How dark should a darkroom be?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Necator, Jan 9, 2010.

  1. Necator

    Necator Member

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    This might be a silly question, but since I just got a Leitz Focomat V35 for free, I would like to get started on my plans for a darkroom in the basement of our house. If I continue to use a changing bag for loading film into the development tank, and only use the darkroom for making prints, does it have to be completely light sealed? I seem to remember that the father of one of my high school friends used the boiler room in their house, without light sealing besides some dark curtains. He only used it after sunset of course.

    The room I have in mind is in the basement, with some small windows, where I think about getting some dark curtains, but I will need to keep the window open for ventilation. I would also like to keep the door open, to get air flowing, so there will be some leaks of light. Could that work?
     
  2. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    I think it should be as light-tight as possible. If not, you'll always wonder if some print problem was caused by stray light. You may be able to construct some sort of light-tight ventilation system in the window.
     
  3. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    No. To maintain total darkness AND ventilation, you are advised to build light traps. You'll find plan on the web or in good books. Light does not go around corners, air does.
     
  4. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    You can install an inexpensive bathroom exhaust and duct it outside, also install a wall vent(or two) that is light tight(as per Ralph L.). I would put one intake vent near the ceiling, and another near the floor, and a power exhaust in the ceiling. Make sure to place the 'in' at the opposite end of the room from the 'out'. A weather seal around the door will help to shut out light. When you are finished, sit in the darkened room for at least five minutes before checking for light leaks.

    Rick
     
  5. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    Careful with the bathroom vents. These are not light tight.
     
  6. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    No it is:
     

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  7. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    Ralph, as always, makes very valid and interesting points. Light does not bend about a corner....the relevance of the statement is that if you are working in a corner of your darkroom that is away from a small light leak around your door or window then it is entirely likely that the small amount of light coming several feet away from your dark area will not affect your materials. For example, close the door and stand where you are loading your film film into your developing tank, or placing your paper onto the easel of your enlarger. Take a sheet of white paper, and see if the light strikes the paper....you might be able to stand in front of the easel, or the developing tank in order to shield the objects that you want to "protect". As noted, curtains or caulking, or weather stripping will help....however, in some instances, the last bit of light that might "infiltrate" the darkroom might not affect your materials at all. No one would argue with the advisability of making the darkroom as light tight and dark as possible. However, there are instances wherein small amounts of infiltrating light will have little, if any, practical affect. To repeat, I am not advocating a cavalier approach in which light is allowed in to flow into one's workspace. However, I do believe that it is entirely possible to work in a darkroom that is not entirely Stygian.
     
  8. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    I was in Howard Bond's darkroom once, and he has no darkroom door at all. The whole entrance is designed as a light trap. You walk around a double corner in which the walls are painted flat black. It is open and yet light tight, which is great for a teaching darkroom where people can go in and out without disturbing the session. It takes some floor space but is very convenient and offers a lot of ventilation.
     
  9. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    Yes...the "gang darkroom" at The Southeastern Center for Photographic Studies at Daytona Beach State College is constructed exactly the same way Ralph....no doors, double corner, etc......

    Ed
     
  10. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Henrick,

    Get it close and give it a try. If there are problems, work on them one by one. You may be able to solve the problem of the open door by simply turning out the light in that room (or replacing it with a safelight while you work). In any case, don't let the problem slow you down too much. IMO, it is much more fun to get started than wait for perfect conditions.

    Neal Wydra
     
  11. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    That's how I had my two darkroms at work in the 70's & 80's, one was dedicated to negatives & emulsion manufacture the other printing and the light trap u-shape entrances take relatively little extra space compared to what's needed for a hinged door anyway particularly if you also add a curtain either side. The added convenience is well worth while particularly when others use the darkroom as well.

    Ian
     
  12. KenR

    KenR Member

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    I have some minor light leaks under the door of my darkroom that in almost 20 years of use have never lead to fogging. It takes me a minute or two of complete darkness to see them. However, when loading film onto reels, I don't want to take any chances and either make certain that the "minor" leak is sealed or that it is dark outside of the darkroom.
     
  13. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    The double doors into my darkroom have 1" gaps at the floor, thus letting in enough light that you can see the floor quite well once your eyes adjust. I have seen no evidence of fogging from this, and in fact the darkroom itself has been in use for 30+ years. The double doors have a kind of collimating effect, there is almost no light coming up off the floor, though it can make your shoes glow.

    For tray dev of IR and fast films, I put a lid on my trays.

    Bear in mind that the dark-adjusted eyes have rather spectacular sensitivity. You can have unmeterably low levels of light, maybe 10-20 stops below what you can meter, and still see around quite well. IIRC the dark-adjusted eye can see the light from single candle at one mile distance.... quite near single-photon sensitivity.
     
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  15. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    Thanks for the very interesting information about the sensitivity of the eyes. I went back into my darkroom....at first everything was black...then one could note the smallest bit of light coming from around the light seals surrounding the door and from the saddle of the door on the bottom....so, the light adjusted eye will see such faint traces of light after the eye accommodates to the conditions. However, I have never had problems with fogging of film or paper, even with TMAX 400.....however, I'm going to be even a bit more careful to load my holders on the shelf as far from the door as I can with my body between the holders and the door....as unlikely as such would be, I don't want to start having any problems now.

