Purging Old Film

Slides in the trash

I stopped shooting film in early 2005. It’s a good thing, too, because I ran out of shelf space for the notebooks that hold my extensive image library. Now I’m filling multiple terabytes of hard drive space, but at least the images don’t risk getting dusty on the shelves.

This month I’ve been going through one small part of my collection, weeding out the boring, pruning the least-good of the exposures, and consolidating into fewer pages and fewer notebooks. The photo above shows just a small part of the hundreds of slides I’ve tossed in the trash can.

I’m up to late 1997 with my editing of the Forests collection. I find I’m keeping just about half of the slides I originally filed.

How do I decide what to keep and what to toss? First, everything that’s been published gets kept. Anything that hasn’t even been out to a publisher in 14 years is a good candidate to toss, a few sentimental images excepted. In between are the excess multiple bracketed exposures I originally kept.

When film ruled, often all three 1/3-stop brackets were good enough to send out to an editor and there were many occasions when all three copies were out at once. Now that most submissions are digital there’s no need to keep three copies. Two is plenty. One might be enough, but I’m not willing to prune that hard just now. Reducing my files by one third to one half is good enough.

Pruning my files is tedious. At the same time it’s kinda fun to put pages of slides on the light table again. Lots of fond memories of photo trips come back in the process. I can see where I was really inspired and where I just couldn’t find my muse. It’s harder to edit digital images the same way.

Will I make it through the whole library this winter? No way. There are too many thousands of slides to review. I want to get through Forests. That will be enough for now.

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4 thoughts on “Purging Old Film

  1. Hi Mark, I love your early pictures, and will take a walk myself tomorrow! You are scaring me with comments about Lomatium in bloom in the gorge, as I have not hit the North Slope of Hanford yet.
    I did want to let you know that I sent off North Slope slides to Scan Cafe– got several more ++ comments, so we shall see. They are having a little sale right now (25% off until Superbowl), so it might be worth trying. They will scan everything you send, and you can toss up to 20%, once you review them. Maybe worth checking out. I just found six more binders, and I haven’t started on China slides, so nice little project. I got an Artograph LED light pad, as they call it– it’s wonderful to use– seems very eye-friendly. Take care– Bruce Barnes said to say hi the other day– I think he thought I might see you.
    Cheers, Janet Ebaugh in Spokane

  2. Thanks, Janet. At this point I’m only scanning slides as customers have requests for images that haven’t been scanned. I just don’t have time to process all the backlog otherwise.

    Are you coming to Botany Washington in Spokane this May? That’s when I expect to be in your neighborhood.

  3. Hey Mark – I come to your site from time to time to see what my old friend from Portland roaming has been up to! Love your images and messages. This post resonated with me because I’ve been scanning like a fiend on my little Nikon Coolscan, for a project I’ve been working on that required me to head into that big bookcase of albums filled with slides. Fingers crossed that my scanner will hold out ’cause I’m not sure Nikon’s repair dept. will look at it any more and they’re few and far between on the used market. What are you using to scan?

    • Janet, I’m scanning with a Nikon Coolscan 5000. Periodically I have to open it up and clean the mirror, but other than that it has been completely reliable.