ryan stufflebam

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Posts Tagged ‘darkroom

Mordancage for Tenebrae

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So back in February, one of the elders at my church asked if I’d be interested in contributing to our Tenebrae service for holy week this year. “Sure, what are you looking for?” The darker and more abstract the better. A dark and abstract photo…

So after brainstorming with some friends, Leah came up with the idea of trying out the mordancage process, and I have to say it was a stroke of genius on her part. The way the process works, the darker the image, the more distressed it ends up. The long and short of it is this – you drop the print in an acid bath and the blacks start to dissolve, but since there’s less silver in the whites, they don’t dissolve. But the cool part is that the dissolving emulsion lifts from the paper and forms curtains, sheets, parachutes that adhere back the paper when it dries. Super chaotic stuff. Perfect for Tenebrae (Latin for shadows or darkness).

Tenebrae Tryptic web

The idea was to try it out on a few different prints to see which worked the best, but it ended up turning into a tryptic. Which was just a shame, really.

After holding off judgment for a couple months, I feel pretty good about them. But my personality is way too detail oriented to easily accommodate the process into my repertoire. I’ll probably mess with it again in the future, but it was incredibly frustrating to work with in the moment. Expectations adjusted…

tenebrae 1_small web

tenebrae 2_small web

tenebrae 3_small web

My friend Chris modeled for the photos.

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June 13, 2015 at 4:22 pm

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Stone Door in b&w

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As promised, here are the b&w prints from Stone Door. Not as many interesting shots from this roll, unfortunately. But both of these were pretty fun to print. Particularly the first one – the front wall was not nearly as differentiated in the negative as it is here. You always hope a contrast filter will fix your problems, but the issue wasn’t contrast so much as separation. So I ended up using a combination of filters for the different sections, then dodge and burn on top of that. I made a good few prints before I got it to where I wanted. Finally holding that mental image in my hands – that’s a good feeling.



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October 14, 2014 at 9:24 pm

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Old Negs, p2

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When I was in Photo II at university, all of our assignments were to produce 10 images based around some kind of constriction – shoot at night, shoot portraits, landscapes… That kind of thing. Being constrained by work on my thesis by this point, almost all of my previous photos had only been of/at/around Belmont’s campus. I was ready for something to take me away from work for a while. Well, the next assignment was “Belmont’s Campus.” Didn’t matter what the image was of, just so long as it was at Belmont.

I was non-plussed. I couldn’t just go shoot the same photos over again. I mean, I was a “good student” – I read everything, I did all the work, and I pushed myself to do it. So it amounted to busywork. And I was irritated. So I took photos of ugly things, irrelevant things. A water meter on a dorm. A gas valve. At one point, I found a dark rock and put it on a light rock. I took a picture of it – macro, just to really drive home my indignance (a quality my wife somehow finds endearing, some of the time). Anything that caught my eye for any reason, I took a picture of it just to be done with it.

And none of those photos were any good. I knew it then, and I know it now. And when evaluations came around, I was pretty honest about how I felt. Everyone got a laugh about it, I still got a good grade, and we moved on. Honesty pays.

But all of my reasons for taking the photos were completely valid. It was right to take those bad, angry photos. I was writing a journal entry with that assignment. And the value comes from that kind of documentary, self-examining honesty. As a viewer/audience member, you could see the pithiness in those photos, the nagging irritation I felt. If I can just keep being honest with myself about what I find interesting, my photos would be better for it. I don’t need to have a treatise written out to justify taking the shot. It’s one frame of celluloid. No one cares, just take the photo. Be honest enough to take the picture, you can figure out why you were drawn to it later. It’s not the end of the world to be a little impulsive.

But I’m not and I don’t. I still don’t do this nearly enough, even less so since moving to medium and large format film. Money necessitates I think about it a little more. But every once in a while, particularly since I’ve been combing through old negatives to print, I’ll run across a frame that catches my eye – probably for the same reasons it caught my eye with my camera in hand. I couldn’t tell you what that is. But I enjoy contemplating that fleeting interest just as much as I enjoy the photo itself – as the editor, seeing how the photographer felt at the time.

And to this end, I leave you with a frame from last summer – light stick on dark rocks.


I’m still not sure why I took it. Or even if that matters. But it sure was fun to print.

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September 11, 2014 at 12:07 am

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Old Negs, p1

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I finished building a darkroom in my garage a few months ago (probably post about that process some other time…), and I’ve just been going through old black & white negatives I never did much with. I like how my scanner treats color film. Most color films. But it’s always been pretty harsh with the b/w stuff. Probably user error there. But hell if I know how to make it look like an actual darkroom print. Unless you just scan in an actual print. Like this:


This is from probably 5 or 6 years ago. This is an actual abandoned church in the middle of no where, TN. But it was also the set for an Alan Jackson music video that MooTV did. I was just PAing to help a friend, but music video shoots mean early and late hours for everyone, so I got there around 4:30am and left probably around 6pm. This shot was taken probably half an hour before sunset, and if I remember correctly, it’s something like a 60sec exposure. On loose floorboards. I’m still surprised it’s as sharp as it is.

But anyway, scanning in prints is way better than scanning the film. Photoshop doesn’t treat grain quite the same way photographic paper does. Particularly in and near the blacks. The grain blends and bleeds in the darkroom, but it’s very static in Photoshop. It almost looks like static rather than grain. Maybe someday I’ll figure out how to actually scan the film in. Maybe.


I saw this old, beat up organ on the Highway 127 Yard Sale, also probably 5 years ago. I think what drew me to take the photo was the texture in the black paint versus the smooth black keys. “Treble Coupler” probably helps, too. But I just didn’t know enough to really pull out the texture when I took the shot. Not terrible. Just not what I wanted.


From 3ish years ago? This is from the corner of the corn field across from my parent’s house. I believe I was holding my camera at head height – as you can see, it’s really stinkin’ tall. I think I took this photo to prove a point about how tall corn is. No one outside the corn belt has any idea. This is why I don’t do corn mazes. “Oh, but you’re from IL, right? You LOVE corn mazes, rIgHT?!” No. Ever been lost in a corn field? Too tall to see over, too big to just head off in any direction hoping you hit the edge. To make it even worse, my father-in-law (retired detective) talks about how if anybody had gone missing in the past few days and didn’t show up – and particularly if they had a record – they would just post a cop car at different fields and wait for the carrion birds to start circling. So no, I’ve no mind to traipse through a corn field, mazed or not.

More prints will be showing up here as I do them. Possibly with some tech notes if they were recent enough. The backlog is large, but it’s about time to start shooting more.

Written by ryanstufflebam

September 2, 2014 at 7:58 pm

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