I can’t believe that I am already at the halfway point of this first semester. Registration for Spring opened last week, and just looking at the class names is making me so excited for what’s to come. But first I need to get through Fall!
The beginning of this semester had a slow start as we got acquainted with the labs, the equipment, and each other. Before we could check out cameras, we had to be taught how to use the cameras. Before using the enlargers, we had to be taught how to use the enlargers. Et cetera. At this point, we are in full swing, shooting our own film using medium format cameras, developing it ourselves, making prints in the darkroom, and mounting prints for presentation. IT IS FUN.
Here’s one of the first projects I did – a photogram. It was a way to get our feet wet using the enlargers.
(NB: We haven’t done any digital work at all, that will come next semester I think. All these pics below are only pictures of the work, not the actual work. Are you picking up what I’m laying down? Moving on…)
We mounted them, then had an in-class critique.
Before really getting to work on our own photos, we started learning how to mount our work. Here’s a picture of my first mounting assignment, using a leftover print from a previous student.
The black edge shows the mat board. We use a dry mount press with tissue to secure the print. For me, this precise measuring and cutting of the mat board reminds me a lot of quilting and cutting fabric.
Our first real photography assignment involved gray cards and various lighting situations using the Sunny 16 rule of exposure.
Because we had not yet learned how to develop the film ourselves, one of our teachers did it for us, in the pro-lab that they have on campus. I only had to re-shoot this assignment once, which I counted as a success! Matching gray cards in the darkroom, though, proved a trying experience. I used a lot of paper.Here’s a pile of 4×5″ prints that I went through trying to get it right.
Just this week my second order from B&H arrived; more film and more paper. I have a feeling it won’t be my last order!
Here’s the film we’re using. It’s 120 film for medium format cameras.
And my camera!
This gal has given me a lot of grief the past few weeks. It’s older than most of the cameras my classmates use, and the main issue I’m having is with the gears. Film spools that were used when this camera was made were just slightly bigger than films spools of today (and film was thicker, too). So the gears are calibrated in such a way that my frames overlap by up to 1/8″, which is not okay when you are required to print your negatives full-frame. Luckily, there’s a very clever camera expert who works on our school’s cameras, and he suggested I tape my spools to make them slightly larger. And by God it worked! No more overlapping frames! Just when I had that problem solved, the shutter in the lens stopped working. Sporadically. But it’s working now so keep your fingers crossed for me.
Here’s my green light meter, which was required for use on our “motion” assignment. And all future assignments I presume.
And probably the most exciting thing I’ve done so far — develop my own film!
That’s a rather mundane picture of what is an exceedingly exciting (and at turns infuriating!) process. Going into the dark with a roll of exposed film, coming out with negatives! It’s magic (and science). I’ve only ruined one roll of film so far, and that was a result of my own stupidity.
A handful of my classmates have already felt the pressure and have dropped out. I’m not specifically sure what their reasons were, but the lab is nicer without the crowds, as harsh as that sounds. And even though we’ve had a lot of projects to do, I have a feeling that it’s only just the beginning. We are preparing for a career where missed deadlines means lost jobs, and shoddy work is unacceptable. The high standards are there for a reason, and not everyone can keep up.
I feel like I’ve learned so much these past few weeks, but with that comes the feeling that I know nothing about photography. Absolutely nothing. I am grateful for the slow start. I look forward to the challenges. Getting to know all my classmates is fun. I really am having the time of my life.