The Darkroom: A Luddite’s Tale

I got my first digital camera from my father in 2007: a Nikon D100. I have to admit I was slow to pick it up and try it. It was a difficult transition for me, since my love for photography began in the darkroom and not behind a camera. Photography was supposed to include a dimension of wonderful chemically smells and the joy of lost weekends in the darkroom. And there is that magical span of minutes when a print sits in developer: you watch it materialize on the paper you carefully and purposefully painted with light from the enlarger. I wasn’t ready to let go and leave those things behind. You see, I grew up enjoying there always being a dedicated darkroom in any home we ever lived in. My father is a man of few hobbies, but he always made sure the one he still loves most was accommodated.

My own love for the darkroom has never waned, though its accessibility has. When James was diagnosed with cancer last year, we swiftly vacated our Utah home and moved to Florida to seek more hopeful treatment options and cut the distance between us and our families. I can still hear the hollow sound of the basement darkroom door closing as I pulled it shut for the last time on that Wednesday morning in September. The equipment I have continued to use since childhood – including the still-perfect stainless steel 35 mm film tank I learned to wind film on about 43 years ago – sits packed away in boxes. I wonder when – perhaps if – the darkroom will ever see the light again.

Necessity has a way of increasing our appreciation for just about anything. The process doesn’t smell the same or make my fingers slippery with developer, but I can admit I love digital photography, too.

Nikon D100, ISO 200, f/5.6 at 1/250, 80 mm

[Click image to expand/shrink its size.]  ©2007, Nikon D100, ISO 200, f/5.6 at 1/250, 80 mm

Tomorrow’s post will be No. 5 in the “Faces of Kissimmee” series. See you then.


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Calla Lilies

There’s nothing quite like processing and printing your own black & white photographs from film. My darkroom experiences started at a very young age: I inherited my love of photography from my father, who always had a full B&W darkroom setup in each house we lived in. Perhaps my father has long forgotten that day in our home in Ocean Gulf Estates when I was first allowed to see what it was he did in that room off the back porch where he would often disappear for entire weekends. I certainly have not…

Calla Lily 1

I am guessing I was probably about 4 or 5. Dad was going to develop some film, and explained to me that there would be a few minutes where all the lights would be off and the room would be very, very dark. I was told I could sit on the stool by the door, and that I was not to move during that time.

When the lights went out, I heard some interesting noises. Something got whacked against the counter top, then I could hear metal against metal, scissors being used and other sounds I couldn’t identify. I was extremely curious, and I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face!

I still maintain that my father should have anticipated my move. You don’t invite an overly curious 5-year old to “watch” in a completely dark room! I mean, he could have avoided the whole thing by simply moving the stool away from the door (and the light switch).

I was a teenager before I got invited back into the darkroom. It was SO worth the wait!

I shot, processed and printed these calla lily photos this week. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed creating them.

Calla Lily 2

I invite you to view more of my photographs here.