Things I’ve learned while preparing my first exhibition

Ten pictures. Small room. The potential audience of 200 people. This is the scope of my first exhibition but who cares. It’s the first time ever when my photos are going to be displayed in real life to people who are not my family.

The show is still about two weeks away but I’ve already started preparing and thought I would share some of the “discoveries” I made during that stage.

The first fact – my scans are too small. Back when I started scanning my negatives, I would laugh at the idea of scanning in RAW. It seemed unnecessary and excessive because I usually scan everything from the roll, and every photo of that quality weighs around 150 Mb. Posting pictures online requires resizing them down anyway, so for the sakes of speed and storage, my scanned images are only good for some A5 size prints. As for the exhibition, we are talking 40×50 cm here, so definitely I had to rescan selected frames again.

Next thing is editing. It should be mentioned that I rarely edit my photos. Due to a combination of my laziness and some hippie-dippie natural approach to analogue photography, I’ve learned to accept the results I get and not to fool everyone by post-editing them. I do adjust contrast or levels though just because the scanner itself is not a perfect tool.

Anyway, with those untouched fresh scans, I would have to do a lot of corrections. And I did. I spent an evening adjusting those sliders in order to get the results I wanted.

Another discovery – printing can be hard. I’ve had very little prior experience with photo labs in terms of large format printing. All I always did was to bring my USB stick to them, choose all the pictures and order prints of some 4×6 or 8×10. That’s it, no extra questions except for maybe the paper type.

This time, they were going to use a plotter, and because of that, I’d assume, a guy from the lab opened my pictures in his Photoshop and started adjusting them. Again. Also maybe because I told him they were for the exhibition, in this case, he’s such a sweet person. I have to admit his adjustments were merely tweaks and I agree with all of them, but for the future, I realized I didn’t need to do all that work at home.

Maybe if only I had an ideally calibrated screen, then yeah, no extra messing around with my perfect pics. Otherwise, I trust their experience.

One last bit for today is actually my mistake rather than a discovery. While choosing, scanning and editing the photos, I hardly imagined true proportions of the prints I was going to get. I didn’t even crop them before the lab, so when we sat down with the guy and his Photoshop to choose which picture gets what size, I had to make some sacrifices in frame space. The vertical ones suffered the most in my opinion but fortunately, not to the point of discarding the whole picture. Just another note to myself to crop my photos beforehand.

As I mentioned in the beginning, the exhibition is planned for the end of December, and there’s some work to be done before that, including framing those prints. I’m looking forward to the whole thing, and definitely will post about it later.

In Concert

Just a week ago I had a chance to go to a concert at my local pub and spontaneously I decided to grab a camera and a flash with me to practice shooting with flash. The film I used was Rollei RPX 400 pushed to 800, I specifically wanted black and white.

Now after I’ve developed and scanned whatever visible pictures I had on the roll, I want to share some of those. And what can I say about my flash experiment? None of the photos presented here were made with flash.

Except for the botched flash practice, I’m pretty satisfied with what came out. I’ve never shot a concert before, and I’m a little proud of myself. Though there is a ton of area for improvement. Especially that flash.

a chair under the tree with grapefruits

600 km for 6 litres

Some time ago my C-41 kit started showing the signs of exhaustion, and I ordered a new one.

While the package was on its way I had a problem to solve: getting rid of the old chemicals.

If you search online for advice on how to recycle photo chemistry, the answers range from “just dump it into the drain” to more reasonable “take it to a special place”. The first type of answers is definitely unacceptable but the second one exposed another problem for me. I don’t have any special place around.

Then I thought hey, there is a lab at work, they definitely have to recycle their chemicals! So I asked at the lab. Turned out their chemistry was organic and mine is not (or the other way around) and I couldn’t use them to get rid of my stuff.

Then I started inquiring about any place that recycles my kind of chemistry and was told there is a factory somewhat 300 km away from me that should do it. Suddenly a seemingly simple task of recycling photo chemicals turned into an Odyssey.

Practically, driving 600 km just to try to get rid of my 6 litres doesn’t make any sense, and honestly, for a moment I just thought of dumping the whole thing. In theory though, if I wait for my next kit to go, I will have a bit more significant amount to deal with and maybe then I’ll try.

Anyway, I’ve put those litres away for now but the whole story made me think about my own environmental impact from photography. I’ll write another time about it.

Disorganised

This is how I feel about my photography right now and it shows. I’ve had these two rolls of Fuji Superia 400 in my drawer for 9 months before I developed them and scanned today. Nine months! That’s a whole pregnancy right here. Why it took so long you wonder?

Well, no serious reasons to be honest. First my colour chemistry started failing and I didn’t want these rolls to come out wacky. So I had to order a new set. It took time to arrive, then it took time to mix it which literally happened yesterday.

All these steps don’t take months to complete but they did in my case because I wasn’t organised enough.

As a result, I have a practically expired film with signs of bad treatment: grain, washed-out colours etc. I don’t care that much about those esthetically but it just bums me out that all this fresh chemistry was used for some tired film to receive some subpar results. I’m disappointed not in the film but in myself.

a picture of a toy fish on the grass

When you leave a roll on a shelf for too long

I had a couple of rolls sitting on my shelf for some time, and when I finally processed them several frames had these lines across the picture. At one point I blamed my camera, but then the effect would be consistent across multiple rolls, which was not the case.

And then I heard guys on the FPP podcast talking about light piping. Turned out it is when an unexposed or exposed roll of film is kept without any light sealing for a long time before processing. Bingo! Exactly my situation!

My workflow with film is kinda slow these days, and I tend to leave exposed rolls on a shelf as a reminder to myself to develop them. Otherwise I can forget about them completely. This small trick works only partially because while I’m constantly reminded, I still can’t get to doing it soon enough.

Now, when I learned the reason for those lines, I can at least make sure I keep my film light tight, and maybe I should come up with another way to remind me I’ve got some film to soup.