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Roger Hicks -- Author of The Rangefinder Book

Roger Hicks is a well known photographic writer, author of The Rangefinder Book, over three dozen other photographic books, and a frequent contributor to Shutterbug and Amateur Photographer. Unusually in today's photographic world, most of his camera reviews are film cameras, especially rangefinders. See www.rogerandfrances.com for further background (Frances is his wife Frances Schultz, acknowledged darkroom addict and fellow Shutterbug contributor) .


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Old 12-24-2011   #81
Bob Ross
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When I retired in 98 the plan was to move to a cost efficient local get a house which would finally have a dedicated dark room. Other plans were to go mostly medium format.
Then I awoken to : "NEVER MORE ... NEVER MORE" quoth the Great Pixel from its high perch in the mystic silicon forest, as the virtual razor sharp pendulum was released and passed through me at the speed of light, severing all desires to smell those smells, suffer expired shelf lives, looking for the traces of dust and hairs, overnight dry downs ....and curled prints.

Tis furthur proof that if you want to amuse the Godess, show her your plans .....
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Old 12-24-2011   #82
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I had a darkroom in the bathroom in my parents' basement from about age 12-15. To put it mildly, I was terrible at printing, but it was a good way to get girls alone with me in a dark room. Eventually word got around as to what I really intended would develop down there, but by then I got my driver license and bought a car, so the enlarger and trays went into a box in the garage and it got given away years later when my parents sold the house.

I still have film developing stuff though, for the odd chance I might wax nostalgic and want to trot out one of my old film cameras. Hasn't happened in a few years though.
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Old 12-24-2011   #83
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.......I never enjoyed the darkroom. It was a means to an end...a print. Digital and Photoshop were a ray of sunshine and I really enjoy digital printing. So I dismantled my personal darkroom almost a decade ago, and have no nostalgia for the "good ole days" at all.
I've struggled with the idea of what's the "best" way to produce a print for quite awhile. Darkroom?.....Computer?..... I don't think it matters. What does matter is that I am a better photographer when I use digital cameras and digital printing methods. It's as simple as that. I still use and love film but I process my films digitally. I still love the darkroom but just don't find it a useful place any longer...sadly.

Digital and Photoshop are indeed a ray of sunshine!
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Old 12-24-2011   #84
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The only threat to my darkroom is the cost of property in the UK and so the additional space required. I am shooting more and more digital but still believe the silver print has a long way to go.
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Old 12-24-2011   #85
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I souped 8 rolls earlier today and will print a few in a bit after dinner.

I picked up another Omega D2 off craigslist a few days ago and will test it out this evening...
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Old 12-28-2011   #86
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Well, I want to get back in to the darkroom. I have what I need, except for time. I don't really do digital prints either very much, except small prints for our family photo album. We still enjoy looking at that. My wife enjoys looking at that, but has no use for looking at a photo on a monitor.

I envy those who have the time to do prints in a darkroom. Especially b/w.
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Old 12-28-2011   #87
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Years ago, my wife worked at a prestigious prep school, which had a darkroom with half a dozen high end enlargers. The bulb went out in one of them, and the motor that ran the head up-and-down the column "burned out", so they replaced it and set it out in the trash (this was a very high end school and enlarger). My wife picked it up off the curb and brought it home. I replaced the bulb and repaired the wire going to the motor (where the problem actually was) and it was working fine. But I've never had the space available to designate as a darkroom, even on a temporary basis, and eventually I gave it to my dad, who sold it. So I gave up wet printing before actually starting.

I also recently turned down a 22" wide inkjet that was surplus at my work for lack of space at home.
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Bye bye darkroom
Old 12-28-2011   #88
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Bye bye darkroom

I've been piddling in Dektol since I was 8. My father always had a nice set up in the house and a huge one where he worked.

