I like this image of Steve because he’s not trying to pose for me and the outline of his hand adds interest.
As the stay-at-home situation eases a bit, we look for things we can safely do outdoors with friends. Last night we visited Jeff and Shelley for drinks on their deck. Jeff had just bought a new remote controlled boat and couldn’t wait to take it out for a spin. 70 miles an hour on a small pond requires fast reflexes. He only flipped once.
I had the Leica Q with me so I took a few snapshots.
As much as I love using my old 35mm film cameras, I haven’t been enjoying film lately. I’m trying to figure out why that is.
My hunch is that I have grown impatient with the delay between shooting a frame and being able to see/print/share that frame. Having been under “stay at home” instructions for months, I don’t have the creative gumption to shoot 36 frames around the house of the same people and things. It can take weeks to finish a roll, during which I lose interest.
The confusing thing is that although I’m finally set up for darkroom printing, I am only able to print from 35mm negatives. It doesn’t seem wise to get everything configured just right and then not use it, but here we are.
It’s not film itself that I’m uninterested in, but rather the long wait between exposure and print. To help with this I may limit myself to 120 and/or 4×5 formats. A roll of 120 in the Hasselblad is only 12 frames. And 4×5 is practically as fast as digital. (Well no, it’s not even close. What I mean is that I am able to expose a frame and develop it immediately. This removes the time waiting for a finished roll).
The Hasselblads are fantastic, and have recently been CLA’d and work like butter. No problem there.
My 4×5 cameras are another story. The Speed Graphic has a light leak and the Crown Graphic (1947) is covered in gaffer tape, has no rangefinder, and is a beat up mess. This has me shopping for a Linhof or similar. Something more modern, less flakey.
90% of the time I shoot 4×5 on a tripod, but once in a while I do it handheld, which is silly. And yet, I often go back to the following photo. It was taken with the Speed Graphic, indoors, low-light, handheld. I love it. It’s sharp, has terrific dynamic range, and looks how I like my film photos to look. I want to make more of these.
One thing about 4×5 is that I can still make prints if I don’t mind simple contact prints on 5×7 paper, like the print shown above.
Scanning film negatives with a flatbed scanner is a pain. All scanning software sucks. Every one of them. Fidgeting with negative holders is a joyless, tedious drag. And the whole process is slow. So very slow.
I’ve been experimenting with scanning film using a digital camera. I’ve processed a few rolls this way and it’s working quite well. Here’s my setup:
They key to this is a combination of the MK1 Film Carrier and Negative Lab Pro.
The MK1 Film Carrier from Negative Supply makes quick work of scanning a full, uncut roll of 35mm film. I feed the roll into one end and turn the knob to reveal each frame in turn. The film is held nice and flat and it operates smoothly. I was part of the Kickstarter campaign so I didn’t pay the full price of $329, which is good because although the device is nicely designed and made from machined aluminum, that’s a lot of money for what it does.
Negative Lab Pro is a plugin for Lightroom Classic that handles conversion of the original Raw “scans”. It’s really meant for color film scans, but I also use it for black and white. I originally used it for processing color negative film scans from the Epson scanner and it did such a great job with those that it became an integral part of my workflow. It even adds a metadata section to Lightroom for adding Exif data like camera make, model, lens, film stock, etc to each frame. This is very handy and replaces my command line version which I frequently forgot to run anyway. I don’t use Lightroom for my normal Raw processing, but I keep it around just for NLP.
The other components of this new scanning workflow are a small lightbox, a Fuji X-T3 with the 7Artisans 60mm Macro lens, a copy stand, and Capture One Pro.
The 7Artisans lens was a cheap Macro option for the Fuji and it works fine. Capture One Pro does a great job at tethered capture so I can make sure focus and framing are spot on for each frame as I work through the roll.
This method of scanning a roll of 35mm film is fast! I used to have a Pakon scanner that was even faster and easier at the actual scanning process, but was expensive, unsupported, cumbersome to get working, and required that I maintain an old Windows XP laptop.
