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Thread: 10 lessons in photography!

  1. #1

    10 lessons in photography!

    Well, I got back from my trip last night - 8 days on location doing "Old Time" photography for the general public at a large agricultural museum during their "Threserman's Reunion" and I learned quite a few things:

    #1 - Rockland's "tintype developer" is for the home hobbyist, NOT for "professional use".

    I coated 75 4x5 plates and purchased 2 batches of TT developer before leaving on my trip, asking for developer from 2 different lots (having have bad developer before). I mixed one batch before leaving and tested it when I got set up on-site. For whatever reason, the developer behaved as if it was VERY weak - after 30 minutes in the new developer, the plate was STILL not fully developed - the degree of development was what I would expect after 30 seconds in normal TT developer. I mixed the second batch of developer and it behaved the same way. Soooooo, that makes 3 bad sets of TT developer out of the 5 I have purchased from Rockland! I will be in contact with Rockland and either get a formula for "scratch making" my own developer or I will switch to a different process (maybe wet plate).

    #2 - ALWAYS have a "Plan B"

    When the tintype developer failed, I was very thankful that I had taken the materials to do P.O.P. prints. They became my standard wares for the duration of the show.

    #3 - Vinegar can be used to rejuvenate stop bath

    Since I hadn’t planned on doing a LOT of film work and my stop bath was getting old, it turned purple on me 2 days before the show was to start. The nearest photographic supply was 2 hours away. I got thinking (a dangerous thing for me to do) and vaguely remembered stop bath as being primarily acetic acid so I got some vinegar from the restaurant and added a bit to my stop bath - it turned yellow again and I was able to continue working until a friend brought me some new stop bath from the city.

    #4 - It’s a good idea to keep track of how much film you put through your developer.

    Since I hadn’t expected to do much film work, I pushed my ID-11 too far. The negatives for my last two customers came out REAL thin, too thin for P.O.P. prints. If I had been keeping track, I could have extended the developing times. I’ll probably have to give refunds to those two customers.

    #5 - “Art” doesn’t sell - “schlock” does!

    I got some really fantastic P.O.P. prints of the pioneer village in the days before the show opened. Not to sound boastful (I am not that good a photographer), but I caught some really good scenes that evoked the feel of the turn of the century village. Many people commented “What a wonderful picture!” but few opened their wallet to buy a print. I did get a few “commissions” to do family groups, but the village scenes were NOT a good seller.

    On the other hand, 80% of the people who came through my tent asked “Do you have costumes?” and left disappointed when I said I didn’t. I guess a rack of quick-change costumes will be on the list for next year. I think I could have picked up 20 or more sales if I had old time costumes. Live and learn!

    #6 - Wherever there are cameras, someone will mention Hassiblad!

    The second person to enter my tent mentioned Hassiblad.

    #7 - I have a new appreciation for the photographer’s wagon!

    Having spent 8 days working in a tent with a 18x18x16 dark box on a desk, I found myself wishing I had a REAL photographer’s wagon, something big enough to move around in, to handle 8x10 prints or cut P.O.P. paper, something big enough to have a “wet side” and a “dry side”, and something with enough storage space for all the chemicals and equipment without having to “rearrange” the work space for each process. The dark box would have been fine for tintypes but it was too small for handling 8x10s and very cramped for the 3-step P.O.P. process. For 8x10 P.O.P. prints, I had to stack the trays on top of each other to get 3 8x10 trays in the box! :-)

    #8 - It would be VERY good to have an “assistant”

    Being on my own, I was tied to the tent “during office hours” and couldn’t accommodate location shoots during the day. That left the early evening for location work and meant I ended up processing film late into the evening.

    #9 - 8x10 IS NEAT!

    Having had the chance to use my/new old 8x10, I LIKE! 8x10 makes a really striking P.O.P. print. I though drum-processing one sheet at a time wouldn’t suit me but the cost of film and doing one at a time had the effect of encouraging me slowing down and take a lot more time with each shot. Except for screwing up my shutter setting on one shot, I didn’t have a single poor 8x10 :-)

    #10 - “Professional” photography is WORK!

