The Online Darkroom Store

Friday, January 31

More on the Fixer shock

Argentinian reader, Hernan Zenteno, asked some very good questions in a follow up comment to my previous post about it being better to leave a fixer laden fibre-based print to dry than give it an insufficient wash. Rather than try to reply in a comment, I thought I'd post some information here.

Hernan asked, "Did the authors say how much time can last a print processed like that? And with what kind of fixer, rapid fixer, normal fixer. I mean, there are fixers that are more acid than others. I never heard a thing like that and I doubt a lot of the efficacy otherwise this would be used a lot of times. Maybe is one of that methods that works ok in theory but not in the real world because maybe humid in the ambience can alter the thing or temperatures, or whatever."

Who'da Thunk That!

Here's something from the Michael Caine "not a lot of people know that" school of photography. At least, I don't think a lot of people will. Simply stated, it is:

  • If a black and white, fibre-based print can't be thoroughly washed then it's better if you leave it to dry soaked in fixer.* 

Kind of goes against what I'd imagine most of us would think, doesn't it? For a print to be thought of as archival, it must have almost all the fixer washed from it. But if the fixing bath has been over-used, it may well contain a relatively high concentration of a soluble ion (monoargentodithiosulphate) that is heavier than the normal thiosulphate ion. Being larger and heavier, these ions diffuse less quickly out of the emulsion.

Thursday, January 30

Ilford's 5x4 Obscura now a £55 stand-alone, large format, 5x4, 4x5, silver gelatin, analogue, analog, darkroom, printing, enlarging, photography
Ilford's 5x4 Obscura will now be available as a camera-only deal.

If simplicity is a sign of great design, the Ilford Obscura, released last year, is a stroke of genius. You might have already heard about it but, if not, it's basically two open-ended "expanded PVC" boxes, one of which slides inside the other.

Wednesday, January 29

Split Grade Printing - Guest Post

I stumbled upon this article on the Filmwasters website a while back and asked its author, Jeff Warden, if I could publish it here. He kindly agreed. It's a good description of one way of doing split grade printing and will give you a good understanding of the process if it's something you haven't tried before. There's always more than one way to skin a cat, though, and other photographers will use different methods of split grading. Jeff's technique is well-explained, however, and the sample photos he uses to illustrate the various stages do a great job as well. So over to Jeff.

Split Grade Printing

by Jeff Warden

For the past few days I have been experimenting with split contrast printing. I have enjoyed the process of learning how to do it, so this post is for those who haven't tried it but have an interest.

I'll be walking you through the numbered prints above. I'm loosely following the technique outlined in the book 'Way Beyond Monochrome' by Ralph Lambrecht.

Monday, January 27

Truck Camera

Here's a fascinating video about a wet plate camera built into the back of a truck and which takes enormous collodion photographs.

Collodion is a process I don't know too much about and I doubt I'd have the patience to get heavily involved in it. However, it has to be said that good collodion photographs, particularly portraits, are absolutely stunning.

Thursday, January 23

Appreciating Great Gear

Great photographs can be taken on the simplest of cameras and the most basic of enlargers can be used to produce some fine prints. But there's an undeniable pleasure in using good gear. I've found this out the hard way having been able to buy some top end stuff over the last few year's following analogue photography's usurpation by pixel-based imaging.

In the first half of my interest in film photography - separated by a seven year dalliance with digital from my present infatuation - I used darkroom equipment that was not exactly at the cutting edge of technology. My enlarger was a Blumfield, a great, beautifully-made machine from the fine Birmingham company of T.F. Blumfield.

The Blumfield: I love this enlarger.

Just looking at the pic above, the enlarger looks like a relic, doesn't it? And yet, it's hard to overstate how well it was made. Magnificent is probably the right word. Whilst I could appreciate the enlarger's fine engineering, it wasn't the easiest thing in the world to use. At some point it had lost its counterbalance so it was a bit of an effort raising and lowering the large, alloy bowl of a head.

