The Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts of Southern Arizona attract photographers as though they are birds following the San Pedro. Jack Dykinga and Ansel Adams produced much of their best work here, and countless other established greats and up-and-comers can be found in Arizona Highways each month. One need not be a world-class photographer to appreciate the angularity of agave, the sweep of an ocotillo branch, the glow of Pusch Ridge or the Dragoons at sunset, or the details that signal that there is life and dynamism in the hostile desert environment, to capture this as a photograph, and to create slides or black-and-white prints others will actually want to see.
Much of the best area photography is still being done on film. Large format still provides advantage in both resolution and freedom of composition, but film still has much to offer 35mm and medium-format photographers. There’s something about the earthy and warm color palette of Kodachrome (and, to a lesser extent, Ektachrome) or the gentle tonalities of Fuji Acros (especially when pull-processed) and Ilford Delta, all difficult to duplicate in digital, and analog grain structure more generally, that is peculiarly suitable to the subject. Both professionals and serious amateurs still shoot a lot of film in and around Tucson, some exclusively and others in addition to digital work.
Many labs closed or scaled back services after casual and journalistic photography switched to digital, but the situation has stabilized. Not counting drug and discount stores, which still do some film processing, there are two full-service retail film-processing labs remaining in Tucson, Arizona: Jones Photo and Photographic Works. A third lab, Centric Photo, has become a C-41 (color print) process only lab, and a fourth, Images Photo, is black-and-white only and strictly mail-order. Visit the labs’ websites for current pricing.
Jones Photo processes E-6 silde film and C-41 color print film in all formats, with push, pull, and cross-processing available. Basic black-and-white processing with push or pull service is also available. Basic low-resolution (2 mb tiff) scans of 35mm film can be purchased as a batch job with processing; high-quality scans are done by hand and cost considerably more.
In the recent past Jones printed directly from print, color negative, and reversal film; they have switched entirely to scan-and-print and no longer print on black-and-white paper at all. Printing is done from a scan onto either color paper or as “giclée” onto canvas or other specialty media using inkjet methods. All enlargements involve an intermediate scanning step; one can scan one’s film at home and use ROES software to order prints from Jones, or provide the film and allow Jones to scan it.
Photographic Works specializes in artwork duplication and custom black-and-white developing and printing, but will process C-41 and E-6 film in any format and make color prints both by photographic processes and inkjet “giclée”. Push, pull, and cross processing are all available.
Not only do they still offer real contact sheets from black-and-white negatives; they are also one of the few labs remaining that will contact print from color negatives as well. Optical printing from color slides is no longer available at Photographic Works, as the chemicals have been discontinued. The lab’s specialty is custom black-and-white printing, done by hand, on either fiber or resin-coated paper, with contrast masking, light dodging and burning, and optional sepia toning.
Scanning services are also available; as Photographic Works specializes in artwork duplication, extremely high quality and high price scans can be had, but Fuji Frontier scans of 4.5 mb from 35 mm, good for enlargement up to 11 by 16 inches, are also sold for more “casual” photographers,
No local labs have ever processed Kodachrome; while A&I operated a K-14 line Jones Photo used to send film off for customers. The only lab in the world still processing Kodachrome is Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas. Processing will cease at the end of the year; all Kodachrome to be processed must be at Dwayne’s by noon on 30 December 2010.
An overview of Tucson-area film processing is not complete without a mention of Tempe Camera, Arizona’s only full-service photo shop. They offer the same range or slightly more printing services than either Jones or Photographic Works, and their prices for film processing a dollar or two cheaper per roll than either Jones Photo or Photographic Works, The difference isn’t enough to justify the trip to the Phoenix itself unless one is processing ten rolls or more, but it’s easily accessible, so if one will be passing through the area anyway, it’s probably the best option.