Although there are infinite variations on how "immersed" one becomes in their photography, being able to develop your own B&W film, and make your own enlargements, is sort of like moving from the passenger seat to the driver's seat in a car. Not only do you then have control over the destination, but also how you get there.
[COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]
Rio Rancho, NM
Real men and women develop their own films and print their own photographs. Otherwise its like owning a sailboat and having a captain for it.
Real photographs, created in camera, 100% organic,
no digital additives and shit
I have never invested in a darkroom. Not enough bang for the buck. I work from three distinct areas.
Originally Posted by snowfooled
1. The den, with one covered window at night, I do my enlarging there.
2. The closet with a towel under the door to load film tanks.
3. The garage at night to develop in trays. No ventilation required. It's perty airy in there and that way my family is not exposed to chemistry. That being a primary concern.
I do all my chem work at night.
Physical darkroom costs: $0
Cheap is my middle name.
As far as the first question in the thread . . . "Is it worth learning?" The mind is a sponge with unlimited absorption capability. The more you allow it to absorb, the more productive and resourceful you will become.
Last edited by DannL; 04-20-2006 at 12:26 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Originally Posted by David Brown
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"
Just to add my $0.02:
A few years ago, learning to use a darkroom would have been more-or-less essential for anybody on a career path in photography. With so much commercial photography today going digital, though, I'm not sure that's true any more. (But then again, I'm not a professional photographer, so I could be misinterpreting that world from my outside view.) That said, having the experience and skillset to use a wet darkroom certainly won't work against you if you want to pursue a career in photography, and could conceivably open some doors. OTOH, time spent learning these skills could conceivably be spent learning other skills. With the digital world so much in flux, though, I'm not sure how much you learn today (on Photoshop, say) would be applicable in 5-10 years. So there's my wiffle-waffle response.
As to how to start out, I recommend you read some Web sites and/or books on traditional darkroom work. One Web site I have bookmarked is this one, which has good basic information on most of the procedures involved, as well as tips on constructing a darkroom. I've also found Tom Grimm's The Basic Darkroom Book, 3rd Edition to be a good printed guide. As others have noted, you can get by at first with remarkably little. On the other end of the scale, if you get into it in a big way you might eventually spend thousands of dollars constructing your ideal darkroom -- but presumably not at this stage in your life!
You might want to start with developing a few rolls of B&W film. You can then scan the film or take it to a 1-hour lab to have them make prints. (You might get back hideously colored prints, but at least you'll be able to judge the images pretty well.) Developing the film only requires a room that can be made completely dark or a changing bag to load the reel and put it in the tank. The rest can be done at any convenient sink. Once you've done a few rolls of film, if you're still interested, set up the enlarger in some location that can be made light-tight and start printing. If you're still interested after doing that for a while, you can improve your darkroom space, add color processing to your repertoire, start toning your prints, and otherwise expand and improve your skill set.
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While the only reason you NEED to learn darkroom skills is if you want to go into wet lab work as a profession, learning the proceedures for processing and developing your film, and printing your negatives, will still add valuable understanding if you also do this kind of work in digital. You will understand where the functions in Pshop came from, why they do what they do, and how they do it. You will also learn what the differences between the two ways of working are, and as a result, when one is superior to the other. Most importantly, however, you'll learn a skill that will be enjoyable for you for the rest of your life, and you'll never stop improving, so you'll have a continuous growth curve.
While you can use the garage, I'd add another vote for the bathroom, or the basement, if the basement isn't too dusty. Usually you have a water source in the basement from the laundry equipment, if nothing else, and a decent sized space to curtain off for a dark room.
D-76 is a film developing chemical. There are lots of choices for this out there, but D-76 is a decent one to learn with. The most important piece of advice nobody has given you yet is:
DO NOT BE AFRAID OF MISTAKES!
You'll certainly screw up your first few rolls of film in one way or another, or even if you don't think you did now, looking back on it a few years from now you'll say, wow, what a mess I made of that... that's ok! Get out there, make some photos, get your hands wet in the chemistry, and have fun!
Just a hunch, but it might also help you separate your personal work from your professional work.
After shooting digital all day and working at a computer working in your darkroom will seem fun.
art is about managing compromise
Sorry, I am quite drunk, but it matters whether you intend to pursue a pro career or not!!! It sounds as if you are fairly young and would relish the chance to enjoy as many creative avenues as possible. It is true that darkroom work helps an understanding of the basic principals but where it excels is lighting the creative touchpaper. I am 30 yrs old and an full LF afficionado. It is not an age era thing but a hands on vs system interface thing. F15 vs Spitfire/P51D? Setting up a darkroom is v easy for basic stuff and IMO gioves you more feel for the medium in 10s than 10 months mucking about with PCs. I started out thinking digi was the way ahead but as soon as I started darkroom work I realised I had been hoodwinked and wet work was where the spiritual release lay. That was what I was really looking for and the results just happened to be far better too (in mono) and digital is just a distant fuzzy memory (for mono). Lets face it I am now thinking how to dev my own film in Afghanistan and hook it up to a scanner for APUG (neg) preview. Lets face it, wet mono must be good otherwise I would have to be mad to go to this bother. I own a good digi SLR........but then just bought a pair of 35mm SLRs just for this place as the digi was missing the mark by MILES. TriX, FP4,APX whatever....the photons hit the film and the film is the real negative of the momement. The real happening. No bull.
so now all i have to do is convince some one to help me out...
That will probably be less difficult than it seems.
Here are some ideas
Your school newspaper, join the staff
Your school yearbook, ditto
Local small-town type newspaper
Photographic oriented galleries
For me the darkroom is half of the creative process, and not having access to one has kept me away from taking pictures for too long. And I find that Photoshop and a scanner, or my digi camera are not satisfactory substitutes.
Nowdays, and certainly in the future digital will be the standard for most commercial work. However there is very little that is true for film and photographic paper that isn't also true for digital, and vice-versa. Photoshop hits you between the eyes with all the science that is behind photography and image making. It's easy to mistake the ease of manipulation in digital with creativity. By exposing film, processing it, and making your own prints, you will learn how to work within the limitations of the process and produce something pleasing to look at, and conveys a message, which is what will make you a success in the commercial world should you decide to follow that path.