An excellent piece of advice. And, it holds true for photographers that have been at it for a while as well! There really isn't much of a reason either, other than to satisfy your curiosity, to dive in and use 'exotic' materials once you're a seasoned and skilled photographer / printer / artist.
I look at splendid artists like Bill Schwab. He is a very good example for those that think they need flashy materials. He's used the same Hasselblad camera for decades, and he keeps it CLA'd and serviced by experts. One film (Tri-X), one developer (HC-110), one paper (Ilford), one paper developer (Ilford), and sepia and selenium toners. That's it. And now go look at his prints!
I have had the fortune of holding many of his prints in my hands, and they are SPECTACULAR! He's an amazing artist.
For me, I use that almost like a mantra. My materials are different (easy to get stuff), but I'm using one film, one developer, two papers (one for standard printing, both work with lith chemistry), and two paper developers (standard and lith). And I have to tell you that I was farting around (flailing, as you say) for too long with various films and chemistry. You're absolutely right; it got me NOWHERE!
You will also be doing yourself a favor by using the same materials over and over. If you ever want to, or have to, exhibit your work, you will have a cohesive look to them. This makes it much easier for you. I am right now printing up portfolios, which is a chore, because I have used at least five different kinds of paper to make individual prints within a series - now I have to do it all over again on the SAME paper.
You speak the truth. No materials will make a great photographer and printer. But a great photographer and printer will make GOOD materials sing. It takes a lot of practice to get there; I've been doing this for eight years now, and I still consider myself very much a learner.
Thank you, Jason! I will actually take your words, transfer them to a Word document, snazz it up, make sure it's clear where the words came from, and give it to everybody and anybody I know that is a photography beginner.
As a beginner myself (who has just recently began developing B&W negatives), I was impressed to find out about the wide range of things you can do with just one film and one developer [combination]. I'm just glad that I can accomplish a lot of looks, or effects, while keeping my darkroom very simple.
Great article Jason; Let's see if in a few months the last half part of the manual can be of use to me. :) I've still got to start B&W film dev.
I was bored this evening, and I did this simple PDF in 15 minutes. PDF's are a more consistent format than .doc and such. It works great with any OS and PDF reader, so it's a good format for sharing.
The text is 99% identical; I only modified the "AA's The negative" for "Ansel Adams' The negative". I had some strange feeling that led me to do this evil action. I hope JB won't mind the little change ;)
One "rule" I have tried to follow lately is only print negatives you REALLY, REALLY want to print. Don't be diverted by the "should dos", "must dos", "he/she'll like this ones", "this shows how smart I ams" etc etc. Fun and joy and satisfaction is slaving over a print you really love. Slaving over anything else is ultimately not very satisfying and steals time from the others. You will always(eventually) have hundreds or thousands of negs that will never see the light of an enlarger so always start with the "next favourite" one that inspires you.
Good work JB.
Developing: Says it all, there is nothing worse than flailing and nothing harder than trying to help a flailer. Good concise read Jason.
Perfect advice Jason, wish I followed it when I started.