B&W Ilford HPS5 Plus + Plustek Scan, then PL4

Have you ever tried to take an incident reading from an Iguana? I certainly wouldn’t want to get that close.

Better strategy is to use a spot meter and measure several spots in the image, or leave it to matrix metering.

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Apparently this is a mistake on my part. I should have selected a “Preset” before ding anything else, probably #2, Black & White. I guess the Preset I was using was whatever was already in the Workspace that Joanna sent me, or maybe the last time I selected a Preset weeks or months ago.

Regardless, from now on, when I start PL4 for a new project, I will manually select a Workspace and a Preset before doing anything else, so I will have no surprises. If I am working on 10 negative scans in a row, I’ll do this before the first scan, then leave it alone for the remaining 9.

If nothing else, I will be aware of all my settings each time I start editing.

Let me share a few more words about workspace settings and presets…

Although the two are basically independent of each other, we can use both in combination under certain conditions. I’ll illustrate this by a way that might (or might not) serve you as well as it serves me to a) operate PhotoLab and b) declutter the interface:

Left Dock

  • Tools for management and information rather than for editing

Right Dock

  • Three palettes: almost always used, often used and almost never used
  • Put each tool in one (or two) of the three palettes
  • Sort tools by what could be a sensible sequence in customising
  • Collapse the almost always used and almost never used palettes

Presets vs Workspace setting

  • I mostly use my own presets, some of which I derived from DxO’s presets, changing settings that I find to be too strong or weak in the originating (DxO) presets
  • Tools that are common to my presets and mostly need no change go into almost always used
  • Tools that are not used by any of my presets go into almost never used
  • All other tools go into often used

A few exceptions

  • I use my “All-In” workspace mostly for testing and setup of the “Normal Use” workspace (that I build according to what I wrote above)
  • I put the HSL Tool into the left dock because I often use the tool and because the left dock has space, which the right dock most often has not.
  • I put tools in two palettes if I’m unsure where it belongs

A few hints

  • Order of the tools: carefully think of how you customise images. Ask yourself questions like “If I do X, will I have to redo the things I’ve done before doing X?” Example: I find that “Colour Rendering” should be done as a very early step. Example: I find that HSL works better on B&W than channel mixer, therefore the latter goes to almost never used.

Once you have established a workspace setting that fits your needs, there is no need to change the workspace. Sticking to a workspace setting makes PhotoLab more usable for general photography. Nevertheless, if someone is into e.g. portrait and bird photography, setting up dedicated workspaces might be helpful.

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I’ve been trying to use the Workspace from Joanna since she sent it to me, after she added “watermarking”. I have your “All-in-DPL4” workspace ready to go.

I have my iguana photo as updated on my screen now. I will change the Workspace to the one you sent me.

(I assume nothing will change in the editing that I have been doing on this image, and anything I have done before now.) …and nothing changed other than the right and left Docks.

I will try out your Workspace as of now.

My first observation is that many of the things I often get to use on my left Dock are “missing”, but I think they are there, but in palettes that are closed.

My second observation is that many of the tools I have used on this image are open (the blue box shows they are open). So, I am now scanning a totally different image I have never looked at before, taken of the fellow who hired me a lifetime ago at Balance Technology in Ann Arbor, Michigan, almost certainly taken with my Leica M2. I set the VueScan Curve low to 0.30, instead of 0.25, and I set my Curve high to 0.70 instead of 0.75, as suggested by someone in one of the forums. This made my scanned image appear more “finished”, rather than a low contrast flat image, but I suspect I am now losing some of the highlights and shadow areas which look “white” and “black” in my scan, rather than only shades of grays. I opened the image in PL4, and as I now expected, the image I have been working on still has “Miniature effect” turned on, with the blue box.

Leaving your Workspace on, I opened the image I just scanned. Great - that answers something I was puzzled about. All the things I turned “on” are now turned "off.

Next, I need to know what Preset is being used - I can’t tell. I suspect that none of them is being used. Is that true? So now PL4 is using the “default settings”, which will be modified once I select a Preset? So, I clicked the arrow on Black&White, and now I’ve got 7 choices. It’s a photo of someone at his desk, so I’m going to select “for him”. Yikes, no good - I click Apply, and it looks awful. I tried all, and ended up on #7, B&W - Subdued. I guess from now on, when I edit a new image, I need to select a Preset, then which choice for that pre-set, then click “Apply”. I guess the appropriate thing to do now, is to close the “Presets” window.

Looking at my screen now, I see that “contrast” and “toning” have the blue box, meaning they are being used - and I guess that’s because the Preset I selected has turned them on and adjusted them.

Moving on, I see I need to correct some dust marks. So I found the Repair tool on your right Dock, opened it, used it, and left it “expanded”.

