Scanners live in vain?
Not too much to report recently; I remain as busy as ever, but without a vast number of new commissions. C’est la vie.
Still, it’s enabled me to start work on my book, as reported a couple of posts back. I have until September to produce a synopsis, sample chapter and provide a few photographs; the photographs will enable the publishers to see whether my scanning gear is up to scratch or whether they need to get really high-resolution scans of my pictures made themselves – which would still mean my getting my scanner working to make prints for them to scan in, as the prints of my 1972 exploits were made in – well, 1972.
But I could see a problem on the horizon. My scanner is some ten years old; not only is it no longer supported by the manufacturer, the manufacturer has gone out of the photographic business altogether and now only does photocopiers (Minolta, for the uninitiated). The driver I’d got was designed to run in Windows NT; my current computer runs Windows 7 and is a 64-bit machine to boot. So I didn’t even try to load the driver and just go.
(My scanner isn’t a bog-standard flat-bed; it’s a dedicated negative/slide scanner, and it cost £450 ten years back. That made it reasonably high-end gear in 2002. The trouble is that negative scanners have gone two different ways – either you can buy a cheapo one for about £100 from the catalogues that drop out of the Sunday papers, but many of them lack proper powered film transport mechanisms, and although the reviews I’ve seen do suggest that cheap scanners can make good images – as can flatbeds that have the capacity for “transparent media” – there is the issue that I’ve got somewhere in the region of 17,000 images on film that may need scanning in the next couple of years, and ease of use and robust construction is a must that I don’t think a £100 scanner or a flatbed could manage, no matter how good the image. Alternatively, I could go out and spend £1500 on a Nikon Coolscan, but that was something I was trying to avoid.)
(Much of the rest of this post could get rather tech-y. Sorry.)
The first thing I did was Google my scanner; and as I suspected, it wasn’t going to work with Windows 7. However, the first site I visited offered a patch to make the old NT driver work with Windows 7 – or it suggested buying Vuescan. Still wanting to avoid expense, I went for the patch.
“Step 1 – install your existing driver.” So I did that – and got the error message “Unable to install because PQueen.dll is missing”.
So I Googled PQueen.dll. The first site I got was a free download of Chinese PC diagnostic software. It promised to fix the problem, but then proceeded to run a diagnostic on my whole machine which came up with a great long list of issues that the software could fix. The absence of PQueen.dll wasn’t one of them. I uninstalled that pretty quick; I’m sure it was pukka, but I just got the feeling that it was going to take me down all sorts of blind alleys and would probably pester me to buy something on a regular basis.
The second site I got was a Windows discussion board. The one thread devoted to PQueen.dll was no help at all – it dated from 2008, the expert said “I’m not familiar with that”, then the first poster came back and said “Oh, I just kept clicking through, and eventually it ended up working. I had to uninstall and re-install about 75% of my applications, though.” and then I saw that since the date of posting, the poster himself had been banned by the site admin.
At this point, I gave this approach up as a bad deal, and plumped for Vuescan, which turns out to be a generic scanner utility that supports a whole range of different scanners, old and new. You can download it for nothing, so you can install and test it and see if it works with your scanner. I did this, and found it worked perfectly – especially when it came to embedding an indelible Vuescan watermark in your pictures. So it was either $39 for the basic version, with free updates for a year, or $79 for the pro version, with free updates forever. So that was me $79 the lighter.
But it works! And works well!
Here’s one of the images I scanned (after a bit of extra Photoshop work, I admit):
Now that’s a picture I’m quite pleased with. Derby station was rebuilt about ten years ago, so it certainly doesn’t look like this anymore. And it’s only when you look at an image like this that you see how much things have changed in nearly forty years – a half-cab double decker bus in a restrained livery (though Derby’s light blue was a little modernist in 1972), Belisha beacons on the pedestrian crossing, and a high-maintenance station building with probably a lot of excess unused office space (after all, this was once the headquarters of a major railway company, and one that wished to project a certain image to its customers through the medium of its infrastructure rather than its branding). Oh, and a Rover 2000 – with twin carbs (tasty!) – making a dramatic turn into Midland Road that wouldn’t have disgraced The Sweeney even though he wasn’t chasing, or being chased by, anyone.
If anything, I think this is probably a bit better than the scans I made with the old driver; certainly, I was able to tweak the contrast up to a quite pleasing result.
So I’m all set for the next phase; decide what my subjects will be for the first chapter, select my pictures, get them scanned in and ready for reproduction, and then actually write the text to go around them. Sounds easy, but we’ll see…