Trying Trichrome – a workflow

Disclaimer: this is a work-in-progress and not a definitive workflow. I’m sharing it as my reader has expressed an interest in what I’ve been doing with Trichrome post-processing. I’m currently using Photoshop 2022 but plan to explore this process in Affinity Photo too at some point. Please note I have assumed at least a basic knowledge of Photoshop in preparing these notes.

So, the first step is to scan the images and I will work on the basis that anyone considering this process already has scanning under control. These scanned triplets then need preparing and I do this in Photoshop.

We now have a file containing the three different images, each with the filter colour displayed as part of the layers name. This will be very handy in the next stage but first we need to align the images so they match up properly and, optionally, trim off any excess around the edges.

Having got the three negatives aligned and in register we come to the bit where the magic happens. Firstly though, it is wise to double check that the file is in RGB mode at this stage (Image > Mode > RGB).

If I’ve copied this down properly from my notes you should now have a basic colour image on your screen, a negative or a positive depending on whether you inverted the black and white layers earlier. From here it business as usual as you tweak the image to your taste. For me I am currently choosing to leave myself with a colour negative which I import into Lightroom in order to convert it with Negative Lab Pro (NLP). In the example below, the left hand image was a colour negative that I inverted in Photoshop and tweaked using colour balance etcetera. The right hand image was imported as a colour negative into Lightroom and put through NLP without any further adjustments. Both versions have their merits of course.

Take One
Take Two

Whether you prefer one version or another is of course purely a personal choice and partly dependent on your aims. If your aim is to get as close to a natural colour image as possible then you will post-process appropriately and likewise if the lysergic aesthetic appeals you will post-process accordingly. It’s good to know there are choices.

I’m as ready as I’m going to be for some “serious” work now

So, there you have it. An approach to creating Trichrome images from three black and white negatives. Note my previous disclaimer though; this is a work in progress and not a definitive workflow. As and when I make further progress or add refinements I will share them on the blog.

Trying Trichrome – the test roll

I have already shared my initial thoughts on exposing film with the intention of creating my first Trichrome images – colour images from black and white negatives. I’ve also shared the negatives and camera settings. The Twitter-verse already knows the test run was successful so I thought today I’d talk about the part of the process that I wasn’t looking forward to – the computer bit. I’m no technophobe, nor am I a Luddite, I simply prefer to be outside after a working lifetime in offices stuck staring at a computer monitor.

I started as we all do these days by scouring the interweb for articles and video tutorials and whilst I sought enlightenment, I quickly became confused. Some pieces I read/watched were contradictory, others only half-explained things or explained them in a very confusing manner. Some were using older versions of Photoshop and some made assumptions about the readers existing PS skills and knowledge. After an hour or so of tinkering I suddenly, and to my bewilderment, found myself with a coloured image on the screen, two A4 pages of scribbles and a very confused look on my face. Twenty minutes later I had three more coloured images, none produced in the same way as the first, and, more encouragingly, the start of a proper set of notes. Success of sorts and so I shared them on Twitter (see below); although I was confident that I could improve on them I’ve been sharing the experiment and it seemed only right to recognise the moment.

Take One and time for tea

It was however time for tea. And I was cooking!

Suitably refreshed, I returned to the computer and reviewed what I’d done earlier. I then went back and methodically reprocessed each of the four sets of negatives, refining my notes as I went and by the end of this had four far better-looking images and a set of scribbles outlining a workflow I could repeat. Most importantly I knew what I’d done to achieve the second set of four images.

Take Two: Spot the difference!

I will share the workflow in the next post (to be published within the hour!) but bear in mind that whilst it works this is a work-in-progress and I will be refining it as I learn more. I will also be investigating alternative methods which may simplify the process too. My current approach creates a colour negative initially although it is possible to create a colour positive directly and I will share that step in my walk through too.

I like the results I got from this methodology today, culminating in a colour negative so will stick with the additional steps for now.

Take Two: Lysergic Skies

In addition, I’ve been using Photoshop, yet I distinctly remember Andrew (remember him?) saying he uses Affinity Photo which apparently offers a simpler workflow. I shall be swapping notes with Andrew before the #trichromeparty for sure. In fact, he currently has one set of my RGB negatives to play with so we can compare notes. There’s lots to learn and discover yet clearly!

