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Saturday, September 26

But I've no darkroom!

David M.'s week of darkroom related posts must have whetted some printing appetites but I'm sure there will be plenty of people who feel they just can't get started because they've nowhere to set up an enlarger.

It's understandable because temporary arrangements require a lot of dedication - not least because of the work involved in finding a solid surface for the enlarger and enough room to lay out the trays. And then, there's also scanning to fall back on which means that you can still see your photographs blown up to practically any size without having to get your hands wet.

In the middle of the last century, scanning obviously wasn't an option. Unless you could afford to pay someone to produce enlargements from your negatives then you had to do it yourself. That provided a level of motivation that's missing amongst many film photographers today.

Another wee magazine I found whilst packing stuff away in the darkroom is Photoguide from 1951. The article "No Darkroom At All" caught my eye. Reading it showed some remarkable dedication by the author in producing prints for publication and competition mainly during the darkness of winter nights.

Is this sort of approach viable today? For most frustrated darkroom workers the answer is probably no. Modern life isn't like it was back in 1951 - aside from anything else I doubt many men would be able to continue their printing in the dining room whilst their wives did the washing up!

But putting aside the different roles performed by the sexes in the good old days*, it might still be possible for some people to gain encouragement from this man's determination to do some printing. If that means that a few readers decide to follow his example then reprinting this article will have been worthwhile.



Last month we showed how it was possible to make contact prints with the aid of a special work-bench even if you have no darkroom. Now here is a solution of the more difficult problem of making enlargements.

Do you really mean to tell me that you are tied to the D. and P. man because you have no darkroom? That although you might manage to develop a film or two in your bathroom, you couldn't possibly make an enlargement?

Come, now, let me disillusion you. I have been doing serious photography for at least twenty-five years. During this period, I have not only developed more than 5000 negatives of all sizes from 35 mm. to quarter-plate, but I have made hundreds of enlargements. Many have been published. Some have won prizes in competitions. Some have been hung in exhibitions and reproduced in books. Yet I have never had a darkroom.

How is it done? Why, by the where-there's-a-will-there's-a-way method. And I never use the bathroom, spare bedroom, or cup-board under the stairs, for enlarging. They aren't available. I don't have to tell you how to develop a film because, with a tank, you can do that almost anywhere. It is enlarging which worries you, if you haven't a darkroom.


The first point is that if you haven't a darkroom, you just wait until it is dark. As simple as that! Of course, double summer time was a curse, and I often had to stay up until one a.m., but that's over, thank goodness! The natural effect of this is that, by and large, you do your developing in the summer, in a tank, and your enlarging in the winter.

To enlarge in the summer, you have to get everything ready and start about 10 p.m., staying up late. I enlarge in the dining-room and develop in the kitchen. Yes, the family is a nuisance. Yes, the washing-up has to be done first. Yes, my wife does interrupt me in the middle to get the supper ready. But I manage.

First, I keep my enlarger and my bromide paper in a specially-made cabinet in my bedroom. I begin by carrying these downstairs, which is quite a job, after taking other photographic equipment out of the cabinet so that I can lift the enlarger out. Then I fix my pendulum timing gadget on the side of a bookcase, take my dark-room clock and lamp into the kitchen, and plug the photometer into the enlarger circuit. The enlarger goes on the top of a revolving bookcase. While I am doing this, my wife is clearing the table and washing up, and the children are cleaning their shoes in the kitchen.


Next, I fetch the developing dishes, measures and bottles of solutions in from the garage and park them on the kitchen floor. As my neighbour's kitchen window faces mine, and he seems to spend his evenings practising signalling with his kitchen light, I have to cover my window even when it is dark. I use two large sheets of 5-ply wood (a relic of the black-out), which are kept in the garage. Before it is too dark to see, I stand these on the window-sill outside the kitchen and clip them in position with little screw hooks. These "hooks" are right-angled, not curved, and are screwed into the window frame.

The darkroom lamp goes on the washing machine, the clock on the window edge, the hypo dish on the floor. By its side I put a dish of water. I develop on a corner of the draining board. I am lucky in having a service hatch from kitchen to dining-room. The orange light in the kitchen enables me to grope my way across the dining-room and switch the enlarger on, for a little of it comes through the hatch.

Of course, I find and dust the negative with the ceiling light on, but once it is in the enlarger, out goes the ceiling light until the print is developed, and there is no darkroom lamp in the dining-room. I draw the curtains close. When I have made the exposure, I place the paper on the flap of the hatch, walk into the hall, close the door, then walk into the kitchen, lift the print through the hatch and develop and fix it. In case of interruptions, I have a cardboard light-tight bromide-paper box of proprietary make which will hold prints while lights are on.


When supper time comes, I shut the hatch and continue enlarging in the dining-room, while my wife does her stuff in the kitchen. Prints go into the light-tight box, to be developed when I have had my cup of tea and sandwich in the lounge. The essence of this system is my discovery that you can leave bromide prints all night in water, unwashed, without damage.

