Time B.D. (before digital)

When I first started in the press industry photographers would travel around with not only their film cameras but a mini darkroom, scanner and laptop in the boots of their cars, everything you needed to be able to distribute the pictures you have shot. I know this might make me sound like a dinosaur but it really wasn’t that long ago. My first job at a news agency was in 1999 and at the time digital cameras were very expensive, the agency had only two to share between five photographers.

The colour film (C41) dev kits, something similar to this, used to fill a suitcase and included; blackout changing bag, processing tanks, developer and blix (bleach fix) chemicals, water bath tank, thermometer, triple timer, scissors,  hairdryer – this was for trying film rather than for vanity, duct tape and lots of more little accessories that I’m sure I have now forgotten.

You would only use these kits for jobs on deadline, otherwise you would bring your rolls of film to the office to be put through the minilab or if you were near a town with a photolab you would ignore the strange looks from the staff as you asked them to only process your negatives. “What, you don’t want any prints?”

Then once you had developed your negatives you would need to scan them in, for that we would lug around the Kodak RFS 2035 film scanner , a MacBook and an external modem. We would scan the chosen negatives, correct the toning, caption and then send to the office for distribution using the very basic Zmodem software.

The whole process would take about 45 minutes from the time you had shot the pictures and would involve stinky chemicals, burning your hands with a hair-dryer, waiting for the scanner to acquire an image and watching the progress bar crawl as the image was sent over a 56700 kbps modem.

These days I can do the same job with a digital camera, an iPad and a CF card reader. I thought I would see how useful iPad is and attempted to write and post my Australia blog post only using the Filterstorm and WordPress apps. Filterstorm is a great app that let me crop, tone, caption and watermark my images. It also allows for automations of similar tasks, so applying my watermark can be done very quickly after the set up.

The update to the WordPress app is great and being able to add pictures from the library is a fantastic feature. I let myself down by not being confident with html text and couldn’t find an easy way to add my captions for the photos so I did revert to the wordpress.com site to finish off the post before publishing. If anyone has any hints for either a workaround or the html tags for a caption please let me know.

Don’t get me wrong this is not an advertorial for the iPad or Filterstorm app, I’m sure you would be able to get other tablets and apps that do the same job as well or better. Although I’m glad I can travel light and not worry about my back suffering I wouldn’t change the experience of C41 hand processing and scanning, not only did it teach me a lot about photography it also taught me the importance of forward planning and working to tight deadlines. I have always found the time processing film very therapeutic and I might even put a roll through my analogue SLR just for an excuse to head to darkroom.


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