Slide Scanning Work Flow

I mentioned in my previous post that I’m scanning my father’s old slides. The slides are almost all Kodachromes, spanning the period from the mid 1950s to the 1970s. The eventual goal is to have a set of scans that I can disseminate to family members at a reasonable resolution, without, hopefully, it becoming my life’s work. The slides are in a variety of states: some are well exposed, well processed, and have no color casts, some are underexposed, a set are overexposed, and some have visible color casts. All of them, I’ve found, are filthy, and many are covered with fungus.  What I didn’t realize was that I’d signed up for a restoration project.

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Scanning Slides With the Plustek OpticFilm 8200

My Dad was a great photographer. With his 35mm Kodak Signet, and Zeiss Ikon folding medium format rangefinder, he shot a ton of slides that he would bring out from time to time for a “movie” show. Somehow, when he died, I became the custodian of his pictures. When I picked up a Carousel projector for my own slides, I organized his slides into a couple of standing carousel shows.

Every now and then, some family member has asked about getting copies or scans of the slides. Every now and then, I’d think about transferring them to digital, look into the matter, and come away with these options, all of them bad:

  • Have them scanned locally by a camera store, at about a $1 a slide. I did this for a couple of my own slides for a funeral; the quality was atrocious. The scans were blurry, the contrast was muddy, and the color was shitty. There is no way I was going to let them do more.
  • Send them out to a digitizing service. Aside from the inherent risk of sending them out at all, I’ve read that the lower priced services actually send the slides overseas, where labor costs are lower. No way. There are services that do the work domestically, but they’re higher priced—on the order of $3-6 apiece. I may still explore this option for his medium format slides.
  • Get a scanner, and scan them myself. This would entail the cost of the scanner, plus my own time scanning and post processing the slides. For the longest time, the only scanner I could find that looked like it had quality I could live with was the Nikon CoolScan series. The only problem was that they were $2000 – $5000 — and no longer available. Every now and then I would desultorily look at eBay to see if they had one I could afford at the moment, and come away empty handed.
  • Get a cheap scanner. My mother actually got one for me for Christmas, but it turned out to be Windows only. I tend to doubt I would have been happy with the quality.

Finally, about a year ago, I started reading about the Plustek OpticFilm series of scanners. I saw some sample images, and they looked good. I checked the reviews, and they were mostly good, with the caveat that there was a learning curve involved, so last March, I bit the bullet, and bought one. Continue reading

Happy Merry Christmas Holidays

So, it’s that time of year.

Actually, for some reason, I’m way ahead of schedule, which feels weird… and a little unsettling. I got the cards out a few days earlier than I normally do, and aside from gift cards and stocking stuffers, all my presents have been gotten and wrapped. I keep wondering what I’ve forgotten.

A “Holiday” Tree?

Rockport Christmas tree
Christmas tree, Rockport, MA

There was a bit of an uproar this year in Providence when the mayor insisted on lighting the official “Holiday Tree.” It seems to me there’s enough stupidity on both sides that I had to say something.

First of all, as a general matter, I can’t get worked up about a “war on Christmas”. I’m not religious, but I do enjoy the secular parts of the holiday. Vienna Teng has a wonderful song on Warm Strangers called “The Atheist’s Christmas Carol” which is pretty apt. On the other hand, there are people who don’t observe it, or who observe other holidays, and I see no harm in using a more general greeting if you don’t know enough about the other person to be sure they celebrate Christmas. I make my own Christmas cards, and I usually have two versions of the card—one that says “Merry Christmas”, which goes out to most people on my list, and one that says “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings”  that I send to people I’m either not sure about, or who I know don’t celebrate Christmas.

That said, I think it’s disingenuous to be referring to a “Holiday Tree”. Trees just aren’t part of Hanukkah. The Christmas tree is a distinctive part of the current day Christmas celebration, and to call it something more generic, isn’t being respectful of other traditions, it’s just being politically correct. In fact, I wonder if it’s disrespectful: disrespectful of Christians, who feel their traditions are not being recognized, and disrespectful to Jewish people, who sometimes feel they have to fend off the “Christmas-ization” of Hanukkah.

For what it’s worth, our own Christmas tree gets decorated tonight.

Christmas Season Bike Ride

One personal annual tradition I’ve observed sporadically is a bike ride along the Minuteman Bike Path during the Christmas season. I started it by accident, one Sunday in December several years ago, when I stupidly forgot that the sun sets around four in December, and didn’t leave the house until around 2:30. By the time I reached Bedford, and was heading back, it was already getting dark…and found to my delight there were Christmas lights at several points along the path. It’s a hard thing to time right — one year I started about half hour too early, and didn’t see anything.

This year, I seemed to hit it right, but there weren’t many lights as I remembered, and I froze my feet off. So much for that annual tradition…