starting

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Alexis M, Mar 16, 2012.

  1. Alexis M

    Alexis M Member

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    Hi all,


    I would just like some hints on how to start thing off with using a darkroom. I never used one or had any instruction on how to either.

    There seems to be a lot of enlargers out there at different prices…I am looking at a Nikon 6x7 maybe with nikkor lenses, is this a good enough one?

    Any links to useful articles or threads?

    What’s the difference between a color and BW enlarger?
     
  2. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Hi Alexis, it might be helpful to first read a little. There are some good books which will go through the basics, explaining the different types of enlargers, what equipment you need to get started etc. I'd really recommend this as a first step. It will simplify things substantially, help you organize, and you'll be in a better position to start collecting your gear. Of course along the way you can ask lots of questions on here but I just figure it will be less confusing if you first get some of the basics down from a good book. You'll get a lot of opinions and personal experiences in the forums but it is much easier to sort all that out after some relatively easy reading. Even something as straight forward as the Time Life books (at most libraries) would be a great start.

    Michael
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 16, 2012
  3. Alexis M

    Alexis M Member

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    Thanks Michael.
     
  4. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    Color enlargers have adjustments for each color channel built into the light head instead of having to use corrective filters below the lens.

    I don't recommend starting off using color printing, or a color enlarger.

    For medium Format I highly recommend a Beseler 23C. They are sturdy, extremely well made, easy to find parts for, and a fantastic machine. The El-Nikkor enlarging lenses are superb, but so are the Rodenstock enlarging lenses.

    I also concur that looking through ancient photography books lin libraries is a good thing to do, I did this when I taught myself film developing. Nothing much has changed with regards to the basics so the information there should all be relevant, with exceptions being of course, product recommendations, or chemical that may no longer be made by the manufacturer.

    For paper, if you don't already have a preference, I would start off using Ilford Multigrade IV RC. It's a great all around paper.

    PS, Welcome to Apug!
     
  5. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    How about a Durst Graduate enlarger? Very simple and a good enlarger to learn with.
     
  6. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Hello Alexis and welcome to the dark side. EASmith is pretty straight on. Getting what you need depends on where you are in the world, in the states the Beselar 23C is a super enlarger that should last your lifetime, and Omegas are awesome as well. Anywhere else in the world, there are many other options including Dursts. I have given away several Beselar machines in the last couple of years, and still have more to go.
    BTW, my cousin has a daughter named Alexis M.--you aren't from north central Pa. are you?
     
  7. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I agree with Rick and Micheal. Asking which lens or enlarger is quite a bit premature at this stage.

    There is a great book by Barbara London and John Upton, titled "Photography". It's quite an expensive book if you buy new but since it is often used as a college textbook for photography courses, old editions are available quite cheap. (I bought mine for 25 cents!) I highly recommend it. It gives you a very good overview of the process with enough details from start to the end.

    You might want to find a club or an art school with darkrooms before trying to setup one of your own. Or - depending on where you are, one of APUG member may be able to show you his/hers. If you are in Central Florida, you are welcome to come see mine.

    I think it's important to learn the basics first. Many of us here have been doing this for years - in some cases, for decades. We all have tweaked our process to our liking. It may be more confusing for you to try to piece together a working process from many individual processes.

    Often, the choice of enlarger starts with what's available in your area. Mine is Omega D2 and DII. I bought one for 40 dollars and the other one was free. I picked up nice Nikkor lens locally and on APUG classified. My suggestion would be to read and investigate local availability first.
     
  8. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    And if you post your location, you might get other offers. If you're near SW PA, I'd be happy to show you the basics. I also like the Beseler 23C, and you can frequently find them on Craigslist in the US.
     
  9. ROL

    ROL Member

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    If you're new to the darkroom, it would probably be best to take an introductory class, if possible. Or travel to a workshop, though I seldom recommend them, if necessary. Darkrooms can be confusing and complex for the uninitiated.

    I've written a series of introductory techniques articles, which you may find occasionally useful as you progress, but they are undoubtedly insufficient in their breadth for your needs at this time. I add to them as the spirit moves me.
     
  10. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Hi Alexis - welcome to APUG and the wonderful world of the darkroom.

