I wouldn't call developing film an art, but you retain a measure of control, and ultimately, you will be able to make better prints if you develop your own film. It takes practice to get comfortable. Pick a film and a developer, and stick with it for awhile. I've shot film that I had commercially processed, and have always had a harder time making the prints from those negs. I think the TLR's are a great way to learn, and I find the medium format film easier to load onto reels. It's a great size for printing, not at all hard to do. I would stick with that format for now. It's very satisfying to print your own photos, so good luck with it! And welcome from another Bay Stater!
I'm a relative newcomer myself. I've managed to pick up the following info in the past few years. Others with much more experience and knowledge will hopefully correct me.
Developing negatives using the time/temp method is relatively straightforward and cookbookish. Knowing the time/temperature/dilution/agitation method for a given film and EI and following it (religiously) should yield the same results every time (or something approximate to that). Those using the zone system will increase or decrease development times in order to control contrast, but this is not usually done with rollfilm unless you have a camera that can take different backs (like a Hassy or a Mamiya 645) which you don't have since you have 2 tlrs and a 35mm slr. If you are interested in learning more about this subject get Les McClean's book.
You can use development by inspection (looking at the film during development using a green safelight) to more accurately determine development, but this process is most often used with sheet film, not roll film.
There is, however, an art to it. Unfortunately, it is black. I'm not sure how much of this is palatable for the uninitiated, but here goes...
Short Guide to Photographic Alchemy
Photographic alchemy can be divided into two major camps: the pyromaniacs and anti-pyros. [Footnote: Rodinalisques are their own special cult which might be considered a separate group, but I'll lump them in with the anti-pyros for now.] Among the pyros there are several sub-cults, the cat people (aka pyrocats), and the p(i)mkites, not to mention the doubleyoutoodeetoahs from planet doubleyoudeetoine. The pyro cults are constantly warring and are lead by their prophet-alchemists the most high exalted King Sandy King and Sir Gordon Hutchings of lancaworcheshire-something-or-other. The anti-pyros seem to spend a lot of time attacking the pyros, whereas the pyros mostly just attack everyone. (It's hard to tell who started it though, sort of like the Hatfields and McCoys or the Whigs and the Tories or the Yorks and the Lancaster or, you get the idea...) The pyros are especially sensitive about the deadliness of the chemicals they use. Most secret alchemical organizations would be proud of their ability to manipulate deadly chemicals, but the pyros go to great lengths to explain that these chemicals are not deadly at all (which they aren't, according to most studies, unless you are a cow given about 3 pounds ala gavage).
On the periphery, there is also a secret recipe for something called "777" that has many acolytes. I've heard rumours that it is 7 parts dragon scale, 7 parts bat wing, and 7 parts really expensive studio lighting. No one is saying what is really in it, though many have their theories. It can be used over and over and gets better the more you use it (at first anyway.)
The King Solomon of them all (figuratively) is someone named, I swear I'm not making this up, Gadget Gainer. If that doesn't sound like the name of a evil robot bent on world domination I don't know what does. He is so well-schooled in the black arts of photographic alchemy that he can produce negatives of astounding beauty using (I'm not making this up now) - Vitamin C. Yes, the stuff in orange juice. The very substance that mothers force their children to drink and (sometimes) cures colds. For centuries alchemists have tried to turn lead into gold, but Mr. Gainer has managed to turn Vitamin C into silver, which is close enough considering his ties to the government.
All of these alchemists are continually searching for what is called the "photographer's stone" or, more often, the "magic bullet" - A mystical object that when boiled in D76 can convert any negative into a sharp, clear, properly exposed, easily printable on grade 3 silver gelatin OR Azo OR platinum/palladium OR [insert alterno process here] negative of a picture of a black bear in a cave or even a suitably black cat on a cast iron stove.
All say they have the bullet - some will deny it, but don't believe them. To follow any one of these alchemists is to set forth on a journey best left to those of a stout heart and a weak sense of smell.
You have been warned. In these woods doth dragons lie....
"I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America." -- Alexis de Tocqueville
Digital is best taken with a grain of silver.
Welcome from the western part of the Bay State. Don't be hesitant and jump right in and start developing and printing those negs from the 6x6. You'll be hooked.
Long live Ed "Big Daddy" Roth!!