    Setting up shop, stocking the shelves with prints, trying to sell your work, scheduling “shoots”, handling people, processing films and prints, managing the darkroom (dark box) and chemicals, trying to consistently turn out good work (without losing too much money on goofs!) - photography quickly begins to feel like “work” and loses some of its “fun”.

    So the show is over, me and the hound are back home, the truck is unloaded, and I need about 3 days more sleep, but the whole trip was a great learning experience.

    Having had a taste of the life of a professional photographer, I guess I will have to give some thought to how seriously I want to pursue this as a retirement business. Will I be happy taking family pictures of folks in costume? Maybe it would pay the expenses while I continue taking the pictures that I like.

    Whatever the future holds, it was an experience! But it is good to be back to the darkroom and back on the forum!

  2. #2

    10 lessons in photography!

    C.J., sounds like a fun experience.

    Yes professional photography is work. But if you really have a passion for it (and I mean you in the general sense, not you in particular. I know you have a passion for it), it quickly becomes fun. The annoyances and screw ups quickly become part of the learning experience. I look at it as being an explorer and go out every day wondering what I'll encounter next and how I'll solve any problems that arise. It keeps it fresh and fun that way.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jun 2005

    10 lessons in photography!

    Sounds like a lot of work. Yes, professional photography quickly becomes just the hard work where one imagine what to do instead of it. Amateur picture taking is often the way to save your passion.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    10 lessons in photography!

    All of my adult life since discharge from a hitch in the military, I have been a professional photographer.

    I am ashamed to admit that I have taken meager amounts of money to allow the Philistines tell me what to do, how to do it, when and how much to charge. Basically, to allow them to do whatever they wanted to me. If that isn’t prostitution, I don’t know what is.

    All of my adult life I have envied the amateurs who were free to do precisely what they wanted, exactly how they wanted and exactly when.

    Whilst I was frantically banging out prints of pipe wrenches and soup cans to make a deadline, they were lightheartedly romping about in the meadow shooting pussy willows and butterflies. What a dream existence.

    I have never and will never understand why so many amateurs are obsessed with the dream to “turn pro”.

    Perhaps on this trip you have also learned the big lesson eleven: Stay as free as you are!

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Montrose, Colorado USA

    10 lessons in photography!

    OK, you made my day. I retired four years ago after being in business for 35+ years. My business was aircraft accident investigation. I thought of myself as low end photographer who billed cheap two bucks a pop for 4x6 prints - times many rolls of 35mm per assignment. You only got one quick chance at the shot, then the evidence was gone forever. It paid well.

    Now, four years later I am still trying to decide whether to get back in business, compete, sell, produce, manage, buy supplies, adverttsise, sell, plan, direct, control myself, hire, fire, gain, lose, and did I mention sell?

    Regarding the 10 lessons, it hits home that I have the best of both worlds right at this time. Freedom, and independence! Now to continue trying to make the perfect print. For myself.

    I am at the point that just to be able to do photography is enough. Heck, I would even do it for free.


  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    10 lessons in photography!

    "The dark box would have been fine for tintypes but it was too small for handling 8x10s and very cramped for the 3-step P.O.P. process. For 8x10 P.O.P. prints, I had to stack the trays on top of each other to get 3 8x10 trays in the box! :-) "

    CJ I'm not following this. The POP shouldn't need a darkroom to process as long as you can keep UV away from it until a couple minutes wash have dissolved away the excess salts. I routinely wash, tone and then fix the stuff under florescent light without any fog occurring. I would think ducking into a tent or using the darkbox for the wash alone would be sufficient. The other two steps (tone and fix?) could probably be done outside of the box in subdued light. Might be worth a test to see if that would be more convenient in the field. Another thought is to use some of the Rockland blackout fabric you have (or maybe some liquid repellent black plastic bags like photo paper is packaged in) and just make a mini tent or lightproof envelope that you could slide the tray into to process the POP. As you probably know if you check your exposures in a hinged-back printing frame, a few seconds exposure to indirect daylight won't be enough to fog the POP. That should be enough to get the print into a wash tank and/or under cover.

