Chapter Eighteen

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David showed Maria how to remove the film from the camera. "Always remember to roll it all the way to the end before you open the back. Otherwise, the light will obliterate the last image and likely fog one or two others. Light makes the images, but uncontrolled, it will instantly spoil them."

He opened the top of the developing box and showed her how to mount the roll and thread the film across to the receiving spool. "This part is a paper wrapper which hides the film from light. There's more than enough to extend it across to attach to the other spool, but don't turn the crank more than two turns; just turn enough to secure the film."

He continued talking about the developing process, explaining each step as she performed them and answering her questions. After she had rinsed the film strip and hung it to dry, she turned and looked up at him. "You give me such a feeling of power, sharing your knowledge and allowing me to do these things. You've made it so easy for me to understand the entire thing."

"But it's actually such a simple process. The important thing is to understand what happens; what the light does."

"Yes, but your method. Not condescending and haughty like some of my teachers." She shook her head. "Funny. Some of them seem afraid to share their knowledge, seem afraid we'll take away a portion of their power."

"That, or possibly they're uncertain of the fundamentals of the topic, and they teach from a knowledge about, rather than from a knowledge of."

"That's an interesting thought. I've not before looked at this that way, but it makes sense. Knowing or only knowing about." She rose to her toes and lightly kissed his lips, then more deeply as they locked in an embrace.

"We should print from the first film," he said after they broke their kiss and stood staring into each other's eyes for a long while. "Let's begin by mixing the chemicals." He looked at the row of boxes and selected three. "The instructions are on the labels."

They dissolved measured amounts of the powders in three beakers of water, then poured the solutions into the trays. He unclipped the first film strip and placed it in the holder of the enlarger. "We should start with your portrait of me. Do it on the small postcard size, so we waste less paper as we experiment with exposure times."

He moved the strip along to the final exposure and projected the light through the open shutter to compose it on the easel. "The next steps will require the red light. We'll be working with light-sensitive paper, and until the print is developed, any unwanted full-spectrum light will ruin it."

David closed the shutter on the enlarger, turned on the red light and switched the main room light off. He took a box of postcard paper from the cupboard, placed a sheet on the easel and exposed it for a count of ten seconds. "We'll start with the time recommended on the paper box," he said as he took the exposed card from the easel and placed it in the first tray.

He gently rocked the tray from side-to-side. "There, look. The image is emerging." He continued to rock the tray as the picture intensified. "We do this for a minute."

From time to time, he glanced at the second hand on his watch, and at the end of the minute, he lifted the card from the developer tray and placed it in the stop bath tray and lightly agitated. "Five seconds only here, to stop the developing."

After the stop bath, he lifted the card, let it drain and gently shook it before placing it in the third tray. "This is the fixer. It will stabilise the image. Important thing with these trays is to use one set of tongs transferring the print to the first two and the other set transferring to the third. This reduces the contamination of the fixer."

"We do this one for about two minutes," David said as he slowly agitated the tray. "After a minute we'll be able to turn on the main light."

"That was so magical. Watching the image emerge like a ghost coming out of the fog."

"You can switch on the light now. We need blotting paper. Try those drawers under the counter."

"Here. Second drawer, stacks of it arranged by their size." She took two out and laid them on the counter, then she went back to the drawers to see what else there was.

David continued to monitor the second hand on his watch, then at the end of two minutes, he lifted the print from the fixer tray, shook it lightly and placed it between the blotting paper and pressed. "That's one done. Let's see how it looks."

He lifted the blotting paper and picked up the print. "This came out well."

He examined the photo more closely, checking the focus and the exposure. "This is sharp; we got the focus right and also the exposure. We've captured good detail in both the darker and lighter parts of the image." He handed the card to her. "Tell me what you think about the quality."

She studied it for a long while quietly, then shook her head. "You really are an exquisite man. So wonderfully built."

He chuckled. "Ignore that for the moment, if you will. Examine the technical quality of the image, the focus and the intensity."

"I think it's very well done. I've seen far worse than this. I'm so excited to see this in the larger size. Can we do that next?"

David bent to kiss her, then opened the shutter on the printer and adjusted the image size on the easel. He turned off the main light, opened the cupboard and took out the box of large paper to read the label in the dim red light. "This is the same paper as the smaller ones, so the timings should also be the same."

He opened the box, removed a sheet of paper and placed it on the easel. Then he replaced the box in the cupboard. "We must always be careful with light around both film and printing paper."

"Careful, meticulous, logical. That's you through and through." She stroked his arm as she watched him complete the set-up.

"I'll do ten seconds again." He opened the shutter and counted the time, then after closing the shutter, he took the paper to the first tank, checked his watch and slowly agitated the solution over the print.

"Oh, my. Look at it emerging." She bent closer to the tray to watch as it developed. "I love this magic. I love the magical way you make me feel."

He completed the three baths, placed the print between the blotting paper and ran his hands over the surface. "Turn on the main light. Let's have a look." He removed the top sheet of blotting paper, lifted the enlargement, stood it against the boxes of chemicals and they stepped back to examine it.

"I'm wet with the thoughts that come from looking at this. Those rippled muscles up your abdomen, the chest muscles, the broad shoulders, the powerful arms, that massive connecting rod..." She shuddered and wrapped her arms around him. "This will keep me warm."

"Let's press it between dry blotting paper to keep it flat while the fibres in the paper dry. I'm so pleased with its quality."

With the enlargement between blotting paper, and pressed under a wood slab, he checked the new film strip. "This is dry now. I'd like to do some of my portraits of you." He put the strip in the holder, opened the shutter and examined the images. "This one first. The coy one."

Three minutes later he picked it up from the blotting paper and looked at it. "That works very well. And very quickly." He sent a hand down to adjust his crotch. "God! Does that ever work." He shuddered, then grinned at her as he passed her the photo.

She examined it closely at it for a long while. "I really am quite beautiful, aren't I?"

"Not quite. Quite is far too understated. Absolutely is a much more appropriate word to use. You're absolutely gorgeous." He turned and enfolded her in his arms.

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