Tuesday, January 21

A Less Beautiful Ralph Gibson

online darkroom, analogue, analog, film, printing, enlarging, tri x, leica, m6, mp
A digital photograph similar to those Ralph used to take.

Ralph Gibson has gone over to the dark side, his beloved Leica MP and M6 film cameras replaced by a digital impostor that looks the same but eats pixels instead of silver. Who'da thunk it? He's just published his latest book of photographs, Mono, all of which are digital. Ralph built his reputation on a certain look in his photographs, lots of contrast, empty black areas and sharp composition. He now believes he can achieve the same look with a digital Leica Mwhatever. Maybe he can but that's hardly the point, is it?

Even one as ill-versed in Ralph's work as I could quickly grasp that his photographs were organic, they had vitality and soul. More so than most other photographers', his images lived and breathed. I saw that straight away when my pal Phil Rogers (who's art school trained - rolls eyes) educated me about Ralph's photography last year. It's not everyone's cup of tea and doubtless would give zone system aficionados conniptions but, love it or hate it, it was the antithesis of the perfect digital image. So I loved it.

Monday, January 20

Bring Back Smog!

online darkroom, printing, film, analogue, analog, fog, smog, mist,
The Great Smog of London, 1952. Whose bright idea was the
Clean Air Act of 1956? Copyright of the Daily Mail

Smog. That wonderful mix of smoke and fog. What's not to like? Think of all those evocative night-time pictures it gave us of London in the 1950s. Think of the photographic opportunities if such a thick, choking fug were to descend on our towns and villages nowadays. The possibilities are endless. Of course, there are chronic health issues but what the hell!

I was thinking about this the other day when chasing an elusive, will o' the wisp fog around Dundee. It was no doubt the infamous North Sea haar, the billowing clouds of sea mist that roll ashore blanketing everything in a cloudy stillness. If you're a regular reader then you'll know I love bad weather and the best bad weather for me is fog. It's so atmospheric that a head on shot of a modern day Co-Op Supermarket looks like it needs only a Bogart-like, trench coat-clad figure walking by to qualify for film noir status.

fog, smog, mist, misty, online darkroom, silver gelatin, film, printing, enlarging, enlarger,analogue, analog, rolleiflex, automat, spur acurol-n, industrial estate
A shot of the industrial estate - read on for details.

Now, while the haar is perfectly happy to sit like a roll of cotton wool atop the River Tay for hours at a time, it's burned off very easily inland by the faintest whiff of solar insolation. It led me on a merry dance, I can tell you, teasing me mercilessly with one stunning misty vista after another only to snatch it from me at the last minute as I emerged from my car, camera in hand. There one minute, the next gone like a, well, a puff of smoke!

Saturday, January 18

Sunny f16? Bollocks!

I don't often underexpose a photograph by three-and-a-half stops even when I haven't got a meter to hand. But there are times up here in Scotland when the weather just springs a surprise on me.

Take today, for instance. I was fondling my Pentax MX with its 50mm f1.7 M standard lens in the kitchen waiting for the dogs to finish doing their stuff in the garden. The camera is loaded with Tri X rated at 800 ISO and, since there are only a few frames left, I was keen to get the film finished.

Why not take one of the dogs then? The MX is fully functional but I haven't had a battery in it for a while. So I looked out the window at the weather (guess what - dreich) and started working out the sunny f16 exposure. On a sunny day, the exposure would be 1/800th at f16. I haven't got such a shutter speed so call it 1/1000th between f16 and f11.

Ilford keeping mum about FB Classic sales success

Those of us who subscribe to the Ag Photographic newsletter will have been surprised to learn that Ilford have already apparently sold out of FB Classic which was introduced just over a month ago along with FB Cooltone.

Although it will be annoying if you're forced to wait for FB Classic, it can only be a good thing that demand is at such a high level relative to the company's forecasts. It's certainly better than a situation where unwanted stocks languish on a dealer's shelves.

AG said they were now experiencing some delays with FB Classic but stressed other lines were not affected. So if it's FB Cooltone you're after, you're all right.