"I don't care about Milwaukee or Chicago." - Yvon LeBlanc
LOL, I use pyro and non pyro developers depending on the contrast range I encounter. The reason I suggested Bruce's class is, if you understand the basics of how to devlop film, (time for each type of film, temp, water stop bath, and a fix) Bruce will dimystify the compression and expansion of developing film. Beyond the basic how to with paper development, he teaches you things to look for while watching the paper develop, and a slick trick (if needed) of selective bleaching. You have the opportunity to go out in the field and shoot film then develop it there. I loved the critique session where everyones pictures were critiqued by Bruce. He goes over what can be done to help, or compliments you on a good job. Then when you see his collection, he goes over what he did with each one to give it that glow.
If there is another workshop I would take again it would be Les McLeans. He goes into split bath development and pre flashing the image. A great in the darkroom class.
Nice thing is both gentlemen have books they have written about the things they teach. Bruce's you can via his web site. Les is a member here, and you can get his book through various means including Amazon.
Since you will encounter those difficult lighting situations, it is good to understand they can be handled beyond the basics you will be taught in a beginner class. I was told by my professors in the last few years, that there was not much that can be done for a poor exposure. I found it was not poor exposure but lack of technical expertise (or lack of willingness to teach it) by the professors. I had to learn the light meter on my own. I had to learn about manipulating film on my own, and I had to learn there was more than one way to develop the print on my own. Never be afraid to ask, and learn. This is a wonderful place to get information.
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In answer to your question about which is easiest to print from 35mm or 6x6, I always found 6x6 slightly had the edge because the negs being bigger are easier to examine & handle and compared to 35mm it is usually possible to blow up a portion of the neg without sharpness suffering unduly.
As far as developers are concerned there are lots of estoric brews around but you would be best to start off with something basic and easy to use and leave the more exotic stuff til later. I found Paterson's Aculux coped with most things, but ID11/D76 and Agfa's Rodinal are all well thought of and not tempremental.
Okay wdemere that was way over my beginner head, but I could tell it was funny anyway. So I laughed as if I got it.
Since this is turning into something of a newbie thread, does anyone have a suggestion of a good basic darkroom text, and a suggestion for a resource for setting up a darkroom? I'm talking more about blueprint here then I am equipment lists. I have an unused basement room with no outside windows, power and water. I'll have to heat it though.
Thanks for all the helpful info.
I would suggest that you take the photo class that you signed on for. Start working with your TLRs and I would go so far as suggesting that if black and white "flips your switch" then don't waste a second on color. I started out with color myself and what a waste of time that was. But then black and white "flips my switch".
If you still feel the same way about this after the class is finished then buy used equipment (8X10)...no sense wasting time with enlarging if you want to produce the finest prints. Used equipment will make as good a print as the most expensive new stuff.
Go straight to Azo or Pt-pd or whatever "flips your switch" at that time. The next step would be to hook onto Michael Smiths shadow and learn what he can teach you in one of his workshops if you can blackmail him into teaching you.
Don't ever compromise your vision!!!!
Originally Posted by ghinson
You might try reading THE BASIC DARKROOM BOOK by tom Grimmm, there are new and older versions and you can buy it at a book store or on ebay.
I started developing my own film b/w and color and printing my b/w in a dark room in the begging of the summer, but I still do the color on the computer. my darkroom is the bathroom :o) like a lot of people on this site. enlarger are either what you can afford or what is small and can be moved around. I think your darkroom is like your camera, a very personal thing. and you might look in to a older mf camera, there are a lot of manual medium formats around for a good price. I think i would go slowly, developing your film and if that appeals to you, buy the enlarger etc.that way you don't have a bunch of stuff taking up room in the garage. Have fun with it also don't think that every shot has to be perfect, some time's the shot that i just focused and snapped where the one's i have hanging on my wall.
I agree with Donald Miller's suggestions. If what you want to do is 8x10 contact prints, (and when you see good ones you will want to), then by all means get the camera and one lens, maybe two. Contact Michael Smith and Paula Chamele. Not only they are great photographers, they are superb teachers. My photographs show proof of that.
It will take some time to get the technical side down, but you will have fun learning.
Do not feel intimidated by the size of the camera. It is actually a lot easier than shooting the small stuff, only a little heavier.