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Wednesday, June 28

35mm filed as single negs?

This was something I read on a forum. At first it seemed a bit daft but the more I thought about it...

So I thought I'd turn to the hive mind of my loyal readers to see if anyone is doing it. By the way, I managed to clock up 300 followers at some point recently so I now think of those of you who actually follow the blog as The Spartans.

But back to this single neg business. Anyone who prints from 35mm - or scans as well most likely - will be familiar with the drawbacks of having a strip of negatives to work with. They can be difficult to sit square in the negative carrier, they can curl a bit or a lot depending on the film, they pick up fine scratches being slipped in and out of negative files and they have to be searched through when you're looking for a particular one - but that might just be my chaotic filing system to blame.

I can't remember the forum I was on but a chap suggested that one should cut one's best negatives from the strips and sandwich them in 645 slide mounts complete with anti-Newton's rings glass. He went on to explain some of the benefits which include ease of filing and locating, no more scratches going in and out of the plastic or paper filing sleeves and the ability to print full frame with a nice, black border.

The number of surfaces to be cleaned or dusted prior to printing is the same as in a glassless negative carrier and half the number of a carrier with top and bottom glasses but you get the benefits of the latter in terms of film flatness.

I'm sure there may be some photographers out there with literally hundreds of top class negatives that they print from regularly but I'm not one of them. I'd imagine most people would be like me and have strips and strips of negs with a good one here and there rather than row after row of winners. On that basis, it would seem to make some sort of sense to separate the winners and put the rest in a drawer. Chances are you'll never want to print from them anyway and if you did they're near at hand in the same format they would have been in had you not gone down the single neg route in the first place.

A big benefit of this approach is that all your winners can sit together in a slide box neatly labelled and easily found. I think this would be a powerful incentive. Imagine the feeling when you decide that a few negatives from your latest roll merit inclusion in the hall of fame. And the striving in future to add to this collection. You might not have enough negs to fill the first slide box but work hard and keep your standards high and gradually the number of empty slots will dwindle. Then you'll be on to your second slide box!

Want to work on a project or theme? Get yourself a big lightbox, scatter your winners upon it and you'll be able go see at a glance those negs that fit together. And what about those negatives that are borderline on your strips? They're quite good but you decide not to print them just now because you have some better ones demanding your attention? If you're like me, you might never return to them. But under the single neg scheme, you'd have to decide if they've made the "cut" for inclusion in your box of winners.

The more I write about this, the more I think I'm talking myself into it. But what about the practicalities? How much are 645 slide mounts? How easy would it be to sandwich the 35mm neg in one? How would it work under the enlarger? Are there any drawbacks I haven't identified? Well, I haven't tried it so I can't answer most of those questions but it seems Gepe mounts will set you back about £1.50 each which isn't exactly cheap. But think of the benefits. Perfectly flat negs to print from, no dust or scratches, no environmental/pollution concerns, ease of storage and access, nice borders to your prints and the motivation from your box of winners.

So, is anyone out there using this system or was my first reaction - it's a bit daft - correct?


Anonymous said...

Hi Bruce
Black edge aside you can use 24X36 gepe slide with anti-newton glass and then use a slide film carrier for your v35.
That's it for the short answer, maybe a longer one later.
Eric de M

Allan Borenstein said...

Years ago I had a client who cut up my 35mm negatives and proof sheets into individual shots. He thought it would be easier to review one picture at a time instead of viewing
3 contact sheets.

It was a nightmare matching up 100 pictures and handling all these little pieces of film.

I might be wrong but mounting the film into slide mounts seems time consuming. Will the film be flat for printing?

Keeping track of images is complicated. Anything over a few thousand images and it's easy to forget where it's filed.

I shoot both film and digital. I have 5 file cabinets and 5 hard drives of various sizes full of pictures digital files and a lot of boxes and other cabinets for prints, slides, etc.

For most of my current clients I only hold the pictures 1 to 2 years. I used to keep them almost indefinitely. It got to be a full time job just to archive everything.

Good luck.

John Carter said...

I have problems with fresh prints and dust: scanning. But a friend died last week and I scanned a 35mm negative of him, I took in 1963 to send to the family. It had been sitting in Print Files for, well, 54 years. I scanned it quickly and post processed it, but to my amazement not dust or scratches.

EliotDrake said...

Less is always more. While you lose some context assistance by removing the outtake begs, you gain by having the clarity of having just your best in front of you. Go Gepe.

Neal said...

Now you've intrigued me. I'm going to have to pay some thought to this topic.
I'm the same as you, I just have binders full of strips of negatives, If I need to find one of my better shots from 2013... it will take me a while.

Herman Sheephouse said...