I suppose I would stay with spending those nice sunny spring days in and awful darkroom with dim yellow lights, but I wanted to get laid and shoot and print color: the end of my story.
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Old 12-28-2011   #89
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My only option is a wet darkroom. I shoot large format, 5x7 and 8x10 film and wetplate. I love it and the results. I'm not going to buy an expensive scanner and printer to try to do 8x10 negatives, when I get great results cheaply the original way. And I enjoy spending a couple hours in the red light a week. Yesterday's work: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garrett...7861/lightbox/

However after a 20 year hiatus from dev/printing 35mm, I tried that the past year. No thanks, now I remember the hassle of loading those tiny reels, getting poor development, dust, and junk, just to get tiny thumbnail negatives I cannot even see without a loop. I shoot 35mm occasionally for nostalgia and fun of using old equipment. Not to expect anything printable, at least by me. I get the few remaining labs to do a roll here and there.
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Old 02-16-2012   #90
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Unfortunately, the room that was my darkroom also had other uses. Therefore, the darkroom had to be set up and broken down every time I wanted to print. It was a PIA so printing was limited to only occasionally and the sessions were long. At the end of each session, my back and neck were killing me. Doctors advised I had arthritis in my spine. I had to have neck surgery. I kept telling myself that as soon as I could retire from my "day job" I would be able to take more time for printing so I essentially stopped using the darkroom while I prepared for a future retirement. In the interim, I shot and printed digitally and learned to like the results. I retired two years ago. The darkroom had not been used for well over two years prior to that.

Last year I finally tossed out all the out-of-date chemicals and photo paper, packed up the enlarger and accessories and stored it all away. Recently I sold my two Leicas, their lenses and what other film-based equipment that still had any marketable value. I found someone who still was interested in shooting film and made him a gift of several hundred rolls of medium format and 35mm film I had kept stored in the freezer.

Once I determined I could make photographs digitally that were as satisfactory to me as those I made with film and chemicals, the wet darkroom was simply artifact.
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Old 02-17-2012   #91
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About 6 years ago, I decided I wanted to start selling prints as fine art as I was getting requests for them on a regular basis. I also wanted to have it be no where near what everybody else uses in life for everything, a computer.

So I started buying film and film cameras and in 2008, buying darkroom equipment mainly due to the fact that a friend of mine offered up some 250 square feet of his basement. We even started framing it, plumbing, etc…..but it was a rental, I should have known better, it fell through early last year. So the darkroom equipment went in storage. A couple of years before that, I embarked on a couple of essays and a book project currently underway, all in black and white. I scanned in the images to at least get a feel for them and show them to friends. Many wanted prints right off the bat, but I did not want to drift from my principal of doing it in a hand made fashion, so I told them to just wait until I get my darkroom going.

The two black and white images the ones that people requested the most, the Black Canyon image is a storm brewing behind the backdrop of the Western Slope of Colorado with the 2,200 foot chasm of the canyon spotlit below, the other is an incredibly beautiful but seldom visited place in the Rockies shot on Agfa APX25 using a 10 stop ND filter to yield exposures of several minutes in daylight. I did very little if anything to the images in post due to the notion that darkroom printing was said to be *much* harder and figured why make it impossible to replicate with a real hand made print?

For the first time in 28 years, I have a darkroom and a damn good one, ready for full production up to 16 x 20..in a 15 square foot space in my gear locker, next to my film fridge with over 2,500 rolls of 35mm and 120 film in my 880 square foot 2 bedroom apartment. We have a diverter valve on the shower head for a archival print washer, the mount press and paper dryer is in the office as are everything else photo related. Space is tight, but it works really really well.

