I wish I was shooting digital 25 years ago.

We went to California, USA for holiday in mid Nov 1992.  Looking back that was exactly 25 years ago. We spent the last few days of our trip at my wife's classmate home in Los Angeles. In their house  They had a huge beautiful pet, a green Parrot called Ziggy that lived in their study. If my memories serve well I think parrot Ziggy was easily over 3 feet tall.

Portrait of parrot Ziggy
Portrait of parrot Ziggy.  The mostly green plumage resembles a military parade uniform and earn this species of parrot the name military macaw.  This photo was taken in 1992 using Olympus OM-3 with  Olympus OM-Zuiko 35-105mm F3.5-F4.5 zoom lens on Fuji Velvia 35 mm slidefilm.       

Parrot Ziggy belonged to the military macaw (Ara militaris) species of large beautiful Parrot. Initially Ziggy was not comfortable with our presence but after two days it got accustomed to these two visitors from afar. I took some photos of this handsome big bird with my Olympus OM-3 and OM-4Ti 35mm film camera.

I am writing this old story because our friends from LA was in town for holiday recently.  We learned that parrot Ziggy had passed away and our friends knew I had some photos of Ziggy the military macaw and asked us if they could have copies of the photos.

We gladly agreed but unfortunately only two digital photos of Ziggy sit on my PC that I scanned from 35mm Fuji Velvia slide film in 2003.  The first photo was good but the second one Ziggy moved its head just as the shuttle release was pressed resulting in the bird's head out of focus. Four other photos were taken on Kodak Gold 200 film and I don't have them as digital images.

I dug through my collections of negatives and found the 1992 California, USA travel negatives in a plastic filing box untouched for many years. Now we had a real problem - the negative films were literally melting inside the film sleeves under our hot and humid tropical weather and giving out strong pungent vinegar smell.

Some of those negative films were totally ruined and not recoverable.  The only 4 photographs of Ziggy left were those 4R size prints in our travel photo album. After 25 years those prints in the photo album had faded with muted colour. We could try scanning those photographs from the photo album and restoring the images digitally.

 Parrot Ziggy's favorite phrase was "Hi Bob, how are you" whenever he heard the sound of the door. This photo has lots of film grain or film noise but there is no point  trying to denoise any further as the details are already lacking from this restored 25 years old print image. Photo taken on Kodak Gold 200  using Olympus OM-4ti 35mm camera with OM-Zuiko 35-105mm F3.5-F4.5 zoom lens

Later I learned online my 25 years old negative films was suffering from The Vinegar Syndrome. That is the deterioration of acetate film base subjected to high temperature and humidity in long term storage. Archival  storage of film and prints images was a big issue.  They are easily effected by heat, humidity, strong light and other environmental elements. Unlike film digital photography are not effected by temperate and humidity or fading due to strong lighting.

Making duplicate copy of negative and slide is also a problem as lost of quality, colour cast and increase contrast are common and it take a lot of effort to get it right. Making duplicate copy of digital images is just "copy and paste" on the computer and the duplicate is an exact copy of the original. If you regularly keep backup copies of your images you are well covered for years to come.

Digital camera allow photographers to check their result after each shot.  You can shoot again if the last shot is out of focus or unacceptable. In film days we didn't have that luxury.  We can't tell if we got the images or not. We had to wait until we finished the roll of film and wait again till the processed roll of film were returned from the colour labs.

A 135 roll film or 35mm film usually had 24 to 36 shots, even less if you shoot other formats such as 120 roll film. When on holiday we had to budget before hand on how many rolls of film for the entire trip and how many rolls per location or per days. Now anyone on holiday armed with just a 32 GB SD card in the camera can shoot over four thousand 20 megapixel images. Shooting film meant we would need to carry with us 112 rolls of 35 mm films for that same numbers of images!

So much for the old days now let's get back to our Ziggy parrot images. Scanning was done on our CanonScan 9950F  scanner. Fortunately it had a dust removal and fade correction feature in the scanning software that lighten the scanning job. Yet it still took a few re-scan for at least two of the images to achieve a good scan.

Military macaw  Ziggy got used to my presence after 2 days. He just got on with what he was doing and not bothered with me taking his photo. Photo taken using Olympus OM-4ti with OM-Zuiko 35-105mm F3.5-F4.5 zoom lens, lighting was with Olympus T-32 TTL flash bounced from the wall.

The image of Ziggy from the 35 mm Fuji Velvia slide became our reference image. First the cloning and removing of artifacts, stains or smudges due to aging, followed by bringing back the colours that were lost from fading. By adjusting the R, G and B curve individually I was able to get those images pretty close to the reference image.

The film grain or noise are left mostly untouched as removing film grain usually result in smearing, lost of detail and sharpness in the images. The four restored images are good enough as print in post card size or use online as web images.

Digital photography technology has come a long way.  All those high-tech features built in our camera make taking a bad photo rare. We are so accustomed to taking all these for granted until we look back to the old days. In short I really wished I was shooting digital instead of film 25 years ago.


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