Beginner needing help

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the APUG Community' started by ghinson, Oct 20, 2004.

  1. ghinson

    ghinson Member

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    I have just stumbled onto this forum and it looks like a valuable resource. I am fairly new to photography, though I have been taking pictures for awhile. As a hobby, until recently, I used a typical consumer 5MP digital camera to take nice pictures. Postcards, actually, of the beautiful place I live (Nantucket, MA). More often than not, however, I would just set the camera to automatic and click away. Then I would use photoshop to make the shots look like I spent time on them. Amazing what that software can do.

    For uncertain reasons, I decided a month or two ago that I wanted to learn how to take photographs instead of postcards, and I felt like one way to do this would be to get an old, manual camera and learn how to use it. I bought a Rolleicord Vb and an Autocord on eBay (both excellent deals and they seem to be in good shape) and I found my old Nikon FG. I signed up for a local community school photography class and I am waiting to see what my first shots look like.

    In the meantime I have become obsessed with reading photography books and online forums and, in what seems like no time, I now have convinced myself that I need a Minolta Dimage Multi Pro film scanner or a darkroom, the supplies to develop my own negatives, an Ebony 8x10 camera, a large supply of AZO, and everything else I need to make 8x10 contact prints.

    I realize that this is something like learning to drive in a Nascar stock car. And, fortunately, I have managed to keep my foot off the gas for now (i.e., my hand off the credit card).

    Can anyone offer me general guidance as to how I should proceed? The way I see it, I need to do more work with my TLRs before I spend several thousand dollars on LF equipment. I need to learn more about what makes a good photograph, both technically and artistically. I am worried that it will be too easy to just take seascapes and shots of lighthouses and never really accomplish more than a nice postcard. Should I dive in and find a way to develop my own work and use this energy in the darkroom? Or should I start with a better photography course (I've been reading the Maine Photo Workships catalog) and let someone else handle the darkroom until I am a good enough photographer to make it worth it? Since I don't have adequate space right now to make a complete darkroom, I have considered getting the tools necessary to develop my negatives and digitize them for printing on my Epson 2200, but is this heresy to bring up on an APUG forum? Also, film scanners that will handle medium format are rarely in what I would call the bargain category on eBay.

    Reading back over this post I sound like I have bipolar disorder. While I go find some Lithium, thanks in advance for your responses and guidance. I hope that my enthusiasm will soon turn into work to share with you all.

    Greg Hinson
    Nantucket, MA
     
  2. Max

    Max Member

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    I have a similar photographic background - I started with digital, then moved to slide film and scanning, switched to B&W and scanning, started doing my own development, still scanning, and printing with quadtone B&W inks, and finally started doing traditional prints.

    To my eye, there's really no comparison between an inkjet print and an Azo contact print.

    You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on LF equipment - you can do it for less than $1500, maybe even $1000.

    If you think you want to do it, go for it! You'll have a blast.
     
  3. Max

    Max Member

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    Also, you'll learn so much so quickly when you start doing your own printing - scanning and working with with Photoshop (or even just the scanner's built-in adjustments) can mask so many problems that you just can't get away with in traditional printing.

    (I learned this one the hard way...)
     
  4. Brac

    Brac Member

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    As you've got the 2 TLR's & a 35mm SLR why don't you start off with colour film (neg or slide) & have it commercially processed? Then when you feel you're making progress and have the facilities to have your own darkroom you could start doing B&W. As far as scanning medium format negs are concerned, as you have found, suitable scanners are very expensive so that probably isn't the way to go.

    When I used to do a lot of photography with TLR's (particularly B&W) I found I was usually more pleased with my results than 35mm as using a waist level finder seems to make you concentrate more rather than just snapping away. But circumstances change and now I find myself snapping away with 35mm but I still have the TLR's and will dig them out one day soon.

    Best of luck whatever you decide.
     
  5. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    Yes it is heresy to talk about digital means here on apug. While we do scan negatives/prints to post the results and share, we do try to stay away from talking about digital means on an analog site. There are many who for one reason or another do print with a printer, but their circumstances are far and few between. Now on to the help section.

