Film Scanners

Having recently embarked upon the task of transferring all my MiniDV footage to iMovie and the MP4 format, before the tapes themselves go bad or the little Sony camera no longer functions — more on the lost nature of my Sony MiniDisks some other time, I find myself wondering about the boxes of slides and film negatives also in my possession, some of which holds either memories quite dear to me or material that could serve my own research and teaching or that of others.

To address this issue, I started looking around for what is the current state of film scanners and what the pricing looks like. [B&H has a nice survey][], which runs the gamut in price and quality of scan — and the two are closely tied, of course. I wish it were otherwise, but it looks like the lower-end Plusteks, which run about $300 or so, are about where I am headed. Does anyone have any advice? Some of my university’s units used to have film scanners, but I don’t know how well they’ve been maintained over the years, and in at least one case, it was a SCSI device. (Good luck finding a connector for that these days — I tried recently, out of curiosity, to revive the first external hard drive I ever owned, a LaCie with, I think a whopping 10MB inside something the size of a cigar box.)

[B&H has a nice survey]:

Instant Harbor

An amazing D-Day photograph, ostensibly of a road leading into Normandy, but, really, what draws my eye is the harbor-like nature of what’s happening near the shore:

D-Day Road and Harbor

D-Day Road and Harbor

(Of course, I love the presence of the Cromwell and Sherman tanks in the foreground, too.)

Moleskine Photo Books

[Moleskine is now offering custom photo books]( They look quite nice, if also a little more expensive than similar books printed elsewhere. If anyone order one, let me know what the quality is like. I’m intrigued. They’re offering 25% for the time being, which brings their pricing into the realm of competitive.

Adobe TV

To my mind, Adobe has some of the most extensive educational materials for their products of any producer I’ve seen. While I don’t find their large library to be all that well organized — I really do feel like I stumble upon some of their best stuff — what’s in the library is pretty amazing. I’ve just spent part of my morning going through the [Lightroom for Travel Photography]( series. Lots of great videos, ranging in length from 3 to 12 minutes, that give you insight into various features of Lightroom that you might not necessarily understand from working with the app in your daily workflow. There is also [Learn Lightroom 4]( and [The Complete Picture with Julieanne Kost]( And that’s just Lightroom 4.

[Lifehacker’s Thorin Klosowski has a terrific article on what you can and cannot photograph in public.]( I get a lot of questions about this. My standard response has been to pass along [Bert Krages’ fantastic pamphlet](, of which every photographer should have a copy, but Klosowski’s article is much more readable. Which makes sense: Krage’s brochure has a different rhetorical purpose.

I’m always looking for printing options for photographs, especially around the holiday season. There’s a great review of the various on-line services on an Ars Technica forum thread and someone else has recommended [Photos Printed on Canvas][2] for, well, photos printed on canvas.


Wylio for Copyleft Images

I depend upon the generosity of the internet quite often when looking for images to illustrate various ideas that I present in lectures to my classes. Sometimes it is the image that really helps students remember an idea they find otherwise too complex or too abstract. Finding the right image helps, but it has actually gotten more difficult in Flickr to find things that have a license that allows me to use them. (I suspect a lot of people are doing this as a result of being as lazy as me: setting the standard to too tight a license with the intent of loosening licensing later on most images. You just never get around to it.)

Enter Wylio.

7 Things to Learn about Photography

Scott Bourne has a list of “20 Things I Learned About Photography” that I like quite a lot. For photographers like myself who are interested in documenting the world about them, the following items seemed most interesting to me:

2. Background – background – background. Pay close attention to the background. Keep it simple. Make sure there are no background distractions. Make the subject the star of the photo not the background.

6. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Practice is important. Results aren’t – at least until you can talk someone into paying you for your work.

9. Don’t waste one second of your photographic career trying to figure out if you are better or worse at photography than anyone else. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t help and it won’t make you better at photography.

10. Spend more time thinking about composition and light than you spend thinking about getting paid or recognized.

11. Spend time looking at light. Understand it. Look for it. Recognize it. Worship it. Nothing beats good light – ever.

14. When in doubt, leave it out. Good photography is as much about what you do not include in the photograph as what you do include in the photograph.

20. It’s better to think of photography as an opportunity to make photographs not just take photographs.

Using Lightroom

Photography is part of my research, and I also enjoy photographing my family and just generally documenting my world — more on that as my next potential project later. Between those various interests and commitments, I have about 15,000 images, all of which are safely cataloged by Adobe’s Lightroom. (I tried Aperture when it premiered at an unbelievable price point on the Mac App store, but either I have worked with Lightroom too long and couldn’t figure out how to access Aperture’s features or it doesn’t have the functionality on which I now depend that exists in Lightroom.)

I get a lot of questions about using Lightroom from students and colleagues. From now on, I am telling everyone to [start here]( That link takes you [George Jardine’s website]( and the half-hour tutorial he recorded on the basics of image management with Lightroom.

If the tutorial convinces you to try Lightroom, then you should also read [Rob Sylvan’s “10 Things I Wish I Could Tell Every Lightroom User.”](

Outsourcing Film to Digital Transfer

Because MLA came in January this year, our household is a week or so behind its usual schedule for getting Christmas put away. Typically we do this earlier in January, trying to get our Christmas tree on the curb in time for it to be recycled for coastal restoration. Unfortunately, that recycling program is not happening this year: none of the parishes — Louisiana has parishes instead of counties — involved has any money for it. (If you are keeping track of the casualty count for the economic downturn in Louisiana, it’s: public health, higher education, the coast.) And so our clean up got put off until the MLK weekend.

And so out came the plastic bins to put away the Christmas decorations. But, what’s that? Aren’t you a little tired of that closet threatening your life every time you open it? Well, then, let’s take out all the bins, sort through them, throw some things away, give some things away, repack some things and begin to get a little order in here.

*Hey, here’s a whole box of APS film canisters.*

I have a lot of negatives lying around. Much of it is probably not worth spending too much money to preserve, but if it can be digitized in bulk for a reasonable price, then I am open to the idea. I don’t have that many APS canisters. Most of my film photography was done with a 35mm camera, but a lot of that is on slides, which are all neatly tucked into binders … and I don’t know when I will work up the energy to get that digitized. (My colleague Barry Jean Ancelet was fortunate enough to have a few semesters of graduate students to do the digitizing for him. Perhaps, one day, when I have a similar status, I can enjoy something similar. *Gotta get that book done.* — yes, Craig Gill, I *am* working on it. I promise.)

But let’s focus on the APS to digital for the time being, and see what we can learn:

* []( will do 2000 dpi scanning for $10 a roll or 4000 dpi scanning for $20 a roll. All scans are output as JPGs. (This makes no sense to me.) They will also scan slides and prints.
* [FotoBridge]( also does scanning, but it doesn’t have anything on APS scanning. Their price for scanning up to 250 slides at 2000 dpi is $90. 3000 dpi costs $102, and 4000 dpi $115. The [prices drop]( as you increase the amount you have scanned.