Darkroomist Photographic culture of the analog variety from the fresh coast.

28Jun/130

The Bromoil bug is biting. Again.

Over the years I've played with the idea of doing Bromoil prints but it never got off the ground. After this year's Photostock I feel it might actually happen. See there's a lot of Alt process at Photostock and I happened to casually mention that Bromoil is pretty much the only alt process I'm interested in. The response I got was pretty much "YES! YES! DO IT! Here are some resources." So I came home, watched some how-to video, refreshed myself with the book Bromoil, a Foundation Course by Derek Watkins and I'm ready to start the first phase of this project: gathering the supplies necessary to try the process. In order to do this in some orderly fashion I thought I'd compile a list of needed items so as not to haphazardly tread into unknown territory.

Stuff I need to start making Bromoil Prints:

Bromoil soft developer (Amidol or Kodak 163)
Plain hypo (or non-hardening fix)
Hard black pigment ink (Litho Black 1796 or Crayon Black 1803)
Bleaching kit (Copper sulphate, Potassium bromide, Potassium dichromate, Sulphuric acid 10%sol)
Chamois leather
Palette knife
Brushes (usually round, shaving brush or stencil brushes)
Palletes (can be white ceramic tile)
blotting paper (may be skipped by using paper towel instead of chamois?)
Stiffening powder (? gotta read up on this one more)
Extra 16x20 tray (if I'm going to make 16x20 Bromoil prints)
20x24 thick plate glass with ground edges (to ink on, turns out plexi is an option)
Watercolor fixative spray
Erasers (incl fancy small art ones)
Lighter fluid (for brush cleaning)
A well lit location I can perform a rather messy inking process

David Lewis offers a Beginners kit that covers most of this for $350-ish shipped but I can't really afford to plop that down right now. A lot of these are sub $20 items I can keep an eye out for. I think the biggest expense is going to be the 20x24 plate glass with ground edges (which isn't in the beginner's kit). Where lewis might really help out is with the chemicals which he does offer a la carte. If you want to help support this endeavor please check out my Etsy store in the right hand column or click "My print store" at the top of the page. Thanks!

This is my list of things I need, I happen to have a ton of different kinds of paper and other darkroom printing supplies. To make your own list (I'm sure many things will correlate) watch the how to videos, pick up the above mentioned book and start diggin in!

20Apr/130

Wow, I was surprised, and touched.

The stats on my Etsy Shop default to weekly and look relatively unimpressive when viewed day to day. "Favorites" trickle in, sometimes one user will go on a faving binge. Shop favorites are more infrequent. Last night I noticed that the reporting time for the stats can be changed and that one of the selections was "all time". I was interested in that and was not prepared for what I saw. Over the last couple years I've amassed 403 item favorites and 63 shop favorites. O_o I was touched and surprised and humbled all at the same time. You plod along and not much exciting happens and it feels like failure then one day you step back and see how many people you've touched in some way. It's an odd feeling. Obviously on a smaller scale than say It's A Wonderful Life but of a similar ilk. 466 faves might seem like a lot, but when you've felt like your swimming upstream for 2 years, it's amazing.

17Apr/131

Everything old is new again.

Well, not everything. Just a couple things are renewed. The first is that I've been made an admin of the group "Darkroom Portraits" on flickr dedicated to depiction of darkrooms old and new. I haven't been too active on flickr in a long time. I've let my absurdly cheap "Pro" status lapse for about 2 years now, though I'm thinking of getting it back on track. As far as the group goes, I've cleaned out the photo pool that was rife with non-darkroom pictures, invited scores of new images, and we have a few new members as well. Currently we're at 435. I know there's been rumors of Yahoo/Getty dropping flickr but I have a hard time believing they'd do that. I will admit the site is overdue for a complete overhaul. It's loo, feel and functionality has remained stagnant since I joined in 2006. Come to think of it, my profile there really needs to be updated so I'm not linking to it! :-P

Second is JPGmag.com. I haven't uploaded anything there in two years, and then it was sporadic. I'm going to make an effort to get that back on track as well. I always loved that magazine in print form. The site I thought was a little clique-y and I'm rarely in the clique. Who knows, maybe this time I'll get noticed. Likewise, my stuff there is ancient so no link to it for the time being.

Filed under: doin what I do 1 Comment
11Apr/132

So ya wanna get started shooting film?

