What Will It Be Tomorrow?

Most of us can remember a favorite technology that, heralded as cutting edge when it was introduced, eventually (and usually very quickly) became obsolete 💾, or evolved into newer and improved iterations.

As a photographer, there’s no doubt that the ongoing transition from analog to digital, which began in 2000 with the release of the Canon EOS D30, is the greatest change I’ve experienced. (I’m speaking here only of 35mm.) I suspect it feels similar to the replacement of photographic plates by film in the early 20th century. There will be diehards who continue working in the now old ways, but eventually the materials used in those methods (dye transfer is an example) are discontinued and the art is lost.


When I processed the leaf you see here, its red and yellow accents reminded me of a box of Kodachrome, surely one of the most iconic examples of film technology, and one that enjoyed a run of over seventy years before the last roll was developed in 2010.

Do you realize if it weren’t for Edison
we’d be watching TV by candlelight?
—Al Boliska

The Sunday Scan: Norris Geyser Basin

Nature 4517 Norris Geyser

One of my favorite areas of Yellowstone National Park, the Norris Geyser Basin’s thermal features are at their most photogenic in the morning.

Photo Illustration—Recycling Old Transparencies

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I’ve been scanning slides this weekend, a smattering of work sent to a stock agency in the mid- to late 90s. Mostly from trips or simply scenes I liked because of the light. I hadn’t looked at these since—when? Now, one-at-a-time through the Coolscan and SilverFast8, I’m getting reacquainted. And surprised, too.

Technically, I would be discouraged if my current images straight from the camera looked like the photos I’m scanning. We can always quibble over changes in composition we might have made, or wonder why we used that lens, but as I viewed the old films at 100% on my monitor I didn’t see a bright future for them. I suspect a combination of my technique and (some) lenses I used at the time caused this—but they weren’t sharp like I’ve come to expect since I began shooting digitally in 2004. And while I know they are two different creatures, I couldn’t seem to enjoy the older efforts as much as I once thought I did.

But instead of throwing those transparencies in the waste can I’ve decided to do the correct thing—I’m recycling them into photo illustrations.

I had an idea of what a photo illustration is, but I nevertheless prowled the internet for a definition, and soon came upon the Web site of Doolittle Studio, in Des Moines, Iowa. Mark Doolittle made it simple: Photo Illustration: Bringing photos into the computer and doing something with them other than corrections.

That was as easy as saying Topaz Simplify, or any of the many third-party plug-ins that make PhotoShop the Love/Hate destination it’s come to be. There are no apologies here. They’re tools, and we’re responsible for the outcome we produce with them. As I’ve discovered, they make it possible to see old scenes in newer ways, and bring back the enjoyment I once felt. How can you beat that?

Back To Film

Cattle Drive On Highway 205, near Frenchglen, Oregon. Scanned in SilverFast 8, processed using Photoshop CS5 and Topaz Detail 3.
Cattle Drive On Highway 205, near Frenchglen, Oregon. Fujichrome.
Scanned in SilverFast 8, processed using Photoshop CS5 and Topaz Detail 3.


What’s this? Film? That can’t be! Only yesterday I was using an iPod!

But it’s true—sort of. When Nikon discontinued support for their lineup of dedicated film scanners several years ago, evolving computer chips and operating systems soon rendered them obsolete. The orphaned Coolscan V ED on my desk became an elegant paperweight, and I didn’t have an easy way to bring the slides stuffed in a four-drawer file cabinet into the Digital Age. There were programs from third parties compatible with the Coolscan—I simply didn’t like their interfaces. I revisited one of those about a month ago, SilverFast 8 (from Lasersoft), and after a few days using their trial version I bought one of the versions of the program (SE Plus).

When I’ve worked with it for a couple of months I’ll probably offer a few impressions here, but for now I can say I’m pleased with the updated user interface, and the workflow necessary to bring old chromes to life on my monitor is a lot easier than driving cattle to winter pastures.