Trying to learn as fast as I can!

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the APUG Community' started by multivoiced, Apr 11, 2011.

  1. multivoiced

    multivoiced Member

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    Hey everyone,
    I found this forum while searching the web and I was amazed at the quality of the discussions. I currently live near Las Vegas (in the United States) and very recently got a 35 mm film camera for black and white work. One of the best things I ever did was drive over to the coast to take advantage of some teaching and learning about studio lighting in a place called Studio OC. I might soon join the Coast Guard and so owning my own darkroom equipment is not convenient due to the transient lifestyle. I do hope to find other great studios near to wherever I get stationed, though.
    So what I need now is to figure out a good combination of black and white film and a lab that will do a great job of developing, processing and printing. I have done some thinking after browsing this forum, and I hope you will let me entertain you briefly with my logic.
    I know very little about the whole process so I need a lab I can trust. Metro Imaging in London seems to have earned a reputation, and I am open to working through international mail if necessary. But judging by what I have read on this forum, not all labs are experienced in every kind of film. I would infer, as a consequence, that some labs are very good at a few kinds of film. My idea is to select laboratory talent first (be it in London or wherever) and then find out what kind of film I need to use to take maximum advantage of that talent. This means I will quite literally write them an email and ask what kind of film they recommend for the kind of shooting I do in order to get the best results from their lab. This is not an optimal situation because doing my own darkroom work is not feasible for me at this time, but hopefully it will lead to prints I can be proud of!
    Here is my question to you all... If I follow through with this plan, do you think it will be necessary for the same lab to handle developing, processing and printing? For example, if I decide to use Metro Imaging, then do I need to send the roll of film to London, wait for proofs from Royal Mail, then send my favorite negative all the way back to London for printing?
    Thanks for taking the time to read this!
     
  2. M.A.Longmore

    M.A.Longmore Subscriber

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    Welcome Home, Multi !


    Ron
    .
     
  3. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Welcome to APUG!

    Have you considered C41 BW film such as BW400CN? You'd be able to use any mini-lab for processing. If you are going to let someone else process your film then print, the best you can hope for is consistent processing. All the fine tuning that we enjoy (some times...) won't be available to you.... There are labs that will work with you on print manipulations but they will be hugely expensive and impractical.

    If you are just starting out, I think you are over-complicating the process a bit at this point. To create a GREAT PRINT from a negative, we usually have to manipulate (dodge, burn, etc) quite a bit. Also, to manipulate contrast, we either do it when developing the film, or do it when printing using one or more contrast filters. You won't be able to do that either.

    I hate to be pessimistic but what you can do in terms of fine art photography by someone else to do the processing (except for really high-end lab like "elevator" and such) is very limited.
     
  4. multivoiced

    multivoiced Member

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    Thanks, Longmore!
    By the way, just after I posted this I realized that sending film overseas is probably not a good idea. Once when I received a FedEx package from Europe I noticed a red, ominous-looking x-ray sticker next to the shipping label. So I think there might be a greater risk of damage to the film during security inspections when working through international mail order.
     
  5. nhemann

    nhemann Member

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    In my opinion, unless you have a TON of money to spend, you are setting yourself up for a very expensive and ultimately kind of frustrating experience entering the world of film photography. I got myself started on C-41 B&W Film because I could get it developed (and scanned) cheaply and nearby (I had not started developing myself yet). Taking pictures is the key to learning how to take pictures and if each roll of film is costing you 50 bucks to develop/proof/print you are not going to take a lot of pictures. Developing is not that hard - all you need is a tank and a bag - if you are worried about chemicals, look at Caffenol. I am more scared of what I clean my shower with than that stuff. Local shops can scan/proof shots for you for a lot less - or if you prefer use one of the bigger labs here in the states to scan and print what you think is of value.
    Don't get stuck on the "perfect" aesthetic as its a tail that you can potentially chase forever. Take a look at what you have, what you can reasonably do, and learn how to do it the best you possibly can. I hate to repeat cliche but learn the rules, if only to know how to then break them. Embrace the imperfections - yours, your equipment and your media - its what will make you develop a sense of style.
    I hope that made sense.....
     
  6. multivoiced

    multivoiced Member

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    Maybe you are right

    Thanks for your input. This is not an easy pill for me to swallow, because when I bought this camera I never dreamed of needing to go into the darkroom myself. Shows how ignorant I was. Would you also say the same thing about color film?
     
  7. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    Hi and welcome, multivoiced. I'm sure there must be a reasonable quality lab not too far from Las Vegas. For film processing, as long as you are within reasonable limits, then the processed negatives will be fine, but then as tkamiya has pointed out, creating a great print often involves a lot more work.

    My suggestion is to find a good lab now, so that at least you are getting great negs. Then when you do get around to having your onw darkroom, you can create something masterful from those negs.

    If you do decide to go the international route, then you are usually safe from X-ray damage as most items are not scanned. But that is just "usually". :wink:
     
  8. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Hey, I never said it's impossible! I said "limited".

    Honestly speaking, I think you are setting up your bar too high too soon. I'd suggest just starting using what's available to you. You already have the camera. Get a film. C41 or traditional BW. Get it processed locally. Get it printed locally. Get started! It'll take long enough to learn your camera, proper exposure, creative composition, etc. It'll take a good while before you'll be needing professional lab services. By then, your situation might change. Many of us on APUG have been doing this for years or even decades. I'm one of the newbies. Darkroom work is fun but so is taking photos. I dunno.... I think you should get started and start enjoying photography first before making masterpieces....
     