Final question for now - I didn’t see “Instant Watermarking” on your Workspace, so I searched for it, found it, and used it. How can I add it to your “All-in-DPL4” workspace, so it’s always available without my needing to search for it?

Another change I need to make. I finished with that image, and scanned another. Is PL4 applying anything as an initial preset, or is it waiting for me to select a preset? I did this for my new image, and selected a Preset that looks best to me, so from now on, I will do this every time. I guess I should have been doing it all along. Better to find this out late, than never.

One related question - when VueScan is used to scan an image, it displays a histogram. If neither end of this histogram is hitting the edge of the screen, does that mean I’m not clipping any data? Before I changed my “Curve low” and “Curve high”, the histogram was mainly in the middle of the screen. Now it fills the screen, without running over the ends. I think this will allow me to do what Joanna suggested yesterday, improving my scanning so PL4 has a head start when it opens my image.

While I was in high school and then college I did a lot of shooting for the newspaper and annual. In those dinosaur days very few cameras had good built-in metering and those of us without those more expensive cameras had to do a lot of on-the-spot judgments in fast-moving situations where there was no time to use an external light meter. You had to either get pretty good at estimating exposures or lose a lot of shots! Now my photography is much more sporadic and I rely more on metering than on my rusty estimates. And, I primarily use the camera’s built-in reflected readings most of the time but still prefer an incident reading for critical shots.

Joanna, you certainly know that spot reflected reading (or area reflected reading) you are making could be WAY off if you choose a spot that is too dark or too light or if it includes reflections or bright speckles or dark spots. You have to use judgment to pick the “right” spot to read. If you want to be dead accurate with a spot or reflected reading without having to make judgment calls you would have to read a grey card, not too practical in most walkaround situations. An incident reading is totally immune to the effects of coloration or reflectivity of the subject.

I believe that accurate incident readings are much simpler to make than accurate reflected readings, plus they don’t require nearly as much judgment or experience to make them correctly: all you have to do is to read an approximate match of the lighting condition at the subject. If the subject is directly sunlit, just hold the meter so that the sun directly hits the sensor. If the sun is at an angle to the subject, hold the meter to approximately the same angle. If it is overcast or cloudy then the light isn’t directional and it doesn’t much matter what angle you hold the meter (except don’t hold the sensor downward). You can be one inch from the subject, or 10 feet, or 1000 feet, it doesn’t matter so long as the lighting conditions (including reflections from nearby walls, etc.) are the same. It can’t be too much simpler than that.

Indoors, of course, requires more judgment and more effort, and therefore may not be practical in many situations.

In the case of the iguana all that’s necessary is to measure the light as described above; you probably don’t have to get very close to it.

Much of this is academic given the improvements in sensors and electronics, but still, anyone who totally relies upon what the camera meter tells him is going to be disappointed A LOT.

Joanna, I am lost. I understand most of what you wrote, but I’m puzzled by two things.

1 - Why won’t your copy of VueScan work, and specifically with B&W images?

2 - I have a Mac Mini, an iMac, and a Plustek and Epson scanner. How can I scan using the MacOS Preview? I know Preview opens up a file, but how would I use it to scan a negative?

I have two Sekonic meters (reflected light and incident), an old Weston meter from the beginning of time, a Luna-Pro that I need to buy new batteries for, and a smaller Luna meter that I replaced with the “Pro”. I’ve also got the meters that are in most of my cameras, except for the Leica M3, but that has a Leicameter that goes on top of it.

I always thought incident light readings are best, but for most of my life I’ve been measuring reflected light. The Sekonic meters are currently available - the Luna-Pro I used to consider the best meter I could buy.

In use, with my cameras, I rarely use center-weighted or spot. I almost always use the averaging setting for the whole image, unless I suspect that it’s not going to work for a particular image, and then I usually put it on “spot”. Unless I’m guessing, most of my images come out useable. Color slides were the most difficult, but most of those slides came out “OK”.

My newer Nikons have excellent metering built-in. My Leica M10 has sort of a center-weighted meter most of the time, but I’ve gotten to trust it. My old F4 is not as good as the newer Nikons, but almost always is “close”.

If I were setting up to take a specific photo, and wanted the best chance to get it right, if I had it with me I would take an incident reading, aiming the meter at the light source, with the camera on a tripod. Also, at least with digital, if it was really important, I would take 3, 5, or 7 bracketed exposures, just in case.

To be honest though, if I’m walking around, not sure of what I’ll be shooting next, I usually put the camera on (P)rogram mode, with a reasonable ASA or ISO, and either look for a green light (F4) or trust the camera to do what’s right. Most of the time I don’t have time to do all the stuff I need to do, and the thing I worry about most is focus.

