Breaking down the darkroom

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by anyte, Oct 19, 2004.

  1. anyte

    anyte Member

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    People keep saying that you don't need much space to set up a darkroom. But how many other things do you have to factor in? Wouldn't it mean switching from color to B&W - as I've heard that color is much more complex and the chemicals far more harsh. I have seen other people create very nice nature shots in B&W but the images don't speak to me the way color does. Perhaps it's just the way others choose to shoot - but my own B&W shots lack depth and emotion. They are completely void of anything meaningful (other than a few rare shots of my son). Even were I to create good B&W nature shots I'm still not sure that I would be happy shooting solely in B&W. What about space and time? Perhaps you can perform in a small space but where do you keep everything? How much storage space is needed and what are the dangers where children are involved? I live in a small apartment with a curious two year old and there's only one very small place for storing things that might be of danger to him. How much time is involved? I'm starting college in January. Anything and everything I need peace and quiet to do must be done at night - which is likely when I'll have to study as well. What are some other factors that should be considered? Expense, material availability, sensitivity to chemicals, ventilation??

    If my situation were different and I had my own home this would all seem so easy. For some people it's a simple matter of wanting and overcoming - but I'm in a situation where I can feel very overwhelmed very easily. Sometimes, for me, wanting simply isn't enough of a driving force.

    As always, input is greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member

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    I got by for 3 years using a college darkroom, not sure if there is one in your area or not? Might be another option..
     
  3. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

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    I have heard of darkrooms set up on laundries, enlarger on clothes dryer, trays on washer, prints tried face up on a clean table. That was B/W, however. Running water is a luxury, but not needed.

    As far as I know, color is very dependent of temperature (+/- 38 degreed Celscius), so if you want to do it at home you might look into one of those JOBO color processing drum kits, with the temperate water bath. Kills a few birds with one stone, but might be costly at first.

    The rest is really up to you. being a college student, I can tell you that finding time to print is quite a challenge, but don't get discouraged.

    Wish I could help you more than this...

    André
     
  4. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    B&W film developing can be done on the kitchen/laundry/bathroom sink. I did that for years. Never done any colour (other some Cibachrome printing) as it's never interested me. Printing requires enough room to balance an enlarger (unless you move to ULF and contact print, and that takes up almost as much room anyway!) and space to lay out your trays. You can make a rack to stack trays up to take less space. I used the bathrooms for many years and have only recently got my permanent darkroom. It's a luxury but not essential. For my bathroom darkroom, I used a PC printer stand that came with a desk to sit the enlarger over the hand basin and put the trays in the tub. At some stage I got smart and got a couple of lengths of timber to rest along the top of the bath so the trays could sit up higher which made life a little nicer (I have a couple of snapshots I can send you of this). I used to have a bucket sitting there to give the RC prints a quick rinse, then take them to the laundry to wash. I believe there's room temperture colour printing chemicals available these days but know nothing about them, and the film developing side of things is a mystery too.

    Why do you want to start a darkroom? Cost?, Control?, Conveinence?

    I have never got into colour darkroom work because I'm not really interested. I do take colour pics but hardly ever in 'photo making' mode. I walk around thinking in B&W. I don't think starting up a B&W darkroom when your not really interested is what you should do. Guess this is the 1st thing you need to sort out.

    I'm probably a bit slack in this regard. My darkroom has a keyed lock but I rarely use it. Usually if we have guests coming over who have kids I'll lock it. There are chemicals in a cupboard in there and the only real precaution I take is to screw the lids on very hard. Usually too hard for me to get off :smile: My kids (5 1/2 & 2 1/2) come into the darkroom with me and agitate trays, turn the enlarger on and off for me and basically get in the way :smile:. I don't let them play in there by themselves and they don't go in without me even though they could (I should use the lock!)

    Storage space for chemicals and paper is not huge. You could keep all the chems in a large bucket and the paper (you only need one box) and trays anywhere up out of curious hands. The enlarger however might be more of a problem. I used to keep mine in a cupboard sitting sideways under clothes (shirts and things like that) hanging. Some enlargers (like my LPL) come apart easy so could be stored in sections (head & column, baseboard).

    Time. never enough! With little kids (who are always pretty demanding while awake!) leaves little time during their awake hours. Mine are usually in bed by about 8-8:30pm and if I'm going into the darkroom I'll usually be in there for 2-2.5hrs. You can't study 7 night a week so need some other pursuits.

