My Contact Sheet Obsession

Back in July I took an adult education course in Black and White Darkroom Photography (which I’ve written about in some of my previous blogs).

I decided to take the course again from September because it was slightly longer (eight weeks rather than five) and I felt I’d be able to expand on knowledge from what I learnt in the original course.

One of the parts I have really enjoyed from doing the course is making the contact sheets. For some reason I love this process over actually enlarging a photo and making a larger print and have ended up spending the last few weeks of the course purely doing contact sheets from some of my existing black and white negatives.

Developing contact sheets has almost become second nature to me from working on a test strip to establishing the length of time the negatives need to be exposed under the enlarger.

Here is a contact sheet I originally developed back in July with some negatives that unfortunately had a light leak (please refer to my previous blog post about this).

The negatives were taken on my Pentax K1000 using Kodak Tmax 400 black and white film:

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On this particular contact sheet I placed the negatives over the photographic paper and placed some glass on top to keep them nice and straight. My first rookie mistake was not placing the negatives in number order and also the first row of negatives are upside down.

However, I had learnt from this mistake and was ready to do better in my current course. What was even better was my tutor introduced me to a really handy piece of darkroom photography equipment called a 35mm contact proof printer which is made by Paterson:

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The reason he had suggested I use this was because the negatives I was trying to develop into a contact sheet were really curly and it was proving impossible to get them straight under a piece of glass.

In this current course I initially wanted to develop some black and white half frame negatives I had taken on my Olympus Pen FT camera using Cinestill BWXX film.

However, after doing the test strip and then using this device, to my disappointment I found the contact sheet came out really blurry:

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After chatting to my tutor, I’d found I’d made yet another stupid mistake……I hadn’t shut the door of the contact proof printer properly, hence the blurry images.

I had to wait until the following week of my course to develop a couple more of the above contact sheets until I got the exposure I was happy with (as the first one was under exposed):

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I absolutely love the Paterson Contact Proof Printer and for me, it’s the best and quickest way of developing my black and white negatives into a contact sheet.

I developed a further contact sheet from my black and white negatives I had taken on my Pentax K1000 camera using Kosmo Foto Mono 100 film and the Paterson Contact Proof Printer:

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I’m hoping to develop another contact sheet in my lesson next week from another set of black and white negatives.