Giving a darkroom talk to digital people

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by kerrpanda, Feb 20, 2013.

  1. kerrpanda

    kerrpanda Member

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    Help! I have to give a talk about darkroom to my photography club. They are of course, digital. Can anyone help me with how to best convey what goes on without the actual demo props of a darkroom? Or just how to just spark an interest? I would appreciate any and all ideas. Thanks in advance!
    Cynthia
     
  2. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Make sure you tell them that chemical photography is the nearest they will ever come to magic.
     
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  3. Jeff Searust

    Jeff Searust Member

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    Everything in Photoshop can be done in the darkroom, and the names of the processes will then make sense... i.e. dodge and burn
     
  4. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    Yes, photoshop is a good way to relate that. Dodge/burn, masks, curves, contrast, toning, crop all relate to printing in the darkroom. Negative film is like HDR with a big dynamic range. Slide film is like DSLR with no room for overexposure and wysiwyg color. Filters for color film are like white balance for digital, filters for B&W are like color separating color digital images into B&W layers.
     
  5. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    Jeff makes a good point, although I would approach it from a slightly different direction. Many of the things that are done in Photoshop were first done in the darkroom: adjusting exposure and contrast, local dodging and burning. Since the other members are digital people they will understand those ideas, and your job is to do is explain how each is done in the darkroom.

    Part of what attracted me to and keeps me working in the darkroom are the sensations. Quieter, darker, warmer, cozy red light, even the smells. I slow down in the darkroom. In my former career I was expected to use the left side of my brain and not try to be too creative. I used the computer all day, every day. So if I were making this talk I would spend some time explaining how different being in the darkroom was (and still is) from the rest of my life. It is a creative compartment that does not exist elsewhere (except, perhaps, under the dark cloth...)

    And I would also spend some time discussing the differences between digital imagemaking and darkroom printing, while at the same time making it clear that I do not think one is superior to the other. They are just different. At least they are to me, anyway.
     
  6. henry finley

    henry finley Member

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    Amen.
     
  7. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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    Yup, I like that. Nothing beats the sight of an image coming up in the developer tray.
     
  8. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    What others have said about comparing actions with Photoshop is a good one. Are you giving this talk with a visual presentation? If so you may take a typical digital image and show how using curves, by applying a typical characteristic curve, at toe and shoulder improves the image. You could also show images by people like Jerry Uelsmann to show how, what some people think is unique to Photoshop can also be done in the darkroom. Also, show pictures taken by the greats on film, to impress that multiple shots available with digital has nothing to do with the photographic skill concerning the moment of capture and effective composition. You may also point out that technological and aesthetic improvement is not always in step with chronological progression.
     
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  9. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    Is there any chance of creating a temporary darkroom, nothing elaborate, to show them what it is like. Actions speak much louder than words. Some folk are too dense to take in what is being said and a demonstration is far, far, better.
     
  10. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    I'm going to adopt a bit of a "Devil's Advocate" position ... let us say I am a digital user who has never used film ... someone comes along and describes to me how everything I can already do while I am sitting comfortably in front of a computer in my living room, with the TV on and food and drink to hand, can be done if only I dedicate a darkened room to it, and buy or otherwise acquire a whole new suite of equipment, and be prepared to put up with handling potentially toxic (not very toxic, but somewhat) chemicals, some of which also smell unpleasant ...

    Now that is a bit of a caricature, of course, but I'm not sure using the "it's just like PS" is necessarily the best approach to pulling in dedicated digital users to try film.

    Having said that, one rather important thing when training or teaching or just giving a talk is to know your audience a bit ... so if it's your own club, you might know whether you can hook them by appealing to nostalgia (if they are former film users) or geekiness (180 years of chemistry and optics and the ability to play with it all) or aesthetics (it's all about the image) or indeed using a "It's just like PS" approach ...

    Though as Prof_Pixel says, nothing beats a demo, so you could always go along with a bleached print and redevelop it in front of their eyes ...
     
  11. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Project an actual slide or two.

    And if you have a reasonably large print, made from a 35mm negative, show them both.
     
  12. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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    I'd go easy with that approach. The fact is, many manipulations are done much easier in Photoshop than in the darkroom. Stick with the 'magic' and hands-on satisfaction.
     