    In regard to B&W, expense... once setup (and these days getting the gear is not too bad) it's pretty cheap. Much cheaper than feeding an inkjet quality paper and ink. At the moment materials are readily available. Lots of doom and gloom gets written in forums but I think we'll be safe for a few years yet. I guess paper will be made longer than film (I've got thousands of negs I want to print one day!). Some people have adverse reactions to some chemicals, but there's usually alternatives and you rarely touch the chemicals anyway if you use tongs. You need some method of ventilation, but that can be as simple as opening the door every 1/2hr and fanning it to get some fresh air in (that was my method at one place)

    I personally don't think the hurdles you need to overcome are insurmountable. I've dealt with most of them you mention. You need to set your expectations at a suitable level (eg use RC paper rather than Fibre, set yourself to work in 2-3hr blocks by doing contact prints one night then a print another night, etc). Don't try to cram in too much in one session, you only end up getting annoyed with quality issues. Going to a college darkroom would be nice in some ways, but being able to do this while you son sleeps would also be a big advantage.

    Please note that my comments come from a B&W perspective, so if your hell bent on colour they may not really apply. The digital option might be a better way for you at the moment.
     
  5. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    Boy oh boy do I ever need to find that hidden surveillance camera in my "darkroom"....
     

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  6. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    I used to do color slides pretty regularly a long time ago and used my kitchen table to work on. A wash tub for the tempering bath is all that was needed as well as a place to load the reels with film. A changing bag will get that done. So strictly speaking you can get away with less if you do E-6 color than doing B&W prints. I saved up enough rolls to deplete the kit in one session and did them all in one day. Next day was taken up mounting slides.
     
  7. Max

    Max Member

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    Hey - have you been snooping around my basement?!?
     
  8. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I process C-41 Color Negative and RA-4 Color Printing, reguarly, as well as black and white.
    I don't consider color chemistry (excluding Ilfo/Cibachrome P3/30) to be any more hazardous than black and white chemistry.

    I use Tetenal C-41 (CN2) chemistry - this is an abbreviated (but not much) procedure:

    1. Mix the chemistry: 50ml each of Color Developer "A" and "B" - add water to make 1 Liter.
    100ml Bleach-Fix "A" and "B" - add water to make 1 Liter.
    10ml of Stabilizer - add water to make 1 Liter.
    Temperature should be 38 degrees C - 100F. However - I have made errors - developing at 35 degrees C/ 95F - and have noticed *NO* significant difference.

    2. Process: Color Develop (*NO* pre-wet) for 3 minutes, 15 seconds. I don't use shortstop or a water rinse - you may prefer the water rinse ... I'd advise against any shortstop. Bleach Fix for 4 minutes. Wash (6 x 30 seconds in the JOBO) - same as black and white film. Stabilize for 1 minute. Air dry.

    That is using "liquid chemistry; Tetenal also makes the C-41 "Press Pak" dry chemistry - more expensive - but a far greater shelf life, unopened. That, with modified times, can be used between room room temperature to something like 40 degrees C.

    It is not a complicated - or I've found, very "critical" procedure ... no more so than black and white processing.

    Color print processing in no more critical .. but printing *IS*. Color control is required in the enlarger - and I can only say that my most treasured piece of equipment there is the ColorStar 3000. It is possible to work without an analyzer - but believe me - I don't want to.
     
  9. anyte

    anyte Member

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    I have actually considered switching to slide film but the nearest pro lab that will process them is nearly an hour away. If processing could be done on a dining room table at any given time, that could actually work out well for me.


    One of my biggest hurdles is being agoraphobic. It's one thing to go out into the relatively empty refuge and spend the day shooting - the largest of which is only a 10 minute drive down a relatively unused road. The closest nature unit is a two minute walk down the road. Getting out into heavy traffic, driving 40 minutes and further away from home, being where there are likely to be greater numbers of people - that's where I run into trouble.

    I am sensitive to chemicals and their odors - so I'm a little leary of being closed into a space breathing them for too long.


