Many decades ago, in the year 1966 to be precise, the Principal of my elementary school, Charles H. Flato Jr. Elementary School in Kingsville TX, came around to my sixth grade class asking for volunteers to be school photographers. The school provided the camera and film, and had its own darkroom, and—get this—volunteers would get into all school events FREE! That included sporting events. I was sold.
It was only a few months later that I got into trouble with that same principal, Mrs. Ruby Gustavson. It seems that every time I developed pictures in the darkroom, I used, in her own words,”ten times as much paper and developer” as the other students. She never found out why, and I never told anyone, until now.
I was experimenting, trying to make a collage using one picture but sixteen pieces of paper. I would take a piece of paper and expose it to just one section of the picture. Then I’d take another piece of paper and expose it to a different section. When I finished, I had sixteen pieces of paper that, when laid together, created a collage. Similar to this:
Obviously I was using a lot of paper and developer chemical. I don’t remember if I succeeded fifty years ago but I do remember spending a lot of time in that darkroom after school. Since I was still the juvenile delinquent that my wise old grandmother (MWOG) had adopted a year earlier, every time I came home late from school, MWOG wanted to know why. Where had I had been? What was I doing?
“I was developing pictures in the darkroom at school.”
Finally, enough was enough, and MWOG came up to the school one day after school was out, walked into Mrs. Gustavson’s office, and asked if I was there. Mrs. Gustavson didn’t know if I was, so she and MWOG walked down to the darkroom. There I was. With many of my paper trials hanging up drying. Individually they all looked like wasted paper—collectively, they looked like one of MWOG’s roses from her rose garden. Using Mrs. Gustavson’s own words again: “You…. are in trouble.”
Yep, I was in trouble. My experimentation came to an end, and I was allowed one hour and no more in the darkroom each day. I had to check in with Mrs. Gustavson anytime I was going to be in the darkroom, and she instituted surprise visits to the darkroom while I was there. She was sneaky….
In today’s world, a photographer’s darkroom is something like Photoshop, or Photo-Paint, or Paintshop. I use Photoshop mostly because it’s the de facto standard, meaning that there are billions of tutorials online. There also are things called “plug-ins” and “actions” that other people have created to do things automatically that might take me a month to figure out how to do.
The picture above was made using an action from Panos FX called “Big Pictures.” They have several dozen actions, and I have them all. Some of their actions are free; those that cost are very reasonably priced, especially if you use them a lot. Check ’em out.
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Zoey the Cool Cat,
exhibiting her Panos FX book action.