Posts Tagged ‘Film to digital photography’

Film Processing Another Victim of the Pandemic

January 31, 2021

One year ago, life resembled all of the characteristics of a “normal” society.

One could still sit, or stand, along a railroad track with camera in hand to photograph a passing train.

For those of us who still insist upon using the legacy technology of a film-based camera system, all was good.

Travel to a location, scope out the scenery, wait for a train, expose film, return home, then visit the local camera store to process film. Wait one to three weeks to receive processed film, inspect film, and then file film.

That was how it was in January 2020. The film I used that month was processed and received in February with the usual immaculate results.

The world suddenly changed in March 2020 with school closings, business closings, toilet paper shortages, and anti-social distancing.

But through it all, the railroads were still running freight trains. The days of spring were upon us, and what better way to maintain sanity than by being along a railroad track with camera in hand.

Photography provided for limited travel and relaxation. However, between March and June, film processing became non-existent.

With the local camera store being in lockdown mode, I was forced to accumulate four exposed rolls of FujiChrome 120 ASA100 film.

The local camera store finally reopened and the four rolls were dropped off for E-6 processing on June 16.  

For several years, the local camera store has outsourced all slide film requiring E-6 processing to a major photo lab in Parsons, Kansas

The four processed uncut film strips along with four photo CDs were retrieved on July 2.

I returned home to inspect the results. My heart almost stopped beating.

The four strips were severely over-exposed. Was it caused from the fact that the film processed was 10 years past its expiration date?

Was there a malfunction in my 26-year old Bronica GS-1 medium format camera? “Nay,” I say.

Upon further inspection of the film strips, I concluded that the black frame masking between images did not have sufficient density.

The film had exhibited evidence of being under developed. The photo CDs were also burned with all images being reversed.

The film was from the same lot that I had previously shot in January, which had been flawless. 

Never before had I encountered such a problem with commercially processed film.

So, it was back to the local camera store to inquire about what might have happened.

After a few phone calls, it was confirmed, that with COVID-19 lockdowns in place, the Kansas lab was scrambling to find and maintain those people with the knowledge to process 120 roll film. I felt vindicated.

All of my film since them has been processed to pre-pandemic quality.

Unfortunately, I was left with what I considered four rolls of garbage.

Would I be able to recover any detail upon scanning the images?

Thanks to digital technology, I could. The image above shows the raw scan with no enhancements.

The next image is the same image with increases in the yellow and red channels, and reductions in midtone brightness and overall contrast. The results are quite acceptable.

The image made during the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts trip to Bellevue, Ohio June 13, 2020.

The joys of still shooting film.

Article and Photographs by David Kachinko

Forcing Film Shooters into the Digital World

March 27, 2017

Organizations have ways of forcing people to do something they might not wish to do otherwise.

It used to be that airlines issued paper tickets to passengers. They still do, but for a fee.

The reason why this changed is obvious. The airlines save money by shifting the cost of paper and printing onto their customers.

In theory customers get the “convenience” of being able to print their tickets at home. That saves them a trip to the airport or a travel agent.

To many people, printing your own tickets is no big deal. The cost of the paper and ink for printing airline tickets – technically called boarding passes – is minuscule.

Most people who travel by air already have computers and printers at home.

Some don’t even print their boarding passes. They show a code on their smart phone sent to them electronically. No paper is involved at any step of the process.

But not everyone who still makes photographic images on film has the equipment needed to digitize their work.

Those photographers might be out of luck if they wish to enter the 2017 Trains magazine photo contest.

Tucked into the rules is this change: “We will no longer be accepting submissions by mail.”

No explanation for that rule change was provided, but it likely wasn’t a financial move.

The photographer paid all costs associated with sending slides or printed images by mail.

More than likely this rule change was for the convenience of the staff. All entries can now be kept in one location and viewed in the same manner.

There is no more having to toggle between digital entries and slides and prints.

It also might save some staff time. Winning entries submitted as slides or prints no longer need to be digitized.

But what is convenient for the magazine staff is not so convenient for certain photographs. If they lack the equipment to digitize the images they wish to submit to the contest, they will have to buy the equipment or pay to have their images digitized.

Perhaps some have a friend who has a scanner who might be willing to do it for a beer.

The rule change also is likely a reflection of the reality that few entries are still being submitted the old fashioned way.

There remains a hard core of photographers who use film to make railroad images.

Some of them have scanning equipment to digitize their images, but most of the film guys I know do not have equipment to scan slides and negatives.

Most of them strike me as unwilling to learn how to do it. I can understand why.

Like cameras, film scanners come in all shapes, sizes and price points.

Some equipment is inexpensive, but the quality of the finished product might not be satisfactory.

B&H Photo offers a guide to scanning equipment at

If you know little to nothing about digital images, reading that guide might be bewildering. You soon learn you need to know about things that film photographers do not need to know unless they are in the publication business.

I can’t say what percentage of photographers has equipment capable of scanning film images into a digital format.

Most of the railroad images I’ve see posted online were made with a digital camera.

There are not as many pre-digital images in cyberspace as there could be. Aside from its cost, digitizing equipment takes time to learn to use.

