rangefinder and a Schneider 10x loupe. The 50mm is great for looking at a whole slide and the 10x magnifier is good for checking details.

The film I got back today is Agfa Precisa CT 100. It has good colour, even on cloudy days without a filter. In a previous post I mentioned (I think) that I was going to be careful when using slide film to reduce waste and costs. From my brief look at the film I can see that while there might not be more keepers, there are at least fewer mistakes. The slides look darker in this photo than they really are, by the way. Except for one or two mistakes, exposure was good.

I’m looking forward to going carefully through the photos and choosing a few that will get good scans and then printed. And shared here, of course,

 

Slide Film Revisited

There are 25,000 photo files on my computer and thousands of negatives in binders on my bookshelf. My photo collection is a mess of digital, colour negatives, slide, and black and white. I’ve given up a number of attempts to organise it all, but I would like to have more uniformity going into the future. The key to uniformity and organisation is simplicity. I should choose one format and just one or two cameras and stick with those to make my life easier. But what to choose? The convenience of digital? The easy availability of colour negatives and black and white film? The beauty of slide film? As you can probably guess from the title of this essay, For a number of reasons, I decided to use slide film from now on (1). I love slide film for its quality and its look but there are some difficulties with using it, as I will explore here.

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Birthplace of Heogyun

Some of you might be curious to know why I chose the almost outdated format of slide film in an age when digital cameras produce high-quality photographs that are essentially free once you’ve got a camera.  There are three main reasons I’m not going to use more convenient formats. One, I recently bought Fred Herzog’s book of photos mostly done on Kodachrome. I’m impressed with his photographs but I’m also impressed with the colours and Mr Herzog’s attitude to making photos. He used slow film and when he was younger he couldn’t afford to waste frames. This forced him to improve his technique. I want to have better technique and using relatively slow and unforgiving slide film will make me a better photographer. One of my favourite photographers, Sam Abell, also used slide film during his days at National Geographic. It’s from him that I learned to ‘make’ photographs, not ‘take’ them. Artists like these are inspiring.

Pagoda and Lanterns at Woljeong Temple
Woljeong Temple

The second reason materialised when I printed a number of my photographs at 16×20 for my office wall a number of weeks ago. The print from ISO 800 negative film looks good from a distance but a bit rough up close. The black and white prints look fine though some of them show signs of strain when you look closely. The photo from a digital camera is very clean and full of detail but there is something, I don’t know, artificial about it. It’s very hard to describe what I mean. The best print came from slide film. Grain is present but fine and the detail is good without being oversharp.

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Anmok Harbour

The third reason is a mixture of the first two. I want to be an artist, not a snapshooter, and using slide film will force me to improve my technique to the point where I can make high-quality photographs I can be proud to hang on my wall.

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Staircase and Bricks

Although I am excited about using slide film again and becoming a better photographer, there are a number of problems and inconveniences I have to overcome. First of all, slide film and developing is much more expensive than other films. A roll of Ektar 100 plus developing is 12,500 Won. A roll of Provia 100F plus developing is 22,000 Won. Almost double. A basic roll scan adds 3,000 Won to the price of the negative film, but it’s still much cheaper than the slides. Using positive film is hard on the wallet, but the high price can be an advantage because I’m going to think more carefully before pressing the shutter button. No more click click click, let’s see what comes out — I’m going to walk around, look through the viewfinder to check compositions, and make accurate exposure readings using the spot meter in my camera. This can only be good for the quality of my photos. The other problem with slide film is availability. The Internet shopping sites in Korea sometimes run out and Fuji keeps cutting films. Kodak has no slide films at all. But there is hope! Kodak announced this year that it is bringing back Ektachrome and it should be available to buy early 2018. Ferrania Film is working on its new slide film and it will be available . . . sometime. I’m hoping that the new choices will encourage people to start using slide film and stores will stock more of it. Getting accurate exposures on slide film is often cited as a major challenge to using slide film, but modern light meters are very good and excellent exposures can be made if harsh light is avoided. Bad light doesn’t look good on negatives or digital so it’s not a problem unique to positive film.

