Back in the good old days of film photography, contact sheets or proof sheets were one of the best ways to view results from black and white or color negative film shoots. Printed on photographic paper, these sheets were exposed in a darkroom by laying a roll of negative film typically cut up and placed in transparent sleeves. They are a great way to see an entire roll of film in one glance. Web galleries and slide shows have all but replaced them in this digital age, but for those few who are still shooting the odd roll of film and don't have access to a darkroom, here's a film and digital solution for making contact sheets at home using a light table and a digital camera.
It's been a month or so since I started printing in the darkroom, and what a ride it has been! After going through tons of paper and chemicals, making a mountain of bad prints, and generally messing up in every way possible, I've managed to be able to make some decent prints. Here are a few of most important lessons I've learned so far in my darkroom adventure.
As I delve deeper into teaching myself how to print in the darkroom, I find myself constantly scouring YouTube for videos on the subject. In trying to relay the things I've learned to you, I realized that there's a lot about printing in the darkroom that I had no clue about. In this video, Andrea Calabresi, an educator based in Italy, does a wonderful job of giving an overview of what it takes to get a good print.
Unlike SD cards, film has an expiration date. Once it reaches the end of its shelf life, all sorts of unpredictable things can happen: loss of sensitivity, decreased contrast, color shifts, fog, etc. Some people see that as unacceptable, some see it as artistic charm. Here's how one roll held up after over three decades of languishing in a bag.
Most of the time, when photographers are buying equipment, they choose the piece of gear that will accomplish their goal using some set of typical parameters: price, weight, build quality, warranty, size, speed, etc. These days, for shooting Formula One car races, you’d probably choose a fast-focusing, high frame-rate camera such as the Nikon D5 or Canon 1DX — if you had the budget for it — because F1 cars are fast and crazy. But that’s not what this photographer did; he decided to step back 100 years and break out a camera that was definitely not designed for shooting a modern-day race track. And the images are awesome.
The Intrepid Camera Co. is on a roll. With the lofty goal of bringing low-cost large format film photography to the masses, they launched their initial 4x5 model's Kickstarter in the fall of 2014. Although plagued with fulfillment issues and mixed reviews (You can see our review of the original model here), enough attention was garnered to warrant a follow up of a much more refined model in 2016. Now, Intrepid is stepping up and hoping to swing for the fences with a big boy: an 8x10 camera.
Although I've professed my love for film many times in many articles, I've always been missing a key ingredient to the analog experience. Namely, I've never learned to print my own film in the darkroom. Sad, I know. Well, no more! My journey to teaching myself to use a darkroom starts now and, whether you like it or not, I'm taking you with me. First things first: Where the hell am I going to put a darkroom?
In this short documentary video from TIME, Dutch creative Erik Kessels explains his interest in amateur photography, including where it started and what he sees in it. What started as simply buying discarded family photo albums has now stirred an interest with the mortality of an image, where with the proliferation of sites like Flickr and Instagram, photographs now have a much shorter lifecycle. This culminates in a very interesting exhibition, featured at the end of the video.
Browsing YouTube can be an exercise in either frustration or bliss, depending on the day. Today, though, I happened upon something that truly speaks to me. If you are a portrait photographer, or anything resembling one, you owe it to yourself to check out the documentary, "Darkness and Light," a part of the American Masters Series, produced by PBS.
The film versus digital debate has raged on for over a decade now. Digital cameras are so capable that it seems silly for anyone to go back to an archaic medium like film. Film is slow, expensive (sort of), lacks many game-changing features found in today's digital cameras, and has lower resolution (sort of). But it has some qualities to it that make it an entirely viable medium for working photographers and enthusiasts alike. One of which that I firmly believe in is that it will make you a better photographer.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on my favorite camera, the Mamiya RZ67. Even though such a camera sells for peanuts compared to its original cost decades ago, buying into a new system can be costly. Well, in celebration of May the 4th, KEH, a used camera gear reseller, is having a fantastic sale on Mamiya gear.
Getting into medium format is quite costly. It’s difficult to know if the investment is going to be worth it and if it’s going to match your current workflow. Medium format has a tendency to slow you down, kind of like film. When I tried my first Phase One, I couldn’t afford one. So I went with the cheapest alternative I could find, the Mamiya RB67 Pro-S. Here’s why I’m glad I made that move but also why it doesn’t replace a digital medium-format system.