    I had another one of those brainstorms that get me into endless projects the other day. I had built a clear acrylic sensitizing tank for the silver nitrate bath used in the wetplate collodion process as I've seen illustrated and described on the web and several books. As I was constructing a wooden box to enclose the sensitizing tank and keep light from it while plates were sensitizing, I realized I could just make the tank out of red transparent acrylic sheet and not have to worry about the outer box. I think you could extend this to a lidded tray to wash the POP prints as well. Just a thought...

    I also built in a 15-degree angled support for the tank and a front foot that doubles as a holder for the plate dipper. Much less hassle, weighs less, and is less bulky the the other arrangement. I'll be testing it all out next week at a wetplate workshop so maybe I'll have some other notes to share after that experience.

    Welcome back.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    10 lessons in photography!

    You're wrong CJ -- it ain't 10 lessons in photography. It's 10 lessons in Marketing. Welcome home.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  8. #8

    10 lessons in photography!

    Joe: I couldn't find, in my notes, when in the process P.O.P. looses its light sensitivity so I wasn't taking any chances.

    I tried loading the print frames outside the dark box but it didn't take more than a few seconds for the paper to start to cloud so I had to be very careful to have the envelope open for the minimum time necessary.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Mar 2004

    10 lessons in photography!

    " #6 - Wherever there are cameras, someone will mention Hassiblad!

    The second person to enter my tent mentioned Hassiblad. "

    Wow. The second person? What kind of rube came in first, who didn't not recognize a Hassy when he didn't see one?

    Seriously, it sounds to me as if you actually have a great start on this. I always tell my kids that you shouldn't make up your mind about enjoying a new experience until the third try: the first time, you have no idea what to expect; the second time you what to look for, and third time you find out if you are right. I suspect that a couple of more forays will get you to the point where it all seems so easy that it starts to be fun. And if not, you can move on with a clear conscience and some great stories to share!

    There is something unnerving about your comments with respect to the Rockland developer. It seems odd that they would produce enough to have that many successive production lots, and if they are making it in small quantities with poor process control, keeping all their customers happy would soon make the whole thing uneconomic. Could there be a common factor that is compromising your material? Cross contamination, water quality, and an erratic thermometer are all things that have snuck up and nipped me painfully on occasion. Carrying over a few "process control" plates from a previous known-good coating session might also be worth considering.

    Good luck, and I, for one, look forward to hearing how it goes.

  10. #10

    10 lessons in photography!

    Harold: I don't know what's going on with Rockland. I have made 5 batches of developer over 8 months

    #1 Mid winter, with my home well water - stale developer, simply removed the emulsion from the plate without every showing an image

    #2 - Early spring, the replacement for #1, well water - worked fine

    #3 - About April, made with distilled water - worked fine

    #4 - About 24 July, reverse osmossis filtered water - extremely weak effect, plates not developed fully in 30 minutes

    #5 - 25 July Museum well water (very pure) - same as #4

    I did notice that the older (and drier) the plates, the faster the emulsion is (by 2 to 3 stops). Given that the Rockland tintype chemistry only has a useable range of about 1 stop, that means a LOT of wasted material trying to figure out what exposure to use.

    I can not afford to throw away half of my tintype plates and chemicals everytime some vague factor changes. At least, if I go to a wet plate process, if I do everything the same every time, I SHOULD get the same results - that doesn't happen with Rockland.

    I can't speculate on the problem with Rockland's tintype set because I don't know what's happening behind the scenes but I believe it is a relatively small business and I suspect small-scale production does not produce enough revenue to pay for fancy Q.C.


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