Slide Scanning

Two external hard drives above the scanner holding 100,000 images

In another post on 3/31 I had a conversation about slide scanning. To give you some background I started doing photography seriously in the late ‘60’s. My first Nikon Ftn was purchased by my Dad for me when he traveled to Hong Kong in 1971. I started in black and white using Tri-X. I developed it myself in a makeshift darkroom in the family’s basement bathroom. Then I wanted to move up to color slide. Ever on a budget, I bulk loaded my own cartridges from 100 foot rolls. And yes, then I began developing my slides in the bathroom sink and bathtub. The bathtub was essential as a water bath to maintain a constant 100 degree temperature + .1 degree. Yeah it was pretty crazy until I was more successful in life and could actually build a real darkroom.

So the OCD side had me carefully cataloging and storing my slides from the early ‘70’s till digital overtook me in 2004. The last slides were just before my son’s high school graduation. It was a Nikon D70 that began it all. Actually, my wife had gifted me a Canon G3 earlier. But it was the D70, which ended all thought of going back into the darkroom.

More than 100,000 slides sit in custom made drawers. See the 12/26/11 post for my carpentry skills. The first set of drawers were made by a custom cabinet maker and cost a fortune. I didn’t want to do it again and made the second set of drawers with the kids as a summer project. My daughter mentioned her participation recently. The kids were small and they did all the little finishing projects that helped out so much.

About nine roll per partition

I started with a Nikon Coolscan LS 1000. It was expensive and not too reliable. I had a bulk feeder and it didn’t work well. Then SCSI computer ports went and USB came. ICE is a computer software program for scanners that took out 99% of dust and scratches. That has truly made a big difference.

Scanner software Macbook pro and wordpress comment

So I finally bit the bullet and asked for the Nikon Coolscan 5000 for Christmas a few years ago. Santa (wife) delivered and I discovered that the unit had recently been discontinued right before I got mine. I had been waiting years for the price to drop and here it was discontinued forever. Well, I agonized over the bulk slide feeder, which would advance 50 slides at a time unattended. It was expensive and for a time was double the price as it was in scarce supply. There was also the matter of how the previous feeder was not reliable. I finally saw the price drop and ‘snuck’ the SF 210 bulk feeder into the house without mentioning a word. It just looks like it was attached to my scanner from the start. Currently I have seen the scanners sold for thousands above the original retail price. Who would have figured?

It’s been years and I have dabbled at scanning off and on. Over time I did manage to get about 5000 of my selects scanned. But, recently I have been on a ‘mission.’ This drives the family crazy. I start a project and concentrate on it to the exclusion of all else. My daughter has commented that she doesn’t see me anymore. She has take to calling my office/den a ‘man cave.’ My son rolls his eyes. Don’t even ask.

Scanner, sorter, bulk feeder

The bulk feeder requires some care and will jam up. Some nights it will scan 50 slides unattended while I sleep. By my current count I have 3046 rolls of slides stored. There are edited selects from 1238 rolls and counting down. So far there are about 20,000 images scanned.

There were not so many early slides before meeting my wife. The early work was not good. There were technical issues – focus, composition, and exposure. It’s been interesting to see my evolution progress from my early work. Since my kids were born the number of slides increased significantly as I took to documenting every moment in multiple. Hence the large number of slides yet to be scanned. Parenthetically I will add that from 2004 to 2011, I have accumulated more than 110, 000 digital images. I have effectively doubled in less than seven years. The images sit in two external hard drives resting on top of my scanner.

The technical side of scanning follows. I use the bulk feeder, which will load about 50 slides. It is fairly reliable. There is a setting for positive (slide). I do not use any post scan processing for color. I use ICE which masks out dust and scratches. Without this I would be blowing dust off each and every slide… extremely tedious and time consuming. ICE is magic!! Once in a while the scanner hiccups and the autofocus fails to focus. You need to rescan. The scan time per slide is about 1 to 2 minutes with a Macbook Pro and up to 4 to 5 minutes with a slower computer. If you add post processing to the ICE process the scan time will increase and you will never ever be done.

I post process in Photoshop and edit in Lightroom. This workflow works for me. Keeping track of the slides was done when I first shot and developed them. Each roll is numbered consecutively in chronological order. Each slide is numbered within the roll. I keep a separate database, which lists all the rolls, date, subject, place, and people.

The images are about 68mb tif in size and cut down to jpg of about 2mb. At my current rate of scanning it will only take about … And, I still have frozen slide film in the refrigerator. I do have to say that storing 100,000 images in a hard drive the size of a brick is pretty nifty technology. Does it work? So far so good.

The cost to commercially scan 10,000 slides runs about $1895. Scanning yourself… priceless.

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Storage and Index

I am currently storing over 100K of slides in custom-made drawers. Yes, more than one hundred thousand, and I whisper this number because it’s pretty crazy for an amateur. I personally got a table saw and router. And then I built capacity for about another 100k. it was 2004 and a few months before I purchased my first Nikon D70. In June 2004 at my son’s graduation, I started to use the Nikon D70 and shot my last frame of Kodak slide film. My digital library of images is now on multiple hard drives and has way more than 100k images accumulated since 2004. The first 100k slides were taken over about 35 years. Thank goodness for hard drives and memory cards. Space and also cost savings are tremendous. That’s another topic.

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