Friday, May 31, 2013

The Eden Drive-in Theater

Eden, North Carolina

This was the first active theater I reached on my Southern Loop of the Great American Drive-in Theater road trip last October. I got home from that trip just in time for a monster storm and an eight day power outage. By the time the power came back it was too late in the season to keep my darkroom open, so my 8x10 and 7x17 film has been on ice ever since. Now that I've got the digital negative workflow going satisfactorily, this morning I began to develop the large format film, running the first eight sheets of 8x10 from the trip. I'll be doing one set of negatives each morning. We're having a heat wave (after all the cold) and I can't run the air conditioner with wet negatives hanging on the line, so a single run is all I'll get to do each morning.

My scanner, barely a year old, managed to grow mold on the inside of the lower glass platen last summer, while I was away and unaware of the problem. Of course it isn't "user-serviceable," but with hints from friends and some online research I found out how to access the four hidden hold-down screws and then remove the lid to clean the underside of the glass. The whole operation took about four minutes. The Epson V750 Pro is easily the best scanner I've owned, and I've been using them since 1992. The Epson software for this machine is the first I've used that can "understand" a b&w negative. Previous ones have been too dumb to realize that b&w negatives have vastly more density range than color negs. I always had to scan as a positive (color transparencies have even more density range than b&w negs), set manual curves in the scanning software, then invert the file later in Photoshop. With the 750, the scanner on its own delivers a "pale, but all there" 16-bit grayscale file that doesn't clip either highlights or shadows of my rather dense PMK-pyro-developed negatives intended for Pt/Pd printing. All I have to do is use a Curves Adjustment Layer to move from 'pale' to a full range of tones for either web viewing or printing.

The Eden is a classic, a rare old theater with its original enclosed screen tower clad in corrugated metal. Most old theaters have lost their original screens or towers, usually to storms, but this one survives. Which presented problems for my digital cameras. There may well be moiré patterns in the corrugated metal in the vastly reduced .jpg file presented on Blogger, but with a sufficiently high resolution scan (only 720 ppi seems to have done fine) the digitized film rendition is perfectly clean. My Lumix cameras have, I'm quite sure, very weak AA filters (which is, I think, why they punch way above their weight class in resolution) but they are much more susceptible to moiré than dslr cameras I've used. When I encountered corrugated metal towers or screens, for digital capture I'd bracket the f/stop from an ideal f/7.1 by .3 EV intervals (at least it's free film) down to f/11, where sufficient diffraction sets in to eliminate the moiré, without losing so much resolution that it would be noticed in a moderate sized print or reproduction. But of course the real answer is a nice big sheet of film.

Also, the look of digitally "corrected" convergence is NOT the same as the look of the same subject photographed with a perfectly plumb view camera and substantial rise of the front standard.

2 comments:

Scott Kirkpatrick said...

I may have the same mold problem on my Epson V500. Faint cloudiness on the underside of the glass. It scans documents just fine. Where were the hidden screws?

scott

Carl said...

Scott,

The screws are hidden by plastic caps that have to be pried out. They are close to the four corners of the lid. A small Phillips is needed for the screws, a small sharp blade works on the caps. The glass on the 750 is securely attached to the lid, no worries about having it fall out. Check that on the 500 before flipping the lid over.---Carl