It has been one of those days
So, there it was. Thanksgiving Day with the relatives. We're all having glasses of wine, waiting for the turkey dinner to be finished when my cousin calls me aside. It seems her daughter's boyfriend bought her an engagement ring and he is going to pop the question today. Everyone is getting together for a family picture outside on the front porch and that's when he will do it. Will I, please, just take a few candid pictures when he asks her to marry him? We know you always have a camera. Please. Please.
And I'm gonna say "no"? Sure. We all know that didn't happen. But I do tell her I only have black and white film, hoping that will let me off the hook. But, no. Black and white is okay. After all they all love my pictures. I've got such a good eye. Right.
So there I am, back in November, snapping away with my M6 on HP5 film while my young cousin and her young boyfriend are bouncing around the front lawn with three dozen other family members standing behind them smiling, crying, cheering and whatever. Heartwarmin'.
Of course now it's January. I finally got around to processing the film just before Christmas but I haven't been in the darkroom to print in over a month. Every time I think about printing those negatives, I just can't get in the mood. My intentions are to make some really nice fiber prints on a warm tone paper that will look pretty hanging on the wall or put in an album. That's my intentions but you know where the pathway to good intentions leads, right? But the bride-to-be's mother--my cousin--only lives two blocks away. It's not that easy to avoid her although I've gotten pretty good at it. Practice makes perfect, you know.
After procrastinating and laying low so long I'm getting embarrassed with myself, I tell my wife I'm gonna make those prints today. The wife is going to visit her mother so I'll have the day to myself. A perfect time for taking over part of the kitchen for important stuff like print washing and toning.
So here I am, alone at last but, again, I'm procrastinating. I look forward to this like a root canal. So I take the dog for a walk. The dog loves it. We come home and I give the dog a bath. The dog hates it. I dry the dog. She bites me. I fix lunch for me and the dog. I eat lunch. The dog eats lunch. I surf the Web and watch the news on TV. Okay, I'm ready--it's time.
I set everything up and immediately get the Saunders 4-blade easel out of alignment. That takes a little while to correct. I think over the prospect of doing fiber prints, rinsing, using a wash aid, washing, drying...and come to a brilliant conclusion. RC is faster, looks just about as good and, besides, RC prints will probably last longer than the marriage anyway. RC it is. I have quite a bit of Ilford Multigrade IV RC on hand, so let's get to it. Since I won't be able to dazzle them with the brilliance of fine fiber prints, I will baffle them with the BS of 11x14 RC prints. I also decided to just pick two good negatives and print four prints of each. One for each set of parents, one for the bride-to-be and one for the groom-to-be. After the divorce, they both will need tangible reminders of their former misery and, hopefully, the lessons learned.
I quickly realized this was going to be a frustrating day. Checking all the negatives again on the light box, I find most of them are not very sharp. The couple was out in the sun, jumping up and down, hugging and shouting for joy (with their freakin' eyes closed most of the time). While in the shadowed background (about two stops under I surmised) was the rest of the family in various stages of eyes being closed or at half mast, mouths open, drooling and displaying goofy looks all around. What a lovely family I have!
Finally, choosing two negatives that were the least offensive, I begin. The first print is not too bad but the easel blades are still not exactly square. Once more, adjusting. The second try is totally off because I moved the easel when I adjusted it and, duh, didn't remember. The third would have been fine but I put the paper in the stop bath first.
Let's take a deep breath, Lee.
Finally, a usable print. Not the greatest or best but, what the hell--it's only family. Now let's go for print number two. Easier said than done. It looks good in the chemicals but when I look at it under white light, I had apparently gotten hypo on my hands and now my fingerprints are showing in the image area. Tell-tale traces of the heinous crime I'm undertaking. So, we try again.
I will spare you the rest of the incidents that ensued--there were others. Yes, there were words. And the splashing of chemicals. Needless to say, this has been a frustrating day. Almost everything has gone wrong but I managed to produce several decent photographs for the happy couple and their parents. I'm sure they'll be happy with them and they will never know my pain.
I think I've learned my lesson. Next Thanksgiving, I'm taking along my wife's EOS Rebel and a roll or two of color negative film. Let Walgreen's have all that fun.
Sure is hard to say no to the family. No matter how much you want to. I got talked into shooting a wedding once. Shot daylight film with available indoor light. Everyone came out a sickly yellow.I let the digiwhiz in the family fix them. I felt real bad and learned a lesson.
Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI
So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004
GREAT STORY!!!!! I know this is kind of sad and painful for you, but I just had the laugh of the day! Thanks for sharing it!
I'm lucky. The only one in the family who likes B&W family pictures is my dad, and he has his own camera. Nobody asks me the shoot the clan gatherings anymore.
Bad days are bad, but a bad day in the darkroom can make one want to cry.
Oh the things we promise when we should have been running the other way. My oldest son now takes family pics with his camera phone so quickly I don't even have time to explain why I'll need little while to load the 35 with....now where did I put that film anyway?
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Lee ... next time ... come and take sanctuary in the "Lens and Tripod" or we could try the "Nymph and Trollop" for a change