The Process

Film is history, but film is not made to last.  All film deteriorates with age.  Created on perishable plastic, film decays within years.  Negatives shrink and become brittle. Slides and motion picture film delaminate, flake, fade and yellow. Preservationists fight film deterioration through digitization.

Digitization is the process of capturing images on negatives, slides, and motion picture reels and converting them into high-resolution digital images, which can be stored on computer hard drives and other media. One of the biggest advantages of digitization is the ability to post-process. This allows for the manipulation the pixel shades to correct image density and contrast, and otherwise correct for the deterioration an image has suffered from the vicissitudes of age.

Digitization begins by scanning the image from edge to edge on a special scanner that allows adjustment for maximum resolution and image quality to convert the image from analog to pixels. Then a digital file is made utilizing software programs such as Photoshop. These software programs provide the user with software tools, such as digital spot healing brushes and patch tools, to digitally repair and, if applicable, color correct the image by eliminating dust spots, processing marks or flaws, scratches, fingerprints and any other abnormalities that would show up in a final art photography print. This process is the most time consuming because it is done by hand and, depending on the condition of the negative or slide, may require between two and 14 hours per image.

The penultimate step in the digitization process is the adjustment of overall image quality and fidelity to ensure the image matches the vision of the photographer. The amount of time required depends upon the complexities of the original image. The final step in the process is sizing and sharpening the image to ready it for final presentation.


Barry’s Process (In his own words)

Technical Data in Barry Goldwater’s own words from one of his photography books,  People and Places, Random House, Inc., 1967

In the vain thought that some fellow amateur photographer might be interested in equipment, film, paper, chemicals, etc., used to produce the pictures in this book, I will start from the beginning.

The first camera I used was a 2.25” x  2.25” Graflex made by Eastman in the early thirties.  I used this until it was stolen, at which time I acquired a real oldie, a 4 x 5 Graflex.   I still have it and it still works, although I’ll admit that setting the shutter speed requires a bit of practice before each shot; for the technique , unless used daily, is easily forgotten. (1)

I like direct focusing, which is why I have always leaned toward the Graflex concept, so my next camera, which is still in constant use, became a Rolleiflex.  Its 2.25” x 2.25” film size was ideal, for I strove to make my enlargements as grainless as possible.  The Graflex would accommodate several lenses but, of course, the “Rollie” is limited to one.  Mine is a xenotar 3.5.  Because most of my work is done outdoors, high speed in a lens is less important than quality.  Shooting in the Arizona sun seldom requires more than f:16, even with a yellow filter with a 2x factor.  I use this filter often, for it balances the brilliance of the sky and enhances skin tones.  Shutter speeds are usually around 1/100 of a second. (2)

Because of its fine grain I have used Plus-x of Eastman for about ninety percent of my exposures, but I must admit that since 35 mm has taken my fancy, I have learned that Tri-x of Eastman can be developed so that fine grain is obtainable.  I have not , however, had a great deal of experience with this size camera or film, but what little I have had, I like.

Microdal has always been my negative developer and I follow company instructions to the letter except for increasing the agitation.  I have found that cleanliness, close temperature tolerance and agitation are the secrets of fine grain.  For enlargements I have always used Kodabromide F and G papers, with most exposures made on grade #2.  These exposed prints are developed in a 2 to 1 mixture of Dektol and water at about 71 degrees. The first and best advice I received when I began this hobby was to stay with one film and developer.  There have been temptations to wander, but using the same materials has made my work much easier.

My darkroom was once nothing more elaborate than a kitchen sink, but now it is large enough for four to work in; it also serves as a movie-projection room, editing room and a storeroom for all manner of things.  My working sink is 6’ x 3’, with four water outlets.  This will accommodate any size tray up to 17” x 24”.  Above the sink are various bottled chemicals, including a dark blue one-gallon bottle for hypo that I started with thirty years ago – and which I still use.

Next to the sink is a Pako washer with a large cutting board as a top.  Above this is are twelve 36” x 24” frames over which there is stretched gauze.  This makes an ideal drying system for matte prints.

At one end of the room, snuggled in among extra books from my library, is my negative file.  Some five thousand negatives ranging from 35 mm to 4 x 5 (but mostly 2.25 x 2.25) are indexed according to subject.  I discovered long ago that indexing immediately after processing is a very valuable habit to get into.  If a photographer leaves negatives lying around the darkroom, they either become lost, ruined by dirt or fingerprints, or never do become properly filed or indexed.

To facilitate the locating of negatives I have made an 8 x 10 reproduction of each one and, in turn, have filed these photographs in binders or in the filing cabinet, with the numbers of the negative appearing on the face of the photograph.  These, in turn, are cross-indexed with my library to aid in locating scenes mentioned in the books of my collection.  I have not completed this latter chore but it will be done in the coming years.

Going on around the room, there is a Pako print dryer for 8 x 10 glossies, an Omega D-11 enlarger plus a Durst 606 for the 35 mm, then a large mounting press for salon prints.

In addition to still photography I have long been interested in 16 mm movie work, and have amassed a sizable collection of films about Arizona, plus the best newsreels of each year since 1937.  My Bell & Howell projector is located in the darkroom and projects through a small door which opens into a corner of the den.  The picture is shown on a screen which lowers from the ceiling when a switch is moved.

Finally, the darkroom also houses some three thousand color slides carefully boxed and filed for occasional viewing.  These are mostly 35 mm Kodachromes, but there are many 4 x 5 color transparencies used for illustrations.

(1) Most of the equipment mentioned has been on loan to the Center For Creative Photography at the University of Arizona along with a large number of his negatives with Arizona as subject matter.

(2) The “Rollie” was given by him to his granddaughter, Anna Goldwater Alexander, who has a degree in photography from the U of A  and works for Wired Magazine in San Francisco as photo editor.