Getting a Short Course
December 29, 2022
Aside from using a Kodak Brownie (which I doubt few today even recognize the name!) and borrowing dad's old 35mm Argus a couple of times in high school, I didn't know much about taking pictures, much less developing film and making prints. After joining the family newspaper in Winamac, Indiana Dad assigned me the job of taking pictures at a local basketball game. He hauled out this old 4"x5" sheet film Crown Speed Graphic. You see them in the old, old movies. They weigh about 4 lbs. Add another 15 lbs. for the battery pack, another couple of pounds for a strobe big enough to light a football field at midnight, plus film packs, carrying case, etc. You've got a lot of weight to lug around. I'd never seen a camera like this outside of the old movies, and knew nothing about how it operated. Dad spent almost a full minute explaining how to use it. "You aim like this . . . focus with this . . . set your f-stop (say what?!) like this, frame your shot through here . . . flip this lever to cock the shutter . . . push this button to take the picture . . . and then change film like this."
He sent me to a basketball game. Really! It didn't take much longer for him to show me how to use the thing than it took you to read the previous paragraph.
So I went and took the pictures, all eight of them. That's all the sheets of film that were loaded in the film packs. You put one 4"x5" sheet in each side of a pack and cover them with a steel plate to keep the light out. Then I came back to the shop feeling pretty cocky. Didn't miss a thing, remembered to cover and uncover the film at the right times, etc. Then dad said, "How would you like to learn how to develop the film?"
Sure! Why not? Never done that either, but willing to learn. He took me into this tiny cubbyhole they were using for a dark room: a tableful of chemical containers and a sink on one side. Another table with contact printer and an enlarger on the other side just about filled the place, barely leaving enough room to stand if you were skinny enough.
Dad spent another 60 seconds giving me a short course in film developing. "Take it out of the pack like this . . . put the film in these holders like this . . . they go in the developer so long... into the stop bath so long . . . fixer so long . . . wash with water... dip in here for so long ... then hang 'em on the line to dry."
He walked out . . . with a "let me know when you're done."
I managed to get the film out of the packs and into the holders without dropping them or bending them too much. Even managed to run the film through the series of chemicals
without too much trouble. (Remember: dad showed me how to do it with the room light on. Now I was doing it in absolute darkness!)
Finally they were all hanging to dry and I told dad I was done.
If I remember right, out of the eight shots, I got one that was useable. Fortunately it was of the local team's star player making a successful lay up.
This was my introduction to the world of news photography.
I wish more of the people we send to the Congressional and Senate teams were better educated in the meaning of such terms as representational government, honesty, integrity and the like. Somehow we need to teach these "representatives of the people" that we, the voters are in charge, not the ultra-rich corporations. We can reach and teach them through the ballot box. Make sure that the ones you vote for really represent and work for you. If they don't – vote them out next time around. Eventually, they might get the message.