Developing Prints in the Darkroom

I have now visited the Brighton Community Darkroom a couple of times since I joined and am slowly getting more familiar with the Durst DA 900 enlarger every time I use it.

Currently I’m managing to get there once a week and am spending approximately 4 hours there per session.

I was there yesterday afternoon and wanted to work on developing some prints from my 120mm black and white negatives that I took on my Lubitel 166B Camera.

There was a really nice beach shot I recently took on a stormy day in Brighton and the waves were crashing against the sea defence wall and there were some clouds in the sky.

I’m still very much at the learning/experimental stage of my darkroom work so accept the fact that without a tutor on hand (like during my black and white photography course) I’m going to probably make many mistakes and waste a lot of paper.

Yesterday was my first time enlarging a 120mm negative print on the Durst DA 900 enlarger as in previous sessions I had been making contact sheets.

I was slightly nervous if I was actually going to do it correctly. I had an initial introduction to the enlarger by one of the helpful members of the community darkroom but that was a few weeks back so I wasn’t sure what I’d remember.

Thankfully, as well as an actual manual on the enlarger, there were some helpful notes provided to me by Paul who is one of the community members and in the notes he provided his recommended combination of condenser and lens that he feels work best depending on the size negative I’m doing an enlargement from.

Rather than going by the manual recommendation, I used Paul’s guidelines since he has experience of using this particular enlarger.

I therefore used a Unicon 105 Condenser lens and 105mm enlarger lens for the 120mm (6cm by 6cm) negatives.

After doing an initial test strip, here is the print I did with the aperture moved down a couple of stops from the brightest aperture to f/8:

You’ll see that its quite dark and doesn’t have much contrast. I also was annoyed at the fact there were dust/hair marks on the photo, which I hadn’t noticed on the negative. I currently use a cheap plastic air blower but I’m seriously considering investing in the more powerful aerosol type of blower as I think that will do a better job of getting rid of unwanted hair/dust as I don’t think my current one works very well.

I decided from this initial print that I wanted more contrast in the photo and also to be lighter.

I had learnt about contrast filters at my college course and thankfully the community darkroom has the Ilford Multigrade filters that I can add to the condenser lens.

I decided to try a No 3 contrast filter and again, did a test strip. I also removed best I could with the equipment I currently have, any unwanted hair/dust on the negative.

Here is the print I did with an exposure of 40 seconds:

This photo is much brighter than the original one I did but I’ve also lost all the cloud detail.

I looked at my test strip again and decided to do another print with the same No 3 contrast filter and a slightly longer exposure time of 50 seconds:

This resulted in a slightly darker photo (as you would expect) but there still wasn’t much cloud definition.

I decided at this point that I perhaps didn’t want so much contrast so changed the contrast filter to No 2 and did another test strip. I did the following photo with an exposure of 80 seconds:

I was much happier with this photo in the fact it was lighter than the original one I did and that it had the cloud definition.

I wanted to next experiment with a No 2.5 contrast filter just to see the difference but I unfortunately ran out of time in my darkroom session so will have to try that next time.

Although the photos aren’t perfect yet, I’m really enjoying the whole process of experimenting and the trial and error.

I noticed on this final photo that more dust had managed to somehow get onto the negative which shows in certain areas of the photo so I really do need to find a way of making sure I can fully clean the negative. I do also wear white fabric gloves when handling the negatives to avoid finger marks.

I look forward to blogging more about my darkroom sessions as I learn more.

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.