I was kind of dreading how hard it might be to get prints to the point that I felt I could print an edition and sell them, so I did not expect much. About a week ago, I checked the alignment on the enlarger, tested everything out and printed a couple of tests on RC paper. It worked great, just like the old days some 28 years ago. The next night, I got out the neg of the mountain scene and ran a couple of test strips and in just over two hours, had printed half the edition of 45 prints in 10" x 10" to utter perfection. I was floored, not only was the print flat out stunning, it was far easier than I remembered or what I had read. Two nights ago, I finished the edition and started on the other shot of the canyon. It required a bit more work in a three step printing and dodging session but it is coming along nicely and just like the other print, it is far better than anything I could get digitally…it just breathes something different to who ever I show it to.

Needless to say, I am already selling prints and making good money. So while I may use digital output for the small portion of color fine art I do, there is no way in hell I am using digital anything for black and white.

I like hand made things and could not imagine the day an oil painter no longer uses a paint brush in his hand, but instead a robot holding it on the end of a Mac using Illustrator. Film and the real darkroom is the future of my career, I am so grateful I stuck it out and did not take the easy way out.

Life is not the destination but the journey, it matters how you spend your time in your short life. The print may be the end result, but the journey I take in getting there also matters to me, especially when everyone else is doing it using tools nearly anyone can master.
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Old 02-17-2012   #92
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KM-25 View Post
. . . Film and the real darkroom is the future of my career, I am so grateful I stuck it out and did not take the easy way out.

Life is not the destination but the journey, it matters how you spend your time in your short life. . .
That's my feeling. "Efficiency" is much overrated. Who wants to make love more "efficiently"? Or to eat more "efficiently"?

Quality of life is worth pursuing for its own sake, and if quality of results is a bonus, it'd be crazy to argue.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 02-17-2012   #93
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I didnít quit the darkroom because sheet film for my old 8x10 view is cheaper than an 80 megapixel, medium format digital camera. And, although I think it has to do with perceived rarity and a higher price rather than a better print, galleries often want silver prints rather than inkjet. But I sure am spending less time in the darkroom, much less.
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Old 02-17-2012   #94
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My darkroom was my sanctum. I had a friend make a custom sink, I had a very small tv, used to do my bills there. I really miss the smell. I was very proud of that 50-60 square feet.
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Old 02-17-2012   #95
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I love the darkroom, the film developing and printing creativity. The ability to make large prints I greatly enjoy. But, if you are a patient like me who has completed leukemia treatment in July 2011 and needs to wait for bone marrow recovery due to chemotherapy damage, then avoiding darkroom chemicals feels like the right thing....for now.
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Old 02-17-2012   #96
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dektol Dan View Post
I suppose I would stay with spending those nice sunny spring days in and awful darkroom with dim yellow lights, but I wanted to get laid and shoot and print color: the end of my story.
Who says you can't get laid in your darkroom?

Chris
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Old 02-20-2012   #97
Roger Hicks
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisPlatt View Post
Who says you can't get laid in your darkroom?

Chris
Dear Chris,

That brought back happy memories of more than 40 years ago. Maybe we should establish a variant of the Mile High Club.

It helps to be young and athletic, of course, but you have the ENORMOUS advantage that your parents can't come in because you're loading film. Or something.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 02-20-2012   #98
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Biggest smile of the day! Thank you for bringing back that memory. In my High School it was the only place that was effectively sealed off from authority figures. And it had an amazing ventilation system.

Oh, and I certainly haven't quit, just don't have the time I used to have for such things.

Quote:
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Dear Chris,

That brought back happy memories of more than 40 years ago. Maybe we should establish a variant of the Mile High Club.

It helps to be young and athletic, of course, but you have the ENORMOUS advantage that your parents can't come in because you're loading film. Or something.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 02-20-2012   #99
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Oh, and I certainly haven't quit, just don't have the time I used to have for such things.
Which...?

That's three members for the club. Maybe we should have a bumper sticker made: PHOTOGRAPHERS DO IT UNDER SAFELIGHT.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 02-21-2012   #100
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Indeed, just try that in your "digital darkroom"!

Time spent in the darkroom (a real darkroom, that is)
is always time well spent, no matter what you're doing.