Trying Trichrome – the negatives

This is the first of three posts being posted over the next hour and simply records the four sets of negatives and the camera settings employed and are being shared in order to give the reader a full understanding of what my process was. The second of today’s posts talks about my experiences with the computer processing side of things and the third contains my full workflow as of today.

Ready for composition one and the first set of three negatives

I used a single roll of Fomapan 400, exposed at box speed and a tripod-mounted Bronica SQ-A. I metered with a Polaris handheld meter. The three filters, red/green/blue, were from a set of budget filters. For each of the four compositions I exposed the negatives in the sequence Red, Green, Blue or RGB as I felt that a consistent workflow would lead to less confusion. The roll was “scanned” using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera and a Nikkor 60mm micro lens with an appropriate adapter.

I kept the aperture consistent within each set and varied the shutter speed to adjust for the different filter factors. Whilst testing beforehand suggested the green was around +2 or +2.5 I think that in future I will simply use a factor of +3 for each filter as my starting point. With a base exposure of 1/60th sec I was using shutter speeds of 1/8th or 1/15th as appropriate. A cable release completed the set-up.

The film was developed for thirteen minutes in Ilford ID11(1+1) at twenty degrees using my normal process so everything was kept as normal as possible to reduce the chances of processing variation.

Trying Trichrome – the testing!

Yesterday’s snow took us by surprise here, it wasn’t forecast for our part of the country and in any event sheltered by the Pennines as we are we don’t usually get too much of the white stuff. Nevertheless, after breakfast this morning I headed into my backyard for the first part of my Trichrome project – the test run in the field (or backyard in my case) and capturing the images.

I started by using the light meter on my phone to check the filter factors of the red, green and blue (RGB) filters I had purchased especially for this test. These suggested that the relevant factors were three for red and blue and two for the green; in the ballpark of where I’d expected them although I decided to do the second of todays four sets at R3, G3 and B3 rather than 323.

I set up three compositions. One with some colourful objects I found in the snow and I photographed this six times, two sets of three images, in order to have a reference for the green filter as discussed above.

Ready, steady, test!

I had the Bronica SQ-A setup on a sturdy tripod and fitted with a cable release. Once the composition had been made and the lens focused I touched nothing apart from the cable release and the wind-on lever. My mind thinks of these colours as RGB so it made sense to make the first exposure with the red filter, the second with the green and the third with the blue. Your mileage may differ but the key thing to remember here is that whilst red and blue have the same filter factor the green I was using has a different filter factor (probably – this test will confirm). I took all three exposures within a few seconds of each other, just enough time to carefully change the filters over without bumping the camera, and altered the shutter speed to adjust the exposure for the different filters, leaving the aperture unchanged.

This first composition was photographed twice. The second time I treated all three filters as if they had a filter factor of three (see above). However, I reverted to 323 for the second half of this roll of Fomapan 400.

Whilst the first composition was a still life and evenly lit the second was a wider scene encompassing more of the garden and a little of the sky too. The final set of three was very similar to the second composition but included far more of the sky in the frame.

I wasn’t expecting any issues with taking the images, I’m very familiar with my gear, I’d prepared myself beforehand and had the filters laid out ready to use. I’d considered the filter factors for these new filters and I’d dug out the sturdiest tripod I own so knew nothing would move. A cable release ensured no camera shake and a light reading with my Polaris meter would give the best chance of properly exposed negatives. Being organised and knowing up front what I was going to do helped with a smooth session in the backyard.

Next job is to develop the film, scan the sets of negatives and carefully name the files to incorporate red, blue or green as appropriate in the file name. All being well I will be in a position to try assembling the Trichrome on the computer tomorrow evening or possibly tonight if other things don’t get in the way!

Keep watching this space!

Trying Trichrome

Oh I do like an alliterative title!

If there is something that many film photographers have in common it’s their willingness to try things “because they can” even if there are far simpler ways of achieving results. My glass plate project is probably a good example of doing things the hard way (currently on hold until the Spring incidentally). Indeed, it could be argued that film photography as a whole fits this theme given how easy digital photography can be. But, I digress (not for the first time).

