From digital to darkrooms, DPI can handle it

Ric Wolford describes himself as a chatterbox. When the topic is photography — Wolford's occupational passion for 40 years — he is true to his word.

Wolford, who started Douglas Photographic Imaging in 1977, finds it hopeless to try to briefly convey what he and his staff offer customers on a daily basis.

"There is no 10-word answer for it," Wolford said.

From old-school darkrooms to a state-of-the-art, custom-designed studio, DPI's 15,000-square-foot facility is equipped to provide a smorgasbord of film processing and imaging services. One area of Wolford's shop is designated for finishing services like laminating and mounting.

While digital photography has become the norm in recent years, DPI has evolved into a haven for users of both new and old technology. In many instances, the advancements are used to preserve photos taken long ago.

"One of the mainstays that we still do is copying and restoring old photographs," said Wolford, whose wife, Nancy, and daughter, Whitney West, also work in the shop. "We do work for museums. Last year, we did something for the Smithsonian (Institution).

"We're still one of the places that will take black-and-white negatives and make prints from them, and it's hard to find places that will do that."

DPI's basement photo lab features equipment of various ages. One prints photos in common sizes like 5-by-7 inches and 8-by-10s. An older machine is used for 52-inch-wide black-and-white photos.

Twice a week, DPI rents some of its darkroom space to customers who pay a yearly membership fee. It gives them access to tools used for printing from negatives like enlargers, lenses, dodging and burning instruments and chemical processing machines.

"When we run on those two days, we still have plenty of film to burn," Wolford said. "I want to run it as long as I can because there's nothing wrong with film. Film actually has more resolution than digital. It's just the instantaneous of digital that makes it more appealing."

Wolford has an extensive background in commercial and advertising photography, offering services ranging from aerial shoots to awards banquets to brochures. An avid car enthusiast, he transformed one of DPI's studios into a setting for automobile and motorcycle photography.

The studio features a 3,600-pound revolving wheel set on castors in the floor that turn a vehicle as it being photographed. A 10,000-watt light box, retractable walls and an all-white background help accentuate a vehicle's features.

Wolford brought it all together by launching in 2007.

"I approach it really like a commercial photographer, not just somebody who's wanting to do it for fun," said Wolford, whose own vehicle, a 1967 Sunbeam Tiger, sat on the revolving wheel earlier this week. "Our goal when we're done is really something that's spectacular."