Dark Room Photography Part 3

In this lesson that I had on Thursday we were going to be creating a contact sheet from our negatives which I was very excited about but at the same time slightly apprehensive as I wasn’t sure how much light had leaked onto my negatives (see Dark Room Photography Part 2) for more information on this.

First of all we had to cut our long line of negatives into strips of six frames, with a minimum of three frames to be cut on the last part. For instance, if I was cutting into six frames and saw at the end of my strip I would only have two frames left then on the last part I would cut five frames then three.

Thankfully my strip worked out in multiples of six plus three at the end.

I was happy to see that most of negatives showed pictures. I knew I’d be able to see which images had been damaged by the light leak once I produced the contact sheet.

The first step was to produce a test strip from a line of six negatives I’d cut to determine the correct exposure needed (aperture and time). It will not be the same every time because of differences in the negatives, the height of the enlarger and possibly the type of photographic paper used.

It would work out very costly testing whole bits of photographic paper as it could take a lot of attempts to get the correct exposure so instead, we cut the photographic paper into strips and then using a wooden board, covered most of the strip of negative except for half a frame and worked down the negative strip in 1 second intervals, exposing a further half frame of the negative each time until you reach a total of 12 seconds where at that point the whole strip of negative would have been exposed to the photographic paper.

We only had two hours (actually less than that as a good 20-30mins was spent with teacher providing a demonstration of what we needed to do which didn’t go to plan as he over exposed the test strip initially so had to do another one).

We also used a piece of glass to keep the negatives flat then put a wooden board over that.

I used a strip of six negatives which had roughly the same shade of images so I would hopefully get an overall idea of the correct exposure to use. I initially set my enlarger up with an aperture of f/5.6 with one second intervals and here is the result of my test strip:

You’ll see by how dark it is that it was clearly over exposed. I then tried again putting down my aperture by two stops to f/11 again with one second intervals and here are the results:

I was much happier with this exposure and once I looked at the test strip in the daylight I decided that exposing the image for four seconds would be best.

The next step was to put all my negatives together to make a contact sheet. Unfortunately time was not on my side by this point so I rushed the process of putting all the strips of negatives together without putting them in the correct order of how they were taken. Here is the final contact sheet:

First of all I was very excited about producing my own contact sheet and could easily get addicted to just doing this process alone as from an artistic perspective, I think you could create some amazing contact sheets depending on the images you took.

However the perfectionist in me was annoyed at myself for rushing through the negative line up and in hindsight I should have spent a little more time using the light box and matching my negatives in the correct order. I also realised after developing the contact sheet that the top line of my negatives were upside down (aaargghh). Again, a silly school boy error which could have been avoided if I hadn’t rushed so much at that stage.

Overall though I’m aware it’s my first attempt so make allowances in myself for these silly mistakes. The most important thing is I managed to produce a contact sheet and I’m very happy about this.

I’m even more happy that there are some images I’d like to use that weren’t damaged by the light leak so I can work on making photos of them in next weeks lesson.

Also, there was a cool night time image I took which had a bit of light leak which I think adds to the atmosphere of it and may actually look quite effective if made into a photo but it all depends on what I can get done in my two hours next week.

Instagram: natalie_smart_photography

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