Disaster or perfection in the darkroom

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by cliveh, Mar 7, 2014.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Sometimes I can go into the darkroom and everything I do is a complete disaster. Other days I go in and find everything comes out fine and I have a complete intuitive feel to what is happening. Do others experience this variance?
     
  2. fretlessdavis

    fretlessdavis Member

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    Yup! Definitely. On and off days for me... Off days I quit early, and when I'm in the groove I'll be in there as long as I can.
     
  3. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    Me too!

    Jeff
     
  4. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Me too. I think it happens to everyone. The darkroom requires more than just technical skills. Some days you have it, some days you don't... You can't beat yourself up over it, though. (It also makes the days you're firing on all cylinders much more special.)
     
  5. Dr Croubie

    Dr Croubie Member

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    Not just the darkroom, but everywhere.
    Some days I go to work and churn out a few designs in a day, others I go in and just stare blankly at the screen until it's time to go home. (best part is I get paid the same amount either way)
     
  6. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    It is normal.
     
  7. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    And, sometimes the bedroom! :wink:
     
  8. Alan W

    Alan W Subscriber

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    :cool:Some nights I'm better off leaving as soon as possible,some nights I can stay for hours.On the good nights I'll be listening to Big Star.:cool:
     
  9. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    No. Sorry, but I am not going to either make a joke or offer some false humility about how some days are "disasters" and on others "everything comes out fine". I just don't see it that way. While there may be some luck involved in exposing film, there should be no luck involved in the darkroom. There, you have total control over what happens.

    Granted, there are days when I don't produce anything worthwhile, and others where beautiful exhibition prints result. And perhaps this is what you're alluding to. However, I do not think it's due to a "variance" in my skills or intuition. There are just way too many other factors.

    I have been practicing darkroom work for close to 45 years, including some as a full time professional. My skill-set is pretty firm. So, why are some days not winners?

    As much as we hone our skills and practice our art, it's just a given that not all negatives are created equal. There are just too many variables and factors in making photographs that a photographer cannot control and some negatives will not print easily, or at all. One skill that I worked hard overs years to develop is identifying those negatives and not even trying. Still, there are the occasional questionable images where I will give it a try. And they may or may not work out. Or, sometimes I can make a perfectly decent print from a technically good negative, and then just decide I don't like the photograph and it ain't gonna ever see daylight.

    Good days and bad, production wise? Sure. Disasters and days where things just "come out"? No.

    Perhaps I'm just arguing semantics. If so, I apologize. But, I feel strongly about this.
     
  10. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    David Brown,

    I think your idea is worth exploring. Personally, I feel variance exactly as cliveh described. Some days, I can tell the best contribution I will make in the darkroom is with a sponge and towel. Today is such a day. I hung the lightbox back on the wall behind the vacuum easel above the sink and drew the curtain. I basically have "no" creative energy tonight so I am doing cleanup. It's been a long week and I have to get out tomorrow for a day trip...

    It doesn't matter what negative I might put in the carrier tonight, nothing good could come of it.

    Now when I do turn on the faucet... I may predict Sunday or next Friday. That will be a different day.

    Then I'll face the variance YOU described, where a resilient neg might make a good print immediately... or a questionable neg may or may not make the grade... But the creativity I put in, will be of a consistent character.

    I'll tell you next week how it goes.
     
  11. nsurit

    nsurit Subscriber

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    There is a certain fickleness about the darkroom gods and you still have the same breakdown and clean up. Something just isn't right about that . . . Bill Barber
     
  12. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Oh yeah.
     
  13. fotch

    fotch Member

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    I mostly agree with David Brown. It should not be that difficult to be consistent, to do the same thing the same way, each time.
     
  14. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I think I agree more with David than Clive, but I have had days that it really felt like nothing would go wrong. But the only times I remember days when nothing went right were when I hadn't been using a darkroom as much and could use it whenever I wanted. Once life had gotten to the point where I couldn't pop down and print whenever I felt like it, the days I did get were more likely to go right. But I also found that I had to go in with a plan. If I just go in and expect inspiration to hit and be able to pick what to work on then, it wouldn't go as well. I had to know ahead of time what I'd be working on.
     
  15. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    The biggest struggle I have is with the spot metering. If I could figure out how to incident meter a negative I would. :whistling:
     
  16. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    Lack of success in the darkroom is only revealed to me the day after. In daylight, after toning and allowing prints to dry, I have sometimes been completely disappointed in what I produced the night before. But, that experience all but guarantees I will be happy with the return visit, because I can adjust the failed variable and expect the results I anticipated with confidence.
     
  17. rubyfalls

    rubyfalls Member

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    I'm still very much a beginner with printmaking. My experience is that both experiences (ie magic spurts v. technical skills) are true -- mainly because the more I do it, and the more I practice and read and think critically about *what* I am doing, the more likely I am to have a "good" day. I have found printmaking to be much less of a learning "curve" and more a series of plateaus.

    Recently I've been practicing with what I know to be objectively decent negatives and have gained some much-needed confidence. But then again, on the "magic" side, today I popped in what I thought was a junked negative (lovely shot, junky development, couldn't get a decent scan) and managed to get some pretty gorgeous 8x10s.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  18. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    One of the things that constantly amazes me is the flexibility of negatives.

    The basic thing that I had to "get" in order to start printing in a reasonable and reliable manner was how to set enlarger exposure for a given negative.

    In the beginning that took a lot of test prints, then later I got myself an enlarger meter. The meter made things repeatable without all the test strips.

    My meter died about a week and a half ago. It was not a modern meter, and older Beseler PM2L. I did have the foresight to buy a spare when I found one, but it was not calibrated the same, about 12 points different on a 100 point scale, little to my knowledge.

    Having that original meter die, then having to get used to the new meter threw a monkey wrench into the works in my darkroom. It took nearly the week and a half to sort out the calibration and get my head straight with the new meter.

    It is simply amazing to me how much a single tool or a single change in my process can affect the entire result. I made countless other unrelated mistakes in timing, in setting up chemistry, in forgetting filters, and I don't even remember what else.