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  1. #1

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    Breaking down the darkroom

    People keep saying that you don't need much space to set up a darkroom. But how many other things do you have to factor in? Wouldn't it mean switching from color to B&W - as I've heard that color is much more complex and the chemicals far more harsh. I have seen other people create very nice nature shots in B&W but the images don't speak to me the way color does. Perhaps it's just the way others choose to shoot - but my own B&W shots lack depth and emotion. They are completely void of anything meaningful (other than a few rare shots of my son). Even were I to create good B&W nature shots I'm still not sure that I would be happy shooting solely in B&W. What about space and time? Perhaps you can perform in a small space but where do you keep everything? How much storage space is needed and what are the dangers where children are involved? I live in a small apartment with a curious two year old and there's only one very small place for storing things that might be of danger to him. How much time is involved? I'm starting college in January. Anything and everything I need peace and quiet to do must be done at night - which is likely when I'll have to study as well. What are some other factors that should be considered? Expense, material availability, sensitivity to chemicals, ventilation??

    If my situation were different and I had my own home this would all seem so easy. For some people it's a simple matter of wanting and overcoming - but I'm in a situation where I can feel very overwhelmed very easily. Sometimes, for me, wanting simply isn't enough of a driving force.

    As always, input is greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Sean's Avatar
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    I got by for 3 years using a college darkroom, not sure if there is one in your area or not? Might be another option..

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    I have heard of darkrooms set up on laundries, enlarger on clothes dryer, trays on washer, prints tried face up on a clean table. That was B/W, however. Running water is a luxury, but not needed.

    As far as I know, color is very dependent of temperature (+/- 38 degreed Celscius), so if you want to do it at home you might look into one of those JOBO color processing drum kits, with the temperate water bath. Kills a few birds with one stone, but might be costly at first.

    The rest is really up to you. being a college student, I can tell you that finding time to print is quite a challenge, but don't get discouraged.

    Wish I could help you more than this...

    André

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by anyte
    People keep saying that you don't need much space to set up a darkroom. But how many other things do you have to factor in? Wouldn't it mean switching from color to B&W - as I've heard that color is much more complex and the chemicals far more harsh.
    B&W film developing can be done on the kitchen/laundry/bathroom sink. I did that for years. Never done any colour (other some Cibachrome printing) as it's never interested me. Printing requires enough room to balance an enlarger (unless you move to ULF and contact print, and that takes up almost as much room anyway!) and space to lay out your trays. You can make a rack to stack trays up to take less space. I used the bathrooms for many years and have only recently got my permanent darkroom. It's a luxury but not essential. For my bathroom darkroom, I used a PC printer stand that came with a desk to sit the enlarger over the hand basin and put the trays in the tub. At some stage I got smart and got a couple of lengths of timber to rest along the top of the bath so the trays could sit up higher which made life a little nicer (I have a couple of snapshots I can send you of this). I used to have a bucket sitting there to give the RC prints a quick rinse, then take them to the laundry to wash. I believe there's room temperture colour printing chemicals available these days but know nothing about them, and the film developing side of things is a mystery too.

    I have seen other people create very nice nature shots in B&W but the images don't speak to me the way color does. Perhaps it's just the way others choose to shoot - but my own B&W shots lack depth and emotion. They are completely void of anything meaningful (other than a few rare shots of my son). Even were I to create good B&W nature shots I'm still not sure that I would be happy shooting solely in B&W.
    Why do you want to start a darkroom? Cost?, Control?, Conveinence?

    I have never got into colour darkroom work because I'm not really interested. I do take colour pics but hardly ever in 'photo making' mode. I walk around thinking in B&W. I don't think starting up a B&W darkroom when your not really interested is what you should do. Guess this is the 1st thing you need to sort out.

    What about space and time? Perhaps you can perform in a small space but where do you keep everything? How much storage space is needed and what are the dangers where children are involved? I live in a small apartment with a curious two year old and there's only one very small place for storing things that might be of danger to him.
    I'm probably a bit slack in this regard. My darkroom has a keyed lock but I rarely use it. Usually if we have guests coming over who have kids I'll lock it. There are chemicals in a cupboard in there and the only real precaution I take is to screw the lids on very hard. Usually too hard for me to get off My kids (5 1/2 & 2 1/2) come into the darkroom with me and agitate trays, turn the enlarger on and off for me and basically get in the way . I don't let them play in there by themselves and they don't go in without me even though they could (I should use the lock!)

    Storage space for chemicals and paper is not huge. You could keep all the chems in a large bucket and the paper (you only need one box) and trays anywhere up out of curious hands. The enlarger however might be more of a problem. I used to keep mine in a cupboard sitting sideways under clothes (shirts and things like that) hanging. Some enlargers (like my LPL) come apart easy so could be stored in sections (head & column, baseboard).

    How much time is involved? I'm starting college in January. Anything and everything I need peace and quiet to do must be done at night - which is likely when I'll have to study as well.
    Time. never enough! With little kids (who are always pretty demanding while awake!) leaves little time during their awake hours. Mine are usually in bed by about 8-8:30pm and if I'm going into the darkroom I'll usually be in there for 2-2.5hrs. You can't study 7 night a week so need some other pursuits.

