It seems many
electronic newsgatherers have been sneaking into the darkroom.
Whether it is
(1) the inconvenience of showing electronic images, (2) the inability
to get those images from an employer plus the fear they may be destroyed,
(3) a feeling that current digital cameras aren't up to the task
of producing top-quality large prints for display or (4) that conventional
digital prints may not have the long-lasting qualities of a properly
processed black-and-white image, a lot of photographers are double
shooting - the electronic or digital camera for their employer and
the conventional black-and-white still camera for themselves.
Of course, the
history of double shooting has a long, if criminal, history. It
is rumored that Walker Evans shot one side of an 8x10 holder for
the FSA and one side for himself. And do editors really think a
photographer has given them all of the color slides?
There are a
number of moral and ethical problems here. But there is also the
non-ethical problem that, if you do not spend a fair amount of time
in the darkroom printing, you lose the ability to make a good print.
How does the
criminal element among us come up with a good print without spending
a lot of time in the darkroom? The same way we covered ourselves
when many of us shot our first rolls of color transparency film
Most of the
bad prints I see from photographers who can only spend a little
time in the darkroom are too dark and too flat. It's understandable.
The print looks good in the wash tray, but it dries down.
I suggest double
filter printing on variable contrast paper - one exposure through
the strongest magenta filter and another exposure through the strongest
yellow filter. It seems silly to go to this complex process for
a print, but it cures the dry-down problem even when you're using
several papers that dry-down to different degrees.
A test strip
through the strong magenta filter will tell you the number of seconds
you need to expose to get a black from the very thinnest portions
of the negative. Use another test strip to combine this exposure
and several exposures through the yellow filter. While the magenta
filter has its greatest effect on the blacks, the yellow controls
the value of the highlights. You are going to find magenta and yellow
exposure times that produce a good print. Having done that, make
Now, if you
make another print with just a little less exposure through the
yellow filter, you will make a print that is both lighter and contrastier.
Unlike a print that is just contrastier or just ligher, this is
exactly what we need to compensate for dry down. Make several prints
decreasing the yellow exposure a little more each time. One of those
contrastier, lighter prints is going to dry down to the perfect
image. You can give the others to that elderley maiden aunt who
is always bugging you for prints.
At the present
time, print the images on fibre paper properley washed and, perhaps,
selenium toned. This will guarantee that the evidence that you are
a photo-thief will last a long, long time.