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  1. #1
    ghinson's Avatar
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    Beginner needing help

    I have just stumbled onto this forum and it looks like a valuable resource. I am fairly new to photography, though I have been taking pictures for awhile. As a hobby, until recently, I used a typical consumer 5MP digital camera to take nice pictures. Postcards, actually, of the beautiful place I live (Nantucket, MA). More often than not, however, I would just set the camera to automatic and click away. Then I would use photoshop to make the shots look like I spent time on them. Amazing what that software can do.

    For uncertain reasons, I decided a month or two ago that I wanted to learn how to take photographs instead of postcards, and I felt like one way to do this would be to get an old, manual camera and learn how to use it. I bought a Rolleicord Vb and an Autocord on eBay (both excellent deals and they seem to be in good shape) and I found my old Nikon FG. I signed up for a local community school photography class and I am waiting to see what my first shots look like.

    In the meantime I have become obsessed with reading photography books and online forums and, in what seems like no time, I now have convinced myself that I need a Minolta Dimage Multi Pro film scanner or a darkroom, the supplies to develop my own negatives, an Ebony 8x10 camera, a large supply of AZO, and everything else I need to make 8x10 contact prints.

    I realize that this is something like learning to drive in a Nascar stock car. And, fortunately, I have managed to keep my foot off the gas for now (i.e., my hand off the credit card).

    Can anyone offer me general guidance as to how I should proceed? The way I see it, I need to do more work with my TLRs before I spend several thousand dollars on LF equipment. I need to learn more about what makes a good photograph, both technically and artistically. I am worried that it will be too easy to just take seascapes and shots of lighthouses and never really accomplish more than a nice postcard. Should I dive in and find a way to develop my own work and use this energy in the darkroom? Or should I start with a better photography course (I've been reading the Maine Photo Workships catalog) and let someone else handle the darkroom until I am a good enough photographer to make it worth it? Since I don't have adequate space right now to make a complete darkroom, I have considered getting the tools necessary to develop my negatives and digitize them for printing on my Epson 2200, but is this heresy to bring up on an APUG forum? Also, film scanners that will handle medium format are rarely in what I would call the bargain category on eBay.

    Reading back over this post I sound like I have bipolar disorder. While I go find some Lithium, thanks in advance for your responses and guidance. I hope that my enthusiasm will soon turn into work to share with you all.

    Greg Hinson
    Nantucket, MA

  2. #2
    Max
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    I have a similar photographic background - I started with digital, then moved to slide film and scanning, switched to B&W and scanning, started doing my own development, still scanning, and printing with quadtone B&W inks, and finally started doing traditional prints.

    To my eye, there's really no comparison between an inkjet print and an Azo contact print.

    You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on LF equipment - you can do it for less than $1500, maybe even $1000.

    If you think you want to do it, go for it! You'll have a blast.

  3. #3
    Max
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    Also, you'll learn so much so quickly when you start doing your own printing - scanning and working with with Photoshop (or even just the scanner's built-in adjustments) can mask so many problems that you just can't get away with in traditional printing.

    (I learned this one the hard way...)

  4. #4
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    As you've got the 2 TLR's & a 35mm SLR why don't you start off with colour film (neg or slide) & have it commercially processed? Then when you feel you're making progress and have the facilities to have your own darkroom you could start doing B&W. As far as scanning medium format negs are concerned, as you have found, suitable scanners are very expensive so that probably isn't the way to go.

    When I used to do a lot of photography with TLR's (particularly B&W) I found I was usually more pleased with my results than 35mm as using a waist level finder seems to make you concentrate more rather than just snapping away. But circumstances change and now I find myself snapping away with 35mm but I still have the TLR's and will dig them out one day soon.

    Best of luck whatever you decide.

  5. #5
    Aggie's Avatar
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    Yes it is heresy to talk about digital means here on apug. While we do scan negatives/prints to post the results and share, we do try to stay away from talking about digital means on an analog site. There are many who for one reason or another do print with a printer, but their circumstances are far and few between. Now on to the help section.

    Best thing to do is learn how to use your cameras to their best advantage. Even a D---one has to be learned. Then it comes down to composing the subject to its best advantage. How did you do this before? Were YOU satisified with the results you botained previously? If you were, you need not change that aspect. If it is the techniques of developing your own film, this is the place. There will be as many ways to develop film as there are members. It all depends on the look you desire. As to the printing, you do not have to have an 8x10 and do azo to get spectacular results. ESPECIALLY if you are just learning how to deal with you formats. Most pictures printed today are not done on azo. Few of the greats in the past used azo. It is a great paper, but it too takes a learning curve to get to that certain glow. I have one of Paula Chamlee's prints on my wall, and it is very good. I can't say it is any better than the one I have from Les McLean that is not done on azo. It is the matery of your darkroom skills that will shine through.

