Sunday, April 02, 2006

An Ansel Adams in the Making!

A lot of things happened in my basement and this was one of them. How I got the photo equipment, I do not know but this was the contact printer and it started me on my way. Along with the printer I had three trays, a red one, a gray one and a blue one, all for holding chemicals. Also included was a plastic drum for developing film. I built my first darkroom underneath the basement stairs and it was fairly light proof. The film had to be loaded into the plastic drum for developing the film and it all had to be done in absolute darkness or the film would be ruined. Developed film is called negatives and making contact prints from those negatives was the next step.

Mating the negative with a piece of paper, under the glow of a red light bulb, was as exciting as exciting can get. As I unlocked the cover of the contact printer, I had all of the instructions and expectations running through my head at once, all running together so that I couldn’t remember any of it. I inserted the negative and paper. The cover was locked and with much trepidation I flipped the switch turning on a brilliant blast of white light from within the box itself. “One thousand one, one thousand two, how many seconds was it suppose to be”? “3 seconds I think, I don’t know, I’ve lost track of the count.” “Turn it off, turn it off before it is too late.” “It’s off but I don’t remember what to do next!” “Oh ya, the developer”. In it went and lo and behold a ghost image started forming on the paper and it slowly but quickly got darker and darker and then I remembered to stop the developing by putting it in the “Stop” bath. “Wow”. Into the fixer it went and then I could turn on the regular light. I was just amazed at the results of my little hands. No one taught me or showed me, as I had just done it by reading the instructions. Imagine that!

The next day I was at the library getting every book I could on photography and they even had magazines on photography. I read and read everything that I could and I couldn’t understand very much of it because I didn’t know anything about photography but the more I read the more I started to understand. I learned about enlargers and what they did, which brands were best, what everything cost and what I could actually afford. I also learned that my Brownie camera was not going to get it and I needed a serious upgrade. Camera’s were expensive and somehow I convinced my folks to foot the bill for my new camera. I went to our local Rexall Drug Store and Mr. Urton helped me select the camera. I was now a pro and I thought the whole world was looking for a good photographer.
Just like with my chemistry set, I experimented with everything. I ruined a ton of film in those days. Soon I had an enlarger and I was doing infrared photo’s, blowing bottles apart with my .22 rifle and freezing the action with a high speed flash. If my camera wouldn’t do it I would figure a way to get better equipment. Later I became High School yearbook photographer just to get access to the photo lab, a 4x5 graflex camera and other camera’s as well. I had plans to go to college in Southern Calif. to a very good photography school but my Dad applied the breaks. “Son I want you to go to the University of Montana at Missoula and be a Forest Ranger”???? It only took me one year to go, party, flunk out and then join the Navy. So there!


T. F. Stern said...

I tried developing my own but the only thing that happened was that the chemicals ruined my memory stick...

What did you expect; I'm still working on feeling better.

Ted said...

Thank you. I'm still chuckling about that. Nice way to start the morning