A Negative, a Scanner & No WhiskeySaturday, March 03, 2018
W. (William) Eugene Smith was a famous American photographer of the 20th century. In a Popular Photography Magazine article about him that I read in the early 70s I will never forget that he said he adored going into his darkroom (a very messy one) with some negatives, good music and whiskey.
For many years until about almost two years ago I did that but minus the whiskey. Until the late 1990s (when I quit the habit) I used to smoke my pipe in that darkroom (which had no ventilation). The smoke shared time with developer and fixer fumes and most importantly with the bath of selenium toner that I used to make my photographs archival. This latter product is a known carcinogen.
I must have a most efficient and charitable guardian angel. I am pretty healthy for my age.
When my Rosemary and I moved to our current Kitsilano duplex I had to give up that darkroom. It was a brutal feeling of loss which somehow I have managed to rationalize by the fact that I shoot a lot with my digital cameras and my very good Epson scanner does wonders with the b+w negatives and colour negatives that I load my 35mm and 120 format cameras. These digital could not have been handled in the classic darkroom.
The output of a scanner is digital and with my Canon Pro-1 printer I can print to my heart’s content in a room full of light (no music) and with fresh clean air.
While W. Eugene Smith might not have agreed with my present situation, I do like to sit at my computer after picking a negative I have not done anything with. I then monkey with it with the help of a scanner and my 13 year old Photoshop.
What you see here is a Polaroid Instant b+w negative that is 7x7 cm in size. My subject was a beautiful woman called Belinda Carr who was my model for a seminar I gave many years ago on figure photography.
I projected on her with an optical spotlight that had a gobo of a night skyline scene. I gave her the print (which had to be coated!) but kept the negatives (3 in all).
When I scan anything with my Epson I scan it in three colours. Since the negative does not lie completely flat on the glass you get the odd colours.
I enhance those colours by going to Photoshop’s Shadow/Highlight tool. This tool is the most useful tool as it will bring back shadow detail (that has always been there!) that old commercial printing papers could never really handle. When I abuse this tool the pleasant (to me) colour shifts happen. I up the sharpness and contrast with Corel’s Paint Shop Pro X2 photo program. In my opinion this program is excellent (and cheap!).
On a nice Saturday afternoon where I can see the sun on my deck and the birds hanging out in my bird feeder I believe I am as happy as W. Eugene Smith ever was.