Story of Italy water forms and a Nikon scanner

Fine art images of water forms captured in different situations, story that started with the purchase of a Nikon scanner.

Gonzalo Contreras del Solar
9 min readApr 17, 2021

Nikon SL8000

It was one year after the millennium; professional digital cameras were out of my reach and I was using only medium format film that had to be transferred to digital.

I could only use professional scanning services that had drum scanners, however, besides the cost per image and time taken, I had to pass the negatives or slides to a third person, which although they guaranteed to treat them with upmost care, it always had a risk.

The drum scanner needed gel to attach the negative to the transparent crystal cylinder from where the image would be scanned. Later cleaning the gel with a special liquid, which meant a lot of handling, which could damage the emulsion.

Nikon developed an affordable professional scanner with true 4000 DPI that could also scan medium format images. Obviously as soon it came out it was sold out, and only waiting lists were available.

About four months passed from this announcement; was still on waiting list with B&H and the Nikon store at Santiago.

I had to travel to Europe on an assignment for the postal office with an extensive agenda, visiting Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and the UK. Needed mobility to be able to visit some of the postal sorting centers, so I decided to rent a car at Frankfurt and drive through Europe.

Before traveling, called all professional stores of the cities I would visit requesting for the scanner, obtaining a negative answer.

My wife came along, while I’d be on meetings and presentations, she would be sightseeing, as well as shopping. In Geneva, she asked me to help her one afternoon to select some clothing at a store. If I recall it could be Manor.

On our way, I found a small shop that sold photographic equipment; by the items on the window it looked a professional store. I entered and just in case asked if they had the Nikon SL8000, expecting to have a negative answer, however they had it on display. Knowing that it was sold out around the world, felt that it could be a used demo item and decided to think it over and come at a later time.

We continued walking via Rue de la Confédération towards the clothing store where my wife wanted my recommendation. Just in front of it, there was “Photo Hall”, another photography store. Told her that she could go along and search what she wanted, and I would do a quick check at Photo Hall.

It was much larger store; I inquired for scanners and was pointed to the second floor. Asking over the counter if they carried the SL8000, I received a positive answer; astonished asked about the price, which came out to be slightly higher to B&H price. My voice hardly emitted “do you have it in stock?” followed by “do you accept credit cards?”.

Although this conversation took 2–3 minutes before my card was swiped, bringing the scanner and showing me all the items that came along with certain explanation, as well as preparing the tax certificate took some time. You can image the good humor of my wife.

Not many words were said returning to the hotel up on the hill, while I carried the huge box on the taxi.

Before returning to Calera de Tango, the scanner would start a journey by car through Europe. We had some delays entering the UK as the second war at Iraq had just began, and the border control was stricter. At Dover, they were curious about the large box and luggage we were carrying, including my Rollei 6006 and lenses bag. Recall they even asked for the name of my web page, guess they were checking online if I was saying the truth.

This impulsive event would start a journey to master my work and re-scan most of my select work, which was printed until then analogically on 50x50 cm (20x20 in) paper sizes. I used a Jobo processor for color Cibachromes and large trays for the B&W. Shortly after, the large file size (450 Megas) per image that the scanner produced, enabled me to print images up to 120x120cm (47x47 in).


Water fountain implanted on a stone wall, color painting washed out by nature
Co0633–14 — Moltracio — Lago di Como — Italy ++ Special water fountain

The following day of the memorable purchase, we departed towards Milan where I had to visit a factory. Asked the people I was visiting, to recommend a nice place that we could go during the weekend. They mentioned about Lake Como and helped booking a hotel at Moltracio which was facing the lake.

Saturday morning arrive and after having late breakfast and before going for lunch to a commented restaurant on the nearby town of Cernobbio, I went scouting for water places. There was a small scream of water adjacent to Via Durini where the hotel was located. The stream had very little water, so decided to follow up it origin.

There were a series of stairs going towards the upper part of the village. On my way I encountered this fountain with very little illumination. Gladly Fuji Velvia film was able to register many details in the 2 images I took. Only after rescanning with a newer software version I was able to extract hidden details, not visible during initial scan, which you see in the image.

Piediluco & Marmore

Few years later I was invited to do a presentation at Rome. Had been searching on the Internet for water locations near the vicinity, discovered the Marmore waterfall, which is one of the highest man-made waterfalls in Italy.

White waterfall contrasting the leafless vegetation on the right side
0804–14_2 — Marmore — Italy ++ Impresive waterfall.

It is the pre-flow of a hydro-electric power plant, operates on certain hours of the day and can be seen only at this time and for a couple of hours, so I had to plan carefully my outing.

Arriving Friday afternoon, rented a car at the Leonardo Davinci International Airport and drove towards the north. I had printed maps and instructions to get to Piediluco, the small town where I had a hotel reservation. The printed guides that I took were not that good, had to stop a few times to ask for directions, most likely I missed one of the exits. Google Maps and Waze were not yet available.

