Last month was difficult, my dog died which plunged me into a deep depression for a few weeks. Then it seemed to rain rejection letters, naturally this didn’t help my positive or creative outlook. Regardless, I’m making productive steps on a couple of things I’ve had on the studio back burner having several breaks with troubling projects.
This previous summer I worked on adapting a document scanner toward a homemade digital scanner back for a Horseman 4x5. Normally used to scan passports or credit cards, this document scanner is ideal because of the smaller size and portability. A unique and fun feature is a sheet of glass on the back housing of the scanner allowing for one to see the in-progress scan. The extra glass however creates a number of problems with refracted light, or light bouncing around in the scanner when modified for the camera.
After a number of frustrating attempts to even out the light on the glass with adaptive magnifiers ranging from thin plastic to a custom piece of Fresnel glass. Nothing seemed to solve the problem of the image remaining bright in the center of the image with strange circular reflections. I knew the next step would be to take apart the scanner and adapt the metal housing that moves the scanner sensor, but before I did this I tried one last measure by adding a simple piece of tissue paper to the scanner glass.
To my surprise the paper created a similar effect to that of the ground glass on the focusing screen of the removed camera back. Having not a clear but cloudy film on the scanner glass dispersed the light, as well aiding the focus plane to become easily viewable on the scanner glass. Of course the scanner recorded the fibers of the paper within the image creating an interesting effect that I ultimately decided was distracting for my uses.
After longer research I found a UK glass source that could cut a piece of plain ground glass the same size as the original scanner. After some simple tweaks installing the glass, the scanner now records an even image. Sadly, it does need some post process adjustment in the levels and contrast, but I’m working on modifying the scanner further to hopefully solve this in camera. Regardless of my efforts I’m probably going to take it apart to amplify the sensor housing or continue to experiment. This will give me time to polish a design to 3D print a stronger back holding the scanner to the camera replacing the current hand-cut foam core.
The quality of the scan is similar to other document scanners I’ve past modified creating a low quality resolution image. Really it’s kind of ridiculous because the fidelity of the camera and lens is lost in the degraded scanner image. Compared to more expensive high quality large format scan backs it’s a laughable toy but an affordable option compared to professional backs costing 10k or more.
Until my continued applications or the studio gods grant me funds to change my current lucky wind. I’m going to continue to push and play with my Franken-camera scanner, which lovingly creates this manipulated indecisive moment in the images. I even like the word “scan,” as it insinuates a more intimate experience then making a photograph. There seems to be lots of different possibilities to make and my next phase will be to take it out of the studio and onto the streets.