Yet the day is coming when having scanning equipment will be a “must have” if you wish to share your pre-digital photographs with others.

Slide shows remain a staple of local railroad clubs, but some events, e.g., Summerail, no longer allow programs in which images are projected directly from film.

I have a sizable collection of slides and I do not foresee projecting them again with a slide projector.

Local railroad clubs are losing members and the number of opportunities to project slides the old fashioned way is dwindling even as slide film is making a modest comeback.

As I noted in a previous column, slide film has a future, but it is tied into the digital world, particularly if you want to share your images with a circle that extends beyond your closest friends who are willing to get together in a room for a slide showing.

On Photography: Would You Keep This Image?

March 6, 2015

BLE at Conneaut on November 12, 2005

I have a book about railroad photography that lists a trash can as one of the needed items for any photographer.

The premise is that not all of your photographs will turn out well and you’ll want to throw those away. The book was published in the pre-digital age when many photographers used slide film.

Take a look at the image that accompanies this post. It was scanned from a slide that I created in 2005.

It was made on a beautiful sun-splashed and warm November day. Fellow Akron Railroad Club member Edward Ribinskas and I had traveled to Conneaut and spent the day railfanning the Norfolk Southern line on the trestle that crosses over Conneaut Creek.

Of course the trestle also crosses the Bessemer & Lake Erie tracks, too. As luck would have it, a B&LE switching move came out of the yard and halted along the creek.

I snapped a few images, including this one. Should I have saved it?

If you’ve spent any time at all looking at this image, you’ve probably already figured out why I might want to pitch it.

The tall weeds along Conneaut Creek obscure the locomotive and the only hopper car visible. And look at all of that wasted space in the left half of the image. On the plus side, the image is exposed well and is fairly sharp.

Obviously, I didn’t discard this image. I kept it and forgot that I had it until recently when I was reviewing my B&LE collection with an eye toward scanning and posting some of my better images.

No, I don’t consider this to be one of my better B&LE images nor is it the best image of this train that I made on this day.

I kept it because it was the first time B&LE train that I ever photographed. I suppose that I also kept it because I seldom threw away well-exposed images, even if the composition was lacking.

When I look at this image I’m reminded of one of my better than average railfan outings. Thus far, the case for keeping the image is one of sentimental value.

Technically, the B&LE doesn’t exist anymore. It merged with Canadian National in 2004.

Isolated from the CN network, the B&LE has remained largely unchanged in the intervening decade with locomotives painted in CN colors and markings remaining scarce on the now former B&LE.

So, in theory, this photo could have value at a future date if B&LE painted locomotives disappear.

Yet given how many thousands of images of B&LE locomotives have been made over the years, it seems unlikely that this image in particular will ever find much favor. There are many far better images of the B&LE to be found and seen online and elsewhere.

Still, I’m in no hurry to throw this image away and in fact the chances are that I never will.

Will it someday find its way into a trash can? Probably, yes, because someone will have to make a decision about what to do with it.

But I don’t want to think about that today. Like so many of the images that we make, it provided enjoyment and even a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment at the time that I made it.

Then it got filed and forgotten. Maybe that’s where it belongs. Yet it still triggers pleasant memories on the few occasions when I see it. Maybe that is reason enough to keep it.

Commentary and Photograph by Craig Sanders



On Photography: Give Your Photos the Brush Off

February 10, 2015




Have you ever gone to a websites and viewed great images that were degraded to simple photos because of dust, dirt, or hair on the image?

Yes, they told their story, but the distracting dust and dirt could have easily been eliminated or nearly eliminated. Before you clean your slide or negative, make sure your scanner is clean.

I use folded 9- by 9-inch PEC*PAD non-abrasive wipes. These are available from B&H Photo in New York for about $10 a package).

I GENTLY draw these across my flatbed scanner’s glass surface. I prefer side-to-side, always going in the same direction.

Then I put the wipe back into the outer plastic covering in order to keep the wipe clean. Although “cloning” to cover dust specs is available in many image editing programs, it is easier and quicker to clean the negative/slide prior to scanning it.

I use a special Kinetronics Static-Wisk Model SW-030 (negative/slide) brush. It cost me less than $15 from B&H.

It is a very soft brush that has never been used for anything else before.

Gently dust the slide. I prefer to dust downwards from sky to ground. Check the newly cleaned image with a magnifying glass or Agfa-Loupe. (You probably need to have worked in a darkroom years ago to know what one was.)

You might need to clean the slide/negative again. Remember, though, to be gentle.

Even with good image editing programs, big scratches can be hard to remove.

As a case in point, the top image of Canadian National No. 4001 with its train heading through Burlington, Ontario, on June 6, 1981, may not be a great image, but it makes a point.

This image might look like I was shaving over it or dropped it into a pile of fabric clippings, but I didn’t.

The dust and dirt make it unacceptable. Before scanning the middle image, I used a good brush to remove most if not all of the crud.

The few specs left were removed with Photoshop Elements 11.

In the bottom image, I used imaging software to get more natural color and make other adjustments.

