Reducing Setup Time and Working Efficiently in a Temporary Darkroom
One of the issues that's come up recently in a thread about using a scanner for proofing is that the motivation to scan rather than to make a contact sheet that involves contact between paper and negative is often directly related to the threshold for setting up the dark/bathroom.
I've had various makeshift darkrooms, and there is definitely a learning curve in making it work efficiently, and each temporary darkroom probably needs its own set of procedures to make it work efficiently, but I thought I'd start a new thread where those of us who use or have used a temporary darkroom can share what works.
I've also found an excellent thread on temporary darkroom design and made it a sticky--
--so let's try to keep the design discussion mainly in that thread and use this thread mainly to talk about making it work.
So to kick off this discussion, I guess I should say that we currently live in an apartment with two bathrooms, so I've commandeered the shower stall in one of them to use as the wet side, and the dry side is just outside the bathroom in a room we use as a study, so it's a semi-permanent darkroom. I can close the bathroom door during the day time to load and process film. I have black curtains to reduce the light level significantly in the study area, but it's not dark enough to print during the day, so I need to make another shade to improve that situation, but meanwhile I can print at night.
Our previous two apartments had only one bathroom, so the darkroom had to be completely mobile.
We were only in our last apartment for a year, so there wasn't much time to really get things going, but I did find a couple of ways of speeding things up--
Monobath processing. It took a while to dial in the formula, and the monobath really has to be tailored to the film, but once you've done the testing, you really can get good results this way, and it doesn't take up much space. Here's the long thread where I was posting my tests and results--
Another thing that I did was to keep a tank line for film processing in a large covered plastic storage bin. I could just slide it into a closet, pull it out and put the tanks in the bathtub for film processing without having to mix chemicals or even measure solutions every time.
My previous dark/bathroom was in a place where we lived for four years--
--so with practice I found ways to speed things up, like pouring working solutions that were still good back into bottles for that purpose, so I would have them ready for the next day's session. I had the enlarger on a rolling typewriter table that could fit over the commode with my dodging tools and focus sheets in a folder that fit under the baseboard. We had a storage closet, where I set up shelves to hold the darkroom equipment and solutions. The enlarger rolled into the bedroom/study, where I'd also built a loft for the bed to maximize space.
Albumen and other kinds of UV-based printing don't require total darkness, so even though these processes are labor intensive in some respects, they can make use of time when there isn't time to set up the full darkroom. Much of the time in albumen printing is taken up by exposure (my best negs take about a one hour exposure in indirect sunlight, 20 minutes in direct sunlight), so you can even do other things while printing.
Last edited by David A. Goldfarb; 07-05-2010 at 06:34 AM. Click to view previous post history.
I hope i can turn my bathroom into a darkroom one day.
When I used a bathroom as a temporary darkroom I found that getting out the enlarger and setting it up took the most time. I solved that problem by replacing the shower head with a pipe cap and I kept the enlarger setup in the shower. This was possible because this bathroom was just off the family room and had a shower in case of guests (I assume). Everything was kept in the shower area so that it could be set up quickly on the sink (set into a 5 foot long counter).
The next time user was blocking out the light. It took several tries, but with the right choice of weatherstripping and making sure no one turned the light on in the adjoining hallway, this portion of the setup was eliminated.
I use a bathroom that our children used when they lived here at our home. I set my enlarger (Omega B-22XL) on a card table (card table is easy to set-up & take down!) and have it so as it covers perhaps 1/2 of the toilet seat. The card table is big enough to have the enlarger, paper safe and a couple of other do-dads on it! I can place my developing trays on the seat of the toilet. The bathroom has an outlet at the end opposite of the enlarger. I plug in an extension cord and lay it on the counter top behind the sink, behind the toilet water tank, then I have the timer cord plugged into the extension cord. The timer has an outlet for the enlarger as well as a safe light. When I use the darkroom I take the safe light off of the card table and place on the lid for the water tank for the toilet. The sink cabinet top has enough space that I can have 4 8x10 trays on it. The fourth tray is for water where I transport the exposed prints to the kitchen to be washed. I use only one tray for fixer. I can fit three 11x14 trays on the sink cabinet top. I do enlarge 16x20 and I will enlist the help of T.V. trays for those jobs!
This has worked out well. When our children visit with their families it takes me just a few minutes to put all the darkroom stuff into our bedroom closet.
Our daughter & her family are on holiday visit but when they go back home (L.A.) I will photo & put up here & you can see if might be something for you to consider for your darkroom arrangement.
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The biggest problem I had with a temporary setup (bathroom in my parents' house, bathroom/kitchen in my own house when I was single) was not the setup, it was the take-down. Invariably I was tired, it was late, and the urge to leave it or skip clean-up was strong.
Quick wins: have a cart dedicated to transport (or storage if possible). I had an old cabinet with cupboards and drawers that I put on casters. My little Durst F30 35mm enlarger would fit in one of the cupboards, as did the power extension, measures, tray, paper, and tanks, etc. The cabinet lived in an adjacent room.
Allocate storage space as close to the 'site' as possible to keep the time and effort of setup to a minimum.
Put a grid in the bottom of a plastic tub, and use that to drain wet tanks and trays with a lid on to keep dust out. Just make sure to dry it out later.
I feel, therefore I photograph.
Best way to reduce setup time = a permanent darkroom
Best way to reduce time it takes to make proof sheets = good loupe, clear negative pages and a light table
If a permanent darkroom is just not practical, I have always liked the idea of a Nova Slot Processor that allows one to just store the chemicals in the processor. In fact I think it would be nice to have an 8x10 version of that in my permanent darkroom, so I can just fire off an RC print quickly if I need.
Several moves and one wife ago I used the guest bath. The part that was the hardest was blacking-out the room. I solved that by making the room permanently dark. I blocked the window from the outside and painted it to match the house. I then used a liberal amount of weather stripping and pipe insulation (for the bottom of the door) to black the door area. Everything needed was on a rolling cart stored in a closet. Set up was less than 30 minutes including mixing chems. Tear-down was a little longer and usually done the next day.
When I found myself single, and in an apartment with one bathroom, I was content with leaving as much stuff in the bathroom as possible.
I’ve had two Drs in small (cramped) bathrooms in the past two housed that were rented. Now we own a house and in the next few months will start on a permanent DR.
I'm temporarily in the utility room off the kitchen, along with a half-bath. My enlarger is in the utility room, and I develope in trays in there. I have a black-out cloth for over the door to totally darken no matter time of day, and I can load tanks or tray process sheet film. I usually process in tanks in the kitchen as well as wash prints there, more space than the half-bath. Having a wife and two teenage daughters sometimes causes a slight problem where the half-bath as its the only one on the main floor of the house, and they dont want to run upstairs all the time. I am on notice that my permanent DR must be finished soon(even though we are selling the house).
I will see what i need for the darkroom, maybe i could use my bathroom as a darkroom for printing as i am using it to develop my roll films.