Can you help me get started with a darkroom/enlarger setup?
Greetings! This is my first post here, so a bit of an introduction: I was a fairly active photographer back in the early 1980's. I did news and editorial assignments for my college paper, shot a wedding now and then, took lots of shots "for myself", etc. I have a limited amount of darkroom experience from the college paper days.
I stopped shooting for about ten years, then in the late 1990's I bought my first digital camera. Around 2005 or so I bought a nice Nikon DSLR, and have been a pretty serious digital shooter ever since. Mainly, I shoot product photos for my company's web site, as well as family shots.
A few months ago on a lark I bought a Mamiya RB67 setup. Back in the 80's, that was the camera I wanted but couldn't dream of affording. Now that they are practically giving them away, I had to have it. Having run about ten rolls through it, I am totally re-hooked on film. Its been a fantastic re-awakening into the world of deliberate, manual photography.
I'm very fortunate to have a local shop that still does processing. I can get a roll of 120 processed with lo-res scans (each one is about 2MB or so) for under $10. With my experience in digital, its easy enough to load the scans into Photoshop and tweak them to perfection.
So that got me thinking that the next step on this is to get my own scanner to bump up the quality of my scans. Looking around, I figure a budget of something like $1k would get me something worth working with.
But then that got me thinking that what I really should do is start making my own analog prints...in other words, instead of spending $1k on a scanner, put that money into an enlarger setup and go that route. I think that's where I want to go.
My problem is I really have no idea where to start. I'm looking for some advice on how to get started...how to experiment with various techniques and papers and whatever other variables there are...without going down too many dead-ends that make me start from scratch all over again.
I'm limiting this strictly to B&W for now, since I have at least a little experience with that.
I'd like a setup that allows for the biggest possible prints. One thing I like from my digital workflow is being able to make monster prints (I have a 24" HP inkjet). I don't know what the largest sizes of photo enlargement paper are, but I want to be able to use it.
My question comes down to this: If you had a budget of $1k and wanted to set up a darkroom from scratch, where would you start? I'm not worried about making the "best" decision regarding all the various options to start, but I do have a sense that I want to get the right enlarger, since I expect that's the one thing I'll be living with the longest.
Are there any books or websites you would recommend? Are there any dealers that specialize in used darkroom gear that I should visit? (Some dealer that is to darkroom gear what KEH is to MF camera gear would be perfect.) Any recommendations on where to buy chemistry/paper?
If it matters, I'm in Omaha, NE.
Thank you so much for any comments or advice you can offer!