OREGON COAST SUNSET : FINAL VERSION
This week I'd like to discuss a recent purchase of mine and encourage you to follow my very belated lead. After many years of my usual plodding and indecision, I finally purchased a photo scanner. My official excuse was the need to scan multiple photos for my latest photo book that is a collection of my photos from around the state of Oregon. A lot of these photos date back many more years than I care to think about, when I took my son Benjamin on yearly Easter Break road trips around the state. He's a college professor now, so these predate my conversion to digital photography. These memories are now confined to an incredibly unorganized series of binders of prints, negatives and slides that have emerged from my basement. As I have started to reconnect these images to today's digital world, I now realize that I actually purchased a time machine.
OREGON COAST SUNSET B&W : FINAL VERSION
It is a commonly accepted truism that any photograph 50 years or older is intrinsically interesting because it reveals the changes in society, from clothes to hairstyles to buildings - the stark changes are now right in our faces, and we really can see that "the past is another country." Well, let me tell you, it kind of works with mere decades as well, when they are your own images. Even with what most might call relatively timeless imagery like the images above. The Oregon Coast is known for horizontal rain, but there have probably been thousands of sunsets since I captured this image decades ago. The time machine aspect is that I have absolutely no memory of when or where I took this photo, except that it was somewhere on the coast. And after finding it in my archives, and scanning it with my new machine, I am very pleased with this newly discovered artifact.
This image has never looked better than it does now, even though I had forgotten it existed. Part to the joy of scanning old photos, even if they exist as prints, is the realization that the one-hour photo place, a miracle of the late Twentieth Century, was in reality an awful place where any photographic talent you might have went to die. It is positively appalling how extremely bad the typical print you are holding in your hand, your photo memory, is compared to even an early effort with the scanner. It is like night and day, and I am just experimenting with the new machine. Scanning the photo now allows me to use the hard-earned skills at post-processing the image. I know can not just crop it the way I want, but actually achieve an exposure that has nothing to do with the mediocre efforts of the one-hour machine. Often it is like you are seeing the image for the very first time; with the added bonus that you can try something new, like converting it to monochrome. I happen to like the black and white version of my sunset a little better, which almost sounds crazy even as i write this sentence, but there you go. The value of this "second chance" image is not only that it was forgotten in the archives, but that it didn't even stand out as a "keeper" until it actually received the attention it deserved.
SOUTHERN OREGON COAST B&W : FINAL VERSION
Another forgotten image, taken on an ill-fated camping trip down the Coast on another Easter Break. I don't remember where this beautiful beach actullay was, but I do remember that it ws one of the few days that weren't totally besotted. I had eagerly and compulsively planned our trip, reserving all of our campsites to ensure no trouble with the anticipated crowds. Needless to say I didn't realize that camping at the Oregon coast in March without an RV was a fool's errand. The low point was when my preteen son announced that our reserved site in an empty campground was completely underwater, and that perhaps with could just choose anther one. Yet images like the one above have reminded me that I should take the trip again, because the Coast really gets prettier the further South you go.
OREGON DUNES #1 : FINAL VERSION
Another forgotten image from the Coast, this time somewhere at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where you might never get to the beach, but you can play Lawrence in Arabia without a script. Can I point out again that that young man is now entrusted with the education of college students? While this image might not be the best image I ever created, that in itself brings up a very important point about scanning which seems to trouble a lot of people. The scanning nightmare is usually the one where you are faced with an uncountable amount of images whose scanning will take up the rest of your life, and reduce you to a blithering idiot. This is related to the key-wording nightmare, or the printing nightmare, or the worst one, the backing-up nightmare, which can beset photographers whether they are backing up or not. The truth is that you are in control of what you will scan today, tomorrow, or next year, and you can be as selective as you want. No one is forcing you to scan all of those images. Remember that they are all forgotten right now. And that if you are running at your usual ratio, probably only one out of a hundred were any good to begin with. What makes you think that you used to be so great that even a tiny minority of your images actually deserves the light of day? Relax.
EASTERN OREGON SIDE CANYON : FINAL VERSION
I took several road trips with Benjamin to Eastern Oregon, mostly to places where most Oregonians have never gotten to see because the prospect of driving for days beyond Bend through the outback has not taken hold. And I have never returned to most of these areas, despite the fact that we loved the desolation. I remember the night we doubled the population of Diamond, Oregon, and ate our wonderful steak dinner with the rest of Diamond in their kitchen instead of the hotel dining room. So images like the one above can bring back memories even when you don't remember where you took them.
