I must apologize to the group for my procrastination. I registered on APUG last June and have been, as some of you have probably noted, an almost-daily visitor and an occasional contributor to APUG. I knew almost from my first visit that APUG would be my favorite photography site, but I just kept putting off any introductory comments. I’ve noticed that, since retirement a couple of years ago, putting things off gets easier and easier: there’s always going to be plenty of time tomorrow!
I’m located in less-than-scenic southwestern Illinois, a few miles across the river from St. Louis. My retirement was from thirty-five years of teaching (public high school) where I did much photography in connection with our yearbook and for other school activities. About fifteen years ago, I began to work, mostly during summers, with a stock photo agency in St. Louis. Most of the shooting was color transparencies in 4 x 5 size; I’m convinced that the sheer size helped sell some shots which would otherwise have been ignored. The agency is out of business now (hope I’m not to blame for that!), but my association with it brought in a little money and provided a lot of good experience.
I started photography in high school, using a Ricohflex TLR for yearbook work. The advisor was happy to have someone (anyone!) shooting, especially someone who saved a little money by using mostly available light, thus eliminating a lot of expensive flashbulbs (remember those??). I didn’t realize then how bad the old Tri-X was, but the 2 ¼ inch negatives helped. At the time, neither my school nor I had access to a darkroom, so “drugstore prints” was not just a figure of speech. During college, I dropped my photo activity, but I went back to it early in my teaching career.
My first “good” camera was a Miranda Fv, and, even though I’ve since adopted the Olympus system, I still on occasion use, with highly satisfactory results, several old Miranda bodies and lenses. By the mid-seventies, I was able to set up a darkroom. Fortunately, by that time, I had learned enough to start with a 4 x 5 enlarger (Beseler) instead of something smaller; I still use it today. Almost immediately, the vastly superior image quality of medium and large format negatives became obvious, so I soon acquired a Calumet 400 view camera (still in use, of course) and gradually added lenses.
At about the same time, I became the yearbook advisor at my high school; that lead, inadvertently, to a lot of darkroom experience. Sometimes, with a tight deadline facing us, I had to take home student-shot, student-processed negatives for printing. I quickly learned that not everyone is as fastidious in processing, handling, and storing negatives as I tend to be. Those negatives gave me a world of experience in dealing with markedly under- and over-exposed shots, extremely low and high contrast originals, as well as some lessons in removing sticky fingerprints, oily fingerprints, and even crusty chemical residue. (I routinely gave my negative carriers a thorough cleaning before using them again with my own negatives.)
Nowadays, my non-personal shooting is generally with the Koni-Omega system, a Yashica-Mat, or a Fuji 6 x 7 rangefinder. I use these for meetings, conferences, and conventions, and other “non-tripod” work, mostly with color negative film. I enjoy copying old black and while photos, normally on the now-discontinued 4 x 5 Kodak Commercial. I still have several hundred sheets in the freezer. (Decreasing demand for copy work lately; are people trying the cheap route with scanners??) I always go back to black and white with the view camera and tripod for personal work.
My favorite general-purpose film, by a wide margin, is the highly flexible T-Max 100, but T-Max 400 is a vast improvement on the old Tri-X and comes in handy sometimes. Almost by accident, I used some 35mm Delta 3200 not long ago and was very pleasantly surprised by the (relative) lack of graininess. My usual developer is T-Max, normally diluted 1:7 from the concentrate, but I always have some HC-110 handy also. My sheet film developing is in an 8 x 10 Chromega drum made for color printing; doing only four sheets at a time isn’t usually a problem in 4 x 5, and I have zero problems with uneven development, scratches, etc. For roll film, I learned several decades ago not to mess with plastic reels; Kinderman stainless steel reels with the handy anchoring spike in the center (rather than the Nikkor-type with that miserable, unreliable spring device) are much faster and easier to load for 35mm and 120.
With winter nearing and more darkroom time looming, I plan to experiment with either SLIMT or unsharp masking (or both). Has anyone tried Kodak Commercial for masking? Its slow speed seems to offer possibilities, and I’ve found that it reacts very predictably to both plus and minus development in HC-110.
I’ve been highly impressed with the information to be found in APUG postings. It’s obvious that many of you vastly exceed me in both depth and breadth of photographic knowledge and experience. In past few months, I have learned much from the various postings. Some of the posted photos also remind me that I still have much room for improvement, but maybe I’ll someday find the courage to post a photo or two.
This place certainly has a lot of interesting personalities! Those showing a sense of humor are especially appreciated. I’m intrigued about the possibility of an APUG magazine (whatever it ends up being called) and will be among the charter subscribers. Many thanks, Aggie, for pursuing the project and to the others who have contributed suggestions, criticism, or moral support. Finally, thanks to all who have hung in there and read all this; you have great tolerance for trivial, forgettable information! There—after only five months of good intentions, I’ve finally done it!