I’ve been falling in love with the eastern Columbia Gorge for about a decade, so one would think that the falling would be done by now. I grew up in the deciduous forests of central Pennsylvania, where summers were lush, and the thunderstorms rolled in at the end of the hottest days, and the grass there stayed green until the cold of December made the landscape white. The great, arid expanses of the American west, specifically Oregon for me, are like an alien planet. I’m fascinated by the undulating hills, devoid of trees, and teeming with grasses that turn golden in mid June. There’s a stark beauty that dryness creates. It’s alien to me because I’m an an east coast boy, but it’s familiar and evocative as a “Roadrunner and Coyote” cartoon (yes, it’s in my blood because of Looney Toons). The old west beckons from the 19th century in the American Psyche via western movies, but the windmills are ushering in the 21st century. I’ll take both centuries. I’ll take the landscape. I’ll take the dry grasses and White Oak trees. Throw in Google, wind power, and a camera from 1946, and I’m in heaven.
I’ve been without a darkroom for over a year and a half. My attempt to carve one out of a spare bedroom was foiled by carpet. Gaia and I don’t consider this to be our permeant house, so ripping up the wall-to-wall carpet upstairs is out of the question. And, even if we could do that, imagine the damage that a few major fixer spills could do to the resale value.
I have the room set up, sans sink. The enlargers are ready to go, I have chems and paper. I can get the room dark enough to load film, but the dust is impossible to control. I can do contact prints, and develop them in a Jobo Processor in the bathroom, but the dust is… you get the point.
I could muddle through. The situation is not impossible. But, after having a real darkroom for so long, the difficulty of doing the most basic processes, when compared to the ease I experienced before, makes it not worth doing when I can send my film out for developing, and scan the negatives. My scanner won’t do 8×10 negatives, but I’m working on that.
What does the future bring? Someday a different house with space for a proper darkroom. I’m also reconsidering carving a small darkroom out of the garage. More on this later.
Digital: I am looking to buy a pro digital camera like a Nikon D810. I do not intend it to take over for film, but I can use it for the quick shots, and save the medium and large format film for the spectacular shots.
Featured image: Camera: Hasselblad 500CM with a 40mm Carl Zeiss lens.
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.
I received a comment on my blog recently that stated simply, and in its entirety, “You’re a digital hating hipster.” Well, I wasn’t even hip when I was the right age for it, but, more to the point, I don’t hate digital. I choose not to use it. As I’ve stated in previous posts, art is as much about the medium as it is about the product. What we do is informed by how we do it. I choose film because of the lack of instant gratification, and the meticulous process of large format photography; what I refer to as “the slow zen of quality.” I have spent so much of my life hurrying about, trying to get everything done from work to home to fitness, and back again. I do so much in my line of work that revolves around computers and high-tech gadgetry. When I get to take pictures, or work in the darkroom, I get that rarest of opportunities, which is to take a breath, and let the world pass around me for just a little while. I get to live briefly in the world as it was when Ansel Adams climbed the Sierras, and developed his film under the stars. It doesn’t take hating digital to want that. It takes loving film.
I have a few more rolls of my favorite film, Konica IR 750, which was discontinued in 2006, in my freezer. I shot this roll over nearly a year, choosing each subject carefully while trying to remember how to use the stuff.
I took a chance on development. I tried a new (to me) developer called Divided D-23. It’s a variation on Kodak’s D-23, and was the version that Ansel Adams used briefly. I used it on a less precious roll of film before trying it on this. The results were stunning. Some of the infrared look is missing, but I think the visual is quite nice.