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Inspecting a basket from a travelling salesman

Despite the challenges, I am looking forward to getting my first rolls of slide film back from the lab and enjoying the well-done photos and learning from my mistakes. What I’m especially looking forward to is not having to do any adjustments on the computer to make the photos look good. A slide is a finished thing. Once I’ve got my keepers I’ll get 50MB scans done at a professional lab in Seoul and print from that at my local lab, where there is a guy who is very good. It’s tempting to just get prints done from the slide and avoid the computer altogether. But then how would I share photos here? Doing a bit of work on the computer is unavoidable if I want to share my photos with a wide audience. I hope to show you some quality work soon.(2)

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Chicken in front of shop
Plants in Field Under a Sky with Clouds
Wetlands
Lanterns at Woljeong Temple
Woljeong Temple Lanterns

 

 

 

Footnotes

(1) But need to use up some print film and black and white film as well.
(2) The photos in this post are some of my favourites from years past.

Pile of Film: Mostly Snapshots

During the holidays I was busy and film piled up at the house, undeveloped and sometimes unnoticed. One day I gathered it all up and sent it off to the lab. There was a bit of everything in the pile: colour negative, slide, and black and white. I haven’t gotten around to editing the black and white photos yet and I’ll post some of those later, if there’s anything worth sharing.

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Below the window is an aluminium tray wrapped in a cloth. Restaurants deliver to nearby businesses by putting all the dishes on a tray and delivering it like this. When the business employees are finished eating, they put the tray outside for pickup.

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There’s nothing special about this photo. Everyone likes kittens so I’m posting it.

filmfoto-6I photograph these trucks sometimes when I walk by the river. They don’t seem to ever move and they might be abandoned.

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If the bottom left cloud were on the top left, it would be a much better photo.

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A ladder truck moving furniture and belongings into an apartment. Windy days must be nerve-wracking for movers.

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On a trip to Seoul last winter we stopped for fifteen minutes at a service area. This fellow doesn’t seem very enthused about walking to his car in the snow.

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No matter the weather, business must go on as usual.

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Despite the snow and ice, some scooters were on the roads and sidewalks the day we were in Seoul.

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Aluminium roof in Gangneung.

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If you walk down small alleys in most Korean cities, you will find houses that are not maintained well or that have been abandoned.

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Despite the ugliness of many of the alleys, you can sometimes find little spots of colour and life.

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The others are straight. Why not these? Did the person putting them down run out of energy? Did he/she just stop caring?

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Scooter sizes up pretty pink bicycle.

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This photo needs a passeryby in the upper right corner. Must visit again . . . .

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This is related to a security light, somehow. A meter, perhaps?

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I’m usually shy about making photos of people. I pretended I was taking photos of things outside my window and then swung around to make this photo. I don’t think he was fooled, but he didn’t seem to care. “Oh, those wacky foreigners. What are they like?”

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Another ladder truck. I seem to be fascinated by them.

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These poor bastards are always on a very short chain outside this flower shop. Most dogs are tied up like this.

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The lab where I get prints done. He’s great at printing but somewhat unreliable when it comes to film, so I get my developing and scanning done in Seoul.

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This guy works at or owns a shop in Gangneung’s Central Market and he always says Hello when I pass by. I’m going to print this photo and give it to him the next time I’m downtown.

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The sidewalks on the high street used to be packed with grannies selling stuff and getting underfoot. The city cleaned up the high street and moved them all into the market area where they sell stuff and make it difficult to get around the market.

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Chinese dates, maize, barley, ginger(?) and what looks to be rice and something else in the background.

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A scooter parked in front of a steamed bun shop. Remember those narrow lanes from two photos above? Scooters go up and down these all day, making it even more difficult to get around. And people wonder why the traditional markets are disappearing.

I really like film, although it’s onconvenient. The first few photos in this post were made with slide film and I think I like those colours the best. Kodak is going to start producing slide film again this year and I’m really looking forward to getting some. Ferrania from Italy is also supposed to start producing slide film from this year and I’m looking forward to trying that as well.