    Best thing to do is learn how to use your cameras to their best advantage. Even a D---one has to be learned. Then it comes down to composing the subject to its best advantage. How did you do this before? Were YOU satisified with the results you botained previously? If you were, you need not change that aspect. If it is the techniques of developing your own film, this is the place. There will be as many ways to develop film as there are members. It all depends on the look you desire. As to the printing, you do not have to have an 8x10 and do azo to get spectacular results. ESPECIALLY if you are just learning how to deal with you formats. Most pictures printed today are not done on azo. Few of the greats in the past used azo. It is a great paper, but it too takes a learning curve to get to that certain glow. I have one of Paula Chamlee's prints on my wall, and it is very good. I can't say it is any better than the one I have from Les McLean that is not done on azo. It is the matery of your darkroom skills that will shine through.

    35mm is a good starting point to learn how to manipulate film. Medium format gives you larger negs, to work with. Printing is easy once you get the hang of it. What takes time is learning the subtlties of filters, dodging, burning and all the other little bits. Once you see that first sheet of paper magically trnsform from white into a picture you took, in a try frull of chemicals, you will be hooked. The only thing PS can do that you can't do in the darkroom is take something out of the image and add another image in.

    If you are worried about the economics of printing your own, It is cheaper to go the darkroom route. The paper to use with printers, is more expensive than photo paper for the darkroom. The inks are far more expensive than the chemicals. The chemicals you use in Black and White are not harmful to the environment especially when diluted down to the point they are less dilute than found in nature.

    In the end you have to decide what you want the final picture to look like. If you are looking for a good course to take that teaches you the basics +, I can highly recommend Bruce Barnbaum's workshop. Take it after you have taken a good course at your local JC or college. It will give you a good grounding so that you will pick more up from Bruce's class.
     
  6. roteague

    roteague Member

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    It sounds like you have a good vision, but, I would start out with the 35mm for now, at least until you are more comfortable with the workflow. Large Format is really a much different mindset than 35mm. With 35mm, it's easy to shoot then think, and then keep trying till you get something you like. With LF you have to think before shooting; it's too difficult and expensive to just shoot like you would with a 35mm. Thus, the need to pre-visualize the final image is much more important. IMHO.
     
  7. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Afternoon, Greg,

    One of the best ways to learn about traditional photography is to go through the postings on APUG's forums. You can find everything from very basic stuff to graduate-level information. The only drawbacks are the awkwardness of reading on-screen and the very large amount of time it will take.

    Konical
     
  8. ghinson

    ghinson Member

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    Thanks for all of the responses. The advice is welcome.

    Aggie--Recognizing a lot of room for improvement, I've always felt that composition is my strong point and have been satisfied with this in the past. I am not always sure of my subject choice in general and, especially with my 5 megapixels, am disappointed sometimes in what the result looks like, even if it is composed perfectly. As for printing my own work, is it more difficult to do so in 6x6 than with 35mm? I looked at Bruce Barnbaum's website and that does sound like an exceptional workshop. It's a long way from where I am at, but I will definitely consider. How much experience should I have before attending his workshop? If I still am not doing my own printing, would I be lost in his workshop? Thanks.

    Brac suggested starting with color and paying for processing. I am not expressing this well but I feel like using color is making it too easy for me to cheat on the subject. I live in the land of nightly, beautiful sunsets, and glorious light. This makes it easy for me to take nice postcards whenever I want. But I feel like something is missing. If I take my Autocord loaded with B&W out to a sunset, as I have a couple of times now, I am more likely to find the drift fence sitting in intricately patterned, glistening sand with interesting diagonal shadows and aim for it, instead of taking 10 pics of the sun setting a little left of center. Do you know what I mean?

    Here is a general beginners question. (Mind you, I have little to no darkroom experience. I just developed my first negatives in class Monday night.) I understand there are two big steps to the darkroom process. Developing the negatives and making the print. How much of the art is involved in developing the negatives? Is this just cookbook and, as long as you don't mess up the film trying to get it into those blasted rollers, if you follow the instructions that always comes out right? Or, is there an art to this step as well? If developing the negatives is a simple process that does not require much in the way of thought, then I have a local lab who will give me negatives alone for $4/roll. I was thinking of getting the chemicals and a changing bag and working on this myself, but maybe I should concentrate on the printing and begin working towards setting up a darkroom.
     
  9. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    There is not really any art in developing the negatives, it's more of a science. Printing on the other hand requires both. Get a changing bag, some film tanks and reels, a few measuring cups and chemicals. I use my kitchen sink for developing film. I would not have a lab do your film because they will mess it up, unless you shoot C41 black and white.