Shooting film is a beautiful thing. Luckily people have been doing it for a century so as a medium film has been adapted to all levels of skill, interest, devotion, and economic means. This rabbit hole is deep but the hurdles to getting started are low. All it *really* takes is a thrift store/garage sale/parents' junk drawer camera, a roll of film, and a nearby Walmart. As cool as they are you don't really *need* a Lomo camera. If you just want to stick your toe in the film water and have fun, I'd suggest sticking with a point and shoot camera, the simpler the better. Something like a Kodak Cameo keeps it super basic and lets you focus solely on the taking of the picture. There's no settings, no choices, just point it at something interesting and push the button. Now in that vein I'd also recommend any regular color film (not slide film!), in the 200-400 speed range. To have them developed I'd recommend Walmart's send-out service, the little envelope stand usually near the camera section of the store. It's the cheapest, but I think Walgreene's still does it in store. Quick little note about finding film camera: stay away from odd formats like 127, 828, 126 and APS. In general you're going to want either a 35mm, 120, or maybe a 110 camera. 110 film is tiny, the cameras are generally not great and enlargements beyond 5x7 are usually pretty bad. 35mm is probably your best bet to start, but and old 120 box camera like an Ansco Sure Shot will work also.

This is all well and good but soon you may experience the urge to upgrade. This is ok, but let me state a brief public photography service announcement. Most of what makes an image good or bad is what the camera is pointed at, not the camera you point at the subject. The goal should be to find something you enjoy using that produces images you like. Or to take it a step further, to find a process you love shooting that makes images you love. You may want to get out and explore other options to find more things you love, but the objective is not to use the most expensive equipment though they do have advantages.

Ok, back to upgrading. If you want to take a baby step forward, something like a Canon EPOCA or Photura is really fun. You have a zoom lens and everything else is automagic. Or if you want to go another route, the Yashica Electro is a focus-and-shoot rangefinder. The long venerated Canon AE-1 can be a focus and shoot SLR with a whole host of cheap used lenses available on secondary markets like ebay, keh.com, craig's list, and pawn shops. There are literally 1000's of choices of steps in this direction. The end point of this chapter in your film photography exploration ends pretty much when you want and are comfortable with fully manual cameras.

Once you're ready for the fully manual experience complete with separate light meters and auto-nothing, you're ready for "real" medium format. You can test out medium format with a box camera or a Holga and get the hang of handling the film. If you're using color negative film you can keep using Walmart's send out service though it will take longer to get your images back. "Real" medium format takes a bit of investment in the camera and film. You'll probably have to buy the film online from a place like freestylephoto.biz. The most cost effective MF SLR cameras are 6x4.5. But for me a big part of the MF experience is the square format. TLRs will be the most cost effective option for 6x6, something like a Ricohflex will get you started, but Kowa 6 or a Lubitel might be an option. Most any 6x6 camera with shutter speed, aperture, and focus controls will cost over $100.

At some point you may want to try different films. Awesome! Slide film is fun and backwards from print film. It has higher contrast, more vivid colors, but unlike print film it handles under exposure better than over. Walmart can still handle slide film though the employees get confused by the lack of prints. Black and white film is a path many, myself included, find appealing. You will most likely process this yourself unless you want to send it out to a specialty services at around $10/roll +shipping both ways. Probably the best way to get into black and white is to buy a darkroom someone is selling nearby. Generally I wouldn't pay more than $250 for a complete darkroom. You'll probably have to clean everything, toss the chemicals, don't trust the paper until its tested. Initially you won't need the enlarger, trays, and print processing equipment, but clips, development tanks, graduates, etc will all come in handy. You'll need to get and mix up a developer and a fix and at this point you'll probably be asking for help specific to your film/developer on flickr groups or on boards like Apug.org. Also the massive dev chart at digitaltruth.com is a huge help.

Now I know buying a few developing tanks and graduates is way cheaper than a whole darkroom, but printing is WAY more fun than developing. Once you start printing you'll definitely be hooked.