Chris
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Old 02-21-2012   #101
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I quit after I'd been using Photoshop for a while at work, and realized that it did a lot more of what I wanted to do than I could easily do in the darkroom, and once you'd done it, it was done. I kept my film cameras and scanned for a while, happily, until the Nikon D300, at which point I felt digital had eclipsed film for much of what I did. Only recently am I getting back into film, just for personal work, but I doubt I'll put a darkroom back together, because of what Photoshop offers me.
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Old 02-22-2012   #102
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I found that the moment of truth came when m8 arrived in mid-2007.
After then, I found that I just stopped using my film cameras and the darkroom was being used less and less. I liked the convenience of digital and the image quality was good enough, though not necessarily better. Plus, I could walk around with a camera and 2GB card and have the equivalent of five rolls of film available, with the option of changing ISO as and when needed. So less to carry around too!

On occasions, I do miss the darkroom and all the paraphernalia, but not enough to tempt me back.
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Old 02-23-2012   #103
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I didn't quit the wet darkroom. It just suddenly became unavailable to me just when I started to become fascinated (addicted to) with it. In the mean time, I'm learning and practicing as much as I can with C41 film and look forward to someday going back to the darkroom to print those 40 rolls of my beginner shots, but with more of a grasp on what i'm doing overall.
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Old 04-24-2012   #104
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I have taken an enforced break from wet printing as time, space and money do not permit me to have my darkroom set up at the moment. I have opted instead for a hybrid workflow and have just started negative scanning as a way to economically keep shooting film.
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Old 04-24-2012   #105
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Sensitivities to something in the chemistry. I little itchy bumps on my hands now when I wash dishes. There's some ingredient that is common in both photo chemistry and dish soap. At least I think. Who knows? Maybe I have two separate allergies.
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Old 04-24-2012   #106
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Moving to a rental in Melbourne did it for me

The darkroom inventory is in storage in good old Belgium and I miss it dearly (both actually).

I know there are two club darkrooms I could use here but haven't got around to visit them yet. My own darkroom was my sanctum... @ Roger +1 for the club.
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Old 04-24-2012   #107
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I spent enough time in labs professionally, both for others, doing production, and for my own businesses, that I became bored and sick of it. It was digital, and the possibility of never having to go into a darkroom ever again, that got me BACK into photography. One day, not having printed anything for several years, I called the local photography school, and some kid came over and trucked it all away. I was SO relieved.

Darkroom work isn't really photography--it's the nasty housekeeping after photography. That's why so many pros have someone doing their printing, and no one disparages them for it, do they?
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Old 04-25-2012   #108
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Damn, this thread is bad! I have no space in my rental apartment for a darkroom, and I'm too lazy to always set up a temporary one, and I "never" find the time to go the rental darkroom in town...

But I still develop my own films in my bathroom, and this thread makes me so want to find a solution to put a small permanent darkroom somewhere in my apartment. Because I believe I would print much more often then.

Every time I consider going digital for good, or even just hybrid, I take out my little box with the keeper prints, and then there is just no way to give that up...
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Old 04-25-2012   #109
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
And of course, silver halide is what most people use, most of the time, for minilab prints, so in the mass market it's pretty lively too. The prints are 'written' to silver halide colour paper, even from digital originals.
Very quietly, Fuji and Noritsu stopped the manufacture of optical mini-labs using the Fuji Hunt CP-RA Process or RA-4 type processes.

These systems are all now laser-based in any case, so not traditional optical repros.

Fuji is now manufacturing exclusively dry inkjet and thermal. In about 5 years all servicing will stop for the wet mini-lab systems. It will then be a salvage market.

