426 words on Black and White
I recently found what are probably the first photos I ever made. That must have been in the mid eighties when I was about eight or so. My dad let me use his very first camera which was a so-called Box. That aptly describes the device, in fact. It’s a black box with a hole in front – I’m not even sure there’s a proper lens in it. But it can take photos.
Those photos are in fact taken on ‘Mittelformat’ film with huge (6cm × 9cm) negatives, so in theory their quality could be great. But with the camera being quite old and dirty and me handling it, it isn’t. Now that I’ve been reminded of that device and that I’ve looked into some film developing and making prints, I’m quite keen to get my hands on it again when I visit my parents’ place the next time.
And in my old photos I found my first film. Photos were taken during a holiday at the North Sea. There are photos of a Strandkorb, a lighthouse, the sea, my parents and brother. As I don’t have prints of most of those photos I tried to scan the negatives. Unfortunately black and white negatives are said to be hard to scan. Particularly if you don’t have a negative scanner. As the scanner and the photos aren’t all that good, it probably doesn’t matter too much. And after a bit of inverting (and fiddling with the curves to get sufficient contrast which seemed to be concentrated in 30% of the range), I got this for two of the negatives:
The vertical stripes on this are the fault of the scanner, unfortunately. After making that scan, I thought about the scanning once more and thought that perhaps it’d be good enough to simulate the negative scanning. My simple idea for that was to just keep the scanner lid open and put my desk lamp over the scanner to be the light source. To get somewhat dispersed light, I simply put a white sheet of paper above the negatives. And my first try with this method – was mostly white.
Meaning that there was just too much light… which was easy to fix by moving the desk lamp further away. And amazingly, with that setup, the results looked much better than with my initial setup. Even a simple inversion did reasonably well to go from negatives to positives. And as GraphicConverter even offers inversion which includes some colouring, I went for that as well. Kitsch, perhaps, but sweet.
The bottom two photos (quite nice) remind me of some of the fun things that you can do with Photoshop’s duotones. Ever played with those?
Surprisingly I did… but that’s almost a decade ago. And it never exceeded playing around either: While the mode seemed quite cool, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have any actual benefit for most people as very few people go and do fancy multi-colour greyscale printing.
At least I didn’t…
I was actually doing Mac/Postcript support for a graphic arts company back when the Photoshop version that introduced the feature was released (early 90s). I don’t recall if anyone ever actually used it on a paying job, but I remember that the idea was that, if you were going to be doing high-end printing, you could get really striking results. If you were using a professional print process (i.e. with nice, heavy paper that could hold a lot of ink and with a press operator who knew his stuff) you could add a second and/or third ink color (e.g. a deep bluish gray or an amber) and draw out extra shadow detail and add body to your midtones. I remember one of the staff artists and I playing around with the feature, but as I said, I don’t think we actually shipped any work.
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