Working in the dark

As in a darkroom.

I had my first darkroom when I was about 13yo or so.  Nothing fancy by any stretch.  My dad provided the space and a tad of buildout and I paid for and created the rest.

I guess today I’d have to call it the Harry Potter Darkroom.  As it was underneath the stair case in our split level ranch.  Dad put in a door and roughed in some electricity, and I had the remnant end of a remnant piece of  carpeting they used in the dining room to cover my floor.  My water source was the half bath across the hall.  My “running water” was me running from the darkroom over to the bath and back.

I saved up for the basic darkroom equipment, trays / tongs / stainless tank, etc. along with a Bogen 35 enlarger.  A couple of years later I was able to buy a Bogen 67 so I could do 120 film in addition to 35mm.  The column on the enlarger worked well with the stairs.  Since it slopes toward the front of the enlarger, I could push the unit all the way back under the overhead stair case and still have full extension.

After that it was hit or miss on a happenstance type of darkroom as life and career took over.  Finally, about 5-6 years ago I was able to convert a closet sized bath in to a dark room.  I also found that I could do a lot of the film stuff in a changing bag (which I never had until I purchased a large format camera).  Except for loading the tank, all my film processing is done in daylight.

Last Winter I was able to create a highly feasible, though still temporary, darkroom with running water and tons of space for work and storage.  Oh, what a pleasure!  Being able to handle film without the constraints of a changing bag to load and unload film, along with making real gelatin prints!  And that smell…I imagine it takes a real photography geek to savor that smell of stop baths and fixers and toners.

Then in May I had to disassemble that darkroom.  But, now I had the fever.  Plans are in place for the real final (ok, maybe next to last) darkroom.  But that’s going to take some time to do all the building and plumbing, etc.  By July I had found space for another decent, though temporary again, darkroom.  It wasn’t walk in ready like the prior one, I had to do some plumbing to get the water/drain from the adjacent bathroom.  Which was no easy task.  I’m not a huge fan of having to do plumbing to begin with, and add to that that I live in a 150+year old house…the pipes and fittings in place aren’t always today’s standards and I do quite a bit of McGyver-ing to make new things work.  But, with the help of the guys at F.W. Webb I found good solutions.

My sink is just a basic cheapo utility sink from Home Depot.  My print/work sink is a folding party ice table I found on Amazon.  I’ve acquired a nice stainless set of sinks from someone closing out a restaurant for the real darkroom.  But for now, these work amazingly well.  I have another stainless  set of floor shelving I use for dry work and some storage, along with 2 basic folding tables for the enlargers and Jobo processor.

There’s nothing like working in the dark…


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