    Labs seem to be entirely unrealiable in producing consistent prints. I've had rolls of film where two shots taken one after the other, metered, composed and shot under the same circumstances, end up being processed with extremely different results. I guess that covers cost, control, and convenience. I have read this is not an issue with slide film but getting slide film processed is a major inconvenience at the present. I know that you can have slides processed mail order but I would worry endlessly about losing film. I do not know that I can handle any extra work in my schedule but I do enjoy learning.



    Thank you everyone for the input. I would like to say though that while I appreciate the help it's really not necessary to go peeking into people's basements to see how they have things set up. :wink:
     
  10. Sjixxxy

    Sjixxxy Member

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    After seeing that pic, I think I need to do up my darkoom in butterflies. :D
     
  11. zenrhino

    zenrhino Member

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    Here in Minneapolis we have IFP-MSP, a group that provides "public" darkroom space. $70/year(ish) if you're a student.

    It's over on University near 280.

    Also, MCP on 13th st in NordEast will be opening their darkroom in the spring.
     
  12. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    For processing film all you need is a changing bag and a Jobo processor (could use a Paterson or similar daylight tank + a bowl of hot water, but the Jobo comes in use again later), plus graduates, thermometer, stirring rod etc. These you can use with plenty of ventilation: outside in the garden if you wanted, so no problem with chemical odours. You load the film into the Jobo reel and put the reel in to the drum inside the changing bag: no need to sit in the dark at all.

    For printing you need space for an enlarger with a colour head - a large closet will do - the bathroom is traditional! In total darkness you expose the print and then load it into a Jobo print drum. That's the total amount of time needed in the dark. Lights on, open the windows for ventilation and pour and dump the chemicals in to the Jobo drum at the right times (if you get a Jobo with a lift, this is easier and more accurate to time.

    As all the processing chemicals are inside the drums or in capped bottles except when pouring & dumping them (and you can have as much ventilation as you like during this time) and you are operating in daylight for everything except the actual paper exposure, its all much more civilised than using smelly trays in total darkness.

    Chemicals can go in a lockable box - you only need about 1 - 2 square feet of shelf space.

    Cost? Check previous auctions on eBay for Jobo CPE-2 (go to the Advanced Search section - it allows you to select 'Completed Auctions Only'). Ditto colour enlargers. Although your details say you shoot 35mm, I'd suggest at least a 6x6cm enlarger - 4x5 inch if you can afford it and have the space these beasts take up (and can source one locally - too big to ship halfway across the States!). The whole lot, Jobo with a 6x6cm enlarger and assorted odds and sods can be had for about 200GBP on ebay UK - probably about 300USD given that these things are generally cheaper in the US.

    Good luck! Cheers, Bob.
     
  13. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I find colour [C-41 and RA-4] easier then B&W.

    You don't need a processor. The same Jobo tanks will work on a motor. For the water bath my setup is a coleman cooler. A fish heater. Works just fine. It's no more work then a Jobo processor. It keeps temps in control just fine.

    I'd take the money saved on the processor and get something like the colorstar 3000. My last one cost me $67 used.

    My start up time with colour is longer then B&W but that's all waiting for the bath to heat up to temp. My clean up time is much less. The setup needs less room then my B&W setup. In the space I'd put two trays I've got basically everything for colour. Colour also seems cheaper [paper and chemicals] then B&W. But it's not much of a difference.
     
  14. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

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    doc bob, what is up with that wall paper?
     
  15. zenrhino

    zenrhino Member

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    We're just about the opposite in that respect -- I'm much more at ease planting myself in at 8th and Nicollet Mall at noon than I would ever be out in the refuges.

    Although, I would love to get some shots of the egrets and herons next year. Have you found a good place to shoot the big waterfowl?
     
  16. anyte

    anyte Member

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    Thank you Clint, Bob, and Nick for the input. I'm getting what I need bit by bit and soon will take the big plunge into developing my own slides and prints.


    I've been told the MN Valley Nat'l Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Bloomington provides a lot of photographic opportunities - they have an observation platform. The address is 3815 E 80th St. in Bloomington. Further south, off 169 & 101, is the Wilkie Unit. There is a large nesting colony of Great Blue Herons there. The area is closed from March through August. Out here in Carver (Chaska Unit) and Jordan (MN Valley State Rec and Louisville Swamp) I regularly see Great Blues, Egrets, American Pelicans, Killdeer, and I've seen large numbers of Double Crested Comorants. On a rare and considerably lucky occassion I have seen a Green Heron.