    All the advice above is good. I'll add a book recommendation: Henry Horenstein's "Black & White Photography - A Basic Manual"

    And two links:

    1) Kodak: http://wwwtr.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/aj3/aj3.pdf

    2) Ilford: http://www.ilfordphoto.com/applications/page.asp?n=9

    You can also look up ROL, one of the members here. He has a number of useful materials on his website.

    The Kodak and Ilford materials referred to in the above links are good (where still available) but you aren't limited to them - there is still choice available.

    The "Nikon 6x7" you refer to may actually be a "Nikor 6x7" enlarger. I think you might find it hard to source parts and accessories for it.

    EDIT: looks like ROL beat me to it :smile:

    PS have fun!
     
  11. ROL

    ROL Member

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    In case you're wondering, the initiation is standing naked, wearing only a lab apron, while your peers dump Dektol (a developer), mixed 2:1, over you. Still want to learn darkroom?


    P.S. Fool me once... :D
     
  12. AlbertZeroK

    AlbertZeroK Member

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    I second the Beseler 23c enlarger, super easy to use and to find parts for. I have 4 and that's without trying. you'll need to learn about developing, start simple. Look at stand developing with Rodinal, a good alternative to start with and is cheap. Color is way beyond this discussion, start with black and white.
     
  13. andrew.roos

    andrew.roos Member

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    Hi Alexis

    I'm also new, having set up my first darkroom a couple of months ago. Just about everyone on the forum knows more than I do, but I can perhaps give some advice from a beginner's perspective.

    www.rogerandfrancis.com has some great tutorials under the "photo school" section of their website. The Roger of rogerandfrancis, Roger Hicks, is a regular here on APUG.

    Ilford (a company that manufactures B&W chemicals, film and paper) have a useful "getting started" page at http://www.ilfordphoto.com/applications/page.asp?n=9 which has information sheets about setting up a darkroom, developing black and white film, and printing. I've followed the Ilford instructions step by step for developing my films and am very happy with the results. The same principles apply no matter whose film, paper and chemicals you use. Simon Galley of Ilford is also a regular here.

    Just remember that you don't need all the equipment mentioned in the Ilford guides. All I have is my enlarger, a tank for developing film, four trays (for paper developer, stop bath, fixer and water), 3 pairs of tongs for moving paper between the trays (using separate tongs for different chemicals to prevent contamination), a spirit thermometer, a safe light, a pair of scissors for cutting test strips, a few jugs for measuring and mixing that I purchased at the local plastics shop, and some cloths pegs for hanging prints and film to dry. Exposure meters, squeegies, digital thermometers, grain focussers, multigrade filters, printing easels, special film clips etc. are nice but not essential. (OK, I have an easel. It's still not essential.) My darkroom doesn't even have running water, although it is next to a bathroom where I wash prints.

    Ctein's book Post Exposure is available as a free download at http://ctein.com/PostExposure2ndIllustrated.pdf. It's a book about advanced darkroom printing techniques and not intended for beginners. But when you want to move beyond the basics it is an excellent resource (although it's not light reading - I'm still working through it).

    A Colour (*) enlarger allows you to control the precise colour of the light that the enlarger uses to expose the photographic paper, which is necessary for colour printing. Colour printing is probably not a good place to start - for one, you have to work in the dark - so I recommend B&W, which allows you to work under a red safelight, and is less demanding in terms of equipment and precise temperature control.

    A colour enlarger does have the advantage of allowing you to use variable contrast papers without requiring multigrade filters. Variable contrast papers allow you to change the image contrast - exposing with a yellow filter gives low contrast, exposure with a magenta filter gives high contrast, and you can get intermediate contrasts by varying the amount of magenta and yellow filtration, which a colour head will allow you to control. Admittedly, filters are probably easier to use since the exposure does not vary as much when using filters as when using a colour head.

    Welcome, and have fun!
    Andrew

    (*) We spell the British way here in darkest Africa!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 17, 2012
  14. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

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    And when they're dumping undiluted glacial acetic acid on you, that means you've violated the code of omerta.
     
  15. derwent

    derwent Member

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    Roger and Frances wrote a good book on darkroom basics too.
     