I choose week-ends for enlarging. When I have made the last print, the dining-room table is quickly cleared while the prints are in hypo. (Incidentally, I do not move them or use two baths of hypo.) The enlarger stays on its bookcase all night. Dishes go on to the hall floor until morning. The prints are put into water in a dish and covered with another dish, inverted. 1 generally leave them on the kitchen floor until I get up next morning.

Next day the shutters come down and the dish containing prints goes upstairs and lies in the bath till I am ready to deal with it, after breakfast. Later, the enlarger has to be carted upstairs, timers, dark-room lamp, solutions and measures put away, and the print washer fetched from the garage.


I did have trouble with washing prints. I used to put the washer in the kitchen sink when I thought my wife had finished. But she seemed to live at that sink, and sometimes I had to wait all day. We were both patient! Now I use the bath for washing prints. The washer stands in it and I attach a very long piece of rubber tubing to the tap on the hand basin. The bath tap is too large.

Having worked like this for some twenty years, I can assure you that: 1. No harm comes to your prints if they are left in water, unwashed, even for 24 hours. They must be washed eventually, of course. 2. No stop bath or hardener is necessary. 3. You can put three prints into acid hypo on the top of one another. When you add a fourth, put it at the bottom and remove the top one into a dish of plain water. You will only get staining if you accidentally leave part of one of the prints sticking out of the hypo, exposed to the air.


When they are washed, I blot the prints with photographic blotting paper and hang them to dry on strings fixed round the kitchen walls. My wife uses these to dry socks and dusters on. I generally have to clear these away to make room for my photographs, although they were my idea! I use little metal clips to hold them.

Finally, I straighten the prints by pulling them across the edge of the dining-room table, and flatten them in a book with a typewriter standing on it. Dare you really tell me, now, that you can't do your own enlarging because you haven't a darkroom? I shan't believe you, if you do! 

* Better than a society run by radical feminists anyway!

Friday, September 25

A Week With David M. - Part Five

Reader, What Next?

by David M.

My 5x4 De Vere took pride of place but, yet again, I had two enlargers.

In those days, I went to quite a few workshops (not the current crop of sure-fire tripod-hole tours, but inspirational immersion in photography) so I packed the Vivitar in the boot as I set off for Derbyshire. Happily, the designers had made it very easy to dismantle.

Someone at the workshop was starting a photographic centre in Cornwall, and they were happy to take it away. Now I could be alone with The One, my True Love among enlargers. Have we lived happily ever after? Would I be writing this if we had?

Thursday, September 24

A Week With David M. - Part Four

Really Real Photography

by David M.

The f64 group began to interest me; I’d assembled all the 35mm lenses that I needed. I could make 20x16” prints with comparative ease and I had dabbled in colour printing. Where could I go next?

I’d borrowed an MPP from a friend for a day and liked it. Watching the out-of-focus areas on the ground glass was so entrancing that I very nearly didn’t bother to click the shutter. We didn’t know it was called bokeh in those days.

Wednesday, September 23

A Week With David M. - Part Three


by David M.

Today, it’s hard to imagine the exotic lure of colour, when every print is coloured and monochrome is confined to dedicated weirdoes (almost certainly with beards or even sandals) or imitated by enthusiastic owners of EfexPro.

My gigantic, earthquake-proof MPP enlarger was built for black and white. If I wanted colour, it had to be a new enlarger. No kindly donor needing to liberate space in the garage came forward and I had to contemplate the prospect of paying money for it.

Tuesday, September 22

A Week With David M. - Part Two

The Monster

by David M.

We moved to a bigger house with a spare bedroom and at last I could have a stand-up darkroom, next door to the bathroom. My knees were delighted.

Now that I was a member of a Camera Club, I could see other people’s work and try to emulate it. At the time, soot-and-whitewash was very fashionable and grain was particularly esteemed. I began to push Tri-X beyond all reason. It’s what we did.

Monday, September 21

A Week with David M.

David's a popular writer on The Online Darkroom with his contributions on the essentials of photography and large format amongst the most visited posts on the site. I've never met him but I feel I've come to know him a little through something he manages to achieve in his writing - his own voice.

That's a hard thing to pull off but he seems to be able to do it with some ease. You could, for instance, sprinkle excerpts of his posts in amongst those from dozens of other posts and I'd be able to pick them out at once because of his inimitable style.

When we exchanged emails a few months ago, I quickly formed the opinion that he was an advertising copywriter. That was a compliment as they're amongst the sharpest and wittiest writers out there. I got the industry right but it turns out he performed a somewhat different role within it. He did say that he had once been asked if he fancied switching to copywriting, though, so I wasn't far off.

David has now turned his attention to enlargers and the darkroom and sent me some "fillers", as he put it, about his experiences in choosing an enlarger - or several. I thought it would be fun to post one every working day this week. Through them you'll get to learn a little more about him although, in line with his wishes, he'll remain the mysterious David M.

Saturday, September 19

Olympus OM1 v Pentax MX

It's been claimed that Steve McQueen once said he wished he'd been as cool as the MX*.

