Back In The Saddle, Again…

IMG_0651 WPThe way I’ve been working with film is a hybrid process. I shoot film, develop it, then scan it for the digital images I use on the Web.

For 35mm, I primarily shoot bulk loaded black and white, which cuts my film costs considerably. I buy medium format film online for my Yashica Mat 124; Fuji Neopan Acros 120 black and white, and the occasional roll of Kodak’s wonderful 220 color film, Portra 160. If there was a reasonable way to bulk load 120, or preferably, 220 film at home, I would do it. 

The hybrid process works well for my main purpose, that of providing photographs for this blog. But it is not the only advantage to shooting film.

  • My “old” SLR cameras allow me to shoot “full frame” 35mm images at a relatively low cost.
  • My medium format film is of even higher resolution than the 35mm. Big, beautiful negatives.
  • Shooting film slows down my shooting process and I get a higher number of “keepers” (relative to digital), because I don’t want to waste film and I take more time with each frame I shoot.
  • I simply prefer shooting film. Despite the relative slowness of the process, I enjoy it more than shooting digital.

But there is a down side to my hybrid process. I end up with digital files on the computer. Sometimes I’d like to have a print to hang on the wall, so I could occasionally look at it.

There are a couple solutions to that problem, of course. I could send my negatives or digital scans of them to a One Hour or Pro lab and have someone else print them, then charge me for the service. But I’d rather do it myself and have some control of the way the prints come out.

During the past couple weeks I went to The Darkroom @ Division 9 twice and re-familiarized myself with the analog printmaking process. Though I did quite a bit of darkroom work during my two and a half decades in the offset printing business, other than contact proofs, I hadn’t printed photographic positives since 1971 in my college printing class. It is like riding a bike. A little memory will have you rolling down the road in no time.

During that two week period I also committed myself to building a darkroom. I bought a Beseler photographic enlarger, lens, timer, and a safe light from and with the help of Dan Kagle, the owner of The Darkroom. That is pretty much the main equipment components I need. It may take a couple months to put it all together and arrange the corner of the garage to get the darkroom up and running.

The photograph above, made with a Canon PowerShot A400,  is of some of my test prints: the results of a few hours in the dark, dialing in exposure times, etc. I’m quite happy with my recent time fumbling around at The Darkroom, and with the generous help I got from Dan. I feel like “I’m back in the saddle, again…”.  

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