    35mm is a good starting point to learn how to manipulate film. Medium format gives you larger negs, to work with. Printing is easy once you get the hang of it. What takes time is learning the subtlties of filters, dodging, burning and all the other little bits. Once you see that first sheet of paper magically trnsform from white into a picture you took, in a try frull of chemicals, you will be hooked. The only thing PS can do that you can't do in the darkroom is take something out of the image and add another image in.

    If you are worried about the economics of printing your own, It is cheaper to go the darkroom route. The paper to use with printers, is more expensive than photo paper for the darkroom. The inks are far more expensive than the chemicals. The chemicals you use in Black and White are not harmful to the environment especially when diluted down to the point they are less dilute than found in nature.

    In the end you have to decide what you want the final picture to look like. If you are looking for a good course to take that teaches you the basics +, I can highly recommend Bruce Barnbaum's workshop. Take it after you have taken a good course at your local JC or college. It will give you a good grounding so that you will pick more up from Bruce's class.
    Non Digital Diva

  6. #6
    roteague's Avatar
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    It sounds like you have a good vision, but, I would start out with the 35mm for now, at least until you are more comfortable with the workflow. Large Format is really a much different mindset than 35mm. With 35mm, it's easy to shoot then think, and then keep trying till you get something you like. With LF you have to think before shooting; it's too difficult and expensive to just shoot like you would with a 35mm. Thus, the need to pre-visualize the final image is much more important. IMHO.
    Robert M. Teague
    www.visionlandscapes.com
    www.apug.org/forums/portfolios.php?u=2235

    "A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist" -- Louis Nizer

  7. #7

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    Good Afternoon, Greg,

    One of the best ways to learn about traditional photography is to go through the postings on APUG's forums. You can find everything from very basic stuff to graduate-level information. The only drawbacks are the awkwardness of reading on-screen and the very large amount of time it will take.

    Konical

  8. #8
    ghinson's Avatar
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    Thanks for all of the responses. The advice is welcome.

    Aggie--Recognizing a lot of room for improvement, I've always felt that composition is my strong point and have been satisfied with this in the past. I am not always sure of my subject choice in general and, especially with my 5 megapixels, am disappointed sometimes in what the result looks like, even if it is composed perfectly. As for printing my own work, is it more difficult to do so in 6x6 than with 35mm? I looked at Bruce Barnbaum's website and that does sound like an exceptional workshop. It's a long way from where I am at, but I will definitely consider. How much experience should I have before attending his workshop? If I still am not doing my own printing, would I be lost in his workshop? Thanks.

    Brac suggested starting with color and paying for processing. I am not expressing this well but I feel like using color is making it too easy for me to cheat on the subject. I live in the land of nightly, beautiful sunsets, and glorious light. This makes it easy for me to take nice postcards whenever I want. But I feel like something is missing. If I take my Autocord loaded with B&W out to a sunset, as I have a couple of times now, I am more likely to find the drift fence sitting in intricately patterned, glistening sand with interesting diagonal shadows and aim for it, instead of taking 10 pics of the sun setting a little left of center. Do you know what I mean?

    Here is a general beginners question. (Mind you, I have little to no darkroom experience. I just developed my first negatives in class Monday night.) I understand there are two big steps to the darkroom process. Developing the negatives and making the print. How much of the art is involved in developing the negatives? Is this just cookbook and, as long as you don't mess up the film trying to get it into those blasted rollers, if you follow the instructions that always comes out right? Or, is there an art to this step as well? If developing the negatives is a simple process that does not require much in the way of thought, then I have a local lab who will give me negatives alone for $4/roll. I was thinking of getting the chemicals and a changing bag and working on this myself, but maybe I should concentrate on the printing and begin working towards setting up a darkroom.

  9. #9
    L Gebhardt's Avatar
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    There is not really any art in developing the negatives, it's more of a science. Printing on the other hand requires both. Get a changing bag, some film tanks and reels, a few measuring cups and chemicals. I use my kitchen sink for developing film. I would not have a lab do your film because they will mess it up, unless you shoot C41 black and white.

    My darkroom is in a bathroom, so they don't need to take up much space. In fact with a small enlarger you could set it up and take it down each time you print. Enlargers are also very cheap these days so you can easily pick one up from eBay. In fact if you are ever up in southern New Hampshire I can give you a 6x7 enlarger that I no longer use. Trays can go in the tub or on a small table.

  10. #10
    roteague's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghinson
    Brac suggested starting with color and paying for processing. I am not expressing this well but I feel like using color is making it too easy for me to cheat on the subject. I live in the land of nightly, beautiful sunsets, and glorious light.
    Greg, don't fall into the trap of thinking that color is "easy". It's a totally different mindset than shooting B&W, not necessarily better, just different. It takes much more than a "pretty" sunset to make a satisfying print - the "art" of composition still applies. I live in Hawaii - you can't get much better for glorious light and beautiful sunsets - but, I can still go to the local galleries and find sunrise/sunset images that are terrible for sale. I shoot almost exclusively color (Velvia).

    FWIW.
    Robert M. Teague
    www.visionlandscapes.com
    www.apug.org/forums/portfolios.php?u=2235

    "A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist" -- Louis Nizer

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