Printing Contact Sheets in the Darkroom using the Paterson 6 x 6 Proof Printer

In one of my previous blogs I mentioned my obsession with printing contact sheets which I had been doing for 35mm negatives and I had a Paterson Proof Printer specially for this.

Since I’ve recently been getting more into medium format photography and when I knew I was going to continue to do prints in a darkroom, I decided to invest in a 120mm Proof Printer from Paterson.

I bought mine brand new on eBay since I struggled to find any second hand ones at a cheaper price in this particular format.

I decided to try it out on my first session in the Brighton Community Darkroom.

However, I made a couple of mistakes. First of all I’m not sure if the mistakes were due to me concentrating so much on mixing up the chemicals and getting used to the enlarger but I’ll explain what I did.

Here is a picture of the first contact sheet I did:

I did the usual test strips first to check the exposure times etc. These photos were taken at Brighton Marina using my Lubitel 166B camera and JCH Streetpan 400 black and white 120mm film. The film is naturally high in contrast which I love.

The first mistake I made was not matching the negatives the correct way round in the proof printer. In my haste to get a contact sheet printed and check I was using the enlarger correctly, I had just put the negatives into the proof printer without really thinking about the direction etc which resulted in this print.

Also, I noticed that the end photo hadn’t quite printed fully. I was perplexed as to why this was and thought perhaps there was something wrong with the proof printer?

I re-read the instructions of how to use the proof printer (which quite honestly, is pretty self explanatory) but I thought I must be doing something wrong. I still couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong. I then read the instructions again and saw the key sentence that I originally must have kept skimming over when reading them originally and here is the mistake I made:

When I print the contact sheet, I was putting the 8 x 10 inch photo paper directly onto the grey sponge area then shutting down the top screen which contained the negatives and subsequently taking an enlargement:

What was happening was that the border where the hinge is on the front screen, was blocking part of the negative from transferring onto the paper, hence why I wasn’t getting the full photo.

Finally I realised from the instructions that I should have been placing the photo paper into the slot of the where the hinge is directly onto the negatives on the glass front:

I’m sure to most people this would seem really obvious, even without reading the instructions, and I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit I did this mistake, but I do tend to lack common sense sometimes!

Once I realised my mistakes, I decided to re-print these negatives again during another session in the darkroom.

I used a No 2 Contrast Filter and did a test strip using exposure times of 30 seconds:

From the test strip I decided on an exposure time of 2 1/2 minutes. Before I printed the whole contact sheet again, I did another test strip at the full 2 1/2 minutes exposure to check I was happy with that:

You’ll see that the last photo was much lighter but I have to make some compromises when doing a contact print so was happy with this and here is the final result:

First of all, I’m pleased I managed to get all the images the right way round! You’ll see that a couple of the photos are under exposed but at least I get an overview of the photos and can then choose which ones I’d possibly like to work on for enlarging into prints.

I’m very happy that I now know how to use the contact proof printer correctly and will be using it for all my black and white medium format negatives when I need to do a contact sheet.

Brighton Community Darkroom

In some of my previous blog posts I talked about taking a darkroom photography course at Varndean College in Brighton where I had an introduction to Black and White photography and developing my own contact sheets and prints etc.

I took the initial course in the Summer 2018 and ended up enjoying it so much that I signed up to do the course again in September 2018.

After I finished the second course at the beginning of November, I wasn’t quite sure whether I would want to do any more developing of my own prints and wondered if I could settle for digital prints instead.

However, by the end of December I realised I was really missing the darkroom process and the buzz I got from developing my own black and white prints.

I knew in Brighton that there is a community darkroom that I could join so I could continue developing my own prints without having to do any further courses at Vardean college and I wouldn’t have the initial expense of having to set up my own darkroom at home.

Also, the college only caters for 35mm film photography and I have recently been working more with medium format photography (120mm negatives) so require an enlarger that will work with both 35mm and 120mm negatives.

Thankfully the community darkroom was able to meet these requirements with their enlarger.

The community darkroom I joined currently has availability for new members. Here is a link to their website: http://coachwerks.org/the-darkroom/

They use a Durst DA 900 Enlarger and have the equipment I require to develop my own prints such as the developing chemicals, a place to hang prints to dry, masking frames etc., although you need to bring your own photographic paper.

They charge £25 per month for use of the darkroom which is open 24 hours and I plan to use it at least 1-2 times per week for a minimum of 4 hours at a time so for me, I think its great value for money.

I look forward to blogging further about using the darkroom over the next few months and how I’m finding it.