During the last few weeks of 2017, Michael Gilroy (Gil) of Frontier approached me with 75 slides and negatives from his travels, which took place in the late 1980s and early 90s. He wished to do an exhibition of his work, with many prints ranging in sizes near 20x30 and 40x50. Knowing that the scans were intended for large scale print, we used our Fine Art scanners to create 5000ppi files from the vast majority of slides and B&W negatives. For the color negative film, we simply used our Fuji SP-3000 at it's Pro Scan resolution. The results? Large, beautiful prints, without a hint of pixelation!
The 35mm slides were a mix of Ektachrome and Kodachrome. They were a real treat to examine on the light table. Kodachrome is legendary for its unique color palette and long term stability. However, even the Ektachromes showed little, if any, signs of deterioration. I employed techniques such as multi-exposure and multi-sampling to get the best possible file possible, which enabled a surprising amount of shadow recovery with low noise. The resulting images showed a remarkable level of detail for a 35mm frame, with the same vivid colors you see through the loupe, with much less grain than you might expect.
For the color negative film, I decided that the Fuji SP-3000 was the right choice. While it's true that our Fine Art Scanners create a file that, on paper, would seem to be far superior, I know from experience that the Fuji scanner tends to interpret color in an immediately more pleasing and accurate way. The SP-3000 yields a file that is just over 19 megapixels and from my testing these enlarge very well. The print on the wall showed rich color, fine detail, and in fact the grain pattern looked extremely close to what you see organically when the film is enlarged in the darkroom. These files are no different from those we deliver every day to our Pro Scan clients. It's great to know how far you can push the files.
As for Frontier itself, it's a fantastic space in Brunswick, Maine. They have a theater for film screenings, a coffee shop and a restaurant. We sat down for lunch and the meal was delicious! If you're in Maine, I highly recommend you stop by and see the show. They also have a good selection of drinks and craft beer. I got to have my personal favorite Maine beer, "Lunch" IPA by Maine Beer Co. Yum!
It was a real pleasure to help Gil make this show possible. These images are very illustrative of the reason why I love film so much. After all those years in an archive they were ready to be scanned and printed with the latest technologies. What's more, pigment prints have far greater stability than most traditional printing materials. What will your Lightroom gallery of .NEFs look like 30 years from now? If you can make a beautiful large format print from 30 year old slide film, imagine what you can do with the very latest emulsions like Ektar 100?
Also, shouts to Zero Station for making the prints.
Go check it out! And Make Real Pictures.