So I'm about halfway through my 39th year of life, and can remember the first camera I ever used: I was about six, and it was my father's Nikonos undersea camera. I was using a light meter, setting F-Stop and aperture, guessing at focus or setting a hyperfocal distance, lamenting the lack of a flash unit, and working in black and white.

Ever since then, black and white has been a favorite medium of mine.

I've been in and out of the darkroom scene, but recently I unearthed my old collection of older cameras, the youngest of which is a Contax IIIa. The majority of them are medium format. Several of them take roll film sizes that are no longer in commercial production. Enough of them take 120 film that I bit the bullet and purchased cheap B&W film (Holga branded) and some chemistry with which to process it. Lacking a darkroom, I started scanning the negs on a multipurpose printer.

Needless to say, the resulting images are interesting at best. The negatives look nice, though—especially from the Nettar.

My budget is tight. Space is lacking. Inamongst the same collection, I have a beseler 23 and associated equipment. I found some Fomaspeed Variant I purchased back in '07 in a prior abortive attempt to set up a darkroom. I've ordered print developer, a mat cutter, and some other odds and ends. Redneck engineering should net me a dark room in which I can set up everything but washing. A nearby sink can provide that.

I've been bitten by a bug, it seems. I want to develop prints in coffee. I want to build a 4x5 monorail camera. I want to slather a four foot square canvas with photographic print emulsion, print a nifty image, then embellish it with transparent paints. I want to investigate cyanotype and Van Dyke printing using a UV LED source in an enlarger. I want to construct negative carriers that let me print everything on the medium format negative, including the edges and frame borders.

All more than I can afford right now (except, perhaps, the coffee and a bit of mat board). Most more than I'll be able to do in the six months I have before I must move again.

And for what?

For the mystery of silver halide. For the ethereal, magical moments of watching a latent image come to the fore in the processing tray. For the richness of the red light. For the smell of hypo. For water dripping from the corners of hanging paper. For the beauty of old technology.

For the joy it brings.


Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall by hgernhardt, on Flickr


Morning Shadow by hgernhardt, on Flickr