DAILY POST: Kodachrome Afternoon at West Springfield, February 1986


Making and old Slide Even Better.

Conrail
Conrail’s sunday TV9 departs West Springfield yard at 3:55 pm on February 9, 1986. The film had a decidedly red color bias (Kodachrome as it aged tended to shift towards the red). This has resulted in a pinkish cast that is especially noticeable in the snow. The image is also off-level. I corrected these problems and others after scanning the slide. See below.

Here we have a typically New England scene; a fresh blanket of snow has fallen and the sky has cleared to a clear blue dome. Perfect light right?

Not exactly. The great contrast between the brilliant bright snow and the shadow areas makes for a difficult exposure. Complicating matters was Conrail’s rich blue paint.

While I was fortunate to catch Conrail’s TV9 leaving West Springfield Yard, I faced an exposure conundrum. If I exposed for the train, I risked grossly over exposing the snow, furthermore if I simply set the camera based on the snow on the ground, I’d end up with a pretty dark slide.

In the end I compromised, and stopped down enough to retain detail in the snow, while leaving the rest of the scene reasonably exposed.

However, 28 years later I’m still not satisfied with the slide.

There are three problems. I was concentrating on the exposure and the moving train (while trying to manipulate two cameras simultaneously) and I missed the level by about two degrees. Secondly, the Kodachrome film had a decidedly red bias, which resulted in pinkish snow (hardly what my eye saw that day).

I was easily able to correct these flaws after scanning the slide. I imported it into Photoshop and made three changes.

1) I cropped and rotated the image to correct for level.

2) Using the red-cyan color balance sliders, I shifted the highlights and mid-tone areas to toward cyan to minimize the excessive red in the scene. (cyan is the color opposite of red)

3) I made a localized contrast adjustment on the locomotives by outlining the area I wanted to change and then making a slight change using the curves feature.

I’ve illustrated the original unmodified scan two intermediate steps and the final image.

Here I've corrected the level; and using the color balance sliders I've shifted the color balance in the highlight and mid-tone areas to eliminate the pink-cast.
Here I’ve corrected the level; and using the color balance sliders I’ve shifted the color balance in the highlight and mid-tone areas to eliminate the pink-cast.
The last step requires a subtle localized contrast adjustment. I selected the area to be adjusted and made a very minor change to the contrast and color balance. For this example I've grossly exaggerated the area selected strictly to illustrate where I've made the changes.
The last step requires a subtle localized contrast adjustment. I selected the area to be adjusted and made a very minor change to the contrast and color balance. For this example I’ve grossly exaggerated the selected-area strictly to illustrate where I’ve made the changes. Obviously the extreme contrast change looks absurd when viewed out of context.
Here's the final image. One last change require the use of the burning tool; I made a few light passes around the seem between the area of localized contrast change to minimize the effect. My feeling is that if you can quickly perceive the adjustment, then the effect is too extreme.
Here’s the final image. One last change require the use of the burning tool; I made a few light passes around the seam between the area of localized contrast change to minimize the effect. My feeling is that if you can quickly perceive the adjustment, then the effect is too extreme.

 

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3 thoughts on “DAILY POST: Kodachrome Afternoon at West Springfield, February 1986”

  1. The final result looks perfect, even if not happy with original slide, the ground work is there with the original slide and is very adoptable with modern techology that you hadn’d got available in 1986, the moral of your story Brian, don’t bin them old slides that disappointed us many years ago.

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