So, when someone (I’m looking at you @apkeedle) starts posting colour images created from black and white film negatives my interest is piqued. Colour from FP4! When I saw that it involves using the computer however I mentally consigned it to the “follow with interest but don’t get involved” list. Which is where it has firmly stayed for many months as I’ve enjoyed the images I’ve been seeing, particularly from Andrew, and have been content to consume rather than produce.

Until.

Until Andrew (yes, still looking at you Mr K) suggested a Trichrome Party on Twitter and in a moment of weakness I found myself saying “of course I’ll have a go”. I dug out filters, ordered stepping rings and even adapted my Titan 5×4 pinhole camera to accept filters. I then had the bright idea of infrared trichomes too. Ooh, Trichrome pinhole infrared….

The thinking about it has been fun. But now comes the moment when I need to properly understand what is actually involved prior to having a go myself.

So, this post is simply a marker in the sand, a note of intent if you will. The plan is to spend this evening binge watching/reading everything I can find on the subject and then tomorrow I will load a roll of 120 into the Bronica SQ-A and head into the backyard for the test run.

In the meantime here is the image that “started” it all for me from the aforementioned Andrew Keedle who retains copyright and all the glory emanating from this fabulous 7×17 ULF masterpiece …

Testing, testing…

On a whim I picked up a Canon rangefinder recently; it was being offered for buy-it-now at a sensible price well below the silly money I’ve seen some of these go for. Film-tested, it said, and recently CLAd, it also said, I decided to take a punt. I’ve used compact 35mm cameras regularly but have less experience with a rangefinder camera. Today was the day I popped a roll of film in and tested it out. Not very good light but I needed a walk anyway so off I went.

All images: AgfaPhoto APX 400 film developed in ID11(1+1)

The Canonet QL17 is a coupled-rangefinder, leaf-shuttered, fixed-focal-length 35 mm camera first manufactured by Canon in 1965 so whilst it doesn’t predate me it’s still a venerable age for a camera being used in 2021. Like me however, it is a bit stiff in the joints which hopefully is simply down to a lack of use. No battery was supplied and as it’s not a common type I’ve had to order one but as the camera still functions without a battery I simply popped a light meter in my pocket and set off.

All images digitised with a Fujifilm X-T3 & Nikkor 60mm macro lens

The Canonet G-III QL17 is arguably the more sought after model in the small Canonet range, born out perhaps by the price differential, but the QL is larger and I felt that it would fit in my hands better. I’ve certainly no complaints with the handling even wearing gloves. The focus lever has a fairly short throw which concerned me until I started using it. The short throw means that I can keep one finger on the lever and focus from close to infinity very quickly. So far, I have only used the camera this one time but already am focusing very quickly and effectively. Indeed, I think I can manually focus more quickly with this camera than any of my other cameras. A bold claim indeed!

It’s sharp! This was at f8

One thing that attracted me to the Canonet was the f1.7 lens which gets reasonably good reviews generally although that’s not the primary attraction for me. With the clocks having gone back, I have in mind a series of urban evening images using streetlights and the ever-present Yorkshire rain. With it getting dark by 4:15pm at the moment I can do some “night” photography before tea. A fast f1.7 lens will be a boon for this project as will the discrete size and shape of the camera.

The lack of a battery meant that I couldn’t test the auto exposure function nor could I assess the accuracy of the meter. I was pretty confident from my test firings however that the different shutter speeds would work without the battery – at least that’s what my ear was telling me! Working fully manually has never bothered me though. I decided to adopt the approach I often take when spontaneity is more important than 100% accuracy – meter once and use my nous thereafter. I started at f11 and 1/125th second and during the walk used apertures from f1.7 to f16 and shutter speeds from 1/60th to 1/500th. So, not quite the full range but enough to check if things are generally working OK.

Looks like the different combinations of shutter speed and aperture worked – as did my laissez-faire approach to metering

The film I loaded was one I hadn’t previously used, AgfaPhoto APX 400. Today wasn’t about testing a new-to-me film however, so I’m not going to comment further on that apart from observing that the negatives were not overly contrasty and therefore scanned very nicely. For the record I developed the roll in my old-faithful, Ilford ID11 which I diluted 1+1. Post-production was carried out in Snapseed on my tablet.

