Pipeline to Prints: Darkroom

Don’t Let the Camera Block You

Photographic process pipeline – the way you get from camera to complete, can be simple or complex, of course, one persons complex can be another’s simple. I prefer to use the simplest approach to get somewhere. Sometimes that means letting the physical process of making a picture take me where it will. In such cases, I trust emulsions: film and paper.

making a photograph

Simple Approach

Reduce the number of technical choices by using one camera, one film, one developer. This is always a wise way of working. Most early practitioners don’t take this path, instead they believe that the picture they are after but aren’t getting is because they don’t have the right camera, or chemistry. They give up by adding things rather than ideas or pictures to their studio.

The simple approach means the direct approach – getting to a picture with the fewest side matters. Don’t let the Tech Blindfold you.

My approach is given in the above schematic. It depicts the camera steps – getting the negative; and the printing steps.

By way of specifying what I use for emulsion photography:

my film + developer choices

Choices in film have dwindled over my time. So has developer ranges. This doesn’t mean that we have less quality available now than when I began. In fact two of my current developers, D-76 & Rodinal were in my cupboards decades ago. When young, I stumbled about trying to achieve unknown what by switching film + chemical combinations. That was time wasted, unless learning that it was a waste of time searching for pictures in the darkroom.

The new developer, DDX, is from Ilford/Harman, and it isn’t really new. I use it with Ilford films, SFX and Delta 3200 because it provides clean grain and short developing time with very good shadow detail. (makes it seem full ‘box speed’) In the chart I have listed the films in ascending EI, as I use them – acros (100)  > SFX (200) > Tri-X (400), Delta 3200 (800).

None of these films are color, although I use acros and tri-x as 2 color separation negative films.

These combinations give me a full choice of grain: grain as transformer or as transferer. Is it there, or isn’t it. Acros in D-76 at 1+1 provides me a negative with grain so fine it is difficult to see using a Peak magnifier (Koana system.)

I shoot, soup, sleeve, then store the negatives. My negatives are stored in clear sleeves and put into binders or boxes depending upon size of film. I make contact prints of all negatives. These contact prints (index) are what I use for first pass selection of what pictures I will use.

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