Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rescuing Our 35mm Slides

This photograph came off a slide. It's a picture of our youngest
daughter's 5th grade class and many of their little kindergarten buddies.

This blog was rearranged, edited and reposted at 6:20 PM (CST) on 18 January 2011

The 3mm slide project is well under way, but what an effort it is.
by Charlie Leck

I knew it would be time consuming and difficult, but it was my number one new year’s resolution and so I’m tackling it with gusto. I’m trying to save all those 35mm photograph slides – hundreds of them – that are piled in one of our closets before they deteriorate any further. I didn’t realize, 40 years ago, when I was taking family photographs, and shots of my travels far and wide, that both my photographs and my 35mm slides would deteriorate so; however, chemical changes do damage both, causing the colors to change and a lot of their original brilliance and contrast to be lost. Even though they were boxed and kept in a dark closet, somehow specks of dust and dirt found their way to the surfaces of this Mylar base material on which the photographs were originally developed. Humidity, temperature and dust are all great enemies of slides.

So, I asked for and received for Christmas a marvelous Plustek (OpticFilm 7600) slide scanner. It’s a lovely piece of equipment, but its techniques and intricacies are not exactly easy to learn. The terrific photograph guru, Taz Talley, has a manual for the machine that sells for over $250 – nearly half the price of the machine. I worked my way along with the manufacturer’s manual, translated awkwardly from the original German, and I seem to be making progress. Each instance of success pleases me. I’m probably through about 350 of the slides right now.

Here are a few examples of my success… along with one before-and-after example… I've had a hard time getting them to line up properly, but you'll get the idea.


This is an enjoyable snap-shot of Anne's son, Jimmy, taken in 1982 when he would have been about 13. It was in terrible condition and nearly all the color was lost. Now it's digitized, corrected and its saved on disks and can be printed for our family albums. The disks, when I'm done with this project can be saved and copied so that all the children can have one of them.

This 1961 photograph of Anne, traveling in Europe when she was only 16. The slide had lost all of its color and was incredibly dirty. Between my new LaserSoft Imaging scanner from Germany and time on PhotoShop, we were able to restore it to respectable condition.

And this is a wonderful 1978 photograph of Anne that I took before we were married. We were visiting a cousin of mine who lived in Switzerland and her home was done in lots of rich and enjoyable colors. All those colors seemed to be lost in a slide that was covered with specks of dust and had lots of scratches. A run through the scanner brought back the colors and the machine can separate out dust and dirt from what is really on the slide film itself. I couldn't be happier about saving this delightful photograph of the young woman with whom I'd fallen in love.

It would have been disastrous to lose this photograph that Anne took in 1980 at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in Windsor, England. It is of Prince Philip driving a four-in-hand of his Cleveland Bay horses in a dressage test at the show.
When I first looked at this slide through a hand viewer, I was certain is was worthless and lost to us. My new scanner said it was still good to go. I corrected and saved over 200 slides from that horse show.

This snapshot means the world to us. Anne and Lisa have just finished doing a little skating during the winter of 1980. They are on a frozen pond in the front of the boyhood home of Warner Bruntjen and his parents. Who of us would have known then that Lisa and Warner would marry a number of years later? It would be a shame if this photograph had been lost to us.

And this is a terrific snap-shot of a legend in our lives, Bill Remley. Bill died in the past year and I wrote a blog here about him after his death. I searched so diligently for this very photograph to use on the blog and couldn't find it. Now it's turned up during my slide restoration project. I remember taking this photograph in 1982.

This slide was very badly scratched and faded. I was very excited to get it restored this well. It's of daughters, Erika and Jenny, with our dog, Seato. It was taken at our home on Lake Minnetonka in either 1978 or 1979. It looks like Seato must have just come up from a dip in the water.

And this is a funny 1980 picture of Anne's very first lambs, bought to be pets around our house on Hunter Drive. Now they've turned into an industry that keeps Anne working as hard and long as anyone possibly could. One of these black lambs was named "Hope" and the other was "Faith."

A 1980 photo of Lisa, preparing to ride in a local parade. The slide was in incredibly poor condition and I almost tossed it. Fortunately, I decided to give it one run through the scanner and then loaded it on PhotoShop. Neat!

Here's a before and after example of what I'm trying to explain here. This was the way this slide looked when I first loaded it into my new slide scanner. You can see that its color has deteriorated badly. That stuff at the top of the slide is dust, dirt and scratches. Had I not seen what my new scanner and some time in a software program called
Lightroom could do, I probably would have just tossed out this snap-shot that is very precious to us.

So, this is what that slide looked like when I saved it to a digital format... AND, you are looking at a very low resolution of the image, which this blog requires so that it isn't overwhelmed by massive, high-resolution images. I'm extremely proud that we have this shot of a pony we owned in the 80s that performed brilliantly at horse shows and competed fantastically against full-sized horses in open jumping competitions with his usual rider, Janie, who is pictured here with our pony, Angel.


Enough, I guess. I think you get an idea of the size of my project and the success that I'm having. For those of you with old slides that look desperately bad, don't lose hope. They can be saved and returned to the former rich look they once had.


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