Category Archives: Analog Photography

Fingers and Digits

As I wrote last time digital photography was on its way to surpassing the market share of film or analog photography when I got much more active in the first decade of this century. In my mind, at first, it was hard for me to understand digital black & white photography. Plus, there is an aesthetic to each as practice: one a craft working in all physical media, the other seemingly technological, electronic, office-work-like. One emerges gradually before the eyes, the other instantaneously from the camera, or with a change of settings or a few clicks of the mouse. This thinking took a few years to work out in my mind.

What finally made me happy with digital photography is a realization that the same full spectrum light arrives at the surface of the negative or the surface of the camera sensor. There are parallel choices in editing software to choosing contrast filters and the like. I can still choose my preference of texture and brightness and gloss in photo papers. I can make alterations by hand, hand cut window mattes, and assemble frames.

Alternative chemistry equivalent with digital gear and editing.
Alternative chemistry equivalent with digital gear and editing.

What is different, do I think? One thing is an historical fluke. Right now serviceable good quality film cameras capable of producing very high resolution “captures” (up to gigapixels in large format) are available at a fraction of the up front cost for their digital equivalents. Afterwards, film and processing costs accumulate, making analog a non-competitive choice in commercial settings where expenses must be controlled. For us ordinary Joes and Josephines, film can be very satisfying at least occasionally or for certain uses such as landscape and architectural subjects. A good thing about today, is the variety of choices a camera enthusiast gets. I can shoot film and print in the darkroom, scan and print from my computer, scan or use my digital capture to produce a transparency for alternative printing processes, such as cyanotype, platinum and many others. A variety of chemistries, tools, and materials can be had from websites such as freestylephoto.biz. Jumping into these processes is easier than before digital emerged.

Toned Silver Gelatin Print
Toned Silver Gelatin Print

Another is the physical work (or play) in analog photography. It’s just fun to choose and use various films, papers, developers in different dilutions, amounts of agitation, and more in the darkroom to alter the impact of processing on the negative or photo paper; and then to watch the result gradually darken in as it sits in a trayful of developer under a safe light.

Who am I? Why am I here?

stspyridonsepiaI’m here because I have been a photography enthusiast for many years and my story includes years of shooting film and making a transition to digital cameras. Never a commercial photographer, I’ve mostly made pictures for my own pleasure and to fulfill the urge to create. Other than for social occasions like cookouts and holiday gatherings, I always shot black & white film; and mostly developed, printed, mounted, matted, and framed my own work.

I live in central Massachusetts, a place full of urban and suburban, rural, and (man-made) wild environments such as watersheds surrounding the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs, and the Ware River any of which provide many subjects for the photographer.

In the early 2000s my passion for the camera greatly heated up. My mother was growing more frail. I joined the Worcester Craft Center and took some knife making classes as something completely different from the rest of my life to do for relaxation. Randi Laak, the instructor in the photo studio down the hall, once he learned I was a photographer invited me to take a class sometime. I did repeatedly for several years, taking advantage of the darkroom and the convenient time the courses were offered.

Computer-made Van Dyke Brown-like image
Computer-made Van Dyke Brown-like image

Film and digital shared the market when I began these classes, but digital was on its way to dominance. Digital hardware and software give me a great amount of power and flexibility for creating black & white, infrared, and color photographic images, although a much less hand crafted product in most cases. Next time, I’ll talk about my anxiety over that and how I wrapped my head around digital (but without completely abandoning analog) photography.