This is all about the economics as the dry systems are much less costly and easier to service and train staff on. This is where the demand resides at the mass market, commercial display, and for archival quality.
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Old 05-12-2012   #110
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Very quietly, Fuji and Noritsu stopped the manufacture of optical mini-labs using the Fuji Hunt CP-RA Process or RA-4 type processes.
This happened more than 10 years ago. Optical printing (with enlarging lens) has been replaced with scanning and laser exposure in the minilab machines.
But it is still printing on silver-halide RA-4 paper.

Quote:
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Fuji is now manufacturing exclusively dry inkjet and thermal.
Nonsense. My local minilab has just received a new machine with RA-4 printing. These machines are still offered by Fuji.

Minilabs have never been the mass market for RA-4 printing.
That have always been the big mass labs.
And they are concentrating on RA-4 paper. Because it has best quality, and by far the lowest costs. The productivity of RA-4 is unbeatable: Exposing one print is all done in a fraction of a second with the current Lambda machines. That is impossible with inkjet and thermal. They cannot compete in output/productivity and costs.
Just look at the quarterly reports of CeWe Holding, the biggest mass lab in Europe:
Their core business is doing prints from digital files: And that is done on traditional RA-4 color negative paper.
This company alone is making billions of prints (look at their public reports) on RA-4 paper each year.
And this business is increasing.

Cheers, Jan

P.S. To the original question: I have never quit working in my wet darkroom. It's fun, quality is awesome and it is very relaxing compared to my daily work in job as an engineer, which requires much computer work. I don't want to be a computer slave, so in my leisure time I prefer action without a computer.
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Old 05-12-2012   #111
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Stopped printing in 1971. I ran off to college and my father reclaimed his garage. Now, film developing and scanning. A darkroom interests me, but no time. Caught in the economic downturn and having to work hard to keep afloat.
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Old 05-12-2012   #112
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Because I've been in there the last 4 hours and I'm hungry...
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Old 05-12-2012   #113
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I have been printing 8x10 and 11x14 from 35mm negatives off and on for a decent amount of time (2 years). I never improved that much though (and never really tried to).
The addiction grabbed me when I first printed a 6x4.5 medium format negative to 16x20. Now I am fully hooked.
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Old 05-12-2012   #114
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A cat in the darkroom? You, sir, are a masochist!

Quote:
Originally Posted by KM-25 View Post
About 6 years ago, I decided I wanted to start selling prints as fine art as I was getting requests for them on a regular basis. I also wanted to have it be no where near what everybody else uses in life for everything, a computer.

So I started buying film and film cameras and in 2008, buying darkroom equipment mainly due to the fact that a friend of mine offered up some 250 square feet of his basement. We even started framing it, plumbing, etc…..but it was a rental, I should have known better, it fell through early last year. So the darkroom equipment went in storage. A couple of years before that, I embarked on a couple of essays and a book project currently underway, all in black and white. I scanned in the images to at least get a feel for them and show them to friends. Many wanted prints right off the bat, but I did not want to drift from my principal of doing it in a hand made fashion, so I told them to just wait until I get my darkroom going.

The two black and white images the ones that people requested the most, the Black Canyon image is a storm brewing behind the backdrop of the Western Slope of Colorado with the 2,200 foot chasm of the canyon spotlit below, the other is an incredibly beautiful but seldom visited place in the Rockies shot on Agfa APX25 using a 10 stop ND filter to yield exposures of several minutes in daylight. I did very little if anything to the images in post due to the notion that darkroom printing was said to be *much* harder and figured why make it impossible to replicate with a real hand made print?

For the first time in 28 years, I have a darkroom and a damn good one, ready for full production up to 16 x 20..in a 15 square foot space in my gear locker, next to my film fridge with over 2,500 rolls of 35mm and 120 film in my 880 square foot 2 bedroom apartment. We have a diverter valve on the shower head for a archival print washer, the mount press and paper dryer is in the office as are everything else photo related. Space is tight, but it works really really well.

