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Back to the Darkroom

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After nearly 2 decades I finally returned to the darkroom.

I have been keen to set myself photographic challenges in recent years. Many of the previous ideas centred around digital image making. Returning to ‘analogue’ photography is presenting a complete rethinking of images I want to create. It is also forcing me to re-learn, learn, and re-discover the thinking process required to create a result I planned. However, I worked with digital image making it has always left me thinking at whatever the stage between the vision and the end result that I could ‘press the shutter again’ having seen an image in the back screen immediately.

Knowing that the earliest you will see the result on pressing the shutter release using film would be the freshly processed negative requires the brain to work in very different ways.

Well before setting up the camera to capture the image is seeing the frame in your mind’s eye. Sitting patiently, or wandering around a location and being ‘in the environment’ what you initially notice can change. Subtly or dramatically.

The obvious changes can be in the light (time of day, cloud cover, contrast), the weather (in the UK, if you don’t like the weather just wait 20 minutes) and how these changes affect the textures of the scene. Things moving (from a static position, or moving in and out of the frame) such as trees changing their position in the wind, or birds animals or people changing the shapes and characters in the scene.

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A lot of my rediscovery and discovery has been around seeing the scene, predicting how it may change and be improved, and working with completely manual settings. I wanted to set a few boundaries and established before I loaded in my first roll of film I would work on a wide aperture to have a narrow depth of field – certain parts of the image in focus, others out of focus and blurred.

This enabled me to concentrate on the shutter speed and focus (again manual)

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The ‘Dark Peak’ around the Stanage Edge Gritstone offered a lot of opportunities with the historical quarry areas of the natural rock. Querns (original millstones) shatter the hillside, and the difference between the worked and natural stone provides a myriad of textures. All lending themselves to monochrome imagery.

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All the images in this post are useful aid memoirs to my next roll of film (s). Making notes from the days out, the choice of lenses, the changes in light, what was noticed before pressing the shutter release and what was noticed after. What was noticed in the processed negatives? The learning never stops!

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Of particular value is having the wonderful The Photo Parlour in Nottingham. It is difficult to describe the pleasure I had attending a 1-2-1 with the owner, Dan, to process my first roll of film in over 15 years. Dan’s teaching is exceptional! Knowledgeable, passionate, interested and interesting. All the images presented in this blog post are from that roll of film. For this post I scanned the images, processed and framed them in Lightroom and Photoshop. They add further to my self-teaching. Seeing the images on a screen enables me to critique them in detail. The blemishes from the processing. Dust collection on the negative. Plus many other points to consider both in the negative processing and what I’ll need to be aware of when I visit The Photo Parlour to print images from a negative.

I have deliberately NOT cleaned the images from the scan and presented them here for you the reader to spot the defects for yourself. I hope it helps. It’s certainly valuable learning for me!Image 13 (5)Image 13 (12)Image 13 (9)Image 13 (8)

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