Too tyred to move …
Focusing was surprisingly quick even when held vertically

So, there we have it. My first outing with the Canonet QL and on the evidence of these negatives it won’t be my last. In fact I’ve already loaded it with a fresh roll of film ready for the next.

365 becomes 1500

Back in 2017 I was invited to take part in a picture-a-day challenge on Flickr, starting 1st January 2018. I’d attempted a picture-a-day once before a few years earlier. This hadn’t been a full 365, but simply for one month … let’s just say it wasn’t my most successful project. The low point was a phone snap of my suitcase in the boot of my car at 11pm as I checked in to my hotel.

30th October 2017 and the image that started it all

One thing that I had learnt from that earlier experience was the importance of making the challenge simply a part of my normal routine for the day and not something that needed to be specifically planned in every day. With this in mind I set myself a 63-day challenge to make a picture-a-day for what remained of 2017. I completed the challenge and reflecting on the experience was glad that I’d done it as by the time 2018 started it was almost just a part of my daily routine. It would be a few more months before it was totally embedded but the start to that first 365 was undoubtedly eased by the 63-day Challenge.

Mosaic of images that comprise January 2018 in my 365-2018 Challenge – the first month of what would be my first ever “365”

I ended 2017 and started 2018 rather unwell with pneumonia, an illness that lingered for almost three months, but somehow I still managed my daily picture. It would be two years later when a pandemic restricted me to my home for four months that the discipline and experience of those few months would pay additional dividends too. As we entered 2020 the “365” as I was calling it then was a well established part of my daily routine and it would take more than a global pandemic to divert me from the challenge. Even if I was shielding and confined to the house.

Fast-forward to 23rd November 2021 and I’ve just uploaded my 1,489th consecutive daily image to Flickr. A picture a day, in an unbroken run from October 2017. Whilst I don’t always post them on the day the rules of the challenge mean that they have to be taken on the day. Some days I only make one image, specifically for the challenge, whilst on other days I choose from the series of images made that day.

When I started out I was a bit sniffy about using my phone but I’m relaxed about that now. Since starting the challenge I’ve also returned to film photography as my main method of making images so these regularly appear in my daily uploads. I’m debating dedicating my 2022 “365” to film photography only but I’m not sure I want to commit to such an undertaking for a whole year. I’ve posted daily film photographs for extended periods from time to time but a whole year might be a step too far. Perhaps I will aim for a full month, “Analogue April” perhaps?

January 18th 2019 – Huawei smartphone

So, as I approach my 1,500th consecutive daily image on 8th December I’ve been browsing through over four years of daily images and reflecting on what I’ve learnt.

2020 – my first “366”

One thing I have got into the habit of doing most days is my “insurance” shot. An image taken early on in the day, usually in or around the house, which I have in reserve just in case I am unable to get out with the camera later in the day for a more considered daily image. I rarely use them but it is reassuring to know they are there and there have been a few occasions when I’ve been grateful for the insurance.

Undoubtedly, the challenge itself provides a strong creative energy and the further into it I get the more determined I am to maintain the sequence. The completer-finisher in me helps keep me going. That said, I’m only human and there have been days when I’ve not felt like bothering but they are few and far between as the 365 has become just a part of my normal daily routine. I get up each day and each day perform the routine hygiene tasks (washing, dressing, eating etc) without really considering them a chore and my 365 image has similarly become almost part of this hygiene routine.

Horizon Kompakt and Fomapan 400 – 30th November 2020 in the rain/drizzle

I firmly believe that the challenge of trying to find a new image, and bear in mind that the majority of my 365 images are taken within a mile of my house, has sharpened my eye and I see compositions and creative opportunities more readily as a result. This has undoubtedly been a major benefit of undertaking the challenge and has also been a great help during the restrictions that we’ve put up with over the last twenty-plus months.

I mentioned earlier that I am now mainly working with film and one of the by-products of this has been playing with a range of cameras and discovering genres such as pinhole and panorama (true panoramic images not simply cropped into a 3×1 format). This variety has helped to keep the interest alive and I’ve a couple of other ideas up my sleeve for the coming months too – watch this space!

