I'm going to start making prints. Here's my current process for creating photos from negatives: drop film off for processing, have it scanned, go back home and unload the files, touch the files up in GIMP, upload to Flickr.
A couple of things are wrong with this process. In the first place, it's $10 a roll to get scans from 35mm prints. That's not totally unreasonable, but it looks much less attractive when you realize that this is the price for the absolute lowest resolution - no more than 250K per image. This is nowhere close to the quality that would be required to make even a 4x6 print. It's not even that suitable for posting online!
I want to stop thinking in terms of Flickr, which means doing away with these puny files I get from Photoworks (local lab here in San Francisco). I recently had one print made from a negative, and there's no comparison whatsoever with the digital version. Quite simply it produces an entirely different effect. So, how to make the leap?
It might be nice to have a darkroom, but that's not very realistic at this point. Instead I'm going to invest in the next closest thing, a film scanner:
This is the Nikon V-ED scanner, which the one I'll probably get. I'm convinced that a film scanner is the best way to start making prints. Unless you're printing in a darkroom, high-quality scans are a must for making prints, and they happen to be very expensive if you're having a lab make them.
It's true that I'll have to rely on Photoworks to do the printing (and the processing too, yeah), but I'd prefer to spend $3 whenever I want a nice 8x10 rather $25 each time I shoot a roll. If I do everything right with monitor calibration there should be a 1:1 correspondence between what's on my screen and what gets printed. One step at a time, no need to worry about getting a photo printer for now.
Do I have a goal for what I want to do with these prints? No. Not yet...