Masters of the darkroom

These two articles bring me back to my 4×5 and 35mm darkroom printing days:

Magnum and the Dying Art of Darkroom Printing

Marked Up Photographs Show How Iconic Prints Were Edited in the Darkroom

B&W dodged and burned Arizona Memorial

B&W dodged and burned Arizona Memorial

My dad, brother and I converted my old bedroom at my parents’ house into a dark room.  It took some time to get the setup right but we finally got it going in the late 90’s.  I had quite a good time in there developing film and printing negatives.

There was a lot of work to black and white printing, as you see in the above two articles.  It’s not just getting the film to the right density and then cooking some paper through it.  These articles talk about the dodging and burning process but don’t go over the paper grading, test strips, water washing and all the other minutia that goes into making a great print.  As I worked in the dark room, I soon realized that it would take a great deal of time to become very good at it.

Power Retouche B&W convert

Power Retouche B&W convert, no darkroom work yet

We had the enlarger, several lenses, and a complete processing system to get water into and out of the bedroom.  It took a little piping and rerouting but end the end it worked brilliantly.  Thank goodness for powerful sump pumps.

Ultimately, once I purchased my first DSLR, a Nikon D70, my film days ended.  As much as I liked shooting film, the cost of it (without processing!) during a 3 week trip to China matched the cost of the D70.  On top of that, the $7/roll processing cost for the Fuji Velvia, Kodak E100VS and rolls of high-speed B&W made the D70 cost a no brainer.  Then there was the joy of scanning and tweaking each one of those slides.  Onto digital I went.

Now, with great Photoshop CS6 plugins like Power Retouche B&W Studio, I can harken back to my black and white film days.  The only thing missing is the smell of the chemicals.  There was just something about it that made you feel like a mad chemist and physicist artist all at once.

How I miss those days.

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