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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 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.
Mark Pope
Swindon, Wilts, UK

homepage http://www.monomagic.co.uk
picture a week project:
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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
John Bragg
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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
Home and away.
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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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My flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25547701@N08/
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Old 04-25-2012   #109
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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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Originally Posted by Aristophanes View Post
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.

Originally Posted by Aristophanes View Post
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!

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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...

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Old 06-14-2012   #121
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I haven't left my wet darkroom and don't plan on it...
I actually have four rolls of Acros 100 that needs developing and hopefully printing...
Looking forward to doing both....
I also love the time spent in the darkroom...
"tongue tied & twisted
just an earthbound misfit...I..."
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Old 06-14-2012   #122
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Because I was no good at it.. sad but true.
M3, M9, Rolleiflex 3.5 B and Rolleicord II

Advice and constructive criticism always welcome..
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Old 06-14-2012   #123
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I had a dark room for about 20 years and I really enjoyed it. While I was in college I worked in a photo lab (no machine processing then) and after working there for about 5 years some of the magic goes away. I also worked in a custom color lab for awhile 15 years ago and had too many back problems to stand bending hunched over and working for a day. I have all my film sent to a very good lab for processing and scanning and I print digitally now. I miss being able to develop my own film and envy some of the results that people are getting here but, I just can't do it anymore. - Jim
"Basically, I no longer work for anything but the sensation I have while working."
- Alberto Giacometti (sculptor)
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Old 06-14-2012   #124
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I had the opportunity, but never the time, to learn the darkroom. I mostly shot Kodachrome anyway. Started shooting B&W, developing and scanning at home a few years ago.

My teen daughter, on the other hand, is taking a film photography class at the local community college and is loving the darkroom. She is on her high school yearbook staff and does plenty in the digital domain, but now prefers darkroom B&W. Still learning, but she's pretty good. She won't have darkroom access after this summer, so she's checking out enlargers on craigslist and working on commandeering the upstairs bathroom

then I'll have my own live in wet printer - for a couple of years until she leaves for college
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Old 06-14-2012   #125
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I just don't have that much interest in printing, not to be falsely humble but most of my pictures are barely good enough to be scanned from negative, I don't want to waste my time trying to print that sh**
When I do find a good one, I send it to the lab, they have really good inkjet and frankly they look good to my eye

That being said I still want to try printing, but have no space for it in my apartment. I found a rental darkroom but the place is closing down for the summer

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