Tuesday, August 25, 2009

250th Post........A Little Background Story: This Camera Buff

I probably should have something more spectacular for a *special number* post, but a good portion of my creative life came from learning photography from my father. Dad was a fine photographer---living in the era of 620 film (oh I can still smell the wrappers the rolls came in!), Speed Graphic cameras that had the film plates you had to load in a darkroom (and so large they required a trunk to carry them!), Roliflex cameras where everything in the viewfinder was upside down, and doing your own black and white work. Digital, Photo Shop, and all the other things we take for granted did not exist. This was the day of man, machine, emulsion and chemical.
And magic.

Thus I learned how to shoot the old fashioned way (not sure I remember much, other than framing up a shot!), load and develop my own film which I'm sure I could still do, work under safe lights and grew accustomed, and yes, even somewhat fond of the smell of stop-bath! Think vinegar, times 1000.......
Everything was measured exactly, temps of the chemicals had to be perfect, paper fresh or kept in dark, climate controlled conditions. Photography was truly an ART. He moved with an ease only those who had committed a goodly portion of time to work and learning of the rules would have. He was graceful in his art.

And you could do everything exactly right and still have a lousy print. Spent developer, a pack of old paper, old chemicals if you forgot to mark the bottles, over exposed, underexposed.......there were a host of *surprises*.
None the less, I loved the hours spent in the darkroom watching him work. Burning and dodging, making a vignette tool from a cigarette cellophane wrapper and a piece of paper, using his hand to gently reduce light from the enlarger in a small area of paper, slowly counting off seconds before we owned a timer to get proper exposure for the print, knowing from a negative how the positive would look, squinting through a photographer's loupe to examine the film for scratches or some lost detail.......it was, in a way, slight of hand, much like a magician.
He spoke in a language of F-stops, apertures, and fractions of seconds; sepia tones, warm and cool papers and resin and matte finishes. It was an exotic music to the ear.

Now I shoot, upload, crop and post. I seldom do anything fancy---I like a photo as it is. My programs on this computer are quite simple, for the most part. I burn through double A batteries in my zest to get the shot I want. I shoot too many variations of one thing (just like dad!), with little difference. I wander through the yard and seek photo-fodder. I have a mass of images stored that need sorting and some deleting.
This era is far too easy. A good camera and a good eye will get a decent shot. Photo Shop can correct almost anything. And no, I don't use it, nor do I know how. I am a luddite in that respect. Dodging and burning is done with a cursor and a mouse. (mostly me cursing!) Cropping is a click and roll instead of an easel with adjustable edges, or strips of cardboard in the case of an odd sized print. Vignette is a click of a button and adjusting the amount of area and the background color. The satisfaction is NOT the same.

I miss those days of film rolls, Kodak yellow, standing in a suffocating dark closet to load a roll of film into the tank reel for developing and the sound of the slow click of a lens when the camera, tight on a tri-pod, was set to *Bulb*. I miss lugging the equipment, the excitement of that first faint image beginning to show as I gently agitated the paper in the developer tray, the impatience of waiting for the paper to go through all the baths and then, to hold my soaking wet print in full light, in my hands, still reeking of chemicals. I miss the work of photography. I miss not knowing what I was going to be holding, and having to wait for it, to earn it.
It was a joy. And I would pass it along, or recommend it to anyone if you can set up a darkroom. A small area, access to water and the ability to close out the light, and the world, and enter the delightfully eerie and heart-thumping universe of developing your own prints.
There is nothing like it.
Creativity emerging from the ether........or in this case, a tray full of Kodak developer.



Anonymous said...

Sometimes the old fashioned way is the best..... At the very least, it teaches how to appreciate. Now days we arrive at the conclusion & we hardly know who we got there.

In the 40's & 50's my Grandfather was a Watchmaker. Back then you only got a watch at graduation & retirement. They were a precious piece of jewelry not disposable. I remember him with his loupe in his eye doing such delicate work at his bench...
Memories... & a tear.

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

My dad fixed watches, clocks, you name it. BIG man; how he held those tiny pieces......
I agree with the fixation on instant technology (as I sit here posting to the internet! ha! oxymoron!!!!)
I think, as with you, a lot of people don't realize the art that was involved in everything we used to use, and how we valued a single possession as opposed to lots and disposable ones.
I suppose that's why I occasionally write what I do---it's a connection with the paths that brought me to where I am, and young kids won't, for the most part, have those opportunities.
Now wipe away the tear---memories keep those who have passed alive forever.



Anonymous said...

Oh wow!..Anne. I can just see you now..watching your Father work with the images...I'm sure it was exciting to see just what would emerge. What patience!
I was never into photography...
we mostly took shots of family gatherings..and that was it!.
such a shame..when i think of all the beauty around us...My daughter bought me my first point/shoot digital camera..after i got my first computer in 2002..
I was a late comer ..lol! it opened up so many wonderful avenues. ooops, getting long here..
thanks for sharing your great memories..
xoxo, gypsy

Anonymous said...

Ooops... forgot to add...
Your images here are spectacular...i love the play of light..you had a good teacher!
I'm sure many of his teachings are still in your mind!

Leslie said...

Well, that was lovely. Brought back so many memories for me as well. HS photog and the HOURS spent in the darkroom. I also worked at the oldest portrait studio in Texas and there were 100 years of negatives to be sorted thru and looked at thru the loupe and imagine..

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...


A lot of folks did not do photography at home due to the set up cost. Dad was able to buy used equipment through the military supply, so it was easier. It wasn't till I was in high school that we got new equipment---what a surprise! (mom about had a spasm....and not a good one! HA!)
And what I learned about using light has crossed over nicely into my art work.....and come to think of it, some it definitely is from the photography.
Everything anyone can learn will benefit other areas of the arts, and promote a better life in general.

