Dark Room Photography Part 2

Following on from Part 1 of my Dark Room blog, I had my second lesson on Thursday.

For my homework last week I was asked to take some pictures using my SLR camera and black and white film.

I decided to use my Pentax K1000 camera and Kodak 400TX black and white film for this assignment.

Once I had taken 36 pictures, I unloaded the film from my camera ready for my next lesson.

In this lesson we were taught how to take the film out of its outer case and transfer it onto a plastic reel which winds the film into a circle which is then put in a container which is locked so light cannot get into it. I am telling it in basic terms here (as I know there is plenty of information on various websites that gives good technical information about this).

This all has to be done inside a black light proof bag which has two arm sleeves on the bottom of the outer edges so you can put your arms inside the bag and then you ultimately have to do this process blind.

The reason for this is so that the film won’t get exposed to the daylight before it’s been developed and you won’t lose the images.

We initially had some ‘practice film’ to try on and did it in the daylight without the bag to see what we were doing. Once we felt comfortable with the process, we then used the practice film in the bag before moving onto our actual film.

We were recommended to have 2 x reels in the bag just in case for some reason one of them was faulty. We also had a pair of scissors (for cutting the film from the plastic tube) and a device which is a little like a bottle opener which allows you to prise open the plastic round film case once it’s inside the bag.

I was surprised at how easily I was able to do this process, considering I couldn’t see anything.

Once our film was safely locked in the black plastic container we then had our 3 x chemical process which was timed and measured according to the film we were developing (my development time was around 3 minutes). This was slightly reduced because the developing chemical needs to be around 20 degrees in temperature but it was a warm evening so it went up to around 21-22 degrees, hence the reduction in development time which would normally have been nearly 4 minutes. There are ways to cool down the developer chemical but we didn’t have any ice to hand.

Once we had put the film through the chemical process and rinsed our film, it was time to take it out of the plastic container.

We unrolled the film from the plastic reel and removed the excess moisture by running our fingers down the film. We then hung our film up to dry using a peg at the top and also one at the bottom of the film to weigh it down.

On initial inspection I was pleased to see images had been developed on my film which was a relief. However, my tutor quickly discovered areas on certain images which seemed to be over exposed due to a light leak (shock horror!).

I knew it wasn’t a light leak from my camera since the light seals had been recently replaced and other films I had got developed from my Pentax at the local film lab came out fine.

We then discovered another woman on my course had the same problem and I instantly knew what had happened. What both me and the other lady have physically in common is that we have slender arms!

I could have kicked myself because I already knew as soon as I put my arms into the sleeves of the black bag and started to work on winding my film onto the reel that the sleeves were quite loose on me and I thought to myself at the time ‘I wonder whether light is leaking in?’ but I stupidly didn’t do anything about it or comment to my tutor and just carried on because I was so focused on getting the film wound onto the reel and correctly locked into the plastic container.

The lady also felt the same problem with her sleeves. Our tutor agreed this was most likely the cause of the light leak.

Whilst I’m frustrated at myself about this, I’m also a firm believer of learning from your mistakes and I certainly would never let this happen again!

I’m also positive in the fact that I still learnt the process of unloading the film inside a bag.

Next week we’ll be making a contact sheet / test shots and looking at developing our most strongest shots.

I’m really hoping that not all the images got damaged by the light leak but if they did, perhaps there may be some that might look effective/arty with the light leak (I can but hope!).

This is what I do love about film photography. It’s all about trial and error and I still think it’s great fun. I learnt a long time ago in film photography (pre-digital when I used to shoot film) not to get too precious about my photos (which I know can be hard to do) as there were times years ago where my camera may have not quite wound a film back (if there was a fault with the auto winder of a 90s camera I had and I lost pictures for instance).

There was also an occasion back in the 90s where my family and I had recently returned from a holiday and my mother had left the camera in the car as she was going to get the film developed when next in town but before she was able to do this, her car was broken into and the camera was stolen along with all our precious family photos on the film still in the camera! We were all more disappointed at the time about losing the photos than the actual camera and the car stereo which had also been stolen. Again, it taught me a lesson that I just have to move on and not dwell on it. Besides, it gave us an excuse to book another holiday and take more photos (and not leave the camera in the car)!

Author: nataliesmartfilmphotography

Instagram: natalie_smart_designs

2 thoughts on “Dark Room Photography Part 2”

  1. Just reading about your slight physical problem, and I must say I have never come across this conundrum. Thinking back to my art college days, we always used darkrooms, never changing bags. So the those in our group of slender build never had an issue.
    My initial thoughts are to maybe use rubber bands on the changing bag sleeves or possibly wear a thick long sleeve jumper.
    I’ve had a look around the net and most if not all the changing bags seem to be a fixed size. Some are marked as ‘small’ like at firstcall-photographic, but I have my doubts whether the sleeves are any smaller.

    That really is an annoying problem!

    M.

    Like

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