Almost a year ago now, the pdexposures crew began running a darkroom feature entitled Red Light District. I keep intending to submit something. . .
My darkroom is located in a basement utility room. It shares space with the boiler and water heater as well as a tool chest and a large number of shelves. To the left of this panorama is my enlarger, a Besseler 45MXT with lenses and negative holders to print anything from 16mm to 4×5. I found it on Craigslist for $50. To the right, the workbench features enough space for four baths (developer, stop, fixer, and hypoclear) and a paper cutter. The bench itself is a salvaged piece of kitchen counter supported by saw horses. The floor is lined with rubber mats retired from my daughter’s playroom.
Not visible behind the photographer is a slop sink equipped with a print washer and a temperature controlled faucet for color developing. A shelf next to the sink holds a set of powered computer speakers (for listening to podcasts while I work) and a dorm-sized film refrigerator. Finished prints hang on a clothesline to dry, while an air cleaner keeps the dust down.
Just visible along the ceiling are my LED safelights. I recently added a second strip to illuminate a dark corner, and now things are almost too bright. They run on 12VDC, so I think I may add a dimmer soon.
The biggest challenge with the space is keeping the other utility functions from overrunning it. You can see some of the shelves in evidence and a peg board above the workbench. I hope to print something every week this year and keep the clutter in check.
For some reason I’ve been procrastinating about this week’s roll of film. I just wasn’t finding the motivation to develop it. Yesterday Jake took a spin with Caffenol; today Beth and I were home alone with time to kill and an empty kitchen. A little home chemistry seemed in order.
The ingredients are simple: cheap instant coffee, Vitamin C powder, and washing soda. Although they took a bit of work to get, my supplies of soda and C should last for years. The scale is a simple digital kitchen one ($20) which also has postal uses. The thermometer and timer are cheap kitchen items. The only specialized equipment is the developing tank.
I loaded the film in the tank. Beth measured, mixed, and developed under my supervision. All of the ingredients are non-toxic and can be dumped down the sink after use. We did use a standard photographic fixer, which should be saved for re-use and not released to the environment. We used the Delta-STD recipe, halved to make 500cc of deveoper.
In less than half an hour from start to finish, we had images. The negatives are a bit thin, and I’m having a dust issue. I blame that on loading the reel with one hand in a cast. I’m happy though. We may need to perfect this technique.
I’m not exactly happy with my results in the darkroom. My latest attempts at printing have been flat. I’m not having much luck boosting contrast to the levels I would like to see.
I have been saying that I’m experimenting with my photography, but I haven’t been organized. I’ve been playing with multiple new cameras and different films for the last two months. The results have been fun but not educational.
So starting tomorrow, I’m shooting a known camera (my Nikon FM2) and known film (Ilford HP5+ because it’s what I have that’s not expired.) Hopefully I can pay attention to my darkroom technique and figure out where I’m going wrong.
These are uncorrected scans from my last roll of HP5. They’re not too bad, but the boardwalk could use a boost. Hmmmm…