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Thread: Recommended Reading and Training

  1. #1
    Lascassas, TN
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Lascassas TN

    Recommended Reading and Training

    After a 25 years lapse, I have set up my Black and White Darkroom again. I have moved up from 35 and 120 to 4 X 5 format. However, after the first darkroom session printing 11 x 14 and 16 X 20ís, I realized I needed to improve my dark room skills.

    With the vast experience on this forum, I would like to ask:

    What approach would this group recommend to achieve major steps in darkroom skills?

    What reading and books would this group recommend?

    What workshops, classes, etc would this group recommend?

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, both good and bad


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Baraboo, Wisconsin

    Re: Recommended Reading and Training

    I'm assuming you're in the U.S. The best major leap forward in darkroom printing for me was attending all of John Sexton's workshops. He used to offer three, for a total of four weeks but even one would help a lot I think. I don't have his schedule handy and he doesn't teach as many as he used to but if you Google on his name you can find his web site and he'll have a schedule there. Bruce Banbaum used to also offer some good darkroom workshops. I don't know if he still does but his would be good too I think.

    The next best thing is just to look at as many excellent prints as you can - go to gelleries, museums, shows, any place where you're likely to see some outstanding prints. Study them, try to see what makes them good and how you might incorporate what they do into your own work. I've read a lot of photography books but I don't offhand recall any that were particularly good for printing beyind the basic how-to-do-it type books and you presumably already know the mechanics. But it helps a lot to know your materials and Ctein's book "Post Exposure" was good for that.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  3. #3
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    brooklyn, nyc

    Re: Recommended Reading and Training

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ellis View Post
    The next best thing is just to look at as many excellent prints as you can ...
    Some books are so well reproduced these days that you can refer to them, too.

    I have a book of Paul Strand's photographs (printed in 4 inks, a tint, and 2 varnishes by Richard Benson) that rivals any original prints that I've seen. There a couple of reproductions in that book that fascinated me with the their unusal tonal relationships. Studying them (and having the luxury of being able to compare with my own attempts at stealing Strands tricks) was some of the best education I've ever had.

  4. #4
    Scott Davis
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Washington DC

    Re: Recommended Reading and Training

    For books, John Schaefer wrote a set of excellent volumes on the subject - An Ansel Adams Guide: Basic Techniques of Photography, volumes 1 & 2 ...

    I have his first edition which is a single volume, and it was invaluable in helping me get started. Frankly, the best way to learn to print is to do it, a lot. Get used to making a lot of bad prints, and keep working at it. Yes, go look at as many finished prints as you can, so you have a standard of comparison, but just looking at finished prints won't tell you how to do it. Bill - I don't know where you're located, but the John Sexton workshops I'm sure are good. Although they're somewhat polarizing personalities, I know a lot of folks who have gotten a tremendous amount out of Michael Smith & Paula Chamlee's workshops. I had some wonderful instructors at Maryland Institute, College of Art when I took continuing ed classes there. Ask around in your area to see who at the local community college/art school/etc is known as a talented printer, and take classes with them. The important thing is to get feedback from someone who can observe you working, and help you make on-the-spot judgements about your work.

  5. #5
    Dave Karp
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Los Angeles, CA

    Re: Recommended Reading and Training

    I attended one of John Sexton's printing workshops. I highly recommend it. My prints are better because of it.

    My late father-in-law attended one of Bruce Barnbaum's workshops. He highly recommended it and his prints were better because of it.

    How-To Books:
    A User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone. Very good book. Also talks about lenses with a primer on lens design. This comes in helpful when trying to figure out what it is you are buying.

    Using the View Camera by Steve Simmons. Also very good.

    The Edge of Darkness by Barry Thornton. Outstanding (for general technique - not limited to view cameras). PErhaps my favorite how-to photography book.

    The Elements of Black and White Printing by Carson Graves. Very good book for the basics.

    The Zone System for 35mm Photographers by Carson Graves. Not just for 35mm photographers. Zone System for people without a densitometer.

    The Ansel Adams series, Vol. 2 the Negative and Vol. 3 the Print. Still very worthwhile.

    Also, read the articles on - all of them.

    I would get a few books and shoot for a while. Practice. Work in the darkroom. See if you can find a local large format buddy with experience. Once you have a body of work, you can go to a printing seminar. You will likely be asked to bring a portfolio of your work. If you go to a Sexton seminar, you can spend some time talking to him about the view camera and technique too. The critiques and demonstrations will be very helpful. You can probably talk LF with Barnbaum too. My father-in-law said he was very approachable. The time in the darkroom before the workshop will be worthwhile. Most likely, your work will improve after the workshop.

    Hope this helps.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: Recommended Reading and Training

    How about a course at a local college?

  7. #7

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Gresham OR

    Re: Recommended Reading and Training

    Another great book not to miss is Les McLeans Creative Black and White Photography.
    Easy and very informative reading.

    Welcome back in the Dark.


  8. #8

    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Forest Grove, Ore.

    Re: Recommended Reading and Training

    I would recommend the three, most recent, Ansel Adams books, Camera, The Negative, and The Print.


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