Lessons from the Darkroom, I

Fire eater, Teià (Barcelona), 2005

Lessons from the Darkroom, part one:

don’t start if you’re not in the mood
time invested in making and evaluating the test strips is well invested time
judging a negative at bare eye is a lot more difficult than you guess
skies use to ask for some burning
to clean up the mess takes time !
it’s good to know where the negative focus point actually IS
place your estimated exposure time between the ones in the test strip
dektol in a full closed bottle lasts more than I thought
the emulsion side is somewhat fragile
real film grain can look plain lovely!
big negatives are a god’s send
under the red light, even the best print may look terrible
many household items can be perfect substitutes for darkroom ones

to be continued…

Several entries ago, I was writing about the process of building some negative holders for the homemade enlarger I received from my good friend Dave (Greyhoundman).

Unfortunately, I had to park the whole wet printing idea for a while as I was fighting with the last months of the final project for getting my engineering degree, and later with some more weeks of house work. At some points I was really thinking I got a curse over myself or something.

But as happens with everything, time went by and I finally found myself with some free time and what was more important, with a spare room on the country house which I could transform into a more or less dedicated darkroom. I won’t go into details not to bore the eventual reader, but to sum up I’ll say that my set up ended being very, VERY simple, without even a column for the said enlarger (amazing what one’s mind can come with!).

But it seems that I’ve been lucky to have very good professors (thanks Dave, thanks Tony!), and on my first attempt I was already experiencing the magic that everybody says happens when you first see the image slowly coming out on the paper. From there on, it has only been plain and pure addiction 🙂

So far, in a few sessions, I must say that I’ve already learned a lot of things, and most of them from (of course) my own mistakes and attempt to go for shortcuts without cutting my teeth first. You can find some of them on the top of this post, just below the raw scan from one of my first printed negatives.

That one was a bit hard to print correctly, yes, and still far from what I achieved with the same negative using Photoshop, but oh my, the tones and grain of a REAL print… And that’s only a ‘work’ one 😉

Since I’m a strong believer in experimentation though, I must say that this won’t keep me from also going with the so called hybrid way (shoot-develop-scan-inkprint), but that will be in a while. For now I’m just having too much fun in the wet darkroom, lol.

Good light.

Categorized: _darkroom

3 thoughts on “Lessons from the Darkroom, I

  1. Everything you write is true… ultimately I gave up wet printing, mostly because I was unable to do it at home (small apartments) and get the quality I want. While I love the look of a well made print, I found myself spending my time in the rental darkroom getting frustrated, more often than not. (This is even after years of darkroom experience.) Someday, when I have a house, I may cobble together a wet darkroom, but until then, I’m really liking the scan->PS->print route.

  2. Hi Jordan,

    I agree with you, living in a flat with almost no spare room anywhere I really doubt I could have started if it were not by doing it in the old house. That means that my wet darkroom is currently at ~500 Km from home, but since I already was trying to make an escape there as often as possible, I am now even more willing to do so.

    Even with enough space to fit a permanent darkroom, it’s true that dedication of time and effort can’t be overlooked, and since I started with PS years ago I must say that I find it a lot easier and faster (at least by now, but probably even after years of darkroom experience as you say) to perform the adjustments in the computer.

    The acquisition of a new printer will have to wait though, and since many of the darkroom equipment is from household items or homemade, the only cost so far is paper 🙂

    Not that it’s that cheap, but inkjet one ain’t so either…

    Thanks for looking and commenting,


  3. That’s it now Oscar your on the hard stuff where the real addiction begins LOL

    It is difficult in modern housing to find a place for a wetroom and we all have to make compromises at some stages. I think both routes (wetroom and scanning / inkjet) have their good and bad points. Fortunately these days we have the choice to some extent 🙂

    BTW You made me blush my friend …. Thank you for your kind words 😉


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