Skip to main content

Film Processing: The Thrill is Gone

My last post, "Digital vs. Film: The Process of Taking Pictures", inspired a comment from octo. I'm going to quote several good points he made and then my response. Octo lead off by offering a solution to the film development issue in the second process flow:
One way to deal with the processing delay issue is to just shoot B&W and process it yourself.
Let me begin to answer this by relating a little personal history.

From 1973 to 1979 I was a darkroom rat. During that period I learned how to process and print in black and white, color print, and color transparency. I learned those skills by supporting darkrooms at two colleges I attended as well as several labs I worked at.

My black and white darkroom skills came from using Kodak and Ilford chemicals, films and papers. I learned quite a bit, most of which I've conveniently forgotten over the years. I was so into black and white during that period I would buy Tri-X in bulk and print paper by the gross. I'd run roll after roll of Tri-X through my Minoltas (an SRT-SC and XE-7) and then spend hours in the darkroom printing contact sheets and enlargements through Beselers using my own personal set of Nikkor enlarging lenses. I learned bulk loading, winding my film onto steel reels in mere seconds, pushing and pulling, the differences (subtle and not so subtle) between HC-110 and D-76, and the fine art of dodging and burning. I quickly added 120/220 black and white shooting using a Mamiya c330.

I was Cool. I was selling my work (as it would later turn out, for not nearly enough), and I thought I Had Arrived. Life just couldn't get any better.

Time marched on and I learned color development with my second darkroom job. In that lab color development was pretty well automated and devoted specifically to print. I'd load the reels with film (and later, just feed them into an automated film developer) and let the machines handle the fine details of proper development. It was my responsibility to make sure that the machine's filters were clean and the chemicals at proper purity and temperature. The magic, such as it was, occurred during printing.

Transparency was a little more proscribed. We'd send out the transparency film to a bigger lab for processing (especially Kodachrome *sob*), then print them locally as the customers desired, primarily on Cibachrome paper.

Bottom line: after seven long crazy years of working and sometimes living in darkrooms, when I finally walked out of my last darkroom in 1979 I never had any desire to walk into another. I have never since felt, and never will feel, any desire to build one in my house either.

Familiarity didn't breed contempt but outright rebellion against being tied down to that system and all it implied.

Octo also mentioned using Nikon film scanners (a Coolscan 9000 and Coolscan V) for scanning negatives and slides. I went looking on the web for information on both those scanners. Their prices took my breath away.

My attitude towards film development has evolved over the year until it follows Henri Cartier-Bresson's, who didn't develop his own film and prints but depended on others to produce the final product. Considering his place in photographic history, that probably wasn't a bad decision.

One of my favorite photographers, Jim Marshall, is renowned not for his darkroom skills (and I'm pretty sure he sent his work out to be developed like Bresson) or even the brand of camera he used (which was Leica, by the way), but for the powerful body of work he created. Carter and Marshall and so many others created their photography in their minds and then in the viewfinder of their cameras. Not in the darkroom. Either the image is there, or its not. No amount of darkroom magic will make a purse out of a sow's ear.

One of Jim Marshall's M4 Leicas

I think it's time for me to rethink my "processes" a bit, to streamline them and just live with what a lab delivers. I can man-up and live with the delay and save a hell of a lot of money. It's not like the world will come to some horrible end because I can't get my results right now. The idea of buying an expensive Nikon scanner (or even a cheaper brand) is another anchor I refuse to tie around myself. For some irrational reason, a reminder of a darkroom past I refuse to relive.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Decade Long Religious Con Job

I rarely write inflammatory (what some might call trolling) titles to a post, but this building you see before you deserves it. I've been seeing this building next to I-4 just east of Altamonte/436 and Crane's Roost for nearly 12 years, and never knew who owned it. Today on a trip up to Lake Mary with my wife I saw it yet again. That's when I told her I wanted to stop by on the way back and poke around the property, and photograph any parts of it if I could.

What I discovered was this still unfinished eighteen story (I counted) white elephant, overgrown with weeds and yet still under slow-motion construction. It looks impressive with its exterior glass curtain walls, but that impression is quickly lost when you see the unfinished lower stories and look inside to the unfinished interior spaces.

A quick check via Google leads to an article written in 2010 by the Orlando Sentinel about the Majesty Tower. Based on what I read in the article it's owned by SuperChannel 55 WA…

first night for the gingersnaps

The first night has passed and the two have managed to survive, in spite of what their tiny hearts might have thought when first arriving. Greebo, the larger of the two, has been in hiding the entire time so far. Ponder has spent the time zipping in and out of hiding spots, checking things out, and learning just how comfortable pillows are for resting your head.

During the night I felt the tiny body of Ponder hitting the bed as he leaped up on the side, and then climbed to the top to run around on top of me. At least once he play-attacked my fingers. He might be small but his claws are still quite sharp.

When I got up in the morning the bowl of cat kitten food was fairly well depleted. It's been refilled and fresh water put in the big dish on the floor. I'm assuming that both Greebo and Ponder are feeding and drinking. I have seen Greebo under the furniture peeking out at me when I went looking for him. I'm leaving him alone while he continues to adjust.

So far the guys h…

cat-in-a-box channels greta garbo

So I'm sitting at my computer, when I start to notice a racket in back. I ignore it for a while until I hear a load "thump!", as if something had been dropped on the floor, followed by a lot of loud rattling. I turn around and see Lucy in the box just having a grand old time, rolling around and rattling that box a good one. I grab the GX1 and snap a few shots before she notices me and the camera, then leaps out and back into her chair (which used to be my chair before she decided it was her chair).

Just like caring for Katie my black Lab taught me about dogs, caring for Lucy is teaching me about cats. She finds me fascinating, as I do her. And she expresses great affection and love toward me without coaxing. I try to return the affection and love, but she is a cat, and she takes a bat at me on occasion, although I think that's just her being playful. She always has her claws in when she does that.

She sits next to me during the evening in her chair while I sit in mi…