Lessons from the Darkroom, II

Dead tree at Cabeza del Molino
Mochales – Guadalajara

Voigtlander Bessa-I 6×9, 105/3.5 Color-Skopar, Kodak T400CN
#4 of 6. Printed in Ilfospeed RC 3, about 2/3 crop from original negative.

Well, the Catalan ‘Diada’ is over, and I find myself back here after some more days spent in the countryside and another darkroom session.

This time I decided to keep to what I knew was the ‘right’ way. And to be honest, one should ignore the advice of those who went before you at one’s peril.

I decided to stay simple, that is, work with ONE negative until I could come out with what was (for me) the best possible print. In the case of this specific negative this meant going through a test strip followed by six different ‘good’ prints, of which number 4 ended being the ‘perfect’ one after they all acquired their ‘real’ appearance by letting them dry overnight. This left me with what I wanted in first place (the print) plus 5 more which will be traveling soon 😉 not to mention the priceless darkroom lesson.

And, to sum up, what I said to myself after that:

Know the negative well enough so that you don’t mount it reversed on the enlarger !
Focusing is critical, have in mind the paper adds some thickness, and I need a proper focusing loupe 😉
The method of carefully evaluating test strips and prints really works.
Each new print can be seen as a new interpretation of the picture.
Once you come with the ‘perfect’ exposure workflow, it will work again if you repeat the same steps. So be sure to TAKE NOTE of what you did and all the involved settings and variables !
Dirty negs are a PITA in the darkroom (as you can see on the image above), and commercial processing isn’t always the best to end with clean ones.
Try to master the negative you’re working on before going for the next one, trying to work with too many of them on the same session can be frustrating (and I speak of experience).
Amazingly, the darkroom can teach you things you can use when going back to Photoshop !
And finally, going into the darkroom can change the way you take pictures, making you expose each negative so that they give as much play as possible when you print them.

Categorized: _blackandwhite | _valledelmesa | _darkroom

8 thoughts on “Lessons from the Darkroom, II

  1. WOW Oscar !!! I loved this one before, but this is really dramatic. I love this one as well, but for different reasons 🙂 As you say each time you print, you can read different things into the negative depending on your mood at the time 😉


  2. The most valuable lesson I learned from the darkroom is that you can reach to an more or less adecuate result pretty fast, but having a print that makes you feel proud of it will make you sweat. The old saying “no pain, no gain” is absolutelly true.

  3. Yep, no pain no gain, and literally I ended up sweating 🙂

    What I also thought on the following morning after looking at the dry prints is that far from being a waste of time and paper, the process of going through all those 6 prints was indeed constructive. Each new print made me consider new changes and interpretations, and even if I ended picking #4 as the ideal one I sort of think the whole process helped me to know exactly what I was looking for. After all, you can’t know ‘how much’ you want without knowing beforehand how much is too much.

    Or something like that.

    As always, thanks a ton Tony and Luis for your constant visits and comments !


  4. I really like this one. I can only imagine what the print looks like in “real life”.
    I’ve also always liked the “look” of the C-41 B&W films. I have some really gorgeous prints (from scanned negatives) from 120-format T400CN (or whatever it’s called now) and have only had good luck with 35mm XP2.

    It’s nice to see you making compelling images with a vintage camera.

  5. Thanks Jordan, Dave !

    Jordan I also like these C41 B&W films a lot. XP2 was in fact my film of choice when I still didn’t process my own black and white, and must say that loved the creamy looks it delivered when exposed at medium speeds.

    This old T400CN (bought outdated from 2004 for 1 euro/roll) seems to keep less detaill in highlight areas, which also leads to some ‘dreamy’ effects with objects near bright sky areas.

    This old cameras never cease to amaze me, I wish I could hold as well in 50 years from now, lol.


  6. Hi Oscar

    I love this photo, and someone else does too!

    See item #180109746448 on ebay – your photo is used (and referenced to this site) as an example of the Bessa.



  7. Hey Chris ! Nice to hear from you, hope all is fine in OZ land 🙂

    Thanks for the heads-up ! Quite fun, I never thought one of my pics would be used to advertise a 60 year old camera 😀 Well the seller at least respects the citing, in our world that’s a lot nowadays !

    He’s selling a Vaskar version though 😛

    Thanks again and best wishes,


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