November 2021 – still experimenting (6×17 pinhole camera)

So, I continue to make a daily image and continue to enjoy the experience. Many of the images I’ve taken would not exist if it were not for the Challenge BUT there are none that I would not, with hindsight, have taken so hopefully that means I have not compromised on the quality of my photography because of this apparent focus on quantity. It’s a big undertaking undoubtedly and not one for everyone but it is now as much a part of my daily routine as eating breakfast (which I never miss). I’ve just signed up for the 2022 challenge and have my eyes set on May 2023 and image number 2000!

Until then, the next milestone comes on December 8th 2021 when the consecutive daily image tally will hit 1,500!

Zoned Out

The Zero Image 5×4 pinhole camera that I use has a rotating turret with a selection of pinholes and zone plates. Until recently I was using the basic frame which has just one pinhole and one zone plate, so as a pinhole user I set it to pinhole when I received it and never touched the turret again. However, recently I bought the deluxe version with not only a cable release but with three pinholes and three zone plates on the turret. The camera is modular and the idea is that as you add or remove additional frames (effectively changing the focal length) you slide in the appropriate sized pinhole for that focal length.

On a recent trip to Brighouse I was happily changing between pinholes as I moved between 25mm and 50mm focal lengths and as I packed the camera away I remembered to move the turret back to the 25mm setting.

Or did I?

Of course not; if I had this post wouldn’t have been written!

I next used the Zero Image in the local memorial park on Remembrance Sunday, intending to use the images for my “365” Challenge. However on developing the film all four sheets were fuzzy and not at all what I was expecting. I put it down to the lightweight tripod and the fact that I’d forgotten my cable release. I didn’t immediately spot that the negatives were rather dark, indicating over-exposure.

The following day I set out again with a sturdier tripod and two cable releases. After three sheets I decided to amend the configuration of the camera. As I went to move the pinhole in the turret for the new set-up I saw what the problem had been – when I’d reset the camera after my Brighouse outing I’d lined up not the pinhole but the zone plate!

Suddenly, all made sense. Fuzzy images and over-exposed negatives – not camera shake at all! A zone plate lets in more light than a pinhole so I’d metered “incorrectly” and zone plate images are naturally blurrier than pinhole.

So, will I be doing this regularly? Well, I hope that I won’t accidentally select a zone plate again certainly. As for the images themselves I’m not sure if they aren’t a step too far for me. I have happily embraced the soft, ethereal imagery of the pinhole but the jury is out on zone plate images. See what you think, time will tell if I deliberately set out with zone plate in mind but never say never!

Best of Both

Since I returned to using mainly film for my photography I’ve established a small darkroom in the corner of my office and have enjoyed reacquainting myself with the “dark arts”.  I’m no more than a competent darkroom printer, at best, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable aspect of the hobby.  It’s also an aspect which provides lots of opportunities for problem-solving which is something I enjoy, not least because it keeps my brain engaged.

Of necessity though I have also had to learn some digital ways, mainly so that I can share images on social media.  Even if I darkroom printed everything I’d still have to scan the prints!  So, I have had to embrace the so-called hybrid approach and I have to say I’ve enjoyed the challenge.  It was also good to refresh some of my digital skills and apply them to a negative-based media.

I was musing on this over the weekend as I was working on a 5×4 negative in the darkroom. I had made the image earlier in the week with my wooden Zero Image 5×4 pinhole camera and after developing the sheet had done a very quick copy with my digital camera. As much of my social media bound images are, this was quickly processed in Snapseed on my iPad and uploaded to Twitter. 

5×4 film negative, scanned and converted with Photoshop

The response was, for a post from me at least, phenomenal.  

I had already made up chemicals for a weekend in the darkroom but hadn’t decided which negatives to print.  I usually only print one or two negatives in a session and, allowing for domestic duties, I expected to get two sessions over the weekend which meant I would usually have earmarked three or four negatives. However, the response to my Brighouse pinhole image meant that there was no need to think too hard … it had been selected for me by my friends and colleagues on the Twitter-verse.