I knew from the pre-work that the waterfall operated from 10AM for 2 hours, where I had to do all the photographs before it stopped (today it can be seen for longer time starting at 11AM on a weekend).

Woke early, think I arrived at 9:30, purchased the ticket and entered the park. As I did not know which were the best places on the trail to view the waterfall, I left it to my intuition. I chose the top entrance where the water would start its fall to the emptiness for about 83 meters and then through two other falls totaling 165 meters.

On the trail to a lower area there was a balcony with a vantage view, walking towards it I had time to take a few images of icicles that were hanging from a tall rock.

I was almost alone, very few people entered the park, so I had the balcony for myself, where I placed the tripod and camera pointing to the black vertical empty granite wall, marked by some spots of ice; it was still winter and quite cold.

At 10 o’clock the sound of a siren filled my ears, and a small delicate stream of water began to spray the wall. In a few minutes the entire wall was covered with a white velvet, leaving the leafless vegetation on the sides contrast with the painted designs made by the water.

The splendid majestic roaring waterfall covered the sound of my camera which was making strange noises. It was the mist and the cold weather that blocked the film advance mechanism, and 3 rolls came out double exposed. The images I visualized as winners were lost, being this image the only one that survived, I was very disappointed. Did not know this issue until I returned and sent the film to the lab a week later.

As the wind started blowing more mist over my camera, decided to move to a lower location.

On my way down I found a place where I could take images of the waterfall from the side as well as the 2 other smaller waterfalls that followed the big one. I had to make sure that I took photographs from all angles before the water stopped. Images taken were not of my like, possibly I was not inspired enough.

Returned during the afternoon to Piediluco and from my hotel room took this image of the lake and surroundings using infrared film.

View of lake and village and surrounding mountains covered with trees, the infrared film enhances the white of the trees and the dark sky contrasting the white clouds.
0812–06 — Piediluco — Italy ++ Village and Lake surrounded with vegetating painted with infrared.

Later that evening, I was dinning at the hotel restaurant that had view of the lake, when I noticed people cheering in Italian and rushing towards the windows. I was curious and had to see what was going on…, it was snowing.

Early the following morning, the entire surrounding was white, similar to the image I took the previous day as a premonition of what would be the scene the following day.


Two days later after a presentation I made in Rome, had some time in the afternoon. Rushed to visit the Roman ruins and the Fontana di Trevi, where I took a few closeup images. Couldn’t get closer to the water fountain as the guards would not allow anyone.

Fountain water detail with an orange rock contrasting the blue bottom of the Fontan di Trevi
0816–14 — Rome — Italy ++ Fontana di Trevi detail

Although I am not very happy with this image of the fountain, many people liked it.

Walking back on Via di San Pietro in Carcers, I found this fountain, which reminded me of the fountain at Lake Como, image I took 4 years earlier.

Mounted my tripod and camera, making sure they were all strapped to my belt (as I do in large cities). I did not want to start chasing someone that accidentally thought that the expensive camera was free to take.
As the fountain was near the top of a hill, many children and tourists stopped to drink water. I had to wait a long time to have the fountain with no people. Two policemen were uneasy watching at a person just standing and waiting, strapped to a tripod and camera.

After scanning this image, I decided to apply the Sabattier effect, using digital solarization and printed on large size canvas; however I like both versions.

Surreal image of a water fountain in pale blue, dark orange.
0815–09/1 — Rome — Italy — Solarize water fountain

The Nikon SL8000 scanner became a new milestone in my carrier, similar to when I started using a Medium format camera. It changed my photography workflow, learned new techniques and started a project to re-scan a selection of images which took many months and lots and lots of diskspace.

Curiously each time I visited Italy, unconsciously photographed water fountains. Although I now work with a digital camera, I still use the Nikon scanner from time to time, whether I capture new images with my Rollei 6008 or scan an old image of my catalog that I might not have liked the first time.

Note: While preparing the post found out that the store in Geneva, Photo Hall appears to be closed permanently, the same happens with the hotel at Lake Como.

Rollei 6006
Lens Plannar 80mm + Sky filter
120 Velvia RVP 50 ASA film
1/8 at 2.8
GPS 45.861903, 9.099606

Lens Sonnar 150mm + Sky filter
120 Velvia 100F 100 ASA film
1/125 at 4.0
GPS 42.551583, 12.714139

Lens Plannar 80mm + Infrared filter 695
120 Maco IR820c 25 ASA film
1/30 at 4.0
GPS 42.537286, 12.749206

Lens Sonnar 150mm + Sky filter
120 Velvia 100F 100 ASA film
1/125 at 4.0
GPS 41.901067, 12.483475

Lens Sonnar 150mm + Sky filter
120 Velvia 100F 100 ASA film
1/125 at 4.0
GPS 41.893322, 12.483853



Gonzalo Contreras del Solar

Passionate photographer portraying Water since 1977. Sharing his stories while capturing the vital element on film & digital.