When I supported myself with an old Nikon rangefinder 40 years ago, I never imagined digital cameras.
The ability to view images immediately and shoot thousands of pictures without having to buy, carry and load rolls of film now simplifies the life of a photographer.
However, there is something I miss about film.
It’s not trying to figure out how many rolls and the different ASA types I needed for various lighting conditions.
It’s not finding myself with the camera back open when the perfect scene occurred.
It’s definitely not the day I was changing a roll of 120 film in the college yearbook’s camera, while running from one assignment to another, only to see the exposed roll — a group shot for which 50 people had gathered — become over-exposed when it slipped from my hand and unrolled on the sidewalk.
What I do miss is the darkroom.
From the first time I ever watched a sheet of paper in a tray magically turn into a picture, I was hooked.
Part of the excitement was that you never knew what you had until after you turned out the lights.
Using fingertip feel to wind the film onto a spool provided the challenge of wrapping the film properly or seeing if I messed up when it went into the soup.
When that process was complete, it was always a relief to see that the pictures were properly exposed and that the chemicals had once again done their job.
The fun didn’t really start, however, until the safelights were turned on, the negatives slipped into the enlarger and the first images displayed.
After shooting sports action, the negatives often yielded something unexpected like the facial expression of a player upon contact, the surprising height of a jump or the freezing of a dramatic instant that occurred too fast for the eye to catch.
Usually, however, there was one shot I had waited to see since I clicked the shutter.
Sometimes when I finally viewed that image in the darkroom it was as good as I had hoped.
Sometimes the subtle lighting didn’t live up to my hopes.
That’s when the intricate work of dodging and burning began as I worked to get just the right amount of light on key spots in a photograph for mood or detail.
Time measurement is an essential part of printmaking. That seemed ironic since a darkroom was the place I most often got lost in time.
I might think I had worked until midnight and find it was 3 a.m.
In one makeshift darkroom that I created on my porch, I had to quit work several times when I realized the light of dawn was creeping through the cracks of my dark shades and onto the image on the easel.
The darkroom no longer dark, its magic had to wait.
Advocate Florida Parishes bureau chief Bob Anderson welcomes comments by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.