Belinda in Verona.
I mentioned buying Tri-X and shooting "old school" in a blog yesterday. Yes, to the kinder-digi, shooting Tri-X means shooting with actual (not virtual) film. One of our readers wrote into the comments and bemoaned the lack of processing options, etc. in their town and opined that he hoped my darkroom was still functional. I thought I'd just outline my process for playing with film for the pure fun of it (as opposed to doing it for money as part of a commissioned "look").
If you don't have a film camera sitting around don't worry, you can pick them up from the used market all day long for under $250. And that's for something really good like a Nikon F2 with a 50mm hanging off the front. Everyone should have one good film user around even if it's just a souvenir of a different time.
Starting at the beginning I must council you that in the realm of black and white films Tri-X is the ultimate and most perfect black and white film ever created by the hands of man. Well, there are a few others that are close but.....you know what I mean. Don't pussyfoot around with lesser varieties of black and white film. I did go through a protracted Agfa APX 25 phase but that was another lifetime.
Here in Austin we can walk through the front door of Precision Camera and one of the happy, courteous and knowledgeable salespeople will be happy to get you a fresh rolls (or ten or twenty) for the price of a large, fancy coffee at Starbucks (about $5). Once you've got it loaded into your camera of choice you'll thank me for steering you away from the esoteric slow films and toward the ISO 400 king of black and white specifically because we've been trained via digital to shoot at higher ISOs and finally, here's a real reason to make that choice.
I know that no lens is perfect and most of my older cameras have strange meters so I shoot my film as though it was really ISO 250 and meter with a handheld meter. If you are shooting outside the light doesn't change that quickly and the meter reading is valid until the light changes. You might find your exposures are more consistent without the constant intervention of new, smartypants metering in our current generation of smartypants cameras because they are not infallible and are prone to subject failure induced mis-metering.
Next step is to shoot happily until the film runs out. Sooner or later it always does, unless you've loaded it incorrectly and it does go on forever and forever because it never got started. Many tyros have shot hundreds of frames on a roll only to discover that the film was never traversing the film plane correctly....
After I've shot my 36 frames of Tri-X I could find some tanks, mix some chemicals and take my chances with my agitation techniques or I can drop it off for same day processing at my favorite, local lab, Holland Photo on South Lamar Blvd. I can get the film back sleeved or I can ask them to leave it as a long roll and also to scan it and give me decent res files of everything on the roll. They will also make nice contact sheets for me which is almost a lost art.
At that point I hit the next three way decision intersection: Print at home or scan individual frames myself or have the master printers at Holland Photo make prints for me. Or (sneaky) I can take advantage of Holland Photo's black and white rental darkroom and go back in and print my own stuff under a real enlarger. It's not that expensive and satisfies the need to get your hands wet (although I think they much prefer people to use tongs....).
So, scan, print, have prints made, whatever. In Austin all things are still possible. Kind of like living in Photo-Camelot. And, having done a number of jobs in NYC and using the premier pro labs there for B&W I'll stick my neck out and declare that they've got nothing on Holland Photo!
Well, there it is. A happy black and white workflow. Now, just dig in and learn the Zone System and you'll have the entire adventure wired up. If you live in some hell hole with no film dealers and no black and white lab you can always use the ones we have here, you'll just have to do some shipping.
But it's a fun city and you might even want to hand deliver your film, spend a day snapping around town and then come back to the lab the next day and print your own stuff. You could have a self-guided B&W workshop all by yourself and probably at a good savings to boot.