two weeks ago i joined a photography club, the first time i’ve ever done so. i’m not a terribly social person, but i do appreciate having people around to talk about photography, share ideas about the medium, and, especially, take part in workshops. the biggest motivator, though, was that for the yearly fee i would have access to all of their facilities; studio space, lighting equipment, computer work stations, printers, scanners, a rental equipment pool and, best of all, a full darkroom with chemistry included!
to begin with, i figured the economics of the developing and scanning alone was worth the membership fee. the studio, the computers, the rental equipment, and the workshops were all icing on the cake. the darkroom was there, i thought, if i ever wanted to try printing. i’ve read all the books and watched documentaries about ansel adams and his darkroom mastery, and figured it was too much time and effort. it seemed too involved, and difficult, and time consuming, and archaic. complicated.
well, not really. not at all.
last thrusday the club put together a workshop; a two-part orientation about image preparation and output. part one was for digital photographers - general familiarity with photoshop - layers, tools, profiles, monitor calibration, the usual. stuff i learned over the years in class, online and from books. part two was for the film geeks - making gelatin silver prints. despite having shot film since high school, i never got around to real darkroom work, the real craft of photography.
in those two hours we learned how the enlarger worked, how the chemistry worked, how to do test strips. we made contact prints and an enlargement. we adjusted contrast, and discovered how dodging and burning worked. reading about it and seeing it in person are two different things entirely, and that’s all i needed. and now i’m hooked.
my appreciation for photography has been revitalized, and not just for the film side of things. even having just started printing in the wet darkroom, i can now fully understand what it takes to make a good print in either digital or traditional processes. they each have their advantages and frustrations, and they both take time to master. the only difference i can clearly see as of right now: i am much more satisfied when i get a silver print to come out right! and i still have a long way to go before mastering the process, but i’ll enjoy every step.
the rainy season has begun, and i now have a better way to stay dry. pictures to come…
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