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Matt Quinn
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Re: Learning Photography: Discuss

Post by Matt Quinn » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:24 am

Chuck, Thank you for starting this revealing conversation. It has helped me in an unexpected way. I retired in '10, at the tender age of 75, and took up photography to keep me off the streets at night, to fill what I thought would be endless hours of free time, and to avoid driving my wife crazy and our sons to distraction. I thought I should find a mentor, an established photographer who would take me under his or her wing but couldn't find one. I bought Lightroom and tried to learn it on my own, causing endless frustration. Tried to link up with a local guru but schedules never jelled. I am not the 'join a club and go to meeting' type, so washed out of the few intro workshops I registered and paid for. Finally found someone at Cape Cod whose style and experience met my needs and took several of his workshops. All along, I subscribed to some photo magazines, bought some books, went to some lectures and exhibits but never lost the desire to be an apprentice to a mentor/master. The Cape Cod fellow was unwilling to do that and eventually retired and moved to NC; I had nothing to do with it, he asserted. All of this leads up to reiterating my thanks because it has helped me realize pM is now my mentor and master where I get the individual critique and help I need. The generosity and talent here are awesome and enormous. And I am touched when the masters on this site comment and sometimes applaud. I have found my photo home. Thanks for prompting that realization. Matt
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Post by Ed Shapiro » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:37 am

Chuck and Matt! Thanks for your kind comments!

Chuck- I guess I still write with New York accent- specifically the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn.

My grandmother taught me to clean house, mop floors and make the toilets glisten! She told me that some day I would thank her for the skill sets. She was right! Besides, in the old neighborhood, keeping a clean house kept the rats away. Even my wife is surprised at how domesticated I am- she's kind of a clean-nick too!

Best regards, Ed :D

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Charles Haacker
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Post by Charles Haacker » Fri Dec 15, 2017 4:17 pm

Matt Quinn wrote:Chuck, Thank you for starting this revealing conversation. It has helped me in an unexpected way. I retired in '10, at the tender age of 75, and took up photography to keep me off the streets at night, to fill what I thought would be endless hours of free time, and to avoid driving my wife crazy and our sons to distraction. I thought I should find a mentor, an established photographer who would take me under his or her wing but couldn't find one. I bought Lightroom and tried to learn it on my own, causing endless frustration. Tried to link up with a local guru but schedules never jelled. I am not the 'join a club and go to meeting' type, so washed out of the few intro workshops I registered and paid for. Finally found someone at Cape Cod whose style and experience met my needs and took several of his workshops. All along, I subscribed to some photo magazines, bought some books, went to some lectures and exhibits but never lost the desire to be an apprentice to a mentor/master. The Cape Cod fellow was unwilling to do that and eventually retired and moved to NC; I had nothing to do with it, he asserted. All of this leads up to reiterating my thanks because it has helped me realize pM is now my mentor and master where I get the individual critique and help I need. The generosity and talent here are awesome and enormous. And I am touched when the masters on this site comment and sometimes applaud. I have found my photo home. Thanks for prompting that realization. Matt

Thank YOU for being here, Matt. Photography has long provided a creative outlet for those of us who can neither draw nor paint (yeah, me too) but the digital revolution has opened the doors far beyond "You push the button, we do the rest." I mostly started the thread because I am daily struck by the realization that I'm still learning copious amounts of arcanities, therefore by extension so must everybody else. It's pretty cool! Plus the digital age has provided us with tools that are simply awesome by comparison, and I don't mean just wet collodion. We can do stuff now that "back in the day" ranged from hard but doable to pretty much impossible except for the very highly skilled, plus if you really got into it it could be very expensive. The reverse of that coin, however, is the learning curve, but you are finding it worth the effort if for no other reason than it's fun! :D And bonus: it's no longer smelly and wet and doesn't stain your hands! :yay:
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Post by Duck » Fri Dec 15, 2017 4:31 pm

I love the freedom digital gives us as artists but a very small part of me still misses the "smelly and wet" darkroom stuff.
Ted Forbes (the art of photography) just did a couple videos about a processing house in Colorado that does hand processed printing, including silver platinum prints. Gorgeous. I'm tempted to have one of my images printed as a platinum print.
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Post by Charles Haacker » Fri Dec 15, 2017 4:48 pm

Ed Shapiro wrote:Chuck and Matt! Thanks for your kind comments!