Filed under: doin what I do 2 Comments
6Apr/130

Things Change, I’ve changed

I've been a photographer of one sort or another since 2001. When I started I dreamed about becoming a professional photographer. It was all rosy colored speculation. I worked for other photographers and studios and that was GREAT, I loved it. Decent money, not that you could live off of, but great supplemental income. That all came to an end in 2008 when the economy ground to a near halt. I started out on my own. I hated it. To get a solid start as a photographer you have to beg everyone you know to either hire you or send potential clients your way. Every one you meet you need to tell you're a photographer, you need to hand out cards like crazy. At least initially you need to blur the line between personal and professional relationships. (If you're looking for advice on how to get started, write that down!) It's really only of marginal value if your good at what you do. If you're a self employed photographer you are more of a business person than an image creator by necessity and it will be that way until you can afford to hire staff. I didn't like it, some of it I couldn't bring myself to do well. I didn't want to be a business person. I stopped chasing weddings a year or two ago. I still do Senior Pictures and band/musician/artist promos but my business is on hiatus. I thought I could switch over to a "fine art" photographer, but that's been more miss than hit. Presently I'm returning to amateur status and concentrating on my film work like the stuff you find here, pinup, urbex, landscape, and other weird stuff. I'm doing this more for me than for money, and hopefully I can keep things a little self sustaining. A bit more on that a little later. This graphic helped me put into perspective the road that I had traveled, the direction I'm headed in and it might help you if you're a photographer.

6Apr/130

Lastest Pinups to roll out of my darkroom

Still chugging along here. Here's some of the latest pin up prints I've worked up. All are available for donation, excepting the Roberta Pedon print.

pin up prints

coffee tea drinking pin up

Pistol packin pinups

10Mar/133

Marketing for Artists and Creatives

No I don't have any special insights on marketing for creatives and artists. I'm not particularly good at marketing. I have a Facebook page with 50-some followers, a Twitter account with 252 followers, and a Tumblr with 23 followers. My Etsy shop has 33 followers,and this blog the readership of which is unknown. None of this translates into more than selling one print a month or less. I'd love to find some current information, how-tos, videos, instructionals etc on marketing art with a specific focus on low cost social media that doesn't annoy the crap out of everyone you know. Anyone know of any resources that fit this description? If I find any, I'll post it in the comments.

Filed under: doin what I do 3 Comments
13Dec/120

A dream without action will remain just that.

A dream without action will remain just that. I don't know who said that, and there are many variations but it is absolutely 100% true. The other day I did an art market/arts and crafts show. The weather (snow) put a damper on it, but I still sold a little. I noticed a trend this go around. A lot of people seemed eager to talk with me about how they, or a close family member was once "into photography", they tell me about the 35mm cameras they once owned, or maybe even a medium format. I hear about darkrooms or children interested in architectural photography. But there's a obstacle between them and myself and it's literally the table of my wares between us. The difference is that I didn't just think about doing all that stuff, I didn't just "like" it, and I didn't stop when I realized how crappy my photography initially was. I kept going, I honed (and still am honing) my craft. I went to all these places and took the shots, I asked models to shoot with me and I created sets from my imagination and limited finances. I didn't stop there, I processed and printed the film. In fact I did LOTS of printing, and I still didn't stop. I researched exhibition booths, I bought 100's of matts, backing boards, and bags, I matted all my prints, bagged and priced them. I figured out ways to display them, hauled them all out to the show and set them up. The doing is the big, big difference between someone who wants to sell prints, and someone who is "into photography". Perhaps it's surprising, but perhaps not at all, generally the more enthusiastic someone is about photography, the less likely they are to purchase one of my photographs.

I'm happy to shop talk, and I realize they mean well. There's still a somewhat-insulting inference that "I could have done this" that irks me a little because they obviously weren't willing to bet the time and money on themselves to do it. And that's precisely what a dream requires you do to pursue it. When you stop gambling on your vision, taste, and talent, you've given up on your creative dreams.

I hope I never give up on photography, but it can be a costly endeavor.

8Nov/120

Film isn’t dead

It just smells funny! :) It's true, it's not dead yet, but there are still too many players on the field to consider any one producers of analog photography supplies as "thriving". There's still a ton of speculation and rumor going on about what Kodak's bankruptcy means for film shooters and Efke recently quit the game. Anyways here's a story about those still hanging on to film in NYC.

10Sep/120

A couple neat resources that answer “Why Shoot Film?”

Found this video of Clyde Butcher talking about his love of film and the darkroom via Stu Batchelor:

And Believe in Film brought this wonderful article from PopPhoto.com on film photography to my attention:
Film Lives: The Enduring Allure of Analog Photography