    A single candle at one mile........rather amazing....even a retired MD can learn facts that were not previously known...:}
     
  16. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    May that as it be. It is extremely easy to make doors totally light proof. I suggest to stay away from seals of any kind and use a light trap design instead. An extra piece of wood, painted black on the exposed sides does not conflict with the operation of the door but prevents any light to come in.
     

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  17. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Dark adaption happens in two phases. The first phase (cones only) takes around 8 minutes. However, the final phase (rods fully sensitive but monochromatic only) takes up to 30 minutes. Light adaption, on the other hand, is done in about 5 minutes.

    http://www.visualexpert.com/images2/da.jpg
     
  18. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    I, too can see light leaks around my door after I've been in there for a while. I also have glow-in-the-dark stars stuck on the walls and the enlarger head to help me maintain my orientation and not hit my head. My gralab also has glow-in-the-dark letters.

    The way I see it, we are dealing with, at the most sensitive, camera film here. To get a grasp on how much light is traveling into my film-loading area, I once set a sheet of white paper there. Even after my eyes are well adjusted, I can't see it. Even if I could, suppose I wanted to take a picture of that sheet of paper by exposing the film in a camera, behind a lens, how long would I have to leave the shutter open? I would guess many hours, possibly infinity, for anything to register on the film, and that would be behind a lens aimed at a white sheet of paper. So I don't worry about having my film out in that same level of light for the few minutes it takes to load it. Even in moonlight, my camera exposure times would be many minutes, and at that level of light, I can easily see someone standing next to me, see my hand in front of my face and walk around without worry.
     
  19. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    Ventilation is important since you want a source of fresh air to breathe. You would want the out going air to be on the other side of the chemical trays from the incoming source and you being on the incoming side. If you can't construct light traps, a simple and inexpensive light "seal" can be made by getting black opaque plastic sheeting at a garden shop or Home Depot. Fold it in a couple of thicknesses and attach it to a dowel stick on top and one on bottom. Place a couple of "L" hooks above the door. You just hook the dowel above the door and extend it enough to make a light trap and the bottom dowel holds it down. It has worked for me for over thirty years. You can also block out windows as well. (If the sides need to be secured, use Velcro that comes with adhesive.) The whole setup can be removed when not in use.
     
  20. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    The illumination due to moonlight plus night skylight is up to 0.04 ft-c at full moon (or EV-3 at ISO100/21). I forget, what f/stop is equivalent to not having a lens between light and film, f/1? If that's correct, an exposure time of 8 seconds is sufficient to give Tmax-100 a Zone-V exposure, and of course, for Tmax-400, you only need 2 seconds. At f/5.6 you need one minute to fully expose, not just fog, Tmax-400. You might have to double or triple that time due to reciprocity failure.

    When I develop sheet film in a tray, it is exposed to the darkroom light for about 30 minutes. I need a light proof environment in the darkroom. Moonlight or light leaks under the door are not acceptable and highly unnecessary.
     
  21. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Wait, I just checked and it's much more spectacular than that:

    http://www.tacomaeyecarecenter.com/Eye.html

    The single-photon assertion is a bit controversial as it depends critically on the angle at which the light is seen (b/c of the distribution of rods on the retina) and on the condition of the eye and how many carrots the subject has in his/her diet :wink: Turns out that the brain filters out much of the noise containing the single-photon information. But, in the statistical sense, the scotopic vision is actually sensitive to a single photon.

    Regarding light under the doors, of course the very safest policy is to strive for complete darkness, but I am reporting, with very high confidence, that a bit of light under the door in my darkroom has had no measurable effect. And I have worked with IR film extensively.

    There are many things in photography that people sweat and fuss over but which ultimately turn out to be moot most of the time. This is not the right profession for worry-warts: their creativity can simply grind to a miserable halt. There are just too many potential technical pitfalls to obsess over: MLU, 1/FL, aperture for best MTF, center post or not, base fog... etc. etc. Best policy is to experiment, establish your own best practices, and go with what works for you.
     
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  22. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    My suggestion above provides total darkness in my darkroom that has two doors and windows almost the entire length of the room. The sheeting overlaps on to the floor. When I develop film I do it in total darkness with no safelight and when printing my enlarger timer automatically turns off the safelight during the exposure.
     
  23. DLawson

    DLawson Member

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    My childhood darkroom was the laundry room. There was a window in the door. That got something (blanket?) hung over it. There was a window in the wall. That got a piece of plywood leaned against it from outside. And I only used it when it was dark outside.

    It was fine for practical work and learning. I'm sure there would have been issues as a production space. And I can't say whether it would have had issues for fine art prints.

    I'm told Weegee sometimes worked out of the trunk of his car.
     
  24. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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  25. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    <There are many things in photography that people sweat and fuss over but which ultimately turn out to be moot most of the time. This is not the right profession for worry-warts: their creativity can simply grind to a miserable halt. There are just too many potential technical pitfalls to obsess over: MLU, 1/FL, aperture for best MTF, center post or not, base fog... etc. etc. Best policy is to experiment, establish your own best practices, and go with what works for you.>

    I'm with you on this one Keith...

    Ed
     
  26. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Me too, as long as it is not an excuse to avoid learning and understanding, which eliminates so many unnecessary problems. Let's not confuse serendipity with creativity.