Now we'll get back to my color trail. My initial purchase of an iMac G5
and Konica Minolta DiMAGE scanner was intended to handle years and years of
color transparencies. However, I began by scanning the Reala negs I was shooting
because the images were fresh and people (myself included) were blown away by
the clarity of the Reala prints I was getting from the labs. Reala has saturated,
but believable color, also very fine grain (it's ISO 100), and scans well,
so I gave it a try and it turned out to be a perfect combination.
Scene: New space-age materials make many construction sites an
unexpected source of striking color photos these days. An advantage
of small point-and-shoot cameras is they make you very mobile
and a lot less intimidating. People pass you off as some tourist,
not a serious photog who may make a pretty penny off the image.
While any new piece of gear requires a learning curve, the DiMAGE scanner
was fairly intuitive, plus had some features that helped greatly in the process.
One of the most appreciated was Digital ICE, which automatically cleans up dust
and minor scratches. It also offers Digital GEM and SHO, which help control
grain and contrast. My years of labor in the darkroom paid off here, as the
scanner software allowed me to make very precise adjustments to the highlights,
shadows, and contrast of my images. Photographers with little or no darkroom
background will appreciate another option: Pixel Polish. This simplifies things
by giving you a set menu of corrections. Upon selecting Custom, you have three
categories: Color, Brightness/Contrast, and Object/Scene. The 12 choices they
provide between them will allow you to make a satisfactorily corrected scan.
This comes in handy until you gain more experience.
Whichever course you take, the resulting scans will provide good starting points
for image adjustments and/or manipulation. For that I am presently using Photoshop
Elements 3.0. If you think this is just Photoshop lite, don't be fooled--for
myself and other photographers it offers all the functions necessary for adjusting
images at a fraction of the price of 7.0, CS, CS2, or whatever.
Butterfield Stage: A simple looking picture, but one where mobility
was key. To get close and high enough to fill the frame, I had
to stand on a narrow cinderblock wall while withstanding a 30
mph wind that was raking the street. Piece o' cake.
Last but not least is the printer. There are a number of good printer brands
out there, and you can spend lots of bucks for the latest and largest models.
My initial choice has been the little-known Epson Stylus C86, which uses a basic
three color plus black (CMYK) DURABrite inkset. It only prints to 81/2x11, but
does an outstanding job, and at $99 (there is often a rebate available) is within
everyone's budget. It will definitely allow you to affordably experiment
with inkjet printing.
So there you have it: my solution for high-quality (albeit not huge print) color
digital photography for about the current price of a good, but not great, digital
SLR, with little fear that it will be obsolete before you get it out of the
box. Just one word of caution--since you are depending on the C-41 film
as the source of your files, save yourself a lot of frustration by having the
film professionally processed. One-hour labs may save you a couple of bucks
up front, but you may suffer for it long after the satisfaction of low price
is gone. And how about my fine art black and white work? For that I'll
stick to the darkroom, thank you.
Horse and Trailer: This is a good example of using fill flash.
Just before this picture, the sun had been shining and the horse
had had its head out the window in full light. By the time I was
able to cross the street, however, there was no sun and the horse
had pulled its head inside. Fill flash allowed me to light the
horse without overexposing the side of the trailer. Moments after
this, the rig drove away.
All pictures were made with an Olympus Stylus Epic camera and Fuji Reala film,
then scanned with a Minolta DiMAGE scanner and printed with an Epson Stylus
William Davis is a fine art photographer and teacher based in Taos, New Mexico.
His work is represented by the Fenix Gallery in Taos, New Mexico (www.fenixgallery.com).