Confessions of a darkroom returnee !

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by digiconvert, Dec 4, 2005.

  1. digiconvert

    digiconvert Member

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    On Friday I unpacked my 'new' enlarger - Meopta opemus 5A with Nikkon 80mm and 50 mm lenses, about 25 years old-along with the assorted papers, chemicals and VG filters (I was considering graded papers but was advised to start easy :smile: ). My last enlarger was one of the Zenit in a box jobs 25 years ago so I consider myself a newbie.
    Last night (Saturday) I leave my darling, supportive wife with the TV and go into the room that is to be the scene of future glories/disaster (delete as appropriate), make up chemicals, black out windows and lay out the trays, enlarger etc.
    Does everyone else get that little voice saying "why have I done this ?" when they start and check thee paper is in the box at least 3 times before turning on the light or is it just me ? - Anyway I print from pre processed 35 mm negs which I have prints for and the first one is fairly on one side but OK on the other, not like the original !
    Try again - this time there are 'streaks' of light on the print AND a gradation of tone BUT the streaks are on the neg, I just hadn't seen them on the 6 x 4 original from 'prints - R -us'.
    OK there is a problem, take the lens off and look , no problems, check filter drawer-OK, check everything is level, the head clamp is tight so it's not at a slight angle, check neg carrier-nothing. Finally take the light chamber off and gently clean the frosted glass diffuser. Next print is OH so I assume there must have been a little 'crud' on there or something- either that or I am rocking the dishes better :rolleyes: .
    OK I have played a bit and am wondering where two hours have gone so I decide to do the print I am really please with on the 6 x 4 (http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=10312&cat=500&ppuser=8780) . Do two test strips worry about the timings, re check the lens apperture 5 times then go for it. After the customary 3 hours in developer, 10 minutes in 'stop' and 5 years in fixer (maybe it just seems that way) and with a heart going at about 120 bpm I turn on the light and begin to wash the print, you know what it's not bad ! I need to practice getting the thing square in the easel but the detail is better than the lab processed print, the brickwork and shop signs are clearer and sharper, even allowing for 10 x 8 instead of 6 x 4, and the tones are more pleasant. It knocks the inkjet print,of which I had previously been very proud, into oblivion and I feel GOOOOOOOOOOD!!!
    I now have two or three problems,
    Will it look better on grade 2 1/2 or even 2, does it need a slightly shorter exposure, shoul I try to dodgre the foreground where it's a bit dark, how long will one print to get right ? Can't waut to find out !
    The other problem is I am beginning to see how poor my 35mm lens is, need to spend some money on some glass - preferably MF with a camera attached !!!

    Thanks to all who have supported me through this board, it's the best place on the web !!
     
  2. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Welcome (back) to the Dark Side! The jitters and sudden sweats go after a few years so don't worry too much... :smile:

    Just keep remembering to check that you have closed up the paper before you turn the white light on and you will be fine - all other errors just mean you have to do it again...

    If you have to set up and break down the darkroom/bathroom/etc every time, save yourself time and keep the chemicals in bottles; the stop will last indefinitely until exhausted, the fix will last a long time (at least a few weeks) and the developer life depends on the type: some last for many weeks, some die in 24 hours.

    To help reduce friction with the rest of the household, use low odour fixer (Fotospeed, Tetenal etc make it) and citric acid based stop (it has no odour at all - again Fotospeed supply it, amongst others).

    Have fun! Bob.
     
  3. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    Glad to hear that you are enjoying the experience.
     
  4. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Your experiences sound about right... fun isn't it! :wink: I often think, 'Ok, I've been going for an hour I'll stop for a cuppa.' Only to discover it's been three hours...
     
  5. nihraguk

    nihraguk Member

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    Welcome back to the fold! Buy lots of paper and don't be afraid to throw away 'substandard' prints made whilst in search of that 'perfect' print. I use a Opemus 6A and am having tons of fun with it.
     
  6. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Watching a print develop, is better than watching a plot develop on the TV any evening!