Although a clean image may seem like overkill to some, it makes a big difference in the perceptions that have of a photo.

Article and Photographs by Robert Farkas

On Photography: When Not to Crop

February 5, 2015



Sometimes you have a photo that has a possibly distracting element such as the partial image of the man on the right.

After checking out various cropping aspects and finding they cut out too much of the interurban car as well as the “story” that the image tells, I realized that the man helps complete the image.

Without him, this is a shot of an interurban car with what looks like something wooden in front of it.

Even though the image of the man is not complete, the viewer can tell he is a railroad worker with a spike in his hand.

That strange pile of wood in a cropped photo becomes a four-wheel flatcar with track supplies. The modern signal clashes with the interurban yet indicates this isn’t an abandoned relic but a working railroad.

In the background is a centercab electric locomotive in the same paint scheme helping the viewer to realize this is a “working” electrified shortline railroad and not a museum.

Thankfully, Mike Ondecker and I found this scene on the Iowa Terminal Railroad on April 18, 1973.

Pressed into maintenance-of-way service, car 102 (ex-CNS&M 727) sits on the Iowa Terminal mainline outside Mason City, Iowa.

Looking at the right of way, signal, and fresh paint indicates a well-cared-for modern short line.

Sometimes the “story” helps decide whether to crop or not.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas



Saving a ‘Condemned’ Image from Oblivion

January 30, 2015




It was a cloudy day on June 17, 1977, just before the rain came. I was in Bangor, Maine, to photograph the Bangor & Aroostook.

The top image is a scan of the original slide. It was condemned to never be shown. BAR 42 (an EMD F-3A) looked as grubby as the day surrounding it.

In the middle image, I experimented by using Adobe Lightroom 5 to make the image black and white.

I clicked on the “Black and White” treatment under Development “Basic.” After trying to get a good black and white image, I edited it in Photoshop Elements 11 to tweak it and size it for the Akron Railroad Club blog. I liked what I saw.

Thankfully, I had not sized the original image in Photoshop Elements 11, so I went back to Lightroom 5 to get the image.

Because the image was now black and white and the original was from a color slide, I took the original image and went to “Basic” treatment “Color” and clicked it.

To my surprise, making the image look good in black and white had given me a good color image also (bottom image).

The new color image isn’t perfect, but it certainly looks a lot better than the original slide.

Article and Photographs by Robert Farkas



Crossing the Great Photographic Divide

April 5, 2013

I didn't know it at the time, but this would turn out to be one of the last images that I would make on film.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this would turn out to be one of the last images that I would make on film. Nickel Plate Road 765 is at Attica, Ohio, in July 2012.

This is a story of how hell froze over, also known as how I ended up forsaking film for digital photography.

I was always loyal and sentimental about my 35mm Minolta single lens reflex camera. However, its reliability had started to fade last year. The images attached to this article are some of the last that I made with that camera.

I was happy with the first photo of Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive No. 765 at Attica (shown above). But in the first photo below, which shows the NKP765 splitting the signals at Crestline, you can see a frustrating light leak.

Still, I was thrilled that my nephew Owen has been bitten by the trackside bug as can be seen in the next photo, which was taken at Lucas, Ohio. He could be my backup for any photo blunders that I experienced.

The next shot was at Canton where we set up for more than two hours before the arrival of the westbound NKP 765 ferry move. That was the one shot I wanted to be perfect. As you can see by the slight blur, my camera was acting up.

When I got that shot back from being developed, my mind had just about confirmed that I had to change to digital.

The next image of the 765 east of Lucas passing the barn came out OK. I was lucky that there was enough light to capture Amtrak 48, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited, with No. 156 leading it at Painesville last August.

My last photos taken with film were of Jeff Troutman at the throttle of Viscose No. 6 and Canadian Pacific No. 1293 at Boston Mills on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

Soon, I was about to cross the great divide and there would be no turning back.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

The light leak that is obvious in this image was the beginning of the end of my use of film.

The light leak that is obvious in this image was the beginning of the end of my use of film.

My nephew photographs the 765 with technology that no one had thought of at the time my film camera was designed.

My nephew photographs the 765 with technology that no one had thought of at the time my film camera was designed.

A nice image, but the image is a bit fuzzy. That did it. My film camera needed to be retired.

A nice image, but the image is a bit fuzzy. That did it. My film camera needed to be retired.

Not too bad. Not bad at all. But by now my mind was pretty much made up about going ditigal.

Not too bad. Not bad at all. But by now my mind was pretty much made up about going ditigal.

There was just enough light for me to get this Amtrak heritage unit in Painesville.

There was just enough light for me to get this Amtrak heritage unit in Painesville.

My days of using film were few when I got the Central Ohio, a.k.a. Canadian Pacific No. 1293. in September 2012 on the CVSR.

My days of using film were few when I got the Central Ohio, a.k.a. Canadian Pacific No. 1293. in September 2012 on the CVSR.

It's the end of the line for film and I, but the Viscose No. 6 will be back this summer.

It’s the end of the line for film and I, but the Viscose No. 6 will be back this summer.