Creative choices


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Creative choices

24 Apr 2020 8:13AM   Views : 306 Unique : 206


Iím writing this immediately after spending an hour and a half in the darkroom, making prints for the first time in a couple of months.

Iím really pleased that Iíve been able to use recent digital technology to capture a moment or two from this, and give some sort of an impression of what being in the darkroom is like.

And I realised that that hour and a half had brought home to me a really important reason why the experience of printing in black and white is good for the digital photographer.

Itís about how much creative control you have to have in the darkroom. Indeed, itís not just creative control: every step of the way, you are forced to make choices, and they affect the results.

Aligning the paper easel on the enlarger baseboard, itís entirely your choice whether you have the horizon level, or not. Common practice is to look at it, and rotate the easel to correct any tilt of the camera. Itís not so much that you think Ďcreative decision timeí Ė itís something where you have to do it one way or another, and you end up choosing the option that looks best.

I believe that editing software will now do this for you: and I remember disagreeing strongly with a photographer on this site who had used the auto feature, and had got an entirely perverse result, with the reflection of a model leaning over to the side. ĎBut the software corrected it for meí simply doesnít hack it. It was visually wrong, with a lake sloping!

We often see black and white conversions in the Critique Gallery where thereís no black and no white: the photographer has taken a perfectly good colour shot, albeit one with limited tonal range, and converted it to monochrome, without checking the Levels. A simple tweak transforms such a shot: but in the darkroom, you have to choose the grade of paper to use: usually, contrasty paper for a soft and greyish negative: a soft grade for something thatís a bit soot and whitewash.

So my afternoon in the darkroom made a real point to me: maybe a bit of time using film will also lead you to look at your digital work more carefullyÖ


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