I suppose on how 'up yerself' you are . . . winners in special mounts? Sorry, and I'm sure loads will disagree, but the beauty of keeping negatives as is, is that IF YOU HAVE A SENSIBLE/LOGICAL FILING AND CATALOGUE SYSTEM they are easily accessed, easily dealt with and with care, no damage occurs. You must be printing loads of copies of the same negative if you are singling them out for special treatment. Three of those mounts is practically a roll of film!

I would also hate to be pinned into a box that says, "These are the SPECIAL ones, the BEST BABIES, they're the best of the the best! . . . now, no peaking at the other old shite."
For myself it is a voyage of discovery going through old negatives and contacts. As I think I detailed on FogBlog ages ago, it's easy to set up a logical and simple filing system with everything in chronological order. Piece of cake and I think even with your piles of negatives Bruce, you could do it - it just takes time and a bit of organisation, but once done you adhere to it for every film processed, and like I say, you go through, you see sequences of photographs and you question why you never printed them in the first place, and more importantly, you can can learn from trying to print difficult ones. Who wants a homogenised collection of Number One Singles?

As for 'damage' film is incredibly resilient, yes, small scratches occur, but not sure if you know this, they're are easily taken out with a modicum of nose grease - wipe the side of your nose - got grease? Good . . it'll cover those small scratches.
Hell, to show how tough film is, I've even used a cotton bud dipped in lighter fluid, to remove horrible dried-on wetting solution from the non-emulsion side of negatives!
Film flatness? use glass carriers, one AN above and a clear one below, though on the DeVere and with 5x4 negatives, I have two plain carriers.
Using an ionizer in the darkroom eliminates a huge amount of normal dust and any that lands on the carrier can be wiped off with the edge of your hand.
No brushes - they just end up depositing it.
With 35mm and 120, I slide the film between my first and second finger - this was a tip I got from the woman who prints the Cartier-Bresson archive - and it totally works.
To be honest, good printing practice is all about being methodical - in other words you can't just blunder in there like a puppy wagging your tail and expect to get good results -you need to take your time and follow the process correctly.

Anyway, enough of me sounding off like a big, bombastic twat, to answer your question, yes, it seems a bit daft to me!

steve said...

I think that 300 followers is a bit low. I wouldn't be included in that as I use a RSS reader to follow my favourite bloggers, so I'm sure you have considerably more "followers".

Bruce Robbins said...

Funny you should mention that as I had the same thought last night after I'd written the post. And I've actually got a slide holder for the V35! Always wondered what I would use it for...

Bruce Robbins said...

Just got my upmyself-o-meter out there, took a reading and it said "Quite Far". Off to nurse my babies now. :)

Herman Sheephouse said...

Hah! Brilliant . . I think I need an upmyself-o-meter too ';0)

Frank said...

Your idea about what's a winner, may change over the years, but you'll never know if you keep your first choice in a separate box.
It's all a matter of keeping a good archive. I solved this problem by scanning al my negatives on a small resolution (1200 dpi) and importing them in Lightroom. It's a few days of work with over 1000 negative sleeves, but once you have it, you can find any negative within a minute.
And about flattness of the negative, always use glass holders. Even "flat" negatives will print sharper that way.

Richard Urmonas said...

There are many flaws with your plan:
1) Glass slide mounts are not a good way to store film. I have had a number of slides damaged by glass mounts. I also remember as a teenager spending days carefully disassembling my fathers glass mounted slides to deal with the fungus growing on them.

2) Your idea of what is a good image will change over time. One of my current favorites of mine I originally classed as "not good enough to bother scanning".

3) Keeping track of which mounted slide belongs with which film becomes a nightmare. Years ago I used to project slides and so would choose a limited number to show. Even with careful labeling of the mounts to try to keep it all under control, I have some slides which are somewhere, just not sure where.

Finally as for scratching, I converted over to the film filing sleeves which open like a folder along the long side so the film does not touch anything going into / coming out of the sleeve.

DavidM said...

Capa's negs of the Normandy landings were cut up. He took elven frames and now we have only ten. See A D Coleman for why there were only eleven. It's a long story. Don't believe the drying cabinet story.
All your best negs in one easy-to-spill-wine-(fix)-on, easy-to-put-on-top-of-the-wrong-wardrobe, easy-to-mistake-for-rejects, easy-to-lose package. Sounds like a really good way to encourage yourself to make new work. Unless you really like sprocket holes of course.
I didn't quite see why 645 frames are preferable to 6x6.
At least the sandwich will ensure that your dust spots are always the the same place.
As you can see, I remain strictly neutral on this.

DavidM said...

I forgot to mention that photographic emulsion is made of glue and consequently it can stick itself to a glass surface. Very difficult to remove without damage. I've come across this with trannies, not negs, but the principle seems the same.