The Online Darkroom Store

Friday, September 30

First prints

It's taken a while - far too long really - for me to get my darkroom up and running but I'm finally there. As usual, though, it wasn't without a hiccup or two. I have two enlargers, a Leitz V35 with colour head for 35mm negs and a Durst Laborator 1200 with colour head for everything else up to 5x4.

As (bad) luck would have it, I was in the process of setting the Durst up with the RH Designs Analyser Pro when the lights went out, literally in the case of the Durst. Everything seemed to be working OK and the analyser was controlling the enlarger just fine when the enlarger light conked out and wouldn't come back on.

I unhitched the analyser but the Durst still wouldn't light up. The funny thing is that the cooling fan in the head was still spinning away, leading me to believe it was a bulb that had popped. I swapped the (new) bulb with another new one but still no joy. It may be that the ceramic bulb holder has arced and stopped working - something it can do apparently if a bulb pops. I'm going to have to order a new one to check it out.

That threw my plan to print from the 6x6 negs from my Rolleiflex SL66E out of the window. I hooked the analyser up to the V35 and dug out some old negs instead to try it out. If you've never seen this analyser before, it's quite a bit of kit. It's the sort of very high quality product that Britain was once able to churn out in abundance but now relies on China to provide at lower cost and lower quality, although I'm not aware that there's anything else quite like it out there.. You can look all over the 'net and you'll only find good things written about it.

However, it's not the most intuitive device to set up and operate and the learning curve is consequently about as steep as that of Tri-X pushed to 1600 ISO. I'll maybe write a bit about it later once I'm completely comfortable with what I'm doing.

It has to be said, though, that it worked out the exposure and the contrast grade very accurately for the Tri-X neg of the Edinburgh stairwell that had been exposed at 1260 ISO (in a Pentax MZ5-N and 40mm f2.8 DA lens) and developed in Diafine. I placed the vertical face of the third step up from the bottom at the dark end of the analyser's greyscale and the highlight on the wall just above the handrail on the right at the top. They're spot on.


The second print is a photograph I snapped on holiday in the south of France in July. I passed this old cinema in Limoux in the car most days on the way to somewhere else, always intending to take a pic but always finding an excuse not to stop. It was on the last day of our 12 day break when we were on the way to the airport when I thought "it's now or never". The lighting wasn't great but it had a nice art deco air about it that reminded me of some scenes from the movie Inglourious Basterds (loved that film, btw).

It was shot in a hurry on Fuji Acros in an Olympus Mju point and shoot but the lighting was flat and the two-bath developer I used had kept the contrast very low. I had to use grade five to pep it up a bit and the analyser's first attempt was quite heavily over-exposed. I used the machine to do a test strip and it was plain sailing after that. The edges were burned in to focus attention on La Cine.

The images in this post, scans of the actual prints, were made on some out of date Ilford Multigrade RC IV pearl which I'm going to use up until I'm back "in the groove" (ha, ha).

4 comments :

טל בדרק said...

hey! what a great read! i'm trying to get a darkroom set up as well, hope it won't take me ages. i went back to film after some blunt digital years in which i lost all passion to photography, but now i found it again. good luck with your new analog adventure

BRUCE ROBBINS said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment - the first feedback for my new blog! I know how you're feeling about digital because that's the way I am as well. There just isn't the same sense of achievement when compared with film photography. Good luck with your film work, too!

Gregory said...

I'm looking forward to more posts on printing from you. I don't - and probably won't - have a darkroom in my house, but I'll be working in a community space. I'm trying to soak up as much information as I can before I book out the room and dive in.

BRUCE ROBBINS said...

Hi Gregory,

I'll post as often as I can but it's not easy finding a lot of time for darkroom sessions. However, it might be a good idea for me to write a few articles explaining what's involved for people just starting out.