Saturday morning, I set up the trestle table for the developing trays, moved the safelights into position and blacked out the study cum office which as I’ve mentioned before also serves as my darkroom.  I positioned the negative in my aged Johnson V5 enlarger, composed and focused the image ready for a sheet of 8×10 paper.  Everything was ready for when I could escape the domestic chores.  I’d only need to pour out the chemicals and don my apron and I’d be away. As is my usual practice I looked at the negative projected onto the easel for a few minutes before turning off the focusing lamp and heading downstairs.

Something was nagging at me as I walked downstairs and it was whilst I was folding the washing that I realised what it was.  Whilst the digital camera had pulled every last bit of detail from the negative and the localised adjustments applied in Snapseed had created a lovely result the negative itself was horribly underexposed around the bottom and very overexposed in the centre particularly.  This would be a huge challenge for my basic skills.

After my usual test strips to get a feel for the negative I quickly realised that my concerns were real, the bottom left and the centre of the image were going to be tricky. I made a test strip from the whole negative and used this as the basis for a printing plan … which got overwritten numerous times.

Long story short, I had three sessions in the darkroom over the weekend and ended up working with just the one negative and with just one “finished” print hanging to dry overnight.  I’m definitely not finished with the negative however as I’ve not yet created a final print I am totally happy with.  I went to bed a little low but woke up reminding myself that it was a tough negative to print and that I am by no means an expert darkroom printer.  There will be another day!

Almost but not quite

It also reminded me of the importance of getting it right in-camera, something I do strive for and always have, but brought home very forcibly over the weekend.  Could I have done much more at the taking stage? Possibly, possibly not.  I was using an ambient light reading as I rarely take my spot meter out when working with pinhole cameras.  On this occasion I might have made good use of a spot meter though to accurately place the shadows on zone III but without filters the central portion would still have been over exposed.   However, there’s no mileage in playing “could’ve, should’ve” at this stage, simply add it to the store of knowledge and experience and move on.

On this occasion then, my hybrid workflow will eventually* provide me with a nice print from this negative.  I learnt a fair bit from trying to print it in the darkroom and I will no doubt learn plenty more from playing further with the negative in the darkroom; I’ve already started scribbling notes to guide my next attempt.

I’m enjoying this hybrid approach although have to say I’ve also enjoyed being in the darkroom this weekend. 

Which, all leads me to conclude that there is a lot to be said for my approach. Part-hybrid and part-traditional, I am at least able to complete my vision with a print and to me it’s not a photograph until you can hold it in your hand.


*as my regular reader might remember I do not have a digital photo-printer at the moment.  I have however ordered a small printer for this purpose and you can be sure that this will be the first image I print on it!

1+1+1=1

I’ve mentioned before that I keep the process of digitising my negatives as simple as possible. However, it is not that I am a Luddite nor that I am an incompetent, I simply prefer fresh air to a computer keyboard. My purchase of the RSS 6×17 though has meant I have needed to rethink this a little as the negatives are so large I waste over half of the sensor if I try capturing the whole negative in one go.

My previous post mentioned that I had stitched two “negatives” together to make an image with a wider field of view by harnessing the power of having a camera with top and bottom shutters. It didn’t however mention that the two files I used were each comprised of three parts which were also stitched together.

My technique was essentially the same as I would use to capture a digital panorama in the field adapted slightly for the new purpose. I adjusted the height of the camera on the copy stand until the vertical side of the negative completely filled the frame. I then made three exposures, moving the negative between each to ensure I captured the whole of the 6×17 negative (see below). Three exposures gave me a good overlap between each negative which helps the software with the stitching. Incidentally, I had photographed each portion of the negative with the same settings on the camera and at this stage I have not made any adjustment to the RAW files.

Three digital files cover the whole of the 6×17 negative

Selecting the three RAW file in Adobe Bridge I then selected the Tools menu and then Photoshop and Photomerge from the sub-menus.

Tools > Photoshop > Photomerge

I then sat back and let Photoshop do its magic and after a few moments it presented me with a stitched file with three layers. It appeared to have done a very good job of aligning everything and so I simply flattened the file and processed it as normal.

Three “scans”, one stitched file and the final result

Now, there’s no point asking me for optimal settings etcetera as I won’t know the answer! This method was intuitive and worked for me. I am sure that I will take more notice of discussions on stitching in the future so may well improve on this methodology but for now it works for me!