    Welcome back to the darkroom, it really does do wonders for your photography, especially when you understand why this or that, didn't quite work out.

    Mick.
     
  7. John Bragg

    John Bragg Member

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    Welcome back to the best fun available that isn,t either illegal,immoral or fattening ! After 20 years printing my own, I still get the ANGST about every print I make, but they are all my own work, and the best thing about REAL hands on traditional photography is that if it goes horribly wrong you still have the neg and get to do it all over again. Properly stored negs will last longer than accidentally deleted digital files,and are immune to computer virus.
     
  8. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    EXACTLY! Isn't it great?!

    Welcome back - there is magic in all this, you know!

    Peter.

    PS - I started on an ancient Meopta - hey, it worked! I am told the newer ones don't give away much to the better known brands.
     
  9. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Then after all your trials and tribulations over several hours, you show the wife the results and you get a look that says "very nice but is that all you could manage in the time?"

    Those unfamiliar with the darkroom ressemble the tourist who knocks over a vase in the Egyptian museum. The curator says: "That was nearly three thousand years old!"

    The tourist says: "Oh, good job it wasn't new then"

    Pentaxuser
     
  10. toddstew

    toddstew Member

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    I can relate to the excitement of starting again. I found it took a couple of throw-away sessions to be able to actually focus(yuk,yuk) and have a serious approach. My first few sessions after I started again were mostly filled with giggles and not-so-good quality prints. But they were also filled with the feeling that "it's good to be back!"
    welcome back!
    todd
     
  11. sterioma

    sterioma Member

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    I just started printing for the first time (also with an old Meopta) and could see myself in your story. It's so much of fun, and indeed... time flies and I always manage to print only half the stuff I had planned to....

    Thanks Bob for the tip on odour-less fixer/stop. I need to check them out for my bathroom... ehm... darkroom :wink:
     
  12. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    I usually go into the darkroom with the intention to catch up on contact sheets... any enlargements completed are a bonus (bit like a days fishing... any fish are a bonus!)
     
  13. eric

    eric Member

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    Oh boy, I'm glad it wasn't only me. I feel bad if all I got was contact sheets. I wind up doing at least a couple of 5x7 RC's so my wife will not say "is that all you did in the darkroom, a couple of contact sheets?" Or "when are you going to print all that stuff circled on the contact sheets"
     
  14. gbroadbridge

    gbroadbridge Member

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    Just wait until you start mounting, matting, and creating personalised frames for the prints.

    That's when the wife starts to mention not seeing you for a few days :smile:

    I've started to frame contact prints to cut out the enlarging phase :smile:)


    Graham.
     
  15. CraigH

    CraigH Member

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    I just started again this past summer & did 3 print sessions in the past week. Was using Kodak Polycontrast IV RC & Arista.EDU RC VC Glossy & then found an old open pack of Ilford Multigrade FB. I love the feel of FB. I'm using Clayton P20 print developer & Archival fixer. What FB paper do you all reccommend?

    Craig
     
  16. voceumana

    voceumana Member

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    So why would anyone want to give this up & use digital? I just can't understand why.

    Welcome back!
    Charlie
     
  17. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    By this standard, I'm a "lifetime" behind on printing. :rolleyes:
     
  18. Cave_of_Tigers

    Cave_of_Tigers Inactive

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    Welcome back! I too, recently returned to the darkroom after a thirty year absence. It all comes back very quickly.
    One thing I have always done to save paper from accidentally turning on the lights is to save the envelope from a 25 sheet pack of paper; then, I buy a 100 sheet box of paper, and transfer 10- 20 sheets of paper from the box to the envelope. I then work out of that 'til I need to refill the envelope. That way I don't zap all 100 sheets if I should forget the subtle difference between red and white light.
     
  19. digiconvert

    digiconvert Member

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    And welcome to you, hope it's as much fun for you as me !
     
