Well, the new house in Hood River is very efficient, but not conducive to containing a production darkroom. I set up the third bedroom with the D5XL enlarger, and some of the framing equipment, but it’s carpeted, so all of the wet stuff has to happen in the bathroom with my Jobo CPP processor.
I bought a digital camera to keep me going until I carve a darkroom out of the garage.
The impossible happened.
I have the photos to prove it.
I bought a used Nikon D300 with a 24-120 VR lens. Then, I had my Nikon prime lenses converted to AI at Blue Moon Camera. These include the following:
20mm, 35mm, 50mm, 65mm Macro (Vivitar), and 135mm.
Add to that my 300mm Tamron with a 2X teleconverter, and the package is complete.
The interesting part of this is that it made me a better film photographer. Having the ability to see how my shot will turn out immediately enabled me to get the most out of my film shots.
I’m still shooting film, but I don’t get around to developing them as often as I’d like to. I hope to get the Jobo fired up this weekend, so I’ll have some early spring shots coming up soon.
Black is turning to white. My darkroom since 2005 is turning back into a bedroom.
We’re getting ready to move into the Columbia Gorge, so I’m getting the Portland house ready for sale. The saddest part of this tearing down the darkroom. On Tuesday, I ripped apart the sink that I built from plywood and boat paint, and I had the first coat of white paint on it by this morning.
I waited 10 years to have my own darkroom. I’m hoping that it isn’t another 10 years until I get another one.
November 2009. It’s 2:00 AM. I’m on the Burnside Bridge in Portland, Oregon. I have my Deardorff set up to photograph the city and it’s picturesque waterfront. It’s cold. I’m alone very near a bad part of town. The occasional pedestrian trudges past. I hope none of them are gang bangers or thieves. One short and stout man, possibly in his late 20’s, strolls up, and stops. He looks like he’s in a gang. I’m a little scared. He looks me and my camera up and down, and asks, “Do they still make film for those?”
I was so relieved that he asked a question, instead of mugging me, that I didn’t give the sarcastic answer. I told him, “Yes.” I showed him a few film holders. Two more young men stopped to watch what I was doing. I went about my work, talking to them about the process of using an 8×10 view camera. They asked a few more questions that I don’t recall, then one asked, “Why?”
The answer was so simple: Because I’m driven to.
I’ve told this story to many people over the years. I was fascinated with photography at an early age, but I didn’t get my first real camera (a Minolta XG1 ) until I went to Germany in 1983 with the US Army. I had no idea what I was doing back then, and I didn’t get very many good pictures. Disappointed, I put the camera down for a decade until I moved to Oregon. Once here, I found the Columbia Gorge to be a wonderful subject. I set out to teach myself photography. I bought books and magazines, and learned about light and pro films.
A name began working its way into my consciousness: Ansel Adams. I looked into his photograph, “Clearing Winter Storm” and my world changed. I could make out the needles on the trees. The picture was so sharp and dramatic. I decided to learn how to do it the way that Adams did. I moved up to medium format, bought a Hasselblad, and learned how to shoot black and white. When I was ready, I bought my first large format camera: a Linhof Technica. The learning curve was fairly steep, yet I soon found its limitations to be too problematic. I wanted tilt and shift. I bought a Calumet 4×5 monorail camera, and started my collection of lenses.
The next step was 8×10. I bought a clunky, old Calumet C-1. It turned out to be impossible to carry very far into the bush, so, when a Deardorff became available, I snatched it up, and haven’t looked back. 8×10 is the ultimate in sharpness. It’s not just the final image that matters. For the artist, it’s also the process used to get it.
The SK Grimes lens is the one on the upper right. It doesn’t look like much, but the focal length is 760mm. On an 8×10 camera it requires almost a yard of bellows draw. I refer to it as “SK Grimes” because they built the lens, possibly out of an old Nikkor copy lens. SK Grimes is a machine shop in Woonsocket, RI. They specialize in placing old optics in new lenses (barrels). Since their logo is on it, they get the credit.
It’s a slow lens. The widest aperture is f14. It’s razor sharp, though. It’s also uncoated, which means that it needs a lens shade, and has lower contrast, which can be a plus with modern, high contrast films. It covers 8×10 with room to spare, so camera movements, such as tilt and swing, are possible.
Traveling with large format cameras is a challenge these days. All the scanners, X-ray machines, and TSA employees scratching their heads, and asking, “What is this?” repeatedly while dismantling my carefully packed camera bag. I had to mail my film ahead of my arrival, and plead with the Post Office to not X-ray it. Careful planning pays off, though. None of my film was fogged, and I got plenty of good images. My main trouble was with dust on my negatives because I didn’t have access to an air compressor, or a dust-free room when I loaded my film.
Sometime in during the next 10 years, I will be retiring to Potsdam, NY (Gaia’s hometown). The landscape photographic possibilities of the area are limited when compared to Oregon. Although, the architecture and history of the area should be fascinating. I will also finally get a chance to photograph in the upper Northeast, and NYC.
This is another image from my East Coast trip back in June. A storm was brewing, the wind was picking up, and the light was fading. I had to keep the shutter speed above 1/125th even on the tripod.
Camera: Super Speed Graphic 4×5.
Lens: 135mm Wollensak Optar.
Film: Fuji Acros 100 Quickload developed in Kodak HC-110.