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...


I did photography in HS too; hours and hours in the darkroom---I was the ONLY female allowed to use it. Talk about living in a dark-age area....My art teacher used to bring me Cokes in there! Wasn't supposed to, but it was a kind gesture, and also let me know that while I was using the room, it was my realm.
Wow--the portrait studio in Texas must have been amazing!!! Cannot imagine all the history and all the negs that you had access to----I bet it was a fun and wonderful time!

audrey said...

What a wonderful post, Anne. Not only are you really good at creativity ~ you are also a wonderful writer. You have a way with words and description!
I, too, love photography. I remember the days of the "dark room" but never had any experience with it.
I have always taken a lot of photos ~ just in the last few years I have taken THOUSANDS of pictures (and I get them all developed). What will I ever do with all of them? It has become a passion of mine. (Or a sickness?) LOL!
Thank you for the interesting and memorable story.

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...


I think once you get one GOOD photo, that's it--you're hooked! It's always that one more click that will produce what you want...I know how you feel! Just one more shot....one more....
What will you do with all the photos? Why worry? They may lead to another form of art altogether down the road,and everything you learned in shooting will help in other areas! (or at some time, they might get passed on to a collage artist who is sure they have just hit the mother lode!)
Just keep doing it, because I've seen your pix and they are FINE!!!

yoborobo said...

Lovely post, Anne - I could just see you and your Dad. :) I think I see that fastidious attitude in how you work with your art. There is learned technique, careful consideration at every step of the process, and a high standard for all that you do. You got that from your Dad, I think. :) And as much as I love the old ways of doing things, I know that my kids will look back fondly on the ancient computers they gamed on, and created their artwork on...the old software will seem quaint and romantic. Time keeps marching on, eh? Have a great day, my friend! xoxo Pam

Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

I think you have posted the PERFECT 250'th post! I enjoyed it from top to bottom.

VickiTheMiddleSister said...

Very nice tribute to your father. He must have been an amazing man.

I had given b&w film photography some thought. The cost of a darkroom is just prohibitive for me. Once when I mentioned it, John looked at me and shaking his head and I knew I was about to cross his very broad line of tolerance! His father had a darkroom in the only bathroom in their house. John does not have fond memories of it.

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hi Pam---Late with replies today---on the road as in BANKING!!!! LOL!
I always find it odd and good how when I do a post, others see things I miss, like me learning DETAIL and STANDARD from father. You're right on that. He wasn't crabby, but he wanted things done right unless there was a very good reason! ;)
And yes, time marches on and I snooze and waddle at my own pace anymore.
I wonder, down the road, what people will think of blogs???? How archaic will this medium become?

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...


I would curtsy to you for the compliment, but I probably couldn't get back up!
So how about if I say THANK YOU SO MUCH! (it's easier on my knees!) And really glad you enjoyed it!


Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hey Vicki--you would have loved my dad; me, with a drier sense of humor....and the patience to waaaaaaaait for that last one-liner! He was so talented; it's sad so much of his life was lost to alcohol.
I can only imagine John describing his thoughts on the darkroom---and I know they would be very precise with hand gestures too!---and hopefully at some time I'll get to hear them!
Yes, sadly, it is expensive to set up now, and I'll be honest with you; with your sensitivities, I don't think you could handle the chemicals and smell.
It was kind of like being trapped in an acid pickle jar......
But if you ever get a chance to take a class somewhere to say you've done it once, do it. That's the economical way to go.
Oh, left a comment on your blog....
Hugs to you all!


VickiTheMiddleSister said...

Anne...Had to laugh about the acid pickle jar. John started teaching today and their first lab is a pickle autopsy. Cause of death...a piece of 6ga copper wire from my studio table! The AM class gave him good feedback. PM class started about 2 hrs ago.

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Oh, where's he teaching???? Write me offblog!!!
HA! Pickle jar!
I'm psychic, eh???
That's great news---so happy and he will make a wonderful teacher! CONGRATS!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I always think it is so romanitc in movies seeing a person in a dark room with their chemical pans and such... then hanging up the pictures with great care... then reality sets in... THANK GOD FOR DIGITAL's. :)

speaking of camera's... what type of camera are you using.

Also, do you know what it is called when people get the white cloudy fog around the edges of the pictures... it softens the edges and asks like a think white cloud only on the edges.

Congrats on your post count. Fabulous.

Jan said...

I feel sad for you that you lost your folks too soon. seems that you could have gone on learning from your dad for many years yet, he sounds like quite a fascinating man. This was a lovely post, I'm glad it is preserved here. As Audrey said, you are a very talented writer, as well as photographer, artist, teacher, pirate, mechanic, gardener.....shall I continue or have I complimented you enough for one day;-}

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hi Tammy,

I use a Fujifilm S 5100. Which I think is funny because it's digital and uses no film!!! LOL!!!
The effect you're talking about around the edge of a photo, if you want it oval is a Vignette. There are also other effects in digital, depending on the program, but edge softening is another, where the edge is roughened, blurred and faded out. Digital provides the option of fading to white or any other color.
I still look at a fully set up darkroom in a movie with a sigh and a bit of envy...... :) Such fun!
Take care!!!!

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Jan, you would have had a ball with Dad--or he would have had a ball at your place with the garden and animals and the numerous fix it jobs on the *farm*!
I miss them, it was too soon at 30 to lose hem both, but they went almost together and I suppose that would be how I would want to go too if I had been as sick as either of them. I had to respect their life and passing too----how they wanted to go. (they used to fight about who would die first..! my family! HA!)
While my gardening skills have diminished this year due to the peg-leg, I'm trying to hone my Pirating skills better!!!!! >:)
Thanks, and yes, that was sufficient complimenting to get me through another day.......LOL!!!

Love ya!

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