Chuck- I guess I still write with New York accent- specifically the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn.

My grandmother taught me to clean house, mop floors and make the toilets glisten! She told me that some day I would thank her for the skill sets. She was right! Besides, in the old neighborhood, keeping a clean house kept the rats away. Even my wife is surprised at how domesticated I am- she's kind of a clean-nick too!

Best regards, Ed :D

Thank you again for your great story, Ed. I picked up on youse bein' a Noo Yawker wit'out hearin' no accent (I don't have one because I'm a natural mimic so I tend to talk like the people I'm around, which my wife used to remind me could be offensive so I had to be careful to keep it neutral). I think you said something in your bio or something. My beloved grandma also taught me many things (I still eat over the sink :lol: ), or tried to, but I was one of those lazy kids... I reformed somewhat after the army (service teaches ya lotsa stuff but you know that). My late bride developed a neat trick when I would criticize something she did: that's how I ended up being (ta DA!) Dish Man, Toilet Man, Laundry Man, et cetera :rofl: .

I do wish I had had the good sense to try to develop an apprenticeship as you did. It might have made all the difference in our business but hey, waddyagonnadoo? I did hang up my guns for too many years after our studio went down, but my late bride brought me back with a tiny digital more than 10 years ago and I enjoyed, and continue to enjoy a photographic renaissance. Eventually I will scan some of my old stuff and show it but I was never Master Craftsman material (I never even dared compete), but I was solidly competent and had a strong following. My education and degree helped, my mentor was the previous owner, plus I joined PPA and WPA, went to conferences, took seminars from guys like Donald Jack and Monte Zucker... The biggest single problem we had was simply never having the guts to charge enough to stay in business. We had a framer we used that had a sign on their wall that said, "We Charge Enough to Still Be in Business Tomorrow." That was some good business advice but we always cringed when clients whined about our prices. For years now if someone asks me about turning pro, my advice is usually to take business courses. My sense is that, especially now, photography is really not that hard to learn (e.g. you no longer need the maths and physics and chemistry and optics I learned to earn my degree), but unless you apprentice as you did, or otherwise get a solid foundation in good business practices, no amount of talent and skill will make up for not knowing how to make a buck and keep it. So if ya don't wanna end up at Home Despot (seriously), take business courses! :oops:
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
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All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Charles Haacker
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Post by Charles Haacker » Fri Dec 15, 2017 5:08 pm

Duck wrote:I love the freedom digital gives us as artists but a very small part of me still misses the "smelly and wet" darkroom stuff.
Ted Forbes (the art of photography) just did a couple videos about a processing house in Colorado that does hand processed printing, including silver platinum prints. Gorgeous. I'm tempted to have one of my images printed as a platinum print.

Oh, I hear ya, Duck! I don't disagree. My dad was a full time pro before the war. He worked for Acme Newspictures (eventually folded into the AP after the war). He couldn't see his hand in front of his face without his glasses but he desperately wanted in so Acme sent him to Europe as a correspondent.
ImageCharles T. Haacker, My Dad by Charles Haacker, on Flickr