I was kind of dreading how hard it might be to get prints to the point that I felt I could print an edition and sell them, so I did not expect much. About a week ago, I checked the alignment on the enlarger, tested everything out and printed a couple of tests on RC paper. It worked great, just like the old days some 28 years ago. The next night, I got out the neg of the mountain scene and ran a couple of test strips and in just over two hours, had printed half the edition of 45 prints in 10" x 10" to utter perfection. I was floored, not only was the print flat out stunning, it was far easier than I remembered or what I had read. Two nights ago, I finished the edition and started on the other shot of the canyon. It required a bit more work in a three step printing and dodging session but it is coming along nicely and just like the other print, it is far better than anything I could get digitally…it just breathes something different to who ever I show it to.

Needless to say, I am already selling prints and making good money. So while I may use digital output for the small portion of color fine art I do, there is no way in hell I am using digital anything for black and white.

I like hand made things and could not imagine the day an oil painter no longer uses a paint brush in his hand, but instead a robot holding it on the end of a Mac using Illustrator. Film and the real darkroom is the future of my career, I am so grateful I stuck it out and did not take the easy way out.

Life is not the destination but the journey, it matters how you spend your time in your short life. The print may be the end result, but the journey I take in getting there also matters to me, especially when everyone else is doing it using tools nearly anyone can master.
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Old 06-14-2012   #115
kanzlr
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it is just nicer to sit in front of my computer and print on my Epson than to spend time in a stinky darkroom.
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Old 06-14-2012   #116
telemetre
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Even though I am a mediocre printer at best, I have no plans to quit my (wet) darkroom.
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Missing the Darkroom
Old 06-14-2012   #117
SteveHicks
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Missing the Darkroom

I printed in a darkroom room that I put up in a spare bathroom for years. I have also spent time and money at several workshops with master printers.

Sadly, I no longer have a darkroom, but I am convinced that the skill set one gains in a wet darkroom is a huge advantage. Just as image capture with a view camera forces one to slow down and carefully step through an image, print making with photographic materials teaches insights about image making that are maybe not so apparent in the digital world.
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Old 06-14-2012   #118
reagan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bwcolor View Post
Stopped printing in 1971. I ran off to college and my father reclaimed his garage.
Ha! Ya, it was 1972 and dad's basement for me. I (a) went to college, (b) discovered girls (there weren't any in my basement darkroom during high school) and then, the inevitable, (c) I lost my way back home.

I was never really very good in the darkroom. Self-taught from public library books with no one that I knew in our small town to ask for advice/guidance, I found the "learn-from-your-mistakes" method very frustrating. In college, commercial art courses that involved photography, I jumped at, then opted out of darkroom duties. It was fun in the day, but I don't miss it much.

However, from the looks of it, if I'm going to continue enjoying film, I might reconsider, at least, following your developing & scanning efforts.
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Old 06-14-2012   #119
figfoto
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I printed in the darkroom and painted with Marshall Photo oils for years. Compared to the digital workflow it was very time consuming but therapeutic. The M8 changed my whole outlook with photography forever. I still develop b/w film for my Medium Format work, but unfortunately the darkroom sits idle.
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Old 06-14-2012   #120
Mark A. Fisher
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My wife and I just moved to a new place after aving been in the old one for almost 20 years. In the old one I had a darkroom built for me (I can recognize a hammer in a photo, but don't really know how to operate one), and it was wonderful. So, I've given up printing at home only until I can have another one built. In the meantime I can use the facilities at the community college where I teach film photo to an ever-decreasing number of students.

I thought I could give up printing altogether, just print digitally, but the darkroom has always been sort of a "Zen" thing for me - the quiet, the burble of a print washer, the dim light, the joy/frustration of working on a negative 'til it's right.

I also gave up exhibiting my work, but that lasted about 4 months. Back in the game again, and enjoying it tremendously!

I bought a T-shirt recently that says "Film Photographers Are A Dying Breed". Maybe, but I'm still in there printing 'til there's no chemistry or film left...

Mark
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