    My darkroom is in a bathroom, so they don't need to take up much space. In fact with a small enlarger you could set it up and take it down each time you print. Enlargers are also very cheap these days so you can easily pick one up from eBay. In fact if you are ever up in southern New Hampshire I can give you a 6x7 enlarger that I no longer use. Trays can go in the tub or on a small table.
     
  10. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Greg, don't fall into the trap of thinking that color is "easy". It's a totally different mindset than shooting B&W, not necessarily better, just different. It takes much more than a "pretty" sunset to make a satisfying print - the "art" of composition still applies. I live in Hawaii - you can't get much better for glorious light and beautiful sunsets - but, I can still go to the local galleries and find sunrise/sunset images that are terrible for sale. I shoot almost exclusively color (Velvia).

    FWIW.
     
  11. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I wouldn't call developing film an art, but you retain a measure of control, and ultimately, you will be able to make better prints if you develop your own film. It takes practice to get comfortable. Pick a film and a developer, and stick with it for awhile. I've shot film that I had commercially processed, and have always had a harder time making the prints from those negs. I think the TLR's are a great way to learn, and I find the medium format film easier to load onto reels. It's a great size for printing, not at all hard to do. I would stick with that format for now. It's very satisfying to print your own photos, so good luck with it! And welcome from another Bay Stater!
     
  12. wdemere

    wdemere Member

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    I'm a relative newcomer myself. I've managed to pick up the following info in the past few years. Others with much more experience and knowledge will hopefully correct me.

    Developing negatives using the time/temp method is relatively straightforward and cookbookish. Knowing the time/temperature/dilution/agitation method for a given film and EI and following it (religiously) should yield the same results every time (or something approximate to that). Those using the zone system will increase or decrease development times in order to control contrast, but this is not usually done with rollfilm unless you have a camera that can take different backs (like a Hassy or a Mamiya 645) which you don't have since you have 2 tlrs and a 35mm slr. If you are interested in learning more about this subject get Les McClean's book.

    You can use development by inspection (looking at the film during development using a green safelight) to more accurately determine development, but this process is most often used with sheet film, not roll film.

    There is, however, an art to it. Unfortunately, it is black. I'm not sure how much of this is palatable for the uninitiated, but here goes...

    Short Guide to Photographic Alchemy

    Photographic alchemy can be divided into two major camps: the pyromaniacs and anti-pyros. [Footnote: Rodinalisques are their own special cult which might be considered a separate group, but I'll lump them in with the anti-pyros for now.] Among the pyros there are several sub-cults, the cat people (aka pyrocats), and the p(i)mkites, not to mention the doubleyoutoodeetoahs from planet doubleyoudeetoine. The pyro cults are constantly warring and are lead by their prophet-alchemists the most high exalted King Sandy King and Sir Gordon Hutchings of lancaworcheshire-something-or-other. The anti-pyros seem to spend a lot of time attacking the pyros, whereas the pyros mostly just attack everyone. (It's hard to tell who started it though, sort of like the Hatfields and McCoys or the Whigs and the Tories or the Yorks and the Lancaster or, you get the idea...) The pyros are especially sensitive about the deadliness of the chemicals they use. Most secret alchemical organizations would be proud of their ability to manipulate deadly chemicals, but the pyros go to great lengths to explain that these chemicals are not deadly at all (which they aren't, according to most studies, unless you are a cow given about 3 pounds ala gavage).

    On the periphery, there is also a secret recipe for something called "777" that has many acolytes. I've heard rumours that it is 7 parts dragon scale, 7 parts bat wing, and 7 parts really expensive studio lighting. No one is saying what is really in it, though many have their theories. It can be used over and over and gets better the more you use it (at first anyway.)

    The King Solomon of them all (figuratively) is someone named, I swear I'm not making this up, Gadget Gainer. If that doesn't sound like the name of a evil robot bent on world domination I don't know what does. He is so well-schooled in the black arts of photographic alchemy that he can produce negatives of astounding beauty using (I'm not making this up now) - Vitamin C. Yes, the stuff in orange juice. The very substance that mothers force their children to drink and (sometimes) cures colds. For centuries alchemists have tried to turn lead into gold, but Mr. Gainer has managed to turn Vitamin C into silver, which is close enough considering his ties to the government.

    All of these alchemists are continually searching for what is called the "photographer's stone" or, more often, the "magic bullet" - A mystical object that when boiled in D76 can convert any negative into a sharp, clear, properly exposed, easily printable on grade 3 silver gelatin OR Azo OR platinum/palladium OR [insert alterno process here] negative of a picture of a black bear in a cave or even a suitably black cat on a cast iron stove.