I thought Ilford might have been keen to speak about this initial sales success and what it could mean for the future. However, my questions were played with a straight bat by the company's marketing people who would only refer me back to the press release issued at the time of the launch of the new FB papers.

I can only ask…

You might also like:

New FB Paper Range Announced by Ilford
More on the New Ilford Papers

Friday, January 17

Kodak Specialist 2 update and instructions

Good news on the Kodak Specialist 2 front. The bellows seem to be just fine and my old Slik tripod is man enough for the job of supporting the weighty camera. All I need is a lens and a few sheets of film and I'm all set to give 5x7 or half plate a whirl.

kodak specialist ii, half plate, 5x7, 7x5, large format, analogue photography, analog photography, film photography, silver gelatin, online darkroom, printing

Bottom-feeding as ever, I've ordered an interesting lens to get me going - all of £12 it was. It's a shutterless process lens that almost covers 10x8 so it should manage half plate or 5x7 with room to spare. I'll tell you more about it when it arrives, which should be any day now.

Wednesday, January 15

Adox CHS 100 II in Atomal

adox chs 100 II, atomal, contax, spur acurol, ghislain lootens, rodinal, online darkroom
Disused Boathouse

Rodinal may be the granddaddy of today's developers but Adox's Atomal isn't too far behind. It's one of those venerable old developers that has continued through to today with the odd change to the recipe here and there but still with the same taste. I thought I'd give it a whirl with CHS 100 II.

One of my favourite photo books is by Joe Ghislain Lootens (Lootens on Photographic Enlarging and Print Quality) and his advice when it came to choosing a film and developer was simple: buy a film and use the developer the film manufacturer recommends. His thinking was that the manufacturer has at least as much reason for wanting you to succeed as you do

Now That's Bokeh...

Not much room here for discussion of nisen, ring, swirly bokeh or other weird types - just a general blasting of the background from the 135mm f0.95 lens on the Speed Graphic now on Ebay. I did ask in the previous post what the bokeh might look like and reader Alex B. duly obliged by pinging me the URLs of some images.

Alex said, "I actually contacted the seller for some samples, when he had another auction for the same setup. And here is what it looks like, in case anyone is interested".

Tuesday, January 14

There are Speed Graphics and SPEED Graphics!

speed graphic, fast lens, 0.95, online darkroom, analogue photography, analog photography, film, large format, 5x4, 4x5

A 5x4 press camera with an f0.95 lens? Wonder how Weegee would have managed with this beast?

This unusual package is for sale on Ebay at the moment. Its Belgrade owner is kicking off the auction with a $1,599 starting price.

Monday, January 13

Only the Best Prints Will Do

I made just two New Year Resolutions for 2014: earn a living and lose weight. Nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe I should add a third: quality and not quantity in the darkroom. If you're like me then you want to make the most of a darkroom session and that means trying to print from at least a few negatives. It seems such a waste setting everything up and only coming out with one decent print so I always try to maximise the time.

The problem is that sometimes I emerge with four or five quite decent prints - all of which I know can be better in some way. So I file them away in a box thinking that I'll revisit them at some point and go the extra mile to get them spot on. But I seldom do. Consequently, I've got a lot of these work prints lying around and precious few that I think of as the finished article. That's going to change.

Here's an example of a print that I'm happy with. And yet it started
life as an overexposed cock-up looking something like the one below.

Saturday, January 11

The 10x8 IKEA Camera

the online darkroom, 10x8, 5x4, darkroom, analogue photography, analog photography, film photography diy, ikea, silver gelatin

If you're an analogue photographer and you don't get a warm, fuzzy feeling from this story then you've got a printed circuit where you should have a smoothly-running Leica shutter (Does that even make sense? - ED). Here's a bunch of Leeds Metropolitan University students who were tasked, as part of their course, with building a 10x8 camera out of things readily available at Ikea, such as shelving. OK, they were given an ancient, shutterless brass process lens and 10x8 and 5x4 spring backs by Deardorff to get them started but still…

The fixed focus camera they ended up with produced the prints the students are holding in the photograph above and I think they look great! The wonderful thing about this project is that it has helped demystify film photography for these young artists.