I suspect if you are setting up your LF camera, with lots of time, you’ll take an incident light reading, yes? …unless you have no time like Ansel Adams sometimes, when he visualized the scene and already “knew” was a reasonable exposure would be to get what he wanted.

Back in “those days” (1950’s and 1960’s) one of the first things I ever bought was a light meter. It probably was “selenium”, and it was usually more accurate than my best guesses. I still lost shots, either while trying to use the meter, or when I got home and found my guessed exposure wasn’t such a good guess.

This is what I worked up to - not sure I can even buy replacement batteries now…

My two Sekonic meters are currently available - I suspect they will be more useful to me than reviving my Luna Pro.

That should mean that you have a full range of tonalities to play with. The main key is, as others have said, it’s better to scan a relatively flat image than one that has either blocked shadows or blown highlights. In other words, as full a histogram as possible without touching the ends.

Not if you are used to using the Zone System to place your exposure rather than taking one particular part of the subject as your reading.

When shooting with B&W negative film, I would take a spot reading for the darkest part of the scene for which I want to retain detail and place that in Zone 3. Then I would take the brightest part of the scene and work out the difference in stops between the two. If that difference is more than the latitude of the film, then I would know how many stops of graduated filter to add. Once that is all calculated, I simply take the Zone 5 exposure (2 stops brighter than the Zone 3 reading) and use that. As for small specular highlights, they are what they are and will always end up being blown.

If I am shooting contre-jour with a digital, I take a spot reading from the brightest part of the scene and simply sete the exposure to be 2 stops over-exposed from there.

For portraiture, I would use an incident metering.

For walkabout with a digital, I use centre-weighted metering with a bit of judicious exposure compensation when I feel it needs it.

My golden rule is never to over-expose and, knowing that my camera has a 14 stop range, ETTR.

My copy of VueScan works, I just don’t like the UI - it seems far too complicated when I compare it to Epson’s own software. But, knowing you don’t have an Epson scanner, I ran it through Preview to show you how that works.

The Epson scan software has a great levels tool on the histogram…

… which gives me results like this in PL4 without any adjustments at all…

Capture d’écran 2021-09-19 à 21.31.58

Clicking on the menu item should open the scanning software.

My experience is that it’s horses for courses.

Transparency film has so little latitude and this is where knowing the dynamic range of your film is so important, along with where 18% grey is within that range, then placing the exposure there. With Fuji Velvia 100 film, I know I have 5 stops of range with 3 stops below and 2 stops over the 18% grey exposure.

There really is no need to do this if you ETTR, allowing for 2 stops over exposure of the brightest part of the scene.

When I’m walking around, I set my D810 to aperture priority, so I have control over depth of field, use centre-weighted metering, keeping the aperture no smaller than f/10 to avoid diffraction. I have no hesitation in cranking up the ISO into the thousands, knowing tat DeepPRIME can easily cope.

I never use automatic and even more never use Program mode - it takes away all control over depth of field - something that would have helped with your Iguana.

Hardly ever, unless it’s portrait or a studio shot.

Don’t forget, the “Sunny 16 rule” and you can get away without a meter if all else fails.

Sunny weather - 1/100 sec @ f/16 100 ISO. And, if you need to change things, just remember that the shutter speed is always the reciprocal of the ISO.

I agree - I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I’ll change to using (A)perture Priority. With the iguana, if I focused on the head, I would then have shot wide open.

Too bad Preview can’t find other USB scanners.

About using Epson software, for my V500 Photo, the software never got updated for the 64-bit Apple OS, so it’s useless. That’s why I searched, and later found, VueScan.

I’ve read about the Zone system, but never got to actually using it.

I can see the advantage of “center weighted” rather than the averaging mode. That’s the part of the image I’m most concerned about, so no reason not to change my camera settings starting tomorrow.

Thanks again - as usual, I will “tweak” what I currently do, to be more like what you wrote.

Then don’t make your life so complicated and take your Digital – instead of all this ‘merry-go-round’.
B&W Ilford HPS5 Plus + Plustek Scan, then PL4 - #16 by Wolfgang

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Well, it can but not all. For some you will need to download a driver.

Yes, it did. Here’s a link to the driver for the Epson V500 https://ftp.epson.com/drivers/ESICA_589.dmg.

Epson Scan 2 will work on Catalina but not on Big Sur. But Preview and Image Capture will both work with the driver installed.

To take full advantage of the Zone system, you sometimes need to over-expose and under-develop and vice versa, so it’s not really suitable for roll film as each shot might need different development.

Aha! Different problem, but same end result. I always keep my Apple computers and phones up to date. I’m now running Big Sur version 11.5.2 and from what you wrote, Epson still won’t work for me. I’m not going to complain - I’m starting to enjoy using VueScan. Maybe I’ll eventually prefer Silverfast, but I’m not going to confuse myself until I’ve fully understood VueScan.

