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!