Sometimes procrastination can be a good thing (I’ll explain later). How about a change of pace this week — an unpublished street shot I made in downtown Philly 40 years ago? I’ve been meaning to post this image and finally got serious about getting it ready for prime time yesterday.
Here it is: “No Better Food At Any Price,” the dynamic energy of the street captured in front of Nathan’s Famous in downtown Phila. People went about their business unaware of the photographer except for the man with his hand in one pocket, hot dog in the other. He saw me, saw the camera and looked right back at me. Neither of us flinched. That look, that human connection, is the juice that pulls this image together.
An earlier scan of the negative simply wasn’t working for me, the tonality wasn’t there. I dug out the negative and rescanned it yesterday. And yes, procrastination was a good thing because this scan and subsequent editing exceeded my expectations. Why? Because I’ve learned much and have better tools at my disposal this time.
The shadows hold the right amount of detail and highlights are bright without blowing out. Even though the man’s hat puts the upper part of his face in shadow, his eyes are clearly visible. The interior of Nathan’s and the other guy at the counter are in full shadow, yet there’s just enough detail.
The woman on the left is bathed in strong sunlight, yet her light skin and clothes retain good detail as do the white shirts on the men passing by.
Properly exposed B&W film can hold a long tonal range. This shot was taken on Kodak Plus-X 35mm film. I used my then new Pentax Spotmatic. 40 years is a long time, but I might have been using my 105mm Super Takumar portrait lens. It was my favorite lens at the time. Then again, the perspective in this shot suggests 50mm. I suppose it doesn’t matter now. Only the image does.
I scanned the negative using VueScan with my Minolta Scan Dual III set for the highest resolution (2820 dpi). I opened the scan in Picture Window Pro and cleaned the dust spots. I’ve learned how to use levels and curves in VueScan so I was working with an image that only needed local contrast enhancement and sharpening in PWP.
When you resize an image for the web you lose sharpness. As an experiment, I set the amount to 100%, radius to 2 and threshold 0 (I seldom go beyond 50%). Then I resized the image. My experiment worked. To my eye, the image pops without looking like it’s oversharpened. I like it just the way it is. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Why do I still use film? Because I can. The 40 year old negative is in perfect condition and I expect it to last another 40 years or more. I love B&W and process all my own film. I own one of the best film SLRs ever made (Nikon F3HP) and a nice collection of fine manual focusing glass including my 50/1.4 Tak. And…I’m having the time of my life shooting new images.