After the war, Dad and 4 or 5 other fellas from Acme started a commercial studio in New York they called Camera Associates. One of the other guys is a name you might recognize because he wrote for years for Popular Photography (among others): Simon Nathan. I was a toddler when Dad would take me to work and I would stand on a stool in one of the print darkrooms and inhale the perfume (really! perfume to me!) of "hypo" and watch the images float up in the developer tray. I would venture that ANY one who has ever seen that at any age still remembers the aromas and the MAGIC! Ya can't get that from a compoooter fellas! Even today I smell acetic acid and I'm back on that stool. Dad died when I was only 10 so it was years before I realized I had been called. Then for almost 30 years I stood in darkroom after darkroom, 16 in my own studio, still watching the magic float up and whistling to Mozart on the radio. But I can't exactly say I miss it. I'm nostalgic for it, especially now that I am in the twilight (I get kinda maudlin when thinking about how little time I likely have left, especially having lost my wife only a year ago), but I am still absolutely gobsmacked by what I can only call the Magic of Digital! Wow! What I can do now that I couldn't then, or would have to job out (like airbrushing 'n'stuff). So the Good Ol' Days are nice to remember, but digital rocks, bro!! :yay:
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Post by Steven G Webb » Fri Dec 15, 2017 5:36 pm

Yes, the aroma and the memories. Mine are not as profound nor poignant as others but are pleasant. The man who introduced me to photographic printing has long passed from this life. I love being able to process in open light and to print in-house or online. I'll still cherish the memories of Ralph Ross in little ol Whitesboro, Texas teaching me the magic tricks. Now end then I wish I could go back and enjoy the experience even though I've supposedly advanced so far in this digital age.
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Post by Charles Haacker » Fri Dec 15, 2017 5:51 pm

Steven G Webb wrote:Yes, the aroma and the memories. Mine are not as profound nor poignant as others but are pleasant. The man who introduced me to photographic printing has long passed from this life. I love being able to process in open light and to print in-house or online. I'll still cherish the memories of Ralph Ross in little ol Whitesboro, Texas teaching me the magic tricks. Now end then I wish I could go back and enjoy the experience even though I've supposedly advanced so far in this digital age.

Steven, nothing at all wrong with wanting to go back. I do when I open a bottle of vinegar! My wife and I were in Wisconsin for 22 years and visited H.H. Bennett's tiny studio and lab that is now preserved as a museum. The little place is all original wood and guess what? When you walk in, there it is, the unmistakable if faint perfume of what we (incorrectly) continued to call "hypo," fixer, acetic acid. It permeated the walls! The first time I walked in I got teary (I'm that way). If you get to Wisconsin Dells, Bennett's studio is an absolute must see! And smell! (Y)
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Post by Steven G Webb » Fri Dec 15, 2017 7:21 pm

Charles Haacker wrote:
Steven G Webb wrote:Yes, the aroma and the memories. Mine are not as profound nor poignant as others but are pleasant. The man who introduced me to photographic printing has long passed from this life. I love being able to process in open light and to print in-house or online. I'll still cherish the memories of Ralph Ross in little ol Whitesboro, Texas teaching me the magic tricks. Now end then I wish I could go back and enjoy the experience even though I've supposedly advanced so far in this digital age.

Steven, nothing at all wrong with wanting to go back. I do when I open a bottle of vinegar! My wife and I were in Wisconsin for 22 years and visited H.H. Bennett's tiny studio and lab that is now preserved as a museum. The little place is all original wood and guess what? When you walk in, there it is, the unmistakable if faint perfume of what we (incorrectly) continued to call "hypo," fixer, acetic acid. It permeated the walls! The first time I walked in I got teary (I'm that way). If you get to Wisconsin Dells, Bennett's studio is an absolute must see! And smell! (Y)


I'm sure that I'm totally 100% wrong but I swear I smell the aroma of fixer in freshly opened boxes of Red River Paper's Pro Lustre inkjet paper. "Vinegar" yep that's the closest thing I could find to describe the "perfume". I'd love to visit the museum.
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Post by Ed Shapiro » Fri Dec 15, 2017 10:22 pm

Sometimes I feel that pining for the good old days of the analog/wet/chemical/silver/conventional (or what ever you wanna call it) darkroom a bit of false nostalgia. According to statistics and current data, I have inhaled and came in to direct contact with with enough toxic chemicals and fumes, for me to have been dead for at least the last ten years. One of my tasks a a rookie studio employee was to mix all of the darkroom chemicals from scratch formulas. My favorite was Nelsons Gold Toner. This stuff would impart an absolutely gorgeous golden hue on warm tone portrait papers and enabled archival permanence but it entailed boiling gold chloride with other stuff that smelled like a mixture of skunk excretions and rotten eggs. I was not chosen for this task based on my savvy with chemicals- it's just that nobody else wanted to mess with that stuff.

