Photographic prints

Carousel PC-5-0093

I post this blog for two reasons: to remind people of the need to generate hard copies of pictures that are important if they want them to survive for more than a few years and secondarily to talk a bit about different elements of processing hard copy pictures into the digital world.  

In the above picture composite are myself, my brothers and my sister-in-law at the time (I have more since).  They were taken in late 1960's or very early 1970's.  While grainy, not terribly sharp, with lots of color cast, they are still  capable of evoking memories of a wonderful summer afternoon in northwest Indiana and the images are valuable to me.  Lots of hair, now for the most part, long gone.  I have these images because my father carefully saved hard copy slides of the pictures he took.  Had they been simply digital files, my guess is I would never be able to look at them today, slightly over 40 years later.  

I believe the pictures we take today serve many roles (we email them to friends, we post them on facebook, they entertain us at the moment), but, perhaps more importantly,  these pictures form a recorded history of our life that we can give to our future generations.  This gift is only possible if these pictures are viewable in the future.  So ask yourself of those thousands and thousands precious pictures you have taken thus far sitting on your iPhone or computer, where will they be in 10-20-50 or 100 years?   Will your children's children ever be able to see them?

For me I have come to one conclusion: hard copies of important pictures is essential to preserve our memories.

For a 9 month period in 2010, I worked on a project to scan 100 carousels of slides that my father took from the late forties until his death in 1988.  The above picture, taken in Antarctica, was indexed: “Iceberg on the way to Anvers Island.”   It was one of the last pictures he took.  

In total, there were about 11,800 slides.  In talking with various people nearly everyone suggested to project the slides and only pick the pictures I was interested in.  In the final analysis I rejected those suggestions and decided to scan all the slides.  At the end of the project, I was glad I decided to scan all the slides.  The best way to explain is by analogy.  Consider the concept trying to understand the story of a book by looking at one word out of every 50, 100 or 200.  Those individual words are colored, enhanced and meaning added by the surrounding words.  To have scanned only selected slides would have lost much of the meaning of the story.  I think the other reason for my decision was my father had annotated essentially 100% of the slides.  To this day, I wonder what he was thinking as he put so much energy into these pictures.  Was it something just to keep him busy or was it something more?  

Fortunately, I had done a small project a couple of years ago but it only involved 500-1000 slides so I had a little bit of knowledge.  I will try to summarize the process by listing the different components.

First, I needed a system to automatically scan a batch of slides at a time.  I had access to a Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 and slide feeder Nikon SF-200 through my step son.  I could batch 25 slides at a time (the number is important..see storage below).  This is a wonderful device when it works, but it really does not work all that well unless you make some adjustments.  Four things:  You have to disable the pressure devices that hold the slides in position, place small plastic barrier to prevent multiple slides from loading if they stick together a bit, tilt the scanner/loader at a 15-20 degree angle, and use two C batteries to apply constant pressure to the in and out slide trays.  The positive polls need to point toward the scanner.  If you want to know more, send me a note and I will send you a picture of the set up.

About half way through the project, the scanner quit working.  To the best of my knowledge, it is not possible to buy anything similar in functionality, but with great fortune, I discovered that Nikon would actually repair it!  Cost me $300 which was fine with me.

I used VueScan software to capture the images on my Alu - iMac and stored the images on an external USB 2.0 Western Digital 1 TB Passport drive in 8 bit TIFF images.  VueScan is a true work horse and has lots of features that helped in making the process much easier.  I have about 20 of the Western Digital Passport drives and so far they seem to be quite reliable.  As I scanned, I back up the primary storage disk with a second 1TB Passport drive.  I also automatically named each file (using VueScan) with the Carousel # and then a 4 digit number which represented the slot in the carousel the slide occupied.  The digital files from each carousel were stored in their separate folder (C-1 through C-100)

To manage all the image data, I used Aperture 3.   This made sorting through the images, rotating them into proper orientation and making sure the scanned image was ok much much easier.  I am now in a position to adjust and enhance those images as I wish.  Also using Aperture 3, I converted all the images to JPEG files as well.

Finally, as I scanned, I transferred the slides to archival boxes from Archival Methods.  The specific product I used was the slide storage system.  Each large box holds 1200 slides in six smaller boxes which holds 8 slide containers that accept 25 slides each.  There is a small amount of assembly required, but otherwise it seems like an excellent acid free storage system.

A© 2011-2015 by Steven Seelig, Chicago Photographer                          630-561-6581