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A Dark Experience

Norman E. Riley has photographed many Davis landmarks, but his early experiences developing photos proved frustrating.

Submitted by:  Norman E. Riley, 10-27-06
This entry relates to past.
Category(ies) of this entry:  Businesses

One day, soon after obtaining our first cameras, my friend Scott Brown and I calculated that we could save money by doing our own printing.  We were not sufficiently advanced at that time to process our own negatives, but we had read up on the procedure for printing and convinced ourselves we might pull it off.  I was hesitant  about this because I regarded the procedure as too complicated, but I agreed to go along with the daring plan despite my reservations.  Scott borrowed an enlarger and some trays from another friend, and we purchased some paper and chemicals from Sarber’s Camera which was then one of two photography stores in Davis.

When the big day arrived, we mixed our Kodak chemicals according to the instructions and sealed ourselves in the bathroom excited by the adventure ahead and pleased with our advancement to this stage: we were real photographers!  The room was darkened and the first sheet of paper went into the easel.  We did not have a timer or any knowledge of what a timer was, so we made our exposure by inserting the lamp plug into a wall socket and withdrawing it after an interval that seemed appropriate.  We slipped the paper into the developing tray and it immediately turned black.  We were astonished when this blackness was not removed by the fixing bath.  This was not the way it was supposed to work!  We tried again and obtained the same dark result.   After several tries, we began to think that perhaps we had purchased some defective paper. 

We reviewed our procedure and tried again, but the result was again and again the same.  We grew discouraged and the developer began to exhaust.  Gradually, we noticed we could see the positive image an instant before the paper turned black and suddenly the truth of our situation dawned on us.  There was nothing wrong with the paper - our exposures were simply too long!  By pulling the plug sooner we began to obtain recognizable images.  We laugh about it now.  At the time it wasn’t very funny.

Norman E. Riley

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