Class In-Depth: Photography Fundamentals
Photography Fundamentals is, by far, my favorite class. I’ve never really worked much with Photography before, and never with film. This is an all black-and-white film class where we learn about SLR cameras, film development, printing and developing enlargements, and the subtle science and exact art that is photography.
The class began with a (quite scary) lecture on the cost of film photography. Right off the bat, we would all need a film SLR camera and a lens that is, or contains in its zoom range, 50mm. That right there is usually about $100 or more, depending on the quality of camera and lens. Further than that, we would be taking and developing at least twelve rolls of film, at about three dollars a pop, throughout the semester. Lastly, we would need about thirty dollars worth of print paper for making test strips, contact prints, and enlargements. About six people didn’t show up past that first day.
For the rest of us, the class has been a blast. We have assignments such as Artificial Light, Landscape, Motion, etc. to take, with two due every two weeks. On our own time, or during the half of the class period that is lab time, we take pictures, keeping everything from lighting to backgrounds to composition in mind.
Once we have taken a whole roll of film, we get to develop it. The process begins with a small pitch-black closet filled with sharp objects that we must blindly navigate through – but it’s not as bad as it sounds. We have to transfer our film from the roll to the developing tanks in total darkness, because the film is photosensitive. We use a fancy version of a bottle opener to open the roll of film, snip off both ends, and wind it onto a reel, all by feel. The reel goes into a developing tank that allows us to get liquid into and out of the tank without letting light in. Once the film is in the tank, we can come out of the light-tight room.
It takes about 25-30 minutes to develop film. Five or so for getting the film onto the reel and into the tank, ten for developing, and ten for fixing. After the film has been developed and fixed, we hang it in a dryer for 15-20 minutes, cut it into strips, and we have negatives!
In the darkroom, we use enlargers to print negatives onto special photo-sensitive paper to get prints. We do get lights, but they are dim red lights, because it is the only sort of light that the print paper doesn’t respond to. Once the negative is in the enlarger and focused, we put a test strip on the easel and expose parts of the strip for different times, to see how long we need for the print. After that, we expose our main print. We can do things like dodging and burning, use contrast filters, and other cool tricks.
Developing the prints is awesome. After exposure, the print paper goes into a developing solution for 60 seconds, and you can literally see your print paper go from blank white to a beautiful print. After rinsing off the developer in the second tray for about 20 seconds, it goes into the fixer for five minutes, to make sure that it doesn’t brown or blacken in the light. A 15-20 minute rinse in a fourth tray gets all the chemicals out of the paper, and a quick run through the drying machine gives you a beautiful black-and-white print that is ready for admiration – and grading.
I’ll try and scan in my pictures that I’ve turned in sometime, I think it’d be cool to get them on here and on Flickr. In the mean time, try going back to film photography for your next shutterbug moment. It can be truly fantastic.