My new digital film scanning process looks like this:
- Feed the film into the MK1 and check focus
- Use Capture One Pro on the tethered MacBook Pro to capture a frame
- Advance the film to the next frame and repeat
- Import the “scans” into Lightroom
- Crop and rotate the first scan, then copy and paste those adjustments to all remaining frames
- Select all scans and open Negative Lab Pro
- Convert and save TIFF copies
This entire process takes maybe 15 minutes and the results look good to me.
I still prefer keeping my photos organized as files in folders on my hard drive. I use Capture One for editing raw files, and then I export the “keepers” to what I call my Digital Print Archive. This is comfortable for me. It feels permanent and manageable. The problem is that I lose out on the features of tools like Apple Photos or Lightroom or Google Photos. I don’t have face recognition or automatic organization by date and/or location. I don’t get automatic sync across devices. I feel left out.
For the past couple years I’ve added everything in my DPA to Google Photos. This way everything is available everywhere, at least for viewing, and I get all the fancy tools. Still, Google gives me the creeps. I could use Lightroom but I don’t want to rely on a cloud solution.
This is where Mylio comes in. Mylio doesn’t use a cloud. It syncs peer to peer whenever devices are on the same network. When they’re apart, changes are saved locally until re-connected. There is some form of https-based sync, but I’ve not investigated how that works
I started out by using my DPA folder as a “Source Folder”, meaning all changes to that folder are mirrored to all devices running Mylio. All managed files are also synced to one or more “Vaults”. The key difference here is that I can use any number of things as Vaults and everything is mirrored to each of them. Currently, I have a single vault on an external USB drive. The beautiful part is that my folder structure is mirrored both ways. In other words, I can move files around in folders, create folders, etc, and that same folder structure is synced to the Vaults and each device. It’s like the best of both worlds: Local management and cloud sync all in one.
Once I got comfortable adding my DPA folder, I also added other folders. Things like “Projects” and miscellaneous folders with avatars, watermarks, and misc logos and images I use other places. Here’s what my top-level folder view looks like now.
Note the Apple Photos folder is just what you’d expect, all of my iPhone photos have also been imported. I used to manually import from my phone into Capture One. Now I don’t have to.
Mylio has a bunch of other tools as well. Batch renaming, automatic organization into folders, exports to Flickr, and so on. Here’s the area of Mylio showing my devices, locations, Exif summaries, etc.
So far I only have around 20,000 photos in Mylio, but it still feels very fast. Syncing happens almost instantly. Best of all, everything is kept exactly where I want it.
Mylio is worth a look.
Here are a few reasons I’m testing Mylio:
- Photos are synced quickly everywhere and the sync is very robust and seems to work well
- Mylio does NOT keep my photos in any sort of “cloud” storage. Everything is managed right on my devices, as files that I can see right in the finder if I choose to.
- When using “source folders”, Mylio maintains my original folder structure.
- It has flexible storage rules. I can determine whether any device keeps full copies, thumbnails, or an in-between preview version.
- Everything works offline and syncs when back on the network.
- Vaults can be on internal storage, NAS, or even cloud storage if I wanted that.
- I can keep multiple “vaults” which then gives me additional copies of each original.
I still export all “keepers” to full-sized jpeg files in my Digital Print Archive. I have this DPA set as the “Source” folder for Mylio. This means everything in the archive is immediately available to Mylio on all devices. If I organize folders using Mylio on my phone, the same folder structure changes are mirrored in the DPA. This is exactly how I want to work.
My old system required that I import iPhone photos occasionally and export them to the DPA from Capture One. Now, I have the iPhone’s photo library automatically imported to Mylio. I ruthlessly cull photos from my phone so I end up with only “DPA-worthy” photos anyway.
I’ve read reports of people with more than 1 million photos in their Mylio libraries, and they have nothing but good things to say about performance and capabilities. That’s encouraging.
