Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Scanning" Negatives and Slides with the Leica M9 - Lars-Goran Hedstrom Shares His Approach

Leica M9 and BEEON Copy Stand
Here's an example of one of the benefits of being in the International Leica Society (LHSA). Today on our Google+ community page, one of the members posted a question about film scanning. Among several good answers, I found Lars-Goran Hedstrom's approach - using a Leica M9 on a Leica BEEON copy stand! Lars' blog is called Sculpting With Light.
(Click Here) to read the full post on Sculpting With Light
Lars started off using a flatbed scanner, but wasn't pleased with the resulting sharpness. So, he decided to try using a Leica Visoflex III, which essentially turns a Leica rangefinder into an SLR by adding a mirror box, which allows for through the lens focusing. While this worked well for him, the challenge of getting the negative that he was "scanning" and the M9 sensor in paralle was very challenging. Even at f16, using either a 50mm lens (giving 1:1 reproduction) or a 35mm lens (2:1), he often found part of the image to be just out of focus.
Next, Lars moved on to using a Leica copy stand made many years ago. Called the BEEON in Leica terminology, this stand allows you to use a magnifiying loupe to focus, then attach your camera to the stand. This is necessary, since Leica rangefinders don't allow for close focus. This works very well for Lars.
I've played around with this concept, using my Nikon D700 and Micro-Nikkor 60mm lens. It works well, but I've never taken it to the level of reproducibility that Lars did.
One of the best things is that by photographing your negatives or slides with a digital camera, you get raw files, which are easily adjusted in Lightrooom or other software. This is a big benefit. And, if you are set up properly, it can be very fast. I'm sure it's faster than flatbed scanning.
So, I may give this another try. I'll use my Nikon again, and put my effort into standardizing a setup (both arranging the camera and film planes to always be parrallel, and getting the backlighting right). I could even connect the D700 to my computer and have the files write directly to my hard drive.
Beyond this single concept, I'm happy to have found Lars' blog, Sculpting With Light. There's a lot of great information there.
Finally, I love this Ansel Adams quote that I found there:
"I have often thought that if photography were difficult in the true sense of the term -meaning that the creation of a simple photograph would entail as much time and effort as the production of a good watercolor or etching - there would be a vast improvement in total output. The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster".
- Ansel Adams - "A Personal Credo," in American Annual of Photography, vol. 58 (1944; repr. in Photographers on Photography, ed. By Nathan Lyons, 1966), Photographers on Photography : A Critical Anthology by Nathan Lyons (Editor)

If you're interested in joining the International Leica Society (LHSA), please (Click Here). We'd love to have you. If you're a member, and want to join the LHSA Google+ community, drop me an email. I can help.