Sunday, September 02, 2007

Grain or Noise

I've been scanning some Tri-X negatives from the 90's. I'm afraid I'm so spoiled from the smooth looks of digital files that the grain from the Tri-X film is driving me crazy. And here I've been worrying about noise in digital files from my Canon 5D. Ha! That is nothing and with the noise suppression software, like Noise Ninja, you can fix most of it and still not lose the detail in the digital image.

That isn't the case with the Tri-X negatives. Don't know why the grain surprises me though. You used grain focusing aids to focus the enlarger. When the grain was sharp and distinct, then the image would be sharp (if the image was sharp to begin with.) Seems like several years ago that I read somewhere about some techniques to lessen the look of the film grain when processing scans in Photoshop. I'm going to have to do some research especially so I can figure out how to smooth out the skies. I've tried only applying Noise Ninja to a selection of the sky because it will smudge up the detail in the grass if you use it on the whole image but I'm sure that there are better solutions. I've had to print some of them just to see if all those spotty dots I see when I'm working with the file at 100 percent were going to show up. Luckily it wasn't as bad looking printed on the paper as it is on the screen.

I have used Delta ISO 3200 black and white film for another couple of projects but those were with a Holga. The Holga can't make a sharp image anyway and the grain of the Delta 3200, developed for 400 ISO was really quite acceptable for those projects when the film was scanned. In fact, I think it added to the image. But with the Mexican 16th century churches, I need sharp detail.

This is a church in Sacalum, Yucatan built on the mound of a pyramid as all of the 16th century churches are in the Yucatan. Not the most exciting of my 16th century church pictures but it illustrates the problem with the grain. I didn't want the sky looking all dotty and I wanted the detail in the grasses. Thank God I was shooting 120 film. If these had been shot with 35mm film, I don't think I would even try to do anything with them. But I've always had this dream of pulling this long-term project together in a book. Now with being able to self publish, maybe, just maybe, I can make this dream come true.

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