For the other readers of this blog, I’ll take a second to introduce myself. My name is George Brooks and I’m a teaching assistant at the summer high school program. I am also a recent alum of the department of Photography and Imaging at Tisch. I want to take this opportunity to recap what we have done in the past few weeks and share some great resources that will hopefully help you in the future when you continue to experiment with some of the processes we have learned so far, and serve as an introduction to some techniques and equipment that we have not had time to discuss but that you might want to utilize someday.
So far, we have discussed capturing, managing, editing, and printing digital images captured with DSLRs, as well as shooting, processing and printing from 35mm black and white film. We have also experimented with studio lighting and off camera flash, and some of you have begun working in the studio with professional strobes and hot lights. This is all very difficult stuff and lot to remember, I know. You have all done an amazing job mastering these skills quickly and most of all, remembering the plethora of technical details that we have thrown at you. Kudos! However, after the program ends this week and you all go your separate ways (sad, I know), when you are no longer working in the studio, the lab, or the darkroom every single day (though hopefully still actively shooting and working with your images!!), all of this information may become difficult to remember in such detail. Hopefully you all have taken copious notes, but just in case you’ve been lagging, here are some great online resources that you can access any time, anywhere, if you ever experience a mental lapse.
Analog Photography and Darkroom Printing
Native Angelenos might be familiar with this wonderful photography store, which is about 90% dedicated to analog equipment and processes. Though they don’t sell many cameras or camera accessories, Freestyle’s mail order system serves diehard analog junkies nationwide. If you ever need film, paper, chemistry, alternative process supplies, medium and large format accessories or darkroom equipment, if Freestyle doesn’t have it, no one does. Furthermore, Freestyle boasts and experienced staff who have created an impressive collection of articles on analog photography and darkroom printing. Be sure to check it out! If you want to experiment, don’t miss their articles on alternative and historical processes!
APUG has some fantastic articles and blogs on analog photography. They also have a very large and active community which posts regularly on their forum. If you ever have any questions about analog, this would be a great place to start! They also have a large classifieds section which might be the best place to get your hands on some hard-to-find vintage equipment!
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to experiment with medium or large format cameras this month, but I would encourage all of you to try it at some point if you can get access to the equipment! The advantages of larger formats are immense, and you can read about them on this site, which I made as a final project for my web design class a couple years back. It also has a section with some detailed tutorials that will take you through the entire process of shooting 4×5, from loading film to shooting to processing to scanning and printing.
Another process we didn’t get to talk about (but its one of my favorites) is called stand developing. Basically, you use a very weak dilution of a special developer called Rodinal (which I use for almost everything, and I highly recommend it. The original formula dates back to 1918!) and “set it and forget it.” In other words, you let the film develop for an hour or more with no agitation. Normally, we use developer that is way stronger than is needed to fully develop our film. The advantage is faster processing times, but this is exactly why time and temperature are so critical when developing film. With stand developing, the idea is that you use just enough developer to fully develop the negative and no more, so time and temperature are way less critical, and you can mix different film speeds in the same batch. You also get much smoother contrast between highlights and shadows, resulting in a much more versatile negative. Its a pretty complex process that requires a bit of experience with photo chemistry, and I don’t expect any of you to go off and do this the second you get home, but its a really fantastic process to familiarize yourselves with, especially if you plan on studying photography in college. And this is by far the most thorough tutorial I’ve found on the topic to date.
The Digital Picture is probably my favorite resource for reviews and information about the latest equipment. While the site is focused mainly on Canon equipment, there is a small section on Nikon gear as well. But by far my favorite part of this site is the lens comparison tool. Its really helpful when trying to figure out which lenses to buy. You might be shocked at the quality of some of the third party lenses out there these days! Definitely check out the reviews on this site before you buy your next piece of equipment. There’s also a pretty extensive section of digital tips and tricks.
Ken Rockwell has been writing reviews for this site for almost two decades now. It is probably the most comprehensive collection of camera, lens and accessory reviews available anywhere. What I like most about Ken is his ability to think realistically, his bias is towards helping you make the best possible images with the most basic equipment, rather than promoting the most expensive and newest professional toys. Though his reviews can often be very technical and thorough, they’re written in language that anyone can understand. In many ways, KenRockwell.com is the Nikon-focused counterpart to The Digital Image, though the review styles are quite different. Definitely check it out before your next purchase!
The definitive resource for tips and tricks for off camera flash. If you enjoyed working with off camera flashes during the program (and I know many of you did), this is definitely a site to check out. It’s pretty amazing what can be accomplished these days with some very basic and inexpensive lighting setups, and Strobist is the place to go to learn how! You might be surprised what you can accomplish with the equipment you already have!
You might be thinking: “what the heck does MacRumors have to do with photography?!” Well, honestly, not a whole lot. BUT, the forum section of the website is a truly fantastic resource for all of your computer related questions, and let’s be honest, computers are just as important to photography as cameras are these days. If you ever have an issue with your mac, the macrumors forums might be a better place to start than the Genius Bar. Members are all extremely knowledgeable and are usually pretty good at responding quickly. I also really like to keep up to date on the latest rumors to avoid buying an outdated computer weeks before the new model comes out. The worst!
Lynda.com is an amazing collection of incredibly in depth tutorials on almost any piece of software you can imagine! While the service normally costs $25 per month, while you still have access to your NYU Home accounts, you can log on to Lynda for free! (I’m not sure if you all will still be able to access NYU Home after you leave, but give Lynda a try while you still can, you might find it is worth the subscription price for a few months).