Getting Back to Work

I need to have more imaginary friends, so I guess it’s a good time to start a new blog. My wife and I moved a couple of months ago, and I need to finish setting up my darkroom, but it’s too hot to think about working. I need a small bench for the trays and I need to make blackout window frames. because my darkroom is also my home office. However, I can go ahead and get some film scanning done. I’ve got a few chromes I want to make prints of, and I don’t have any color printing capability. The wet darkroom stuff is all b&w. But that’s okay. I’m partially color blind. I don’t see green, really, much at all. It’s largely a hypothetical concept to me. So it’s easier to manage color with the computer.

I’m watching a scan appear on the screen as I write this. A frame taken with a Kowa 6, a camera I tried and couldn’t get used to, so I traded it for something else. But I did get a few good shots with it. This one is on Fuji Provia. I’m scanning at 6400 dpi, so it makes a whopping big file.

Here’s a small version:

cave of dreams

I found the Kowa to be kind of difficult to hand-hold due to its odd form factor, but it did have a pretty sharp lens (detail at 100% of original scan):


So I think the main reason I want to do this blog is to make myself actually do work, rather than just sitting around reading other people’s blogs and forums all the time. I’ll actually have to produce stuff to have things to post on the blog.

I also want to hash out some ideas about why I continue to use film, when so many think it’s obsolete. The cameras I use most of the time are vintage mechanical Nikons, no auto anything. I enjoy the actual taking of the photo–lining up the shot, considering the exposure, the focus, the depth of field, operating the camera. It’s satisfying on a visceral level, like working with well-made tool or a good sharp knife.

I’m not being entirely Luddite, I think–the mechanical camera, the chemical process is just as much a product of an industrial age as anything else. And I know that the better digital SLRs will allow traditional manual controls. Nor do I reject computers in my daily life–I’m using one now, obviously. I surf the Web, use email, all that. I use Photoshop and InDesign. Thirty years ago I had an Apple II+ and a 300 baud modem.

Part of it is, I think, just a reaction to the fact that I do spend a lot of time in front of the computer, and want to retain something that doesn’t depend on the computer. That’s partly why I enjoy cooking, too. It’s just you, a knife, and an onion.

I think about John Henry sometimes, the steel-driver in the old folk song. John Henry challenged the steam engine, and he won the race, he beat the steam engine, but he died doing it. John Henry was a symbol of the transition from the human-powered era to the industrial era, and now we are passing into a post-industrial era, at least partly. Things that used to be physical artifacts are being replaced by their digitized versions. It has its advantages, but it seems that the external world becomes a little less interesting for it.

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