    What are some other factors that should be considered? Expense, material availability, sensitivity to chemicals, ventilation??
    In regard to B&W, expense... once setup (and these days getting the gear is not too bad) it's pretty cheap. Much cheaper than feeding an inkjet quality paper and ink. At the moment materials are readily available. Lots of doom and gloom gets written in forums but I think we'll be safe for a few years yet. I guess paper will be made longer than film (I've got thousands of negs I want to print one day!). Some people have adverse reactions to some chemicals, but there's usually alternatives and you rarely touch the chemicals anyway if you use tongs. You need some method of ventilation, but that can be as simple as opening the door every 1/2hr and fanning it to get some fresh air in (that was my method at one place)

    If my situation were different and I had my own home this would all seem so easy. For some people it's a simple matter of wanting and overcoming - but I'm in a situation where I can feel very overwhelmed very easily. Sometimes, for me, wanting simply isn't enough of a driving force.
    I personally don't think the hurdles you need to overcome are insurmountable. I've dealt with most of them you mention. You need to set your expectations at a suitable level (eg use RC paper rather than Fibre, set yourself to work in 2-3hr blocks by doing contact prints one night then a print another night, etc). Don't try to cram in too much in one session, you only end up getting annoyed with quality issues. Going to a college darkroom would be nice in some ways, but being able to do this while you son sleeps would also be a big advantage.

    Please note that my comments come from a B&W perspective, so if your hell bent on colour they may not really apply. The digital option might be a better way for you at the moment.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre R. de Avillez
    I have heard of darkrooms set up on laundries, enlarger on clothes dryer, trays on washer, prints tried face up on a clean table. That was B/W, however. Running water is a luxury, but not needed.
    André
    Boy oh boy do I ever need to find that hidden surveillance camera in my "darkroom"....
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails darkroom.jpg  
    I love the smell of fixer in the morning. It smells like...creativity!
    Truly, dr bob.

  6. #6
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    I used to do color slides pretty regularly a long time ago and used my kitchen table to work on. A wash tub for the tempering bath is all that was needed as well as a place to load the reels with film. A changing bag will get that done. So strictly speaking you can get away with less if you do E-6 color than doing B&W prints. I saved up enough rolls to deplete the kit in one session and did them all in one day. Next day was taken up mounting slides.
    Gary Beasley

  7. #7
    Max
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    I have heard of darkrooms set up on laundries, enlarger on clothes dryer, trays on washer, prints tried face up on a clean table.
    Hey - have you been snooping around my basement?!?

  8. #8
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anyte
    People keep saying that you don't need much space to set up a darkroom. But how many other things do you have to factor in? Wouldn't it mean switching from color to B&W - as I've heard that color is much more complex and the chemicals far more harsh. I have seen other people create very nice nature shots in B&W but the images don't speak to me the way color does.
    I process C-41 Color Negative and RA-4 Color Printing, reguarly, as well as black and white.
    I don't consider color chemistry (excluding Ilfo/Cibachrome P3/30) to be any more hazardous than black and white chemistry.

    I use Tetenal C-41 (CN2) chemistry - this is an abbreviated (but not much) procedure:

    1. Mix the chemistry: 50ml each of Color Developer "A" and "B" - add water to make 1 Liter.
    100ml Bleach-Fix "A" and "B" - add water to make 1 Liter.
    10ml of Stabilizer - add water to make 1 Liter.
    Temperature should be 38 degrees C - 100F. However - I have made errors - developing at 35 degrees C/ 95F - and have noticed *NO* significant difference.

    2. Process: Color Develop (*NO* pre-wet) for 3 minutes, 15 seconds. I don't use shortstop or a water rinse - you may prefer the water rinse ... I'd advise against any shortstop. Bleach Fix for 4 minutes. Wash (6 x 30 seconds in the JOBO) - same as black and white film. Stabilize for 1 minute. Air dry.

    That is using "liquid chemistry; Tetenal also makes the C-41 "Press Pak" dry chemistry - more expensive - but a far greater shelf life, unopened. That, with modified times, can be used between room room temperature to something like 40 degrees C.

    It is not a complicated - or I've found, very "critical" procedure ... no more so than black and white processing.

    Color print processing in no more critical .. but printing *IS*. Color control is required in the enlarger - and I can only say that my most treasured piece of equipment there is the ColorStar 3000. It is possible to work without an analyzer - but believe me - I don't want to.
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by glbeas
    I used to do color slides pretty regularly a long time ago and used my kitchen table to work on. A wash tub for the tempering bath is all that was needed as well as a place to load the reels with film. A changing bag will get that done. So strictly speaking you can get away with less if you do E-6 color than doing B&W prints. I saved up enough rolls to deplete the kit in one session and did them all in one day. Next day was taken up mounting slides.
    I have actually considered switching to slide film but the nearest pro lab that will process them is nearly an hour away. If processing could be done on a dining room table at any given time, that could actually work out well for me.


    One of my biggest hurdles is being agoraphobic. It's one thing to go out into the relatively empty refuge and spend the day shooting - the largest of which is only a 10 minute drive down a relatively unused road. The closest nature unit is a two minute walk down the road. Getting out into heavy traffic, driving 40 minutes and further away from home, being where there are likely to be greater numbers of people - that's where I run into trouble.

    I am sensitive to chemicals and their odors - so I'm a little leary of being closed into a space breathing them for too long.


    Quote Originally Posted by nige
    Why do you want to start a darkroom? Cost?, Control?, Conveinence?
    Labs seem to be entirely unrealiable in producing consistent prints. I've had rolls of film where two shots taken one after the other, metered, composed and shot under the same circumstances, end up being processed with extremely different results. I guess that covers cost, control, and convenience. I have read this is not an issue with slide film but getting slide film processed is a major inconvenience at the present. I know that you can have slides processed mail order but I would worry endlessly about losing film. I do not know that I can handle any extra work in my schedule but I do enjoy learning.



    Thank you everyone for the input. I would like to say though that while I appreciate the help it's really not necessary to go peeking into people's basements to see how they have things set up.

  10. #10
    Sjixxxy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dr bob
    Boy oh boy do I ever need to find that hidden surveillance camera in my "darkroom"....
    After seeing that pic, I think I need to do up my darkoom in butterflies.
    Gear: Camera, Brain, Light.
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