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  1. #1

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    Trying to learn as fast as I can!

    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. #2
    M.A.Longmore's Avatar
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    Welcome Home, Multi !


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    Sanjay Sen, 36, a champion of human and animal rights, died June 3 in a motorcycle accident in Wayne, New Jersey.

    July 23 1975 - June 3 2012

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  3. #3

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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.
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  4. #4

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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. #5
    nhemann's Avatar
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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.....
    "There is no such thing as objective reality in a photograph"

    My flickr and (gasp!) dpug photos - take a look if you like.

  6. #6

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    Maybe you are right

    Quote Originally Posted by tkamiya View Post
    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.
    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. #7
    Kevin Caulfield's Avatar
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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".

  8. #8

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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....
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  9. #9

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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. #10
    guitstik's Avatar
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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.
    Thy heart -- thy heart! -- I wake and sigh,
    And sleep to dream till day
    Of the truth that gold can never buy
    Of the bawbles that it may.

    www.silverhalidephotography.com

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