Wednesday, January 06, 2010

DAILY ELPH #003 and my digital darkroom


More shots (another at the end of the post) from the America Plaza Trolley Station 
in Downtown San Diego. It felt pretty cool playing tourista for 20 minutes during my jury duty break. 
I haven't been downtown to wander around with a camera in years. 
Next time, I might take my DSLR with me instead of the point and shoot. 
Who knows what I might wind up capturing!

I've been shooting since I was in grade school but it was during my first high school photography class that my love of all things photo became my calling. The very first time in that darkroom, watching the image slowly appear on that RC paper was like magic. By the end of my sophomore year, I had converted the bathroom off my bedroom into a home darkroom which very quickly became my all-night haven. I loved darkroom work. I'd bleach, tone, bleach again, flash, fog, cut intricate masks, sandwich, scratch my way through print after print often adding pigment in the form of oils, watercolor, chalk pastels and Prismacolor pencils directly on the print always in the pursuit of pushing my photography in different directions.

I started my career as a custom printer in a professional lab. I loved the work for the longest time until I eventually tired of saving other people's butts week after week. I worked with "professional" photographers who consistently produced thin negatives and I'd have to rely on my early years of experimentation to help them save face with their clients. I was constantly amazed at the amount of photographers out there that didn't know what a good negative was or how to produce a good print for that matter.

I've always felt that photographers who knew their way around a darkroom ultimately made stronger photographers. It's the whole, "quality product in, quality product out" mentality that rings true for so many different applications. I'm sure that there are photographers out there that have never set foot in a darkroom who would hotly debate that sentiment with me. A lot of those shooters whose butts I saved thought themselves great shooters to begin with. And I agree with that cliché that for every rule there is always an exception. But having been in this business for more than 25 years and in that time having worked with some pretty phenomenal photographers as a printer, photo editor and fellow shooter, I feel quite confidant making that kind of bold statement.

As if I haven't stirred up enough controversy, let me add that just as wet darkroom work makes a stronger photographer, I also believe that it makes a better digital darkroom technician as well.

I've seen some pretty bad digital post-processing out there. And I'm not talking about pushing the limits of Photoshop and experimenting with saturation, layers, blurring or faux cross processing (which I'm obsessed with these days as you can see from the two photos on this post). I'm talking basics: bad burns, over-sharpening, bad halo's from poor selection technique, bad cloning and retouching, etc. 

And not to be a complete negative Nelly, let me add that I've also seen some AWESOME digital darkroom work out there. From stunning basics to surreal dreamworlds to magnificent HDR, I hope to share some of my favorites with you in the near future. This year I'm also planning on sharing with you some more Photoshop tutorials to help you with your digital darkroom pursuits, share more of my own techniques and some of my favorite awesome actions available out there for you to purchase and experiment with on your own.

For now, I'll continue to play around in my own digital darkroom. A pursuit that still takes me into the wee hours of the morning often. 

Very often.  

Until next time,

I'd like to know: What is your earliest photographic memory?


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