Friday, January 10

Great meter - shame about the price?

I absolutely love the idea behind this exposure meter. It's a tiny wee thing that plugs into the earphone socket on an iPhone and turns the smart phone into an incident light meter. Genius! I know there are light meter apps for the phone and I've used one myself in the past when forced to but I wouldn't like to rely on them. The Lumu looks as if it could be a serious piece of equipment.

light meter, exposure meter, analogue, analog, darkroom, photography, film, enlarging, silver gelatinBUT - it costs the same as entry level light meters. Now, I might be a bit price sensitive at the moment because my disposable income is, ah, indisposed, but £78, $129 or €95? And that's the introductory price. The normal retail price will be around £12, $20 or €15 dearer. The price includes a neck strap and nice leather pouch.

The Lumu's specification is excellent but the diminutive Sekonic L-208 Twinmate (left) costs about the same as the Lumu will at launch and is a proper reflected and incident light meter. The Sekonic weighs only 2oz and is just over two-and-a-half inches long so it's not exactly a burden to have with you at all times.

Wednesday, January 8

Ilford FB Classic and Cooltone: first impressions

Ilford FB Cooltone, Ilford FB Classic, multigrade, art 300, mamiya press, spur straight black, darkroom, film, analogue, analog, photography
Cooltone: Three Doors. Mamiya Press 6x9, 90mm Sekor, HP5 Plus

My friend Andrew Sanderson, who has been testing the new Ilford FB Classic and FB Cooltone papers for the company, sent me a few sheets of both so I could give them a try. I'd actually contacted Andrew to see if he could send me a work print or test strip done on Ilford's Multigrade Art 300 as I'm trying to decide which paper to get for the wee portfolios I want to start. I love it when there are decisions like this to be made: it's one of the best things about analogue photography and darkroom work.

I'm thankful to Andrew for his help as I can safely say that whatever Art 300's properties are, it's surface sheen is not one I like. I think it gets in the way of shadow detail too much so it's been crossed off the list of possibles.

The two new papers, however, are both lovely and definite contenders. I've always had a preference for slightly warm tone papers but I like the new FB Cooltone just as much as FB Classic. With just four sheets of each to play with, I didn't want to get bogged down printing negatives that fell into the "tricky" category so I picked a couple that were nice and straightforward.

Monday, January 6

New plans for The Online Darkroom

So, a New Year and some new, exciting things planned for The Online Darkroom which I'd like to share with you. This post will be quite long but please bear with me.

First of all, I've got to start earning some money. I gave up my job as a newspaper reporter just over three years ago (at the age of 49) and have been basically living off my severance payment ever since. That was never going to be sustainable in the long run and it's approaching crunch time.

Friday, January 3

Shooting in the Dark

Well, that was an interesting experience! My first large format foray of the New Year and I haven't a clue what I've just returned with. I took the Speed Graphic and four sheets of Tmax 100 with the intention of doing some 5x4 shots in the tenement closes I've written about in the past herehere and here.

The weather was wet and gloomy and the normally dimly-illuminated closes were even darker than they had been on my earlier visits. The lens I have is the 127mm f4.7 Ektar, not a fast lens by 35mm standards but not bad for a 4x5 optic. I'd anticipated that it might be a wee problem focusing accurately but what I hadn't foreseen was the inability to even frame a scene.

I've been using the pop out viewing hood on the Speed Graphic rather than a dark cloth but I think I need to reconsider. Looking at the ground glass all I could see was the odd highlight where light from the roof window in the stairwell was hitting some varnished part of the handrail. Everything else was dark. In truth, even with a dark cloth over the camera I still wouldn't have been able to see much. A torch will now have a permanent place in my camera bag!

The iPhone pic that served as my remote ground glass - see below.