    All say they have the bullet - some will deny it, but don't believe them. To follow any one of these alchemists is to set forth on a journey best left to those of a stout heart and a weak sense of smell.

    You have been warned. In these woods doth dragons lie....
     
  13. clogz

    clogz Subscriber

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    Ah, lovely spoof.
     
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  15. papagene

    papagene Membership Council Council

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    Welcome from the western part of the Bay State. Don't be hesitant and jump right in and start developing and printing those negs from the 6x6. You'll be hooked.
    Enjoy! :wink:

    gene
     
  16. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    LOL, I use pyro and non pyro developers depending on the contrast range I encounter. The reason I suggested Bruce's class is, if you understand the basics of how to devlop film, (time for each type of film, temp, water stop bath, and a fix) Bruce will dimystify the compression and expansion of developing film. Beyond the basic how to with paper development, he teaches you things to look for while watching the paper develop, and a slick trick (if needed) of selective bleaching. You have the opportunity to go out in the field and shoot film then develop it there. I loved the critique session where everyones pictures were critiqued by Bruce. He goes over what can be done to help, or compliments you on a good job. Then when you see his collection, he goes over what he did with each one to give it that glow.

    If there is another workshop I would take again it would be Les McLeans. He goes into split bath development and pre flashing the image. A great in the darkroom class.

    Nice thing is both gentlemen have books they have written about the things they teach. Bruce's you can via his web site. Les is a member here, and you can get his book through various means including Amazon.

    Since you will encounter those difficult lighting situations, it is good to understand they can be handled beyond the basics you will be taught in a beginner class. I was told by my professors in the last few years, that there was not much that can be done for a poor exposure. I found it was not poor exposure but lack of technical expertise (or lack of willingness to teach it) by the professors. I had to learn the light meter on my own. I had to learn about manipulating film on my own, and I had to learn there was more than one way to develop the print on my own. Never be afraid to ask, and learn. This is a wonderful place to get information.
     
  17. Brac

    Brac Member

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    In answer to your question about which is easiest to print from 35mm or 6x6, I always found 6x6 slightly had the edge because the negs being bigger are easier to examine & handle and compared to 35mm it is usually possible to blow up a portion of the neg without sharpness suffering unduly.

    As far as developers are concerned there are lots of estoric brews around but you would be best to start off with something basic and easy to use and leave the more exotic stuff til later. I found Paterson's Aculux coped with most things, but ID11/D76 and Agfa's Rodinal are all well thought of and not tempremental.
     
  18. ghinson

    ghinson Member

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    Okay wdemere that was way over my beginner head, but I could tell it was funny anyway. So I laughed as if I got it.

    Since this is turning into something of a newbie thread, does anyone have a suggestion of a good basic darkroom text, and a suggestion for a resource for setting up a darkroom? I'm talking more about blueprint here then I am equipment lists. I have an unused basement room with no outside windows, power and water. I'll have to heat it though.

    Thanks for all the helpful info.
     
  19. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Greg,

    I would suggest that you take the photo class that you signed on for. Start working with your TLRs and I would go so far as suggesting that if black and white "flips your switch" then don't waste a second on color. I started out with color myself and what a waste of time that was. But then black and white "flips my switch".

    If you still feel the same way about this after the class is finished then buy used equipment (8X10)...no sense wasting time with enlarging if you want to produce the finest prints. Used equipment will make as good a print as the most expensive new stuff.

    Go straight to Azo or Pt-pd or whatever "flips your switch" at that time. The next step would be to hook onto Michael Smiths shadow and learn what he can teach you in one of his workshops if you can blackmail him into teaching you.

    Don't ever compromise your vision!!!!

    Good luck.


