When I first met the man who would become my husband, he invited me to join him in his dark room. Luckily - or perhaps unluckily - he had nothing nefarious in mind. His darkroom was full of film canisters, development trays, negatives hanging from clips and an enlarger. He loved photography and wanted to share this hobby with me. We spent countless hours together in the darkroom - mostly working on printing beautiful black and white photographs.
Photography has changed a lot since those days. Black and white is generally used for special artistic effect and most photographs today are taken, manipulated and produced electronically. Color is the name of the game. We eventually passed on even our color darkroom equipment to an old student. When our friends Barb & Charlie lived in Florida, they discovered the studio of Clyde Butcher, a photographer who specializes in black and white photographs primarily of the Everglades, although he has taken wonderful scenic shots all over the country. He still produces his prints in the old fashioned way, exposing the paper with an enlarger, burning and dodging to bring out the details to their best effect, and bringing the image to life in the wet chemical trays. You can see a short video of his process on his website
. He often uses extremely large cameras shooting 12x20 negatives, which enable him to print photographs as large as five by six feet. He wanders around in the shallow waters of the Everglades with huge cameras on his back, capturing this fecund spot. Since we know what is involved just in materials, we were not surprised to see four figure prices for the largest framed photographs. On that scale they truly conveyed the majesty of one of America's most special oases of nature.
Our friends loved Clyde's work so much, they purchased some of his prints for their home and were anxious to share more with us. So we drove to Venice to see one of his studios. His staff was very open and welcoming and let us wander around in the darkroom and answered all our questions about how he creates those huge dramatic photos. The smell of the developing liquids, made me feel as though I was 20 again. Although we must confess that we still prefer color, we left the studio inspired and motivated to take out our cameras and capture nature's beauty.