The Digital Darkroom
My working process has been inextricably linked to the computer since 1995, and with my switch to working with digital cameras exclusively in 2005, it is now the core of all my image creation. The link between digital images and the computer is obvious, but even with film images, all cataloging and printing is now done in a digital darkroom, as opposed to a conventional optical darkroom.
My primary computer is a desktop using a custom built AMD Ryzen 7 3700X computer with two 500gb SSDs (one for the OS & programs, and one for the scratch drisk), 32 GB RAM, and two monitors; a Dell 32” and 27” Ultrasharp monitors, one horizontal, and one vertical. The OS I use is Windows 10. I use a BluRay burner for archiving files, and use external drives for easy data access - a 16TB Drobo for my photographic data, a number of 2tb SSDs and 4gb and 8gb magnetic dives for assorted files and other data.
My monitors are calibrated using a ColorVision Spyder3Pro colorimeter system.
I also have a I also have an Asus laptop (Rysen 7 4800HS, 16gb of ram, and a 14” screen, Windows 10) which I use for teaching, scanning and storing images then traveling. When I use this approach, I store three copies of each day’s work - one copy on the laptop’s disk drive, one copy on an external hard-drive, and a final copy burned onto a BluRay disk.
Unlike conventional film, which can be stored properly with only moderate effort at room temperature and be expected to last for decades, digital media and files change rapidly, and require a different approach to storage. While I have a copy of my digital original files stored on an Drobo system attached to my computer, my digital files are archived carefully with multiple duplication to ensure the photos are as secure as I can make them. Each image is archived on four DVD disks, in two different file formats, using two different DVD brands, and two different burners (one in my laptop computer, and one in my desktop). This mixture of different file formats, burners and DVD brands should help insure my digital images against loss in the furture. One copy of the disks is stored onsite, while the three other copies are stored off-site for increased security. I regenerate these DVD copies every two years, to avoid the chance of physical media failure.
To digitize my film images, I use a DSLR camera (currently my Canon EOS 5DsR) to copy the film on a custom made 3D printed copy-stand, using a LED light source to back light the film; this system can digitize 35mm, medium format (6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, 6x9), and 4"x5" film. I make the copy in RAW, and then process the resulting file in Lightroom. This gives me a result significantly higher in resolution than any other approach.
For 8"X10" film, I use a Microtek Scanmaker i900. This has a resolution of 3200dpi, which is more than enough to give me 80"x100” prints from my 8"x10” film. I scan through VueScan.
I produce all my digital camera images in RAW file formats, which must be converted into digital images before use. To do this, I currently use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic, where I maintain several catalogs; one for new work, and a master catalog for finished images (because I stitch and blend so many of my images, I cannot catalog original files, but must instead catalog finished image files). For the master catalog, I make full resolution JPEGs which are added to the master catalog, and then keyworded extensively aid in later retrieval.
All my image editing and modification is done within a combination of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop CC, which are by far the best image editing software packages on the market. Photoshop is memory intensive, and recommends the user have three times as much RAM as the size of the largest image they will be editing. While my web imaging is all low resolution and small file size, I do occasionally work with images images as large as 8gb (8,000mb) in size for printing, which is why I need as much RAM I can get.
I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic to organize and sort my images, both scans and digital originals. My master catalogue contains more than 140,000 images (as of January 2021), all of which have a minimum of 5 keywords attached to them (file format, date, location, model, etc).
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