Red Light in a Dark Room – Part 9

darkroom supplies

This week we are excited to take a look at Doug’s darkroom! Looks like he has a great set up for printing. Thanks for the photos too, Doug.

What is your darkroom? A room, closet or bathroom? Please tell us a bit about it.

I have a Saunders LPL 6×7 Dichroic Enlarger that I set up in my bathroom. The enlarger is on top of a kitchen trolley bought at Home Depot and modified to roll over the toilet in the bathroom. I use a tray rack that lets me stack three trays on top of each other to save counter space. I also have an old 8×10 print washer for washing fibre prints (my preferred material is Ilford Multigrade FB). The challenge in my situation is that the bathroom gets hot very quickly and sadly the ventilation fan is very noisy. I am considering replacing it with something much quieter, but proper ventilation is key. I have not been printing a lot recently, but the recent purchase of a 5×7 camera is going to allow me to contact print, which I find very exciting.

What’s your process? Tell us a bit about your developing routine, especially if it’s tricky.

I process roll film using the Paterson tanks. They use a little more chemistry, but I find the reels much easier to load (but they must be really dry) than the stainless steel systems. Sheet film is processed using Jobo drums. My preferred developers have been Ilfotech HC and Kodak D76. They give different looks but I find both pleasant. I have also used pyrogallol developers for landscape photos but understand the Pyrocat is a superior alternative to PMK. My developing routine is extremely repeatable. For roll film tanks, I agitate for the first 30 seconds of the first minute and for 10 seconds at every minute thereafter. Sheet films are processed in drums on constantly rotating roller bases. Developing times shift around based on how contrasty the situation is or if I am looking for extra “pop” in terms of contrast. It is valuable to test your film and developer combinations but too much testing takes away from taking pictures. I don’t really use the Zone System, but I try to understand the effects of the variables in the process. Henry Horenstien’s “Beyond Basic Black and White Photography” is an excellent book for folks who want to go further.

What’s your all time favorite Film/Film developer combo?

Right now, I really enjoy Acros 100 in Ilfotech. It provides sharp, punchy images and the grain is minimal. HP5 in D76 is a real smooth combination. It’s a good general purpose combination that yields easily printed results. For longer scale scenes, the staining developers with pyrogallol are great for the separation of highlights and provides a lot of subtle gradation. I used to use it with TMX 100 (which would blow out highlights pretty easily) shot at 50 ISO.

Have you tried any or are you into any alternative processes, such as cyanotype?

I’m a bit of a nut for the alt processes and have printed both cyanotypes and platinotypes. I have done a workshop in carbon printing, but don’t have the space for the process at home. I recently completed a wet plate workshop and found the process to be fascinating and worth the effort.

The 5×7 camera I plan to be working with was bought to encourage me to work with the alt processes. The negative size is, in my opinion, the smallest that is comfortable for viewing as an image on a wall, or in a portfolio. The result of all this is that I am starting to look for a space to set up a dedicated darkroom where I can work with chemistry without wrecking my apartment (silver nitrate stains are the mark of the wet plate photographer).

What is the best processing tip you can give?

My best advice for new darkroom people is to be consistent. Make as much of it as repeatable as possible. When you want to make a change, change one thing at a time. Otherwise, you will never understand how you got something. I also feel that you should go out and shoot rather than chase magic bullets in the darkroom. Only optimize your processing to the point that you can see a difference in your prints. Though I enjoy the darkroom, I prefer to photograph.

Here are a few samples of Doug’s work.

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Beau Photo Supplies Inc.
Beau Photo Supplies Inc.