ICE ICE Baby
If you follow me because you like my photography but don’t shoot film, thank you! and consider shooting film.
If you have never shot film before and want too, I can help, just send me a message. I am trying to put some basic things I use all the time as a film photographer to try and help a beginner understand how to shoot film in the digital age.
If you shoot film and scan your film, then you probably know about ICE and can stop reading now.
If you scan film and do not know about ICE, keep reading.
Digital image correction and enhancement or Digital ICE is useful in scanning color film, unless you have kodachrome, then you are old school and just use a duster or drop those bad boys into a projector and enjoy. Just as with your kodachrome your black and white negatives will not come out correctly with ICE turned on due to the density and chemestry of the negative. But for this conversation you are scanning in your newly developed color negatives or slides. You have your negatives that you just got from your lab. You like I have a scanner with Digital ICE (you either got one on accident, or should get a scanner with ICE if you don’t have one), you are also cheap like me and scan your own images. You pull the film out of the nice and clean sleeve, scan them and then you see dust on your scan, well when you really really blow it up you see it and it is everywhere. I know that it sounds paranoid, but dust is everywhere. Your house and the lab are not nano fabrication lab clean rooms, lots and lots of dust is flying around. Consider getting an air filter for your photo scanning room if you are hard core. But this dust issue is why digital ICE is a big deal. It scans your film twice, first your normal scan in RGB space, then with an infrared source to see all the dust. Using the power of image processing and this image data your scanner and software correct for the dust. Now here is the downside. This takes twice as long. Is it worth it? You bet it is. You have worked very hard to get these images, and used your photo skills to capture the moment, we want this moment to be dust free.
I also spend a brief amount of time even with D-ICE with a rocket air or similar device trying to get as much dust off as possible. I do NOT recommend using a lent free cloth, I usually find lent on these, and if there is a firm speck of dust somewhere then you can scratch the whole roll or film strip. Then you will really need D-ICE. I have had some scratched film, like lines though my film scratched, and the digital - ICE made it disappear.
A word of waring, if you batch process, and switch from color neg to black and white, remember to turn off the D-ICE, and switch to grayscale. If you don’t, then you will get some crazy results, I scanned most of a roll before I knew something was wrong. There goes an hour of your time.
Digital ICE is one of the major advantages of the dedicated film scanner, or flatbed scanner. To my knowledge the small film to digital snap shot converters don’t have ICE, not that they could not put an extra LED and get the data, just currently it is not at that point. I always want any scanner I have to have Digital ICE on it, for me it is a must.
The importance of development
As you well know, this if a film blog, although I mostly blog photos I feel compelled to blog some words about the film process. There are sort of two options for developing your film. 1) Do it yourself 2) Have a lab do it. Now for black and white film, option 1 and 2 are good. For color film things get tricky. Black and white film is very forgiving on the time and temperature and well the whole process. With a film changing bag two gallon bottles and a daylight developing can +/- a thermometer, you are good to go. Color film is a whole different ball game.
Which is why I have someone who knows what they are doing with a fancy machine develop my film. In fact I go to a lab with a dip and dunk machine. In Houston this is Aker Lab (http://www.azphoto.com). Does it cost more than some places that don’t have dip and dunk? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely! I shoot some film and now I have some options, either send it to a lab in Kansas, try to find the last remaining one hour lab in Houston (I am not sure there are any labs like this any more, I can’t find them if they do exist), or spend the money and have it done correctly. Sometimes I just have too many rolls of film and I am a student still so I am not always willing to just go to my local dip and dunk lab. I almost always regret not spending the extra money for better processing. The colors never look right, the contrast is weaker, the image is just muddier. Maybe you are going for that look? I am not really, I am going for the best image I can get out of whatever format or film or camera I am using. When I scan dip and dunk film it is just incredible the detail and sharpness, the images seem to just pop. This could also be due to the freshness of the chemicals, or the controls on the device, I honestly don’t have to worry about it. As long as I know that my images look better from dip and dunk processing I am compelled to keep dipping and dunking my film.
Now there are other dip and dunk labs, I just sent my film to NCPS and the Enhanced Scan option looks great. I was a little skeptical. This saved me many hours of scanning (more on this later). Although there is not a price for shipping from Aker, they are fine with you shipping film to them (remember to put your name, phone number, address, how many rolls of film and what you want, i.e. process only…), you can pay with credit card over the phone and they will ship the film back to you, it is not on the price list but I know they will do this. They are very helpful and if you call they will be glad to help you.
Bottom line: dip and dunk.