The Dark Room

As I violently tweeted on Monday 5th of November that I was headed into the darkroom to make some photographic prints, but not my crummy homemade darkroom/bathroom but a REAL darkroom at the Stills Gallery.

From this:

To this (click to see full size version):

I believe I tweeted something along the lines of “Hi everybody! I’m in heaven, it’s great here” and I was right.

I was in the darkroom printing from 2pm to 8.30pm and didn’t leave and didn’t stop or even sit down.

Using the space was great partly because it wasn’t particularly busy though a few things were odd at first like using the kettle to warm up the chemicals (is it on, is it broken?), how to use the taps and a broken timer to measure dev times.


The Prints

I started with a photo of Daren and Petra from their wedding earlier this year taken with a Mamiya C330.

I was using a Rodenstock 80mm lens but forgot about setting the aperture or even recording it so that was the first mistake and a bit silly.

I started with a grade 3 (y42 m28) on Ilford Multigrade 3 gloss paper with an exposure of around 20s.

The Hipstamatic images really don’t do the prints any justice.

The negative was pretty overexposed and in order to keep Darren’s waistcoat from being too dark while getting something out of Petra’s basque I did a spot of dodging with my hand.

It’s still not a good print, way too contrasty, or a good image even and, yes, if you noticed I printed it the wrong way round. This was just a warmup print.

Next up was Anna either getting ready for bed or ready to go to nursery. This negative was better exposed with more tone in the skin and only needed 3.3s using a number 3 filter.

I also managed to print this one backwards at first before realising.

I also ran the negative through the larger A3 sized Kodak paper.

This paper is matte but with no clear decipherable markings on the box, I’ve no idea what it was but the sheets were quite foggy and produced flat looking prints with very little blacks.

I should point out that all the papers here were second hand and have probably been in storage for a number of years before I used them.

I hung around at medium format with the C330 with more photos of Anna testing out a smaller Kodak paper marked with F2, it was glossy but I struggled to get really good blacks while jumping up and down the filter grades.

I really think the Ilford papers stole the show here. Really good blacks and tonal range, the kind of images I was looking for but I had very little of the multigrade paper to use. The Ilfosol was nice but quite matte with soft blacks.

I’ve now ordered 25 sheets of Ilford 8×10 Multigrade 4 paper and 25 sheets of an Adox multigrade paper to see how it looks as I might end up having to print on a budget. Paper is pretty pricey.

When I got home I popped a print made on that A3 Kodak paper into a frame/mount I had lying around. It was great to see a print of a photo I made framed with no digital intervention whatsoever.

Six and a half hours of solid printing with no break wasn’t a good idea because my back is a bit sore with a side order of nerve pinch down the legs but it was necessary.

As I waited for my Stills Gallery ‘month pass’ to be made I noticed a wee exhibit of wet plates I’d forgotten about.


I recently went to twitter to claim I wasn’t going to tweet about wet plate again after watching some amazing videos on Vimeo of some lucky bastards making photos using the process:

Silver & Light: A Day In Los Angeles With Ian Ruhter from Laura Austin on Vimeo.

Wet Plate Collodion Photography from No name on Vimeo.


This last one is clearly Not Safe For Work:

Wet Plate Nude – Abigayle from James Weber on Vimeo.

I think I’ll just have to settle for Ilford’s Direct Positive paper as a substitute. I liked the results, though poorly exposed, I made of Rad. They looked kinda ‘wet platey’.

Back to the darkroom again: my experience overall was clearly 10/10 and I can’t wait to get back in once my new papers arrive.

More to come on this – fo-sho’



4 thoughts on “The Dark Room

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