bookmark_borderVueScan RAW + RT Film Negative = Good Colours

In March, I experimented with using a DSLR to digitise negatives and liked the results more than those obtained from my low-end Epson Perfection V200 scanner. However, this sentiment is now reversed, since I can produce better images from the scanner.

Previously, I scanned a negative with VueScan (using Lock Exposure and Lock Base Color features to neutralise the colour of the film base), saving the frames as TIFF images, and refined colours with Curves in GIMP. That method relied on my ability to correctly judge neutral colours and was therefore subjective.

The Film Negative module in RawTherapee uses maths to balance colours from film negatives, which is more consistent than human judgment. But until recently, it worked only with RAW files produced by DSLRs. Now the added support for TIFF files in RawTherapee 5.10 enables me to process negatives with it.

My new workflow is to scan each frame of a negative as a RAW image and to save it as a TIFF file. A RAW image is the direct output of the scanner and does not contain any image processing. I can work with the TIFF image in RawTherapee in the same way as I do with a RAW image from a DSLR. But Film Negative does the heavy lifting. Most of the time, it automatically finds the correct colours, but it can also get a good outcome from two user-selected points of neutral colour from a frame.

So far, I am very pleased with the performance of Film Negative. The picture above, which was used in my previous comparison, is the output of Film Negative. It is true to life: The skin, black jacket, grey dashboard, and red car look much more natural than in previous images from both the scanner and the DSLR digitisation. The photos in my previous post were obtained in the same way.

Theoretically, Film Negative works similarly on both a TIFF image from VueScan and a RAW image from a DSLR. However, experimenting with the DSLR method today, I could not get satisfying results. I am now reconsidering the purchase of The Lobster Holder, which I’ve wanted since my DSLR digitisation experiment.

bookmark_borderNailed it!

Those film shots mentioned in my last post about playing with artificial light? They were a total loss after being developed.

I was so pissed by the waste of a rather dear roll of film that I immediately grabbed the Nikon FM2 and drove to the local country park to shoot another roll of the same film. I had to know where I messed up.

It turns out that making twenty-four photos is not a quick affair. I walked for two hours, now and then stopping to take a picture of some random nature thing, before I could return home for Round Two of developing Kodak Ultramax with Bellini C-41 kit at 38 degrees Celcius. But now I was armed with a sous-vide heater to keep the chemicals at a constant temperature. And I was going to agitate the chemicals by inversion instead of rotating the small plastic stick/rod.

It paid off. The development, that is—the photography, meh.

Was this success a fluke? The only way to be sure was to go for Round Three of developing Kodak Ultramax with Bellini C-41 kit at 38 degrees Celcius. To up the challenge, I used a twenty-year-old roll of Fujifilm Superia 400, rated at ISO 200, to photograph stuff from around the house. Again, finishing the twenty-four frames took a while. But the subsequent development process was done slowly and carefully.

The pictures that came out were as good as they could be from expired film. I had nailed developing Kodak Ultramax with Bellini C-41 kit at 38 degrees Celcius.

I believe the most significant change I made was the use of inversion agitation—which looks like shaking a cocktail drink, except with less vigour—instead of agitation with the stick/rod.

Even P was impressed.

bookmark_borderEaster photoblogging: Port Louis

Our road-trip cut short by downpours, we stopped at Albion Public Beach to buy rotis. After eating, we drove to another beach, hoping that the clouds would clear. I got lucky and snapped this picture of the lighthouse just before it rained again.

We then went to Pointe-aux-Sables where the weather was nicer and people were actually celebrating Easter on the beach — not the usual large crowd, but the mood was there. I walked onto the jetty and took some more pictures of ships and of the port.

I tried a long exposure of the Container Terminal and realised that 30 seconds with a 10-stop filter was overkill for rendering smooth waters.

bookmark_borderHow hard could it be?

Managing a house renovation project is hard work. We keep rushing from place to place, making phone calls to and meeting tradesmen for cost estimates, and pleading – if not begging – for our work to be started in priority. This back-and-forth has been our bane for the last three months. Yet, I am told that we have made good progress – relatively to others’ experiences.

Perhaps, having the masonry done, and doors and windows installed within a month give that impression. But out of fourteen big items in our project plan, we’ve marked only four as green. A couple of them – CWA water supply and CEB electricity supply – are marked amber, given the dependence on other tasks to be completed first. And, we have yet to choose light fixtures and sanitary ware to be able to advance work on electrics and plumbing – the reds.