  13. K-G

    K-G Subscriber

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    When in the dakroom, people respect the closed door and leave you alone. With Photoshop, anyone can look over your shoulder and make nasty comments. Good luck !

    Karl-Gustaf
     
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  15. kerrpanda

    kerrpanda Member

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    Oh, man! Y'all have FAR exceeded my hopes! None of these was a bad idea, and I am going to try to articulate, like Dan said, the smells, quiet (except for your favorite music) , no intrusion unless you want it, MAGICAL experience that, in my mind, digital will never allow for. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And if you have any more ideas, keep 'em coming, please!
     
  16. ToddB

    ToddB Member

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    Maybe with your demo you can convince people to join the "Darkside" no pun intended.

    ToddB
     
  17. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    Be cautious of the smells part. A single environmental or health conscious person will talk about health issues and environmental damage from chemicals.

    :/


    ~Stone

    Mamiya: 7 II, RZ67 Pro II / Canon: 1V, AE-1, 5DmkII / Kodak: No 1 Pocket Autographic, No 1A Pocket Autographic | Sent w/ iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  18. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    If the question of environmental damage comes up, let them know that most of the chemicals used in wet photography are organic, naturally occurring (stop bath is basically concentrated vinegar, even COFFEE can be used as a photo developer!), and those that are not can be handled and processed safely (silver recovery from spent fixer). And unless you are on a septic system and/or get your water from a well, the average home user poses zero risk to a modern public sewage system. All their neighbors on Prozac and Xanax are causing infinitely more pollution than the odd batch of film and prints.
     
  19. sbattert

    sbattert Member

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    I put a piece of tracing paper over the back of a camera and showed a group of kids and parents the upside down image projected on the film plane. They were pretty amazed at that. You can't make a digital camera at home, but you can make an analog camera at home. From camera obscura to the latent image on the film emulsion to developing and enlarging. It's all very fascinating. Pinhole day is coming up next month, you could bring in a pinhole camera and demonstrate the paper negative. You could also explain the difference between 8x10 film vs. a digital 35mm sensor (without going into too much detail).
     
  20. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Sorry, but you have got me fired up now, as I would love to give this talk - You probably wouldn’t have the facilities to do a demonstration showing the production of a photogenic drawing, but if you could they would all be hooked. If you made an exposure using the same chemistry as used by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1834 and showed them the wet result in the light of day, the effect would be incomparable with anything digital. The wet coloured image will reveal a superb colour and contrast that even when stabilised, will then change before their eyes in 30 seconds or so.
     
  21. sbattert

    sbattert Member

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    Well if you're fired up, make a video demonstration for us.
     
  22. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    Bring in some MF or LF slides with a light box. Bring in samples of B/W prints that jump off the paper. I'd go easy on comparing to Photoshop.
     
  23. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I have intended to make a short cine film of this, but have never got around to doing it. Perhaps I will in the next year or so.
     
  24. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    Make sure that you give an example of setting up a temporary-darkroom plus the ease and cheapness of getting hold of an enlarger and so on.

    The metallic and unfading nature of a standard black and white print might be good to mention. Then the viewers will be largely thinking of grey results - so take along some prints on both neutral and warmtone, with different developers, different toners, maybe lith too, all in order to show the variety of results that they can achieve. An explanation of why a safelight is safe(-ish) could tie in to a simplified explanation of multicontrast paper.

    Make sure that you name and list some producers of the materials - many people think that Kodachrome was the last film made in the world, after the fanfare of it's ending.

    The idea, above, of a pinhole camera is excellent. If you have the possibility, a pinhole neg and a positive from the neg (for example both on plain RC paper) illustrates the neg/pos process very well and is interesting in itself. Make a pinhole camera from foamboard or carton and take it along, with a bit of tracing paper in place of the back.
     
  25. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    if you want, mention that "modern prints", while there have been tests ... don't stand up very well
    i am now vaguely mentioning in code since this is off limits here on apug, that they can have the best of both worlds ..
    a electrically generated black and white image can be converted
    and then printed ... using the sun to make something that can be done without a darkroom ...
    not everything needs to be done in a claustrophobic space filled with mystical chemistry and fumes.
    and pre-coated papers can be bought at hobby stores to get their feet wet.
     
  26. kerrpanda

    kerrpanda Member

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    That's a great idea!!