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  1. #1

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    To Darkroom Or Not To Darkroom, That Is The Question.....

    I am in the process of buying a new home, and the one that I bidding on has a space that I am thinking could be a darkroom.
    Assuming I get this house, it would be anywhere from a few years to many years before I would able to get the darkroom up and running.
    So before I get my hopes up and all that, I am wondering if a darkroom will be viable.
    I know I could get some great deals on equipment, but what about film, paper and chemistry?
    Thanks!
    Brian
    My "Personal" Photography Website...

    "Photography is an act of Life" - Maine 2006

  2. #2

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    Dear Brian,

    We've decades yet, perhaps centuries. Prices will go up; the number of suppliers will go down; but I can't see 'real' photography disappearing, any more than motor-cars made horses extinct.

    And don't assume that the darkroom will take long: a few days is all you need for a REALLY GOOD working space.

    Admittedly, the first room we refurbished in our present house (bought 3 years ago) was the wine cellar, now a darkroom. The wine has to live in the old stables, which are actually cooler than the wine cellar; both are carved out of the side of a hill. There's a picture of this darkroom (and some previous ones) in The Photo School at www.rogerandfrances.com, the free module called 'Our Darkrooms(s)'.

    As we say in France, bonne chance et bonne courage!

    Cheers,

    Roger

  3. #3
    Monophoto's Avatar
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    Brian -

    In spite of the gloom and doom you read in some posts, and in spite of the pompous pronouncments by Kodak, chemical photography is still a viable proposition. To be sure, you won't find darkroom supplies at your neighborhood Walmart, and probably not at a camera store (assuming that your town still has one of those), but supplies are available and can be ordered over the internet.

    And it is my belief that this situation will continue for the forseeable future. Digital has displaced chemical for almost all commercial photography (and as the Editor of a magazine, I have an appreciation for the value of digital), but in the art world I believe that there will continue to be enough interest in the finely crafted print to keep materials available from speciality suppliers.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbbrian
    I am in the process of buying a new home, and the one that I bidding on has a space that I am thinking could be a darkroom.
    Assuming I get this house, it would be anywhere from a few years to many years before I would able to get the darkroom up and running.
    So before I get my hopes up and all that, I am wondering if a darkroom will be viable.
    I know I could get some great deals on equipment, but what about film, paper and chemistry?
    Thanks!
    Brian
    You can catch the last train, and now it's leaving. That's how l look at the scene of darkroom photography.

    My darkroom is a little over a year old with a lot of items I bought new in the beginning. Simply I want them to last. Now everytime I buy consumarable items that I like to use for a while, I always try to buy them in slightly larger quantities than I used to.

    So, keep everything in your darkroom investiment simple enough, so that you won't have to panick as much when something goes wrong and/or disappears in the market.


    Good luck.

  5. #5

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    I'll add that creating a darkroom need not be an all-at-once thing. You can start doing film developing with a developing tank, a room that's dark (in which to load film into the developing tank), a handful of different chemicals, a thermometer, a few bottles, and a few other odds and ends. It's very helpful to have a sink at which to do the actual processing. As you progress with darkroom activities, you'll probably want to start printing. That takes more equipment -- an enlarger, an easel, trays or drums, more chemistry, etc. It also requires a light-tight space that's big enough to hold all this stuff (or at least the enlarger) -- but in a pinch, you could make do with a space that's just partially light-tight, if you use the darkroom only at night and if you can minimize other household lights, street lights, etc., from lighting up the darkroom. This is the way I worked for a while. I didn't even have a sink in my "alpha-test" darkroom; to wash prints, I had to walk them out to the laundry room. This was a pain, but it let me get my feet wet (not literally, fortunately). I've got prints I made in that makeshift space hanging on my walls, with no plans to take them down.

    Overall, the two biggest structural tasks in preparing a darkroom are making it light-tight and in providing plumbing. If you've already got a space that does one or both of those things, then you're halfway there. The plumbing is likely to be the most expensive part of this. I paid $500 to have a utility sink put into my darkroom. This isn't an ideal sink for a darkroom, but it's usable. A dedicated darkroom sink would probably at least double that cost. By comparison, I put up my own drywall for much less -- probably between $100 and $200. Of course, you could save by doing your own plumbing or spend more by paying somebody to light-proof a hopelessly light-leaky space; it's your choice. I was comfortable trying drywall, but not putting in a new sink.

    As for buying all the equipment (enlarger, tanks, drums, etc.), if you buy new it'll be expensive. If you buy used, you can probably get everything you need, even including a starting supply of chemistry, for $200 or so. Some people luck out and find everything for free, being thrown away by a newspaper, school, or some other organization that's dismantling its wet darkroom.

  6. #6
    david b's Avatar
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    I am in the process of building a darkroom in the 2 car garage of my new house.

    I had water lines installed and will be putting up two walls that will easily come down if I need them to.

    I pondered the digital realm and just could not get myself to do it. I love traditional photography and plan to work from home when the kids start arriving.

    I am not one bit worried about the materials. I am in my late thirties and feel certain they will be available for a long time to come.

  7. #7
    mmcclellan's Avatar
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    In my job, I move internationally roughly every two to three years, and I have had a darkroom in every place I have lived. Can't imagine living without one! You can always manage to set up something with a weekend or two of work and it will serve you well.

    Film, paper, and chemistry will be around for our lifetimes; don't think we're going extinct.

    Get that darkroom going and enjoy life!
    Michael McClellan
    Documentary Photographer
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    http://www.MichaelMcClellan.com

  8. #8
    papagene's Avatar
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    Darkroom... Darkroom... Darkroom... !!
    Can't you hear it calling you?! Don't be afraid, photo materials will be when you want them.

    gene
    gene LaFord


    Long live Ed "Big Daddy" Roth!!
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    "I don't care about Milwaukee or Chicago." - Yvon LeBlanc

  9. #9

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    I just finished a new darkroom. Eleminated 2 bedrooms and a bath for it. Darkroom, Darkroom, Darkroom!!!!
    Stop trying to get into my mind, There is nothing there!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Hicks
    And don't assume that the darkroom will take long: a few days is all you need for a REALLY GOOD working space.

    Roger
    You are far to optimistic Roger, it takes more than just a few days to build a REALLY GOOD darkroom.

    The first step is to assess your space and then draw or sketch the layout of your space. You will be better off thinking and planning before rushing to construction. My advice is to purchase or build as large a sink possible. You can never have too much wet space.

    From looking a the pix posted by David B I can tell you his sink is too small.

    Also think about things like where to put drying racks, do you have enough electrical outlets, lighting, storage for chemicals, trays, space for a microwave, and so on.

    Don't forget about flooring issues and paint. If you want your darkroom to be comfortable take the time to plan it and build it.
    Don Bryant

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