The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Do You Have a Darkroom?

When we moved into this house ten years ago, I had ideas of how to finish the basement.  My husband and I talked many times of making the area just at the bottom of the steps a darkroom.  It would be perfect.  There are no windows in that area.  The only door is just at the bottom of the steps.  There was already a light fixture in the ceiling. 


When we worked on finishing the rest of the basement out for a family room, large room with exercise equipment, bathroom with shower, great closet to hold all of the kids' toys and games, a little area off the exercise room for the video games, plus our large office with a super large walk-in closet for office supplies – we did not make the darkroom.  We put it off for another time.  But – we still considered that area perfect for one and at some point it would happen. 


Something happened and it was not the darkroom.  Digital happened.  When I got that first digital camera years and years ago – the little Canon Powershot – that was the end of the darkroom in my future; or so I thought.


Just recently, I have heard about three different people who own darkroom equipment and were trying to sell it.  At this point, one was offering to give it away.  No one is interested.  Digital photography is taking over from film.  


In the beginning, I used the freebie editing software that came with my cameras.  I used the software that came with the Powershot and the next camera I bought (after the Powershot's life was ended by a few drops of Coke).  Things were good – it was easy to use and I thought I had all that I needed.  I was wrong.


About this same time I found a tiny photo in an old trunk.  The photo was taken about 1917 – it had my grandmother, her older brother, mother, and father in it.  It appeared to be a studio shot of the family.  The photo was about the size of my thumbnail.  The photo also had a crack across the middle of it.  It was such a treasure to find.  I had to have it restored some how and a larger version as well.   Three weeks and fifty dollars later, I had my larger copy (5x7) with the crack removed.  I also had the image (repaired) saved to a CD for future prints.  It was great.  But this was not the only old family photo that was in need of repair or restoration – and at fifty dollars (or more) each – that could soon add up.  So I decided I would purchase a photo-editing program and do the restoring myself.  That was it – that was how I got started in my digital darkroom.  And the cost of the program – about the cost of having two photos repaired, restored, and duplicated.


A few nights ago I was teaching a Photoshop Elements class and told them group that the laptop I had there with me is my darkroom.  I don't surf the Internet with it, I don't have any documents saved to it.  I use it solely to edit photos and in workshops to demo editing techniques.  My desktop (in the office in the basement) is used for everything else and some photo-editing too.  When I have photos to print – I print from the desktop.  For the class – I have the laptop and an Epson Powerlite S5 projector.  It works well to show what I am doing with a group.   


Think about it – that laptop, or any computer, is your darkroom.  No longer are you in a truly 'dark room' with a bunch of chemicals – you are there – wherever that may be – with the computer.  If you want to have it outside on the deck, you can.  Most of the time I spend on my laptop it is when my husband is watching something on TV that I really don't care about.  I sit in the living room, on the sofa, with my feet up, and edit photos. 


There was a darkroom in my future – and it has Toshiba written on it.  Oh, and the area at the bottom of the steps?  That is where we store the holiday decorations.  Wreaths, trees, deer, Jack o'lanterns, Easter grass, and more are in that "dark" room.


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