Monday, February 26, 2018

First Date

Working with a negative in my darkroom.

The three images on the left have subtle changes for
comparison.  The two images on the right are step tables
for comparing darkroom conditions on different days -
think of it as "quality control" for the darkroom. Very
useful when it can take several days (or weeks) to
complete a final print.
When you take a negative into the darkroom to print it for the first time, it is very much like going on a first date with someone you think you already know.

I know what I pre-visualized when I created the negative and so it is not a total stranger to me.  But printing a negative is not a simple, prescribed exercise.  Rather, it is the next step in the creative process - the bringing to life the image in your mind and in the negative.

The first steps are tentative.  A test strip to start understanding how the developer, paper, and other variable are going to manifest themselves in the print.  Overall exposure and contrast must be determined first.  And because the dynamic range of the negative is larger than the silver paper, there will be areas (sometime quite small) that must be dodged (lightened) and burned (darkened). 

The initial steps are broad strokes of the brush and can go quickly.  It is the interpretation of the subtle parts of the image that take time, care, and craft.  Little things matter (a lot!) and it can take many hours to make all the parts come together in perfect harmony.

I like to work on a negative for a little while, then stop, let it dry, and examine it in different light the following day.  Carefully working on the relationship until I am satisfied I have achieved the interpretation and emotional impact that I want.  The process can take days or even weeks.  It is part of what makes hand crafted images in the darkroom special.

Take Care,
~Jeff



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