I've been doing photography for almost two years and I've never really got good at darkroom work. I'm pretty good at fiddling in Photoshop, and I can get quite good black and whites in the darkroom.
But here's my question...
I've got a lot of time soon to 'play' in the darkroom, and try and improve my technique before starting my Photography & Video course in September. Where shall I start?
I'm interested in really mastering one technique that can improve my work in other areas...
What do you think would be a good starting point...
- Pyro development
- Split grade printing
- Split dev
- Toning in Selenium, colour tones etc.
- Different papers (I've tried Kentmere's Art paper and was very impressed, especially at grade three..)
I've seen fantastic results from people using Pyro, and would like to know a bit more about that, perhaps some of you know links or books to start with.
I'm also hoping to borrow and read the Barry Thornton book on printing, plus whatever else I can get my hands on...
Any other suggestions of where to take try and go with the darkroom?
(Got a darkroom at home!! Whee! Hey, I'm not rich, I just found all these wonderful toys in the loft...)
I might try and go to some workshops. There are always some listed in B&W, and for around £90-ish my local group puts on two-day workshops. Might give them a try...
Lith sounds good, pyro sounds extremely useful.
Thanks for your response.
I might take up the "challenge" and print two or three of my good'uns from the past few months on to some Ilford Postcards and join the postcard list.
Lith seem fun to me, not necessarily good . There's a lot of other stuff I would like to control better before I move into the far reaches of esoterica; like developing for contrast control or split developing.
I've also got a 10 year old set of Colorvir toners sitting in my darkroom, I'll get around to playing with it if I feel adventurous one day.
I also mix my own chemicals - lots of funny smells that way!
Pyro? Weeeeelll... I started playing with Pyrocat-HD. That's fun enough for me. At present. But it doesn't really help me with my 400g surplus of pyrocat...
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
I really do not know what extent your darkroom abilities are, but it sounds like you are just starting out or have limited experience. If that is the case, then I recommend you start with the basics and gain control of your materials, starting with the basics.
One book I would recommend is The Zone VI workshop by Fred Picker, and Ansel Adams Basic Photo Series, The Negative nad The Print. Both give a step by step proceedures of tests for film speed, and basic printing skills. And I will not try to outline proceedures that are better described in books.
Great photography is not an accident or hit and miss, hoping to get a good picture. Great photography is control and mastery of technique and craft. Once you have mastered the basics and can produce predictable results, stick with them and move on to grow in your own way of seeing and creative expression.
Time & tides wait for no one, especially photographers.
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Maybe what you should do is find someone's work that really moves you, and then investigate what they did to get it, then learn those tools and techniques.
I'd strike just about everything off your list, except maybe split grade printing.
Here's my reasons by item.
Suited for when you want a Lith 'look' You most likely don't want every print like that.
>> Pyro development
I've seen fantastic results from people NOT using Pyro. Never used it myself but I don't believe it's a silver bullet to 'fantastic results'
>> Split dev
Investigate this once your producing fine prints for that extra little bit of control.
>> Toning in Selenium, colour tones etc.
Originally was going to say to scrape this, but they are so simple you might as well give them a go.
>> Different papers (I've tried Kentmere's Art paper and was very impressed, especially at grade three..)
Pick one, learn it well then experiment.
You probably need to decide if you want to pursure the wet printing or stick with digital image processing.
If you do want to explore the darkroom, I think you'd be best served concentrating on dialing in your preferred film/dev/paper/dev combination and mastering subtle burning/dodging and contrast control (split grade printing, paper flashing). Review your prints and be very critical in your apraisal. Go back and re-print ones you think can be improved. Practice print spotting (assuming you have dust spots! on dud prints so that when you need to do it on a good print your not learning on the good print.
And, while striving for great quality, don't forget about the picture content. If you put lots of effort into printing a pic, you want it to speak to you when you review it at a later date, not look at it and think "ohh I printed that well" without even thinking about the subject. I've got lots of these!
All points "IMO" of course!
try to develop good working habits, cleanliness is a must, dirty negs,lens, trays,spotty prints are a sign of being slopy and lazy, not an artistic statement, start with the basics one film one developer and one paper master them first. try to keep a log so that you can see your growth and to duplicate what you like, don't rush your art, the negs that you feel strong about aproach them with the conviction that this your art, not the one hour photo. take your time to explore your artistic vision it's about quality not quantity! there are many other things like the great advice given by previous members, ask a lot of questions.
I would have to say that there have been many excellent ideas expressed and avenues of exploration opened. I do ,however, think that there is another matter that must be addressed. That is the matter of your personal expression.
What is it that moves you? What do you have strong feelings about? What is it that you want to say? About what? And how do you want to say it? What is the message that runs on the dark currents of your soul?
I think that until you answer those questions for yourself, you will wander many a day in the maze of technique with out a place to use it effectively. Until those questions have found an answer upon which to hang the garment which is you, all artistic technique will be empty.
Conversely when those questions are answered by you, for yourself, then the search for "the" technique will no longer be the futile quest that you now are engaged in. I wish you well.
I'd like to echo the sentiment that you should start with the basics. There is a foundation of knowlege that all the things you have listed build upon. When I show my kids photography, I start them with D76, the developer all others are compared to - for a reason. Use it for your first 20 or 30 rolls/tanks full. Start off with RC paper. It is cheap, fast and dries nicely. Use Dektol or some similar brew. You will enjoy success. Then once you have established a baseline of good workable practices, try new things one at a time. I would think that starting with Pyro, split bath or contrast paper developing with partial selenium toning then drag bleaching will leave you no where. You would not know which part of the process failed. Even though I am an avid fan of all of the above. I use quite a bit of D76 and D23 - Common Metol based developers. I also use quite a bit of cheap ordinary RC paper. I use PMK when I know the negative calls for it (which is not every time.) I use fine fiber papers when the images are worthy (I have a kilobuck invested in driers and presses to flatten them and it is time consuming) Very often I use ordinary materials and enjoy excellent results. These materials are bulletproof, cheap and the skills you learn with them will take you on to the more exotics - not usually the other way around. Just my $.02 - Frank
My photos are always without all that distracting color ...