It was a set up!

Tags: photography, blacknwhite, darkroom

Having spent most of last weekend in the dark it was an unwelcome shock to wake up to Monday morning in all its sunny glory. The best I could do to relive the joy of development (until the next weekend) was to share a few photos of my current set up:

This Durst Laborator 1200 is a beast of an enlarger that was given to me by a friend. It’s very easy to work with even if a bit heavy and allows for horizontal projection which can result in a verrrry large print. Currently doing 12”x16” prints with a 105mm lens pretty easily. I am acutely aware of its age though, and suspect that the cost of any future repairs is going to be painful.

I use a number of different masks to achieve nice borders although I’m also quite fond of pictures without borders for a bit of a different look. Some of the masks are a fixed size but one has adjustable borders to accommodate many options.

In the spirit of reducing waste, I’ve fashioned some shelves out of the left over bits and pieces of wood that came from the darkroom construction. While not pretty, they do the job and personally I think the most important issue to address is getting some separation between the wetwork and the dry. It’s easy enough to see with a safelight but I’m quite clumsy so I find that not having the chemicals mixed in with my precious negatives and equipment I can’t afford to replace is a really good idea. Of course, the Caffenol-C-M ingredients that I use are perfectly safe to have lying around and the negatives, paper and enlargement tools are all in easy reach from the enlarger.

I’m a bit of a “safety first” kind of girl and so one of the most critical features of my darkroom is some decent ventilation. After doing a bit of reading up on the best way not to fumigate myself with the developing chemicals, I decided that it was important to have both an intake vent (to remove contaminated air) and a fresh source of air from outside the room (to provide positive pressure). So that the amount of dust coming into the room is minimised, the ventilation fan pulling air into the room at one end has a higher throughput than the ventilation fan pulling air out of the room at the other end directly over the chemical trays. This approach is working well for me although I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not necessarily the most aesthetic approach.

The final element that I feel is worth mentioning relates to the development trays. The trays that I use were cannibalised from a chest of drawers which had ply inserted in the bottom, wood putty run around all of the cracks and then lacquered with polyurethane varnish. As I’ve found out recently, ensuring that these trays are water-tight is easier said than done. For smaller development (e.g. 8”x10”) I use plastic trays anyway but for larger developments (e.g. 12”x16”) it has been necessary to line the trays with builders’ plastic. I do plan to add further coats of the polyurethane varnish in the near future and it is important for me to realise that sometimes following the instructions to the letter is actually important (Steve Mulligan recommended at least 30 coats – I did about 15 which was nowhere near enough).

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