Seriously folks, I spent a good portion of my life in the darkroom and the color lab. I always considered the development and and printing aspect of the photographic process an intrinsic and important part of creativity and quality control. That's a nice way of admitting that I am a control freak when it comes to my photography. I always did my own darkroom and lab work or closely supervised others who did it for me.

Do I miss it? I do miss some of the craftsmanship and artistry that was involved in precise processing and master level printing. What I don't miss is all the pitfalls and variables that could befall even the most meticulous, experienced and skilled darkroom worker. Anyone who was seriously involved in the darkroom will remember the Photo-Lab-Index and many other manuals and instructional books on the subject of quality control. There were never-ending lists and glossaries of problems, defects, stains, exposure and development abnormalities, chemical and water contamination, time and temperature fluctuations and lots more. Some of theses descriptions of imperfections were accompanied with remedial procedures while others were deemed as unmitigated disasters which required re-shooting the entire assignment- if that were possible! I am so pleased that in today's digital age stuff like pin-holes, air bells, agitation streaks, reticulation, dichroic stains, safe-light fog, Newtons rings, the use of nasty chemical reducers and bleach like Potassium Ferrocyanide () or poisonous Chromium Intensifier are all nightmarish gremlins and ghosts of the past- and this is just a very partial list! For the younger folks who don't recognize any of theses terms- forget-about it- you did not miss anything.

Back in the day I did garner a reputation for being a so-called master printer. Some of my peers, cohorts and colleagues used to say that “Ed could take the worst negative and print it on toilet paper and come up with an exhibition print”! They liked to exaggerate- it's a New York City thing! Fact is, that the major lesson I learned from all my darkroom experience is to keep the shooting clean, pay attention to exposure, contrast, composition and as many of the aesthetics as possible- address as many problems as you can, at the camera, before the images hit the darkroom or the computer. Clean, well produced negatives and digital files don't reacquire all kinds of darkroom or computer shenanigans and allows you to simply tweak things up a bit and concentrate on the artistry.

As for image management in digital photography? Well you have all of the tradition controls that you had in analog printing- dodging burning, cropping, choice of contrasts, control over color balance or tonality and a WHOLE LOT MORE! I used to stock dozens of different films for different color palettes, contrasts, degrees of saturation and color balance. Nowadays I can obtain all theses variables with a keystroke or a mouse click. I have more color variations and saturation levels on my Android phone apps that I had in stocking 10 different kinds of printing papers and rolls upon rolls and sheets of film- not too bad!

Admittedly, I do miss some of the real old fashioned warm tone printing papers and chemicals that are no longer available and have been out of manufacture even before the digital era. In black and white papers, the old chloride papers processed in Selectol or Selectol-Soft developers had in image tone that is difficult to replicate with ink-based printing methods. Theses papers also had some very exotic surfaces such as silk, burlap and canvas. Even if I was nutty enough to mix some scratch chemistry, the components are not easily obtainable, if at all, in photographic grade, and the papers are long gone.

A friend of mine still pines for the smell of “Dektol” and “Hypo”! I may have a can or two of that developer in my junk collection and the fixer is still available. My advice was to mix up a batch and allow it to oxidize, which intensifies the odor and keep a tray of this sludge under his computer desk as he effortlessly edits his images- inhale- exhale- Ahhhh! :D

Best regards, Ed

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