I’ve always liked working in the darkroom. I spent many happy hours in the university darkroom when I first started photography over a decade ago, processing, printing, dodging and burning with a bit of music and the smell of the chemicals to keep me company. Bliss.
I’ve been feeling the need to get back in the dark again, but looking around it has become rather expensive to use other people’s darkrooms these days, so (much to my parents relief!) I have retrieved my darkroom gear from my parent’s loft and brought it back into commission with some new bulbs and a good clean. I’m a veteran of many bathroom darkroom setups over the years from various flats and houses I’ve lived in. A bit of blackout material and some gaffer tape works wonders!
Anyway, step 1, I have my enlargers working again.
My main enlarger is my LPL C7700 MX unit I picked up for pennies during the early days of the digital boom. It’s a big, heavy beast of a thing that takes 35mm and 120 medium format negatives (upto 6×7 size) and will produce 16″x20″ prints with ease. It’s got a dichromic colour head that lets you dial in filtration to adjust the paper grade to vary the contrast of the image produced. I’ve been checking out the wiring and cleaning all the internals ready for putting it to use, so I took the opportunity to do some digital experimentation.
This is a 6×6 image shot on my Yashica 124G projected onto the base board at about 20″ wide through an 80mm enlarger lens.
I think that after years of working with negatives to judge framing, exposure and to make local adjustments (i.e. waving my hands about under the enlarger lamp) my brain has learned to compensate and I sometimes find it difficult to tell if an image is actually inverted or not. I guess that working in black and white for so long has taught me to see relative differences between tones in an image, rather than absolute values of ‘dark’ and ‘light’.
Anyway. It’ll take me a while to get set up for actual printing, but at least I’ve crossed step 1 (order new bulb) of the list! I’ve also just looked at how much it would be to buy one of these new… flippin eck! better look after this one!