  9. multivoiced

    multivoiced Member

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    Good thoughts, nhemann. Quick question: Do you get prints from digital scans because of price or quality? Digital scans seem to negate the satisfaction of a purely photochemical process. But one person on this forum said that when Panalure paper was discontinued, digital scans became the best way to get quality prints. I just thought it defeated the whole purpose of going analog in the first place.
     
  10. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    You have a 35mm camera and want to learn that is great. The best way to learn the basics is with the basics. Start from scratch and learn how to compose shots and use natural light. When I was in the Navy I shot hundreds of rolls of film and had them developed at the base camera shop ,long since gone the way of the dodo. You can still get good results from Walgreen's, Costco or CVS and have them scanned to a disk that you can download onto your computer (I'm treading thin ice here). Start slow and work your way up, don't worry about the details just grab your camera some film and have fun the rest will come over time. If you stick around here long enough you will start to pick up on things, ask questions but try to stay away from those that will only give you an opinion as an answer such as "what is the best film" or "camera". Be specific about what you want to learn and you will get a lot of good advice.

    And by the way, welcome.
     
  11. nhemann

    nhemann Member

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    I would have to say that at the moment, I get them because of price and convenience. I am lucky enough to have a really responsive local shop just up the road from me so I end up with a digital proof set and shots that I can send around. I develop myself and then hand them the strip. I only print the ones that I feel are "worth" it but some of the others are still good enough to be seen or pass around to family etc...I'm finally in a place where I can, and am, building my own formal darkroom so things are going to change for the better but prints from a scan are a perfectly acceptable alternative. The Getty may not buy them but the will get plenty of praise on your wall. Just check with various printers, people may laugh at me (and I do myself) but depending on who is running the machine - even drugstores can make a decent print if the person running it cares. That's your task to find one.
    Just take pictures....enjoy it...if you don;t think they are good, keep looking and taking more. You will get better.
     
  12. multivoiced

    multivoiced Member

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    All of these suggestions are helpful. Perhaps I should say that I am a beginner, but I have spent enough time with a digital camera to have learned a little bit before jumping into film. I shot a roll of PAN F Plus 50 in the studio and sent it off to Reed in Denver. When I saw the proofs I realized that many of the best images were almost all highlights and all shadows with not enough grays. It is possible that the subject was improperly lit by me, and it is also possible that the film was improperly handled by Reed. (For the record, I am much more likely to blame myself than blame Reed, who seem to be trying to do the best they can and otherwise did an outstanding job printing my old sRGB digital files.)
     
  13. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    MV Labs in New York City does all their developing of film by hand and are meticulous when it comes to printing. The Master Printer, Jim Megargee, will use whatever developer and dilution you want for the film you chose to use. He has taught film photography for over a decade and used to print for Annie Leibovitz for years. He will also give you feedback on your negatives as well as your images if you call and request it, which will help immensely when it comes to proper exposure, lighting, contrast, film type and developer combination (a lab that runs C-41 with black and white film won't be of much help in this area and will not help you grow very well or fast as a film photographer). At $25 for a roll developed and contacted, it can get pricey. But, what you learn will be of great help to you in the future and be well worth the money.

    When it comes to film, I would recommend something widely available wherever you travel that will not likely be discontinued in the next 5 years. Some Kodak film and Ilford black and white might be your best bet. This way you can get predictable and consistent results every time.

    When it comes to printing, any Master Printer will take your image and interpret it to the best of their ability. Printing can also get very pricey, but if you have the money, go for it. Even the greatest photographers don't do their own printing -they hire an assistant or a professional printer for the job.

    For the record, my opinion is biased. I Intern at MV Labs. However, even when some interns leave the lab, they send their work to Jim because he's just that good. Photographers for Rolling Stones, Magnum, VII, etc. use him regularly because he's one of the best in the country.

    Personally, if I were you, I'd do a mix of what you're suggesting. I would shoot a couple rolls, send them to a pro lab for processing, get feedback and then use that feedback to develop your own film. Once you "nail it", get a professional printer to do your selects if you don't have access to a darkroom. I would also consider a cheap 35mm negative scanner to get a better visual of what a "positive" will look like from you negative. From there you will have a learned a lot in a very short period of time and possibly saved a lot of time and money from a DIY trial and error approach. Also, read lots on this forum, but keep in mind this is all just opinions and starting points. You have to find out what works for you.

    (and yes, whatever lab you choose, you will have to pay for shipping to and from the lab for film, prints, etc, etc. unless you can get there personally).
     
  14. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    Digital is different than film. Unless you learned f-stop, aperture, composition and lighting on the digital, which most people don't, you will get different results because the digital camera does all the work. You have to know the basics to take good pictures even with a digital. Can you tell me what the f-stop was for those images? How long was the exposure? What was the aperture setting? These are question that most camera users today could not tell you unless they looked at the histogram.
     
  15. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    Hello and welcome to APUG. It will take time for you to learn analog photography.

    Jeff
     
  16. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Welcome to Apug, and bravo for wanting to enter into the service. One of my daughters is considering the Coast Guard, we are pleased with her choice. Listen to guitstik, he's been there, and knows what he's talking about.
     
  17. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Welcome to APUG!

    Steve
     
  18. M.A.Longmore

    M.A.Longmore Subscriber

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