My brother is convinced that we can complete the renovation within our three-week stay in Mauritius. I am not, given how much remains to be done and the slow pace at which things move.

***

Since “I am not working” on this trip, I thought I would spend my afternoons doing more photography. But the activities related to our renovation project are more tiring than I expected, especially combined with the heat, and my motivation remains low. With some encouragement from P, I looked for and found a picture without having to drive anywhere.

bookmark_border“I write about photography and programming”

Today, someone from an online tool store with which I had placed a rather large order called to verify that I was not a fraudster. They thought my email address, which has the same domain name as this blog, was odd and wanted to check if it was genuine. I said that it had been my personal domain since around 2003 and that it pointed to my personal blog.

“So what do you write about?”

“I write about photography and programming.”

“Oh, you are one of the Mauritian bloggers…”

Obviously, they had searched for the domain and had been redirected to mauritiusblogtracker.com but still wanted to be certain that I was the rightful owner.

They were reassured by our conversation and promised that my order would be processed.

***

After work, I rigged a 35mm film holder and an LED panel so that I could try DSLR film-scanning. It took a few attempts to get an adequate set-up that fits within the tiny space on my desk.

Until now I have avoided this method of converting negative images to digital, for no reason other than wanting to remain a scanner purist and to justify my purchase of VueScan.

Well, I must admit that I am impressed by the results. Even when “scanned” with an ancient Nikon D200, the photos from this process are much better than those from my flatbed film scanner.

Here are some images for comparison.

bookmark_borderAm I turning into a Luddite?

This YouTube video reminds me that my newest personal computer, a Lenovo ThinkPad T440s, is already 10 years old. My other personal computer, a Lenovo ThinkCentre desktop, is 12 years old.

There was a time when users had to keep upgrading their computers in order to run the latest operating system or software. For example, if a new version of Windows was released, it was guaranteed that one’s current computer would not be powerful enough to run it properly. One had to upgrade either the RAM or the CPU – or both – if not buy a new machine altogether.

Between 1991 and 2001, I owned three different computers: a Sanyo MBC-16LX 8088 PC, a no-brand 486DX33 PC, and a custom-built Pentium II PC. On the first one, Windows 3.0 barely ran, and when I asked about the possibility to upgrade it, I was told that I would be “fitting a combustion engine onto a wooden cart”. Shortly after, I was given the 486DX33 PC, which was used for playing an unhealthy amount of Aces of the Pacific and Indiana Jones games. When I started working, I built my own Pentium II-based computer and ran Windows 2000 on it. I foolishly thought that Windows 2000 was the endgame and I wouldn’t need to upgrade again.

After 2001, I mostly used a second-hand Compaq workstation that I won on eBay. In 2003, I bought an iBook G4 (or maybe G3) as I went through an Apple phase. I also built a PC with an AMD Athlon around that time. In 2006, I replaced the iBook with the first MacBook Pro that had an Intel CPU inside. The problems with that computer (and the previous iBook G4) ended my fascination with Apple. In 2009, when the AMD Athlon PC stopped working, I bought a Sony Vaio laptop.

Sometime in 2014, I saw a deal for a Lenovo desktop, which I could not pass on. I bought one, despite the model being two years old already, and sold the Sony Vaio. I succumbed to the hype of the time and bought a Samsung netbook too. However, the user experience was so bad that I sold it and bought the Lenovo ThinkPad T440s in 2015.

So—

Between 1991 and 2001, I owned three PCs; between 2001 and 2014, six; and from 2014 to now, only two. The interesting thing about this progression is the usefulness of each computer kept increasing. My first computers were almost obsolete by the time I got them, and the 2001-2009 computers needed replacing to keep up with the requirements for the software that was being released. But since 2014, the baseline for computer performance has remained relatively high, making any gains from upgrades only marginal.

My personal computers are now noticeably slower than my work laptop issued in 2023. However, the difference in speed is not convincing enough to replace them. I believe they will remain useful for at least another five years, especially since they both run Linux, which does not have the demands of Windows (or Mac OS on Apple hardware).

I was recently asked by a colleague whether it was by choice that I was still using my 2017 Samsung S8+ phone, and last Christmas, my nephew and his friends made jokes about this same phone.

So, maybe not a Luddite yet, but definitely behind the times.