By Mike Rosso
I had my first photo darkroom when I was 14 years old. It was in the basement of the next door neighbor’s house. I had managed to piece together a rudimentary darkroom consisting of low-end, secondhand equipment and was allowed to use it in exchange for babysitting services. As a teenager, that darkroom was my sanctuary, a place where I could close the door, flip on the red safelights and completely shut out the world. I also had a cheap transistor radio with which I tuned in the local pop stations while working the chemical magic of photo developing.
Fast forward to 2016: Now film is obsolete, darkrooms are a thing of the past, and the number one selling camera in the world is not even a camera, it’s the iPhone. I still own a collection of old film cameras, but shoot primarily digital now, often on my own iPhone 5s, and mostly for the sake of convenience. The cover photo was taken with this device in mid-September up Fooses Creek. I also shot a series of close-ups of aspen leaves up County Road 12 in Fremont County later that month.
After downloading the images onto my computer, I employed my digital darkroom, Adobe Photoshop, to manipulate the cover photo. First, I desaturated the photo, removing all the color and rendering it as a black and white. I then added a small amount of the color red into the shadow areas to give it more depth. I also used a few tools common from the old chemical darkroom, the dodge and burn tools. When I was satisfied with the photo, I imported it into the page layout software.
Using some fancy functions in the layout software, I imposed the aspen leaves behind the masthead and the result is the October cover. Many photographers were understandably resistant to the new digital technology that sprung up in the late 1990s, but I embraced it, having spent many years in stinky, toxic darkrooms. Someday it might be fun to go back to that old method, but for now, I do enjoy the digital darkroom.