The past few weeks I have been playing in my makeshift analog darkroom. It’s so far a lot of fun and I’ve learned quite a bit.
1. In the analog world dust is more of an issue as not only does the camera have to be clean, so does everything in development/printing … make sure the enlarger lenses and negatives are clean…I’m still figuring this out.
2. Another potential issues is scratched negatives…be careful when handling the film and the negatives. I ruined several images by not putting getting the film on the roll properly.
3. Your watch is not going to work…you need some kind of timer, a darkroom timer or some even use a metronome to time the exposure and chemistry without any light. I can use my watch for developing film as once I get the film in the tank light is fine since the film is in a light-tight container. Darkroom timers often have the advantage of automatically shutting you enlarger once the time you set is over. The one I have also has a “focus mode” that allows you to keep the enlarger light on while focusing the image. Note that a new one can be quite pricey. If you want an older style analog timer ebay might be your best bet as they can be quite pricey brand new. There are newer style digital timers that might be easier to use as I noticed following the timer in the dark can be a bit challenging. (And I’ve seen at least one reasonably priced digital model.)
4. Do test strips!! That means for *every* image. If I tried to use the time estimation for one image and apply it to the next it may not work. I started something like 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 but a number of people recommended more of a logarithmic progression, more in-line with, for example, aperture settings (6,11, 16,22,32,44, 64)
5. You have to take time and focus the enlarger and set it’s aperture. I didn’t realize that it *had* an aperture before my first attempts were a fail (that was actually caused by a safe light that wasn’t :)) I’m in the process of reading up on how this should be adjusted. From my reading so far the widest open and smallest apertures are not generally recommended and the aperture impacts the DoF (depth of field) when focusing the image.
6. A photographer’s loupe or magnifying class might also be helpful as I found focusing a bit of a challenge.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had a lot of fun so far in the darkroom. I was very fortunate that someone was kind enough to give me an enlarger he was no longer using that had been gathering dust. He was glad I was able to put this lovely piece of gear back into use. (Gear is meant to be used!)
Here is one of the better prints I made. I actually cropped this image somewhat to put the emphasis on the bikes.
1. Learn about enlarger filters…they can apparently be used to vary the contrast on the newer Multi-Grade papers. I’ve yet to acquire the filters but plan to get them shortly (a full set is < $50 brand new)
2. Research what it would take to make color prints….I’m fairly certain the Durst 606 is capable, with the correct filters, of making color prints…just not sure about price/availability of the necessary gear (filters, paper, chemistry, etc.)
3. Play with the toning kit I just got..I want to see what results I get by using this process.
3. Finish Ansel Adams’ books “The Negative” and “The Print” ….there’s a lot of good foundational material there.
Finally I’d like to thank again the folks at APUG who have been a great resource. I’ve said it before but if you’re getting into analog photography I’ve found it a worthy place to join and if you find it a helpful resource, as I have, become a subscriber.