#17 – Shifted, scanned and sold

Manchester Town Hall, UK [Alamy image ref. AR6NRN]

Back in the 1980s I had a couple of medium-format Pentax 67s with an assortment of lenses including 45mm, 55mm, 75mm Shift, 105mm 120mm Soft-focus and 300mm. They were brutes – the camera bodies, that is – because the camera’s huge mirror slapping up and down combined with the large cloth shutter curtain flapping sideways created multiple vibrations that to-days users of DSLRs will probably never experience.Having quite a large collection of 6x7cm transparencies (as well as countless black and white negatives) which I thought – after much procrastination – would be of sufficient quality for Alamy if scanned, I decided to purchase an Epson 700 flat-bed scanner which came complete with masks for 35mm, 120 roll-film and 5×4 sheet film sizes.

The purchase was a wise one… and by discounting any idea of scanning my many thousands of 35mm colour transparencies (another story with another scanner another day) I undertook the laborious task of scanning around 500 of my best 6×7 transparencies. One slight problem was, however, that the best ones had been cut into individual frames and mounted in the black Kenro card presentation mounts holding six at a time and which were popular with some of us older photographers showing their images to editors and art directors in the latter part of last century!

Unfortunately the “archival” clear/matt cell-envelopes that protected the valuable trannies from dust and handling marks had created feint “contact” marks on many examples from being pressed together in storage for 25 years. This meant that around a third had to be thrown away because the estimated time to clean such a number beforehand, then extensively retouch them afterwards, would be out of all proportion when I had just enough “similar” images to consider uploading.

Questions are frequently asked on the Alamy Forum about “if” and “which” flat-bad scanners are suitable for passing Alamy’s stringent QC standards. Well, having owned, used and sold high-end models from Canon and Epson, I would probably go the Epson route if purchasing another, but only for 120 and sheet-film sizes. Having also scanned over 1,000 35mm home-processed transparencies for Alamy (without one single QC failure) I can say that a flat-bed scanner cannot be used for Alamy stock and one has to use a dedicated 35mm film scanner such as the better models from Nikon and Minolta which are have been discontinued by their manufacturers and are now only available second-hand.

The featured image of Manchester’s Victorian Town Hall was taken with one of my Pentax 67s fitted with the 75mm Shift “perspective control” lens, and, the unique wood hand-grip which Pentax sold to many of those camera owners. This, despite the multiple vibrations mentioned earlier, enabled me to frame and expose a complete film without using a tripod or other support such as a car roof, corner of building, lamp-post, etc.

I can’t remember the exposure, but it must have been around 1/125 sec at f/8 on Fuji 100D film on that bright day, taking into account the Cokin “Graduated Grey” and “Pale Amber” filters I was also hand-holding against the front of the shifted lens… which continues to amuse me to this day when many folks agonize over the necessity of VR (Vibration reduction) and IS (Image Stabilized) lenses!

So eventually, more than 25 years after the original was made, it got a use in a UK national newspaper with a print-run of up to 2 million, inside 1/4 page, 1-day license under my “UK Scenes” pseudonym. Why a more up-to-date image wasn’t chosen I can’t even guess at… but that’s picture researchers for you!

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