  16. Alexis M

    Alexis M Member

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    wow i'm stunned at all the help i got thanks all of you! i will read more in detail when i get back home from my GF tomorrow.
     
  17. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    The enlarger can be an expensive piece of equipment. I've had and have been using a Beseler 23CII for around 40 years now. They work and they last. But they have an inconvenient construction where the tracks for the focusing bellows extend downward and interfere with dodging and burning. Obviously not a disqualifying problem, since I've dealt with it for 40 years, but annoying. The EL-Nikkor lenses are excellent, and that Nikon enlarger would be a real temptation if you can get it at a good price and if it is in good condition.

    While economy is always a factor, you should get the best enlarging lenses you can possibly afford. You quickly be disappointed with cheap lenses - you can not make a good print with them. As mentioned above, the EL-Nikkors are excellent and fairly available on the used market. Rodenstock Rodagons and Schneider Componons (or Componon-S) are also excellent. I've heard good reports about the Meopta lenses, but I have never used them.

    The enlarger is the central feature of any printing darkroom. But you will quickly find that you need to consider other things as well. A good safelight is necessary. There are a lot of them out there, but there are some not so good ones as well as good ones. Ask for recommendations, and test whatever you get. Trays, big enough for the prints you make, are necessary. You can get them in sets of 3. A place and maybe equipment to wash prints is often a big problem. Think about it. And while you can do darkroom work anywhere that is dark and big enough for you, the enlarger, and 3 trays, the physical arrangement of the space should be considered.
     
  18. jvo

    jvo Subscriber

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    welcome

    GREAT people on apug...

    i'm sure there's someone near you who you can look over their shoulder as they work in the darkroom... 3-4 hours just watching and talking will make a huge difference in de-mystifying - and shortening the learning curve/understanding!
     
  19. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    The 'Nikor' enlarger is a rebranded Japanese LPL. They were sold under many names - Rollei most commonly - and are pretty common on the used market. You don't need a lot of fiddly bits and accessories for it, like you do for a Durst. They are better built than the Beselers and Omegas. If the price is right, and it has the lens board, negative carrier and 35mm insert, and you can examine it, then go for it.

    There was also a version with a sloped head/front - not as common and I've only seen them in pictures.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 19, 2012
  20. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    It is the "sloped head/front" version that I am familiar with, and those are the ones that may be a challenge to find accessories for.
     
  21. MattPC

    MattPC Member

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    Buy box-lots of 'darkroom stuff' off online auctions and be brutal with how much you are prepared to pay. I bought 2 box-lots for $50 and $40 respectively and had everything (except consumables) I needed to get going, plus a pile of spare stuff. (within the last 18 months). My 50mm lens is not one of the big names mentioned here, but i can make 12x16 enlargments from 35mm with it and the limiting factor is presently the quality of my negative capture/processing not the enlarger lens.

    Don't overlook the cost of consumables and black-out materials in your budget. Builders paper is effective and cheap, but makes humidity/damp an issue (I just put up with it, and store my lens (with cameras) in a cupboard with some dessicant) Do your printing at night and black-out is much less critical.

    Once you are printing you can think about what items you'd like to change/upgrade to make it easier/more fun. For example: I fairly quickly 'exchanged' my first enlarger for one with a filter drawer and longer column (cost of 'exchange' was another $60). But (to date) most of my improvement has come simply from learning.

    MattPC.
     
  22. Alexis M

    Alexis M Member

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    thank you all for your advice , links, ideas etc.

    I will get some equipment and just start and learn while i go...like i did with photography developing film etc...the trial and error part seems to be the best part anyways.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 21, 2012
  23. Alexis M

    Alexis M Member

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    so a little update i'd like to share. I got myself the basics, a saunders/LPL D6700 with a 50mm nikor 2.8, it came with an easel a gralab timer and a set of trays. 85$ :smile: there was a Beseler 23 for sale but i saw it too late...regardless, i'm happy with this.

    I got some dektol and i made myself a safelight...it's safe i tested it. Got some ilford multigrade deluxe..

    I developed my first 2 prints today after work...man time flies in there.

    It's pretty much what i expected, a very absorbing and satisfying experince....i''m hooked!:tongue:

    Now time to get a lens and holder so i can print my medium format stuff.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 26, 2012