  20. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    I bought a used paper safe (stuffed full of fogged color paper, for which I'd have had no use even if it weren't fogged) for $10 when a local camera store closed its darkroom. There's room in there for three stacks of 100 sheets of 8x10, and the door's on a spring so it closes when released. Unless something blocks the door, my paper is protected -- and I'm still in the habit of visually verifying that the safe is closed before switching on my inspection lighting, because even edge fogging plus loss of the top few sheets would be a major blow to my printing budget...

    Nothing will save you if you open the paper safe in daylight, of course -- just it won't save you, with your method, if you forget to turn out the lights to transfer paper from the box to the envelope... :tongue:
     
  21. nc5p

    nc5p Member

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    I cleaned up the old 67C a few weeks ago. It's been about 8 years since it was used last, that was in Minnesota. I've been developing film in the sink and scanning all along but missed the printing part. I don't want to start a flame war but I HATE INKJETS! I use the little headband LED lamps with the red LEDs. I haven't had the courage to tackle color printing again, I still have the old unicolor drum.

    Doug
     
  22. Robert Budding

    Robert Budding Member

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    I didn't print for over 15 years - marriage, kids, work, etc. But last year I took a Zone System workshop. Well, I'm hooked again. My "new" enlarger, an Omega D2V, should be here tomorrow.

    Robert
     
  23. patricia de roeck

    patricia de roeck Member

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    A long & Winding Road

    Just picked up Digiconvert's thread - well, I'm a newbie to all this! It really made me smile in recognition - I'm a returnee to everything after 25 years.
    So there I am, forced into retirement before I'm good and ready - what on earth am I going to be passionate about for the next 25 years? Yes, I'll get back into photography, especially B & W as I don't want to re-enter cibachrome world again! First on the shopping list are the cameras - spent hours on the phone and in stores only to be constantly told that film is finished and besides, no-one makes a fully manual 35mm camera anymore, so I buy a couple of Nikon bodies that have priority this and that and some lovely lenses, one of which is an auto-focus zoom. Well, suffice it to say that on my first day in the field, with contrajour lighting on vertical trees the auto lens couldn't cope and had a nervous breakdown - the priority thingy refused to let me bracket my shots and the led lights were dashing up and down the viewfinder like a fairground ride. It's the nearest I've ever come to throwing a camera into the river - I think I screamed very loudly instead.
    Time to re-think all this and a chance enquiry when I was put through to the wrong (?) department at the Nikon dealers told me there was indeed a fully manual body made called the FM10 - Yippee - bought two, sold the two priority things and the neurotic auto-focus zoom and bought another manual zoom. Right, off I go again into the field - gosh the image does look a bit small through the viewfinder or is it just my failing eyesight? anyway into the darkroom (equiped from a gone-to-digital friend) and printing for the first time in 25 years - no running water as its the spare bedroom so into the bathroom next door to washs the prints - enter the cats into the darkroom and decide the easel is the best place to have a scratch and a wash. Time to re-think this - plus the negatives really do seem small and the prints won't go up to 12 x 16 - I know, I'll go to medium format and get the darkroom plumbed with hot and cold running water. Started off lusting after 4 x 5 but realised my knees won't support that plus a humungous tripod so look at 6 x 7 - still too heavy but bewitched by the engineering of them - can't afford a Hassy and after looking through 6 x 6 prisms realise I find the square format too wierd for words - next one down the line is 645 and find my niche at last with a beautiful new Bronica ETRsi a REAL camera that has a mirror lock, a hyperfocal distance scale and an infrared indicator - what utter bliss. Lots of backs, a couple of longer lenses, assorted filters, a brilliant used Gossen Lunasix F lightmetre and look out landscapes! Last but not least, had a stainless steel sink made to my specifications - this is sitting in my hallway along with most of the rest of the darkroom waiting for the #@%**#@ plumber to grace me with his presence, "well, it might be this week but I'll really try for next week or the week after etc. etc." So, a long and winding road indeed - a two and a half year journey so far and my accountant still dreads hearing the words "I need some more money please" from me - I'm sure he's dying to scold me for all the waste and seems incredulous that anyone would go to these lengths just to produce a "photo" but we all know that its the journey that counts as much as the destination don't we.
    Patricia