HOW IT ALL BEGAN
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I took two years of black and white photography in high school, in which we were required to photograph and fully develop our projects ourselves from start to finish. This meant using darkroom equipment to expose our negatives to photopaper for development of our final prints. Sometime in my second year, when I got bored, it occured to me that I might be able to actually create a lightsaber effect on my images without using any digital means, but rather through darkroom techniques applied at the time of exposure to photopaper.
The idea came about like so: I got to thinking how pictures are made by taking a white piece of photosensitive paper and bombarding it with light, which then becomes black once properly developed. By filtering that light with the negative of you image, you allow light to pass through the clear or "white" areas of the negative, creating black areas on the paper, and thus produce a non-inverted (proper) image. So the key to making bright spots on your image is to simply deny light to it. The simplest way of doing that is to just put something between the enlarger lens and the easel with your photopaper on it.
Okay, cool. Makes sense. But a lightsaber is a white hot core surrounded by an aura or light; A fuzzy bright area concentrated around it. Just putting a piece of paper in the shape of your lightsaber on top of your photopaper wouldn't do it. It didn't take me long to realize that all I needed to do was to defocus the same shape at the same time to deny light, in a fuzzy manner, around the core. This could be done by elevating a duplicate light denying object farther from the photopaper, where it's shadow would appear less focused since it would be farther from the focal point of the enlarger's projection (the easel being the point of focus). I then figured I would probably have to adopt a method of glow generation similar to my Photoshop/After Effects tutorial and have 3 "duplicates" of the light denying object above the "core", each "aura" blurrier than the last (each at different distances from the easel).
Okay, theoretically this sounded like it could work. I didn't have much luck explaining the concept to a couple of my classmates, but they were supportive of the idea. I wanted to do a test. But there was one problem. My teacher wasn't exactly supportive of unauthorized use of equipment for a non-class project, much less the elaborate setup of glass plates I would have to set up to elevate each "layer". So I waited for an opportune day with little activity in the darkroom and did it in secret. With my partner in crime, Collin, we snuck about a half dozen film canisters into the darkroom and borrowed the glass plates from a couple other enlarger booths and I soon had a sort of tower of glass plates supported by canisters on which I could carefully place pieces of cut out photopaper to block the light to the easel to make the effect. After a couple tests I succefully made a lightsaber on my image without digital aid.
I was, and still am proud of that idea working out as well as it did and wanted to share this with others who might be able to try the same thing. I hope if you have access to a darkroom, that you can attempt this procedure as well and hopefully do it with a less makeshift setup and without constant fear of getting yelled at.