     
  20. Melanie

    Melanie Member

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    HI
    You might try reading THE BASIC DARKROOM BOOK by tom Grimmm, there are new and older versions and you can buy it at a book store or on ebay.
    I started developing my own film b/w and color and printing my b/w in a dark room in the begging of the summer, but I still do the color on the computer. my darkroom is the bathroom :surprised:) like a lot of people on this site. enlarger are either what you can afford or what is small and can be moved around. I think your darkroom is like your camera, a very personal thing. and you might look in to a older mf camera, there are a lot of manual medium formats around for a good price. I think i would go slowly, developing your film and if that appeals to you, buy the enlarger etc.that way you don't have a bunch of stuff taking up room in the garage. Have fun with it also don't think that every shot has to be perfect, some time's the shot that i just focused and snapped where the one's i have hanging on my wall.
    Melanie
     
  21. Christian Olivet

    Christian Olivet Member

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    I agree with Donald Miller's suggestions. If what you want to do is 8x10 contact prints, (and when you see good ones you will want to), then by all means get the camera and one lens, maybe two. Contact Michael Smith and Paula Chamele. Not only they are great photographers, they are superb teachers. My photographs show proof of that.
    It will take some time to get the technical side down, but you will have fun learning.
    Do not feel intimidated by the size of the camera. It is actually a lot easier than shooting the small stuff, only a little heavier.
     
  22. mikewhi

    mikewhi Member

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    OK, I'll jump in and help confuse you some more. Like a lot here, I've been down the same road you're contemplating and all I can say is 'go for it', unless you decide on digital then I say 'what???'

    1) Workshops. Stay away from 'come bask in the light of a master' workshops. Take purely technical ones that teach hard core skills. You don't need inspiration right now, you need to know how to select and use a camera\lens(es) and how to do basic darkroom stuff. You don't really need a workshop for this, either, but they can be inexpensive and they can cram a lot into 1 or 2 weekends. Don't take a class with Paul Caponigro right now.

    2) Get Henry Horenstein's books "Black and White Photography: A Basic Manual"
    and "Beyond Basic Photography : A Technical Manual". Great easy to understand books, especially the 2nd one. Very hands-on.

    3) Don't get hung-up on format. You're inner urges will tell you when\if LF is right for you. Some of the greatest of all time never used anything bigger than 35mm, so how do you know it isn't right for you? Making images is what counts in the end, not what format they are. If purist tones are what you're after then go big. But if great images are the end, the format doesn't matter.

    4) Look at a lot of monograph books to expose yourself to the history of photography and it's great images and image-makers. This will help inspire you and show you what a great photograph is - and that isn't easy to define.

    5) Be hands-on. Develop all your own negatives and practice what the workshops\books teach you. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Choose one film, one developer, one camera. Heck even one 50mm lens should make you happy for 6 months. Honest, don't go and buy 6 different types of film and pyro\d76\ID11 etc, etc. Get something like Tri-X or Plus-X and Rodinal. Work with them and learn them. If you take on too much too soon, you'll just confuse yourself.

    6) Learn how to make a correct exposure and how long to develop for (expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights) and this will give you a good negative. Then, learn how to print by printing from them - you will need a good coach\critic here (APUG and a scanner can help). Can you rent darkroom space anywhere by the hour? If you enroll in a class, they may well rent you space after the class - many schools do that so you may get that chance.

    7) APUG is a great resource, so use it. When you're bored or need to vent, feel to make a post in "The Thread With No Name" thread. Just don't say anything meaningful - there are plenty of other places to make that mistake. It's where all the great minds gather.

    Have fun.

    -Mike
     
  23. Huram

    Huram Member

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    Greg,

    I got some extra lithium if you need it, just give me your mailing address :smile:
     
  24. ghinson

    ghinson Member

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    Mike, thanks for the excellent advice. I will look for the books you mentioned. I ordered a darkroom book, and Les McLean's Creative Photog book last night on Amazon. Will make another trip soon.

    And Huram, fortunately, Lithium comes generic, and I have a DEA number. You can keep yours for the next full moon!

    Greg
     
  25. rogueish

    rogueish Member

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    Lots of great advice (and lithium) from everyone. Mikewhi's version is almost exactly what I have done. Unfortunately the night classes I have taken proved to be frustrating (for me anyway, I can imagine how the instructors felt).
    John Hedgecoe's books are numerous but are kinda generic- these were suggested reading in class. I recommend the 2-3 that were mentioned in earlier posts. There is also a decent book on building your own darkroom "furniture" but the two authors(and the name) escape me. Someone else here will know it.
    The biggest influences on my transformation from snapshot shooter to the fine art (IMHO) print... (ok It IS a stretch of the imagination but I am working on it) was printing my own, and APUG.
    Once you start doing your own enlarging/contact printing, you start to see the little things. You know, like, why is the tree growing out of his head, or my personal favourit, I could have sworn it was larger in real life?!
    What ever meathod you take, learn it to the best of your ability and have fun!
     
  26. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    Has anyone mentioned going to galleries to view prints? Well worth it IMO.