The photo above (scanned from a 35 mm slide) is of a tropical harvestman (family Stygninae—I think) that I photographed one night in the Amazon rainforest 20 years ago. The Amazon is paradise for biologists and photographers and night time in the jungle is absolute nirvana for macro photographers. In fact it can be rather overwhelming sometimes. The first night walk I made in the Amazonian jungle was actually rather stressful: it seemed like everywhere I pointed my flashlight there was some different fascinating amphibian, reptile, insect or arachnid. I really didn’t know where to start or what to photograph first! And of course that was back in the day of film photography, so I wouldn’t know what I had in the can until days after my return to Canada. The idea of being able to check your images right after taking them was a fantasy in those days. Man, I really need to get back there again with my modern equipment…
I was prompted to dig the slide out of my files and get it scanned last week after I posted a photo of a harvestman (Phalangium opilio) from Deas Island (More macro photography in the field: bug hunting with a camera on Deas Island). I have uploaded images of scanned slides on this blog before (see Justin Bieber didn’t photograph these scorpions and A tail of two scorpions) but wasn’t thrilled with the results of the scans—and I wasn’t thrilled with the initial scan of this photo either. I didn’t feel it was good enough to post and decided to see what I could do to improve the quality.
Below is a copy of the scanned version of the original slide. It is too dark and doesn’t have the resolution I expect from my images. Plus there is a fair amount of noise that is especially noticeable in the background. The darkness of the slide is due partially to the scanning process, but also because the original image was about a ½ stop underexposed. It was normal practice when shooting slide film to always err on the side of underexposure. Slide film has very little exposure latitude and even a slightly overexposed image would typically be junk. Plus, a darker slide always looked better when projected, with more saturated colours. Unfortunately, darker slides tend to result in darker scanned images.
The first thing I did was to open the image with Photoshop Elements 8.0 and click Enhance/Adjust lighting/ Shadows/Highlights and adjust the Lighten Shadows bar to 25%. As you can see below, that improved the image considerably…but it also increased the noise substantially.
To deal with the noise I saved the image and then re-opened it with Noisware noise reduction software (I downloaded the free Community Edition) and adjusted the settings to the following:
- Noise level adjustment (Luminance): 100%
- Noise level adjustment (Color): 100%
- Noise suppression (Luminance): 100%
- Noise suppression (Color): 100%
- Sharpening: 5
I clicked “go” and the result is the image at the top of the page. The reduced noise is a big improvement, although it is far from perfect and as you can see from the image below, there has been a slight loss of detail.
I really wish the final image was sharper, but it is much better than the original scan. I guess if I want anything better I’ll just have to head back to the Amazon. And that certainly sounds good to me…!
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus OM-4 SLR
Lens: Tamron 90mm F2.5 macro lens
Settings: F16 @ 1/60 sec
Lighting: Vivitar 283 with vari-power module
Film: Fuji Velvia 50 ASA