Zone system - with 36 exposure film cassettes, what you just wrote is a serious limitation. The lab that processes my film will do whatever I request, but I don’t see that as helping me now.

It’s too bad the scanning help on the internet doesn’t post YOUR advice - instead they say to make everything low contrast and “flat”, so we don’t risk cutting out the parts of a scanned image that are too high or too low - but your advice to check the histogram when scanning will tell me if what I just scanned is clipping out useful information.

I watched some videos, and read some articles on VueScan, and made some small changes to my settings. I then scanned what I thought was a good, sharp, well-exposed negative, and edited it in PL4, resisting any tendency to use tools that I got yelled at for using before. I have two questions, and will post two screen shots below. Maybe I’ll add the original Tiff file, and the “.dop” file in case any of you feel I’m doing things, or not doing things, that could be done better. I think someone’s going to say the image is too dark, but at the middle right, there is a small white building that looks white. I left it alone, as I think what I showed here is “real”.

(Joanna, looking at the shape of the building and the windows, I’m almost certain this is the building that I photographed on the inside, and you showed me how to use the eight-point tool to get the perspective to look more natural.)

Question #1 - On the scanner screen screen capture: I selected Kodak for film, as I’m 99% sure that’s what I used back then, but it likely would have been Plus-X or Tri-X film. Is there a way to expand the displayed list to add films that seem to be missing?

Question #2 - On the PL4 editing screen - I selected one of the B&W Presets, and went on from there. How come it doesn’t show me on this screen which preset I used? There is no indication I can see that I used any preset at all.

2021-09-19-0014.tif (24.6 MB)

2021-09-19-0014.tif.dop (13.8 KB)

It was a pain in the whatever to get the building upright - it ended up being trial and error. I wish I could use a slider to “rotate” the image until I was satisfied. Oh well. I’m not complaining, but a rotation slider would be so much nicer. IMHO.

Sounds like we both have the same kind of background!

As I remember the selenium meters were more accurate than the cadmium sulfide meters in that they have a more linear response across the color spectrum; the CdS meters were more sensitive and could read in dimmer light. I don’t have any idea what modern light sensors use but I suspect they are better than the older ones.

I always wanted a Luna Pro but it cost more than twice than the Super Pilot and I couldn’t afford it then. If it came back onto the market today I’d grab one without hesitation.

The zone system is great for static or slowly moving subjects where the light is constant, but it’s just not really too practical for candid walk-around outdoor shooting situations where you might have to react in a few seconds or miss the shot (the kind of photography I usually have always had). Instead, I think the “sunny 16 rule” that you mentioned is a faster and fairly reliable base for achieving good exposure in the sunny outdoors as long as it is combined with judicious use of exposure compensation where needed. However, smog can affect the results in hard-to-predict ways and you may have to fall back on a meter reading. In cloudy, flat, or dim light I think a good incident light reading is by far the easiest and most accurate exposure base to work from so long as it is made in light similar to what the subject has.

The more photographs you take, and the more situations you take them in, the better you get at judging light and the less you will have to use more than one meter reading of a scene. For $$$ photography, OTOH, you take the time to do what is most accurate.

It will, as long as you use Preview or Image Capture after installing the driver I linked to. It’s only the Epson Scan 2 software that won’t run on Big Sur, not the driver.

Actually, I just took a look at Silverfast and, as rubbish as the UI is, it has a great histogram/ levels tool, which will give you similar results to the Epson Scan software. unless you’ve found a way to alter the levels on the histogram in VueScan? And it supports both the PlusTek and Epson scanners.

Screen Shot 09-20-21 at 11.33 AM

The Mac version doesn’t show the name of the default preset.

I’ll do some searching. My original reason for sticking with VueScan is because I’ve been using it ever since Apple’s new OS broke my old Epson software, and Epson never updated their software leaving a lot of people with a useless scanner - until VueScan saved the day.

I’ll see if I can find a way to do what you just wrote - but until recently, I thought the goal was to scan a dull, flat, contrast-less image, and bring back everything in the image editor. Thanks to you, I think I understand that the whole issue was not to “clip” the highlights or the shadows - and now, again thanks to you, I just check the histogram in the scanning software. It’s been years since I last used Epson Scan.

When I am fully capable with VueScan, and am getting good results, I will also try SilverFast, and see for myself how difficult it is for me to use properly. I figure it’s like going back and forth between a Nikon and Canon DSLR, with everything in one of them being in the “wrong” place if you’re used to the other, but after an hour or two, I can use the Canon well enough even though to me, everything is “wrong” in the interface. I figure Canon people feel the same about Nikon.