Let's talk about "real world scanning". I took a class on scanning so long ago that I can't find the notes I carefully took, and know that I almost don't know what I am doing. It doesn't matter. For one thing, nothing prevents me from, Oh my God, re-scanning the image in the future once I realize what a dufus I am. So for what is really a modest investment in time machines, go buy a moderate scanner like the Epson V600 for $229, delivered with no shipping from New York in two days. Pro Photo here in Portland didn't have any in stock for months, and even NY was beset by Covid delays, but within an hour of arrival I was scanning. Take comfort in the fact that Epson makes far newer and more expensive scanners, but this model, or another one that can let you scan prints, negatives, and slides is all you need. And yes, there is far better software that you can buy than the free Epson software that comes with the machine, but at least the "professional" option will give you all the control you need for a perfectly wonderful scan. There are so many lessons on You Tube about scanning with this particular machine that I just set them on a perpetual background loop without video while I made my first scans.
WALLOWAS #1 B&W : FINAL VERSION
An image from my one trip to the Wallowas Mountains, which is nicknamed "Little Switzerland" by local boosters eager to spike tourist travel from Portland. The area is absolutely beautiful, and is so isolated that it is beyond Eastern Oregon, kind of a dead end at the borders of Washington State and Idaho. Days and days of driving from Portland, and almost all of the vista shown above is wilderness area accessible only with mule team camping outfits. But I am on a ski lift up from Wallowa Lake, where we stayed in a very nice cabin, glamping before there was "glamping."
All a professional scan will require is to set a DPI on the software high enough, lets say 2400, so that the result file will allow you to eventually create a print a lot larger and more detailed than the old 4x6 in your hand. Take one look at the histogram, adjust the end points of the scan to get any parts of the image that the stupid program would have neglected, and after pushing the button to enable the Digital Ice spot removal program, hit the scan button. The computer will then ask you if you really want such a large file that will take so long to create, and you will answer "hell yes!" and about 5 minutes later it's finished. Of course you will be multi-tasking while this interminable process is going on. While I have no doubt that I can probably make a better scan for the 24" x 36" Metal print that you will no doubt order, so far my efforts have yielded scans with enough information to achieve beautiful small images after post-processing in Lightroom.
CRATER LAKE #1 : FINAL VERSION
I'v had the opportunity to take the long drive to Crater Lake only twice, and really would love to give it another try with my recently acquired skill at "stitching" wide angle views from multiple images with my telephoto lens. Crater Lake and the Grand Canyon are the only to places I've ever been where I really missed having a wide angle lens in my bag. But this scan pleased me to no end, despite the horrible sky (forest fires), and the lack-luster light. It is certainly not an epic view. But after seeing so many Crater Lake images over the years, none of them mine, I was absolutely shocked when I found that this image, which I did not remember, in fact satisfied my criteria for a proper Crater Lake shot. Countless Crater Lake images had taught me that it was absolutely crucial to have gained enough height on the rim trail to see above the peak of Wizard Island. Despite my lack of memories, there was clearly blue, a palpable blue, above the cone. So I'm not completely incompetent after all.
The only thing I have to warn you about is dust. I am not the most anal photographer around, and I have already misplace the squeezeable air blower that my wife looked crosswise at after only a week. I never did buy the the disposable white gloves. So despite Digital Ice, you will find an entire new level of dust spots on your file - just think of it as another example of the "zen of nothingness" as you get reacquainted with Lightroom's dust removal tool. There is a new button you can push that converts your image into a kind of black and white negative that makes it too easy to see all of the dust spots and remove them. You can always go back and remove some more before printing that wall-sized print.
MT. HOOD REFLECTION : FINAL VERSION
I don't remember if this was Trillium Lake or its aptly named and more obscure cousin Lost Lake, but in any case it is fairly similar to something you will find in most Oregonian photographer's portfolios. The value of scanning a small selection of your old images is that you can rediscover that you too have such a shot in your portfolio, and that you can now process it so that you can make it stand out from the typical post card view. I didn't remember that we stayed so late in the day before we headed back home, but my scanner revealed that Dad had led my son astray. I remember the time I valiantly led Benjamin on a short few miles around Lost Lake on a very obscure trail that we discovered would be "completed" in another month or two. And I wonder sometimes when my middle-aged son holds tightly on to the map, despite the fact that he can finally share with the driving.