So, Mylio is my new librarian. It replaces Photo Mechanic in that role. I lose some of the fancy bits of PM but I gain enough convenience features (e.g. face recognition, maps, calendar integration, etc) to make it worth the change.
For years, I’ve kept my photos in a nicely-organized, dated folder hierarchy on my local machine. Eventually, the lure of easy management and ubiquitous access became impossible to ignore, so I spent some time using cloud-based services to manage, edit, and organize my photos.
I’m done doing that, now. I’m back to managing photos locally.
In the process of reeling things back from the cloud, I’ve updated my workflow a bit and will try describing it here.
The current year’s photos go in dated folders on my big iMac’s local hard drive. I’ve decided to call the top-level folder “Negatives”. So photos from today will go in ~/Pictures/Negatives/2019/11-November 2019. I chose to call it Negatives because that’s how I’m thinking about both film scans and RAW digital files. From here on I’ll refer to both scanned film and digital RAW files as “negatives”. Next year I’ll start a new folder and move last year’s off to the Synology.
I maintain a Capture One Pro “session” named “Capture One Inbox”, into which I import all new images. This also includes importing photos from my iPhone. I export periodically from Photos into C1. I think of my iPhone as just another camera/source. After culling and aggressively deleting from this inbox, I move the original files into the appropriate Negatives folder.
From there, I edit the photos I’m interested in using Capture One. Once editing is complete, I export a JPG into my “Digital Print Archive“. The DPA is where I live with the photos after editing. I don’t go back to look at the negatives unless I want to make a completely new version (e.g. black and white) of something.
Not relying on Lightroom or Capture One as the only way to view or catalog my images is comforting, but I still kind of want a catalog. That’s where I’ve started using the still-in-beta Photo Mechanic Plus from Camera Bits. I’ve used the original Photo Mechanic for many years as a tool to ingest, cull, rate, and caption photos. It’s by far the fastest method I know of for doing that. Photo Mechanic Plus introduces comprehensive cataloging to Photo Mechanic.
At first I didn’t take to Photo Mechanic Plus. I found it kind of weird and awkward to use. Subsequent betas have improved things, and I’ve become accustomed to the way it thinks. It’s quite powerful and flexible.
What I’m now doing is cataloging my Digital Print Archives. I’m not cataloging my negatives/RAW files. That seems weird, but really, once I’ve edited and exported a negative, odds are I don’t need to go back and dig through everything again. I truly am thinking of them as negatives.
A positive side effect of this is that I’m no longer tempted to tweak every single photo I view. In Lightroom or C1, as I’m browsing my catalog looking for something I invariably end up spending half the time just making “one more little tweak” to an image I was done with weeks or months ago. Nothing is preventing me from doing this now, it’s just that it’s become a deliberate act rather than a distraction.
I’ve changed my file naming process too. I no longer rename the original negatives. They remain named as they were coming out of the camera. Film scans get my “2019 Roll-NNN-FrameNo” format. When exporting to the DPA I rename them using the format “YYYYMMDD_ORIGINALFILENAME_TITLE.jpg”. It makes the filename a bit longer, but this way I can easily find the original negative based on the filename of the “print”.
From Photo Mechanic I can upload/share/archive whatever. Photo Mechanic is good at that stuff. And fast.
I admit that I also take advantage of Google Photos’ AI features. My entire DPA folder is automatically uploaded to Google Photos. This gives me a great way to browse and share collections from everywhere, without losing control of my library. I’ve decided to ignore my privacy concerns around this for now.
This all sounds pretty complicated when written out like that, but it’s basically this:
Import to C1->Edit->Export->Add to PM+->Share
The filesystem is my binder of negatives. Capture One is my enlarger. The filesystem is where I store and peruse boxes of prints. Photo Mechanic Plus is my librarian. Flickr/Instagram/Blogs are my gallery.