The Midnight Oil

The Midnight Oil

Not the band – the real midnight oil that we burn to keep out photography going.

There was a day when it was just that – safelights and enlargers with lamp wicks inside and very long exposure time. In later times it changed to electricity, but we still burned the midnight developer and fixer. And many of us went into the early AM with the thing, as it was easier to get a decent darkroom light-tight when there wasn’t all that much light outside.

If you are a modern digital worker who has never had to develop film on the road in a motel bathroom* I urge you to talk to an old-timer who did. There was a fine art to sealing a door with towels and getting a large developing tank under a very small faucet that is lost nowadays. Also getting the smell of fixer out of the room before you checked out…

But today it is all buttons and screens and bleary eyes after midnight. I wonder how many of you cheerful morning people are still up after the National Anthem dragging sliders across a screen and trying to match contrasts and recover highlights. The wise ones will have invested in programs that do this automatically and will be honest enough with themselves to admit that the programs do it better that they can. The reward for this is you can go to bed before your chin hits the keyboard.

The business people will be up after 12:00 trying to get the books to balance. Photography is a great business if you want to earn money and if you don’t want to, why are you in business? You’ll only succeed if someone else pays you more money for pictures than you pay us for equipment. So sit there and do your sums and start thinking about how you can get more paying customers past the lens.

Artists sit up after midnight and dream. Some of the things they dream up show this influence. There can be a wonderful release after all the noise of the city, television, family, and freeway dies down. If you are not exhausted by the above you can sometimes see clearly enough about your photography to plan you best work.

If you are an astrophotographer, after midnight is where your office is anyway. That sort of time a hundred miles away from your house trying to keep warm enough to press the button. Your dedication is always rewarded.

*  Best Western Wangaratta never wants to see me or my 4 x 5 film holders ever again and I don’t blame them.

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