I’ve spent countless hours on the University of YouTube, Lynda.com, reading books and watching other video tutorials on a crapload of Adobe software, particularly Photoshop. It used to be so simple. I took a photo on film, I developed the film in the stinky stuff and voila, a negative. Afterward, I hung the film to dry and often had a beer. Upon my return, I put the film on a plate and shoved the thing in the enlarger (the success of this depended on how many beers I had). I exposed a sheet of photographic paper, which, hopefully was heavily loaded with silver, and I dumped the paper in more stinky stuff. I dried the print and, if printing color images (Cibachrome was my favorite), I whipped out my pack of Kodak Color Print Viewing filters and back to the enlarger I went to make that perfect print (again, depending on how many beers I had by then).
Truthfully, that was an oversimplification of a tedious task and I’d like to mention not all photographers are lushes, not even me. Though I had my share of beers, mostly I settled on a cold Pepsi to get me through a session of developing and printing photos. I will also admit, after a few beers the fixer and stop baths didn’t smell so bad. Ahh but I digress and I haven’t had a beer.
Today it is different and though I may wax poetic about the good old days, the aforementioned fixer and stop bath was a bit much. Purchasing large quantities of the stuff and storing it made the whole room reek of sulfur. It was an unpleasant smell. Today we do not have the messy and smelly chemicals. What we do have is hours and hours of sitting on our butts, clicking here and there to get that perfect image and, depending on our displays and printers, we may find the perfect image is elusive at best. Therein lies the problem.
I have been very, very unhappy with how black & white images look today as they lack the depth and richness I remember from some of the Ilford papers or my precious Oriental Seagull. Just the thought of Oriental Seagull makes me go limp — give me some time to recover. Thank you.
I do believe the technology is actually very good; however, I also believe we are not quite there yet with applications like Photoshop. As it is, I am working with several plug-ins just to get the image I’m after even if it’s not quite there. I’ve not posted any of those images because I’m saving them for that one plug-in that will do the trick or some technological breakthrough that will make those images pop like I want ’em to. In the meantime, I’ve been spending countless hours, looking at my screen, and watching video after video hoping I’ll find that one app that will be the sweet spot I’ve been looking for.
Admittedly, I’m tired and have been toying with the idea of just going rogue. Forget what was and let’s try something new. Make art and throw filters at the photo, get into mood and whimsy. Perhaps I’ll try daring colors. After all, aren’t we in a new place now with digital photography? Can’t we do whatever we want to photos now, make collages, HDR (High Dynamic Range) the heck out of them to the point of creating fantasy from reality? Is my cynicism showing? Perhaps it is and perhaps I need to just STFU!
Truthfully, back in the day I so loved the work of W. Eugene Smith that I too was guilty of using que tips dipped in bleach to highlight eyes in photos. I burned, dodged and double exposed images. Who am I kidding? Like a baby I’ve been pouting through this whole thing while gleefully experimenting with everything I can get my hands on. Yes, I am a walking contradiction. I can’t stand it but it’s true — a flawed character I am indeed.
So yes, I’m spent, tired, whipped and everyday I say no more but I keep coming back. There is something in this for me somewhere but it hasn’t materialized. I love it, I hate it, I want no more of it, but I can’t stop myself and it’s probably time I got over myself. I’m going to get this thing even if I’m 80-years old — God willing and the creek don’t rise — walking bent over and still cursing the process. I am going to get this.
My plan now is to invest in or rent a camera with a full-frame sensor. It will, of course, be a Canon with mega, mega, megapixels. I may even research printers because I’m over clogged inkjet nozzles. I’m just — I’m just done with them. I’m looking toward retirement soon and a career change, a metamorphoses, street walking and meeting people I don’t know.
Meanwhile, Photoshop and all of the others, I will do this. Be warned.
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