Reader Michael Stevens asked in a comment to this post how I thought the OM1 stacked up against the Pentax MX, probably it's most directly comparable rival at the time. Rather than leave a short reply and since I'm always looking for something to write about, I thought I'd turn it into a post. Please note, though, that this isn't a review in the normal sense: it's my impressions of one camera versus another. If you want all the details about specification, etc, there's plenty of information out there.

The OM1 and MX were launched onto the photography market in the early to mid-1970s within just two years of each other. Olympus broke the mould of the large and heavy 35mm SLR with their svelte and stylish camera and then Pentax outdid them by producing a camera that was even smaller.

Both were billed as full pro machines boasting an expansive line-up of lenses, accessories and five frames per second motor drives. However, it's OM designer Yoshihisa Maitani who is remembered: he showed how it was possible to trim about a third off the size and weight of the typical SLR of the period. Pentax were quick learners and went on to produce several models all smaller than the OM1 and all down market from the MX.

It's probably wise to quickly compare the two cameras within the context of their systems and the auto-exposure siblings that quickly followed for each marque since many photographers of the day liked to carry two bodies for colour and black and white and one was often an auto.

I don't think there's much doubt that Olympus had the more comprehensive line-up of lenses and accessories, not surprising since it was designed as a complete system right from the outset.

Nothing fancy left of the prism.
The OM2 that was released in 1975 three years after the OM1 was also ground-breaking (not least for its TTL flash metering and two-minute long auto exposure) in a way that the auto-only Pentax ME, launched in 1976 at the same time as the MX, wasn't. So a better system and a better auto camera and full marks to Olympus. But who had the better lenses?

Wednesday, September 16

Google Fun

Stoer Lighthouse - a black and white conversion in Lightroom.

Sometimes, when I can't get inspired by my local surroundings, I look further afield to see what parts of the world might be nice to photograph. That leads me, via Google Maps, to places such as Rio where I'd get through roll after roll shooting the town scenes just outside the city centre.

Occasionally, though, my wanderings are a little more down to earth - my own country, for example. The west coast of Scotland is an area of great beauty and grandeur but I haven't been there for more than 30 years. In my late teens, early 20s I had a Bedford CF caravanette and would take off to the other side of the country once or twice a year. My photographic skills weren't up to much then and I've nothing really to show for these travels other than a lot of memories.

Monday, September 14

Ilford products under new ownership

Harman Technology, manufacturers of the Ilford range of black and white photographic products, has been sold to English-based Pemberstone Ventures for an undisclosed sum. It's difficult to know how to view this right now and I suppose only time will tell if it's a good thing for the analogue world or not.

Mark Anslow. Pic from The Business
Pemberstone, that's a snapshot of their company vitals above, were certainly saying the right things as the deal was announced. The company's CEO, Mark Anslow, said, “We are very excited by the potential of the analogue photography movement and believe that HARMAN is uniquely placed to drive the resurgent film market into the future.”

According to the press release announcing the purchase, Pemberstone, a UK based investment company, have been tracking the performance of HARMAN for some time.

Part of the Ilford range

For their part, HARMAN said their goal now was to target young photographers, clearly a sensible tactic with traditional film users not getting any younger. Managing director Peter Elton commented, “Film has become an interesting medium for young photographers to work with again. We are seeing this very clearly. Our new owners will assist us to connect more effectively to this younger generation in the future and we will prioritise this as our main goal over the next five years.

“We remain totally committed to analogue photography and, indeed, to all forms of imaging. Our product range is uniquely stable and of the highest quality and we can assure all of our customers that we will continue to support them in our customary way for the foreseeable future.”

The big question is, what about the unforeseeable future?

Which enlargers to keep?

The 1C. I should have crouched down a little
so the light behind was like a halo...

With our house now on the market, we'll be faced at some point with finding somewhere else to live. We can't really start looking for another home until we've sold this one so it's impossible to say where we might end up. We have a few locations in mind within about a 20 mile radius of my home town of Dundee - or we might even end up back in the city itself.

What I can say for certain, though, is that the next house will be a lot smaller - something like half the size of the one we're in now. This has repercussions in many areas of life, including the size of my next darkroom. It might be in a small bedroom, the garage if there is one or a custom-built shed in the garden.

Friday, September 11

Going over old ground

Hand-held at 1/15th with the Rollei - not difficult with a TLR.

The campus of Dundee University has been a useful hunting ground for me and Phil Rogers. It's not far from where Phil lives and it's close to the city centre where I often drop Cath when she wants to do some shopping. It's also got a mix of old and new buildings and students and lecturers who show little interest in middle-aged men wandering around with cameras on show.

The problem is that we've both done it to death. Sometimes it can seem like I've done everything to death that's worth doing within an easy drive of where I live. But the uni campus is particularly familiar territory.

I was there again on Friday last week. I remember getting out of the car and thinking "why am I doing this" but I couldn't think of anywhere else to go for the three-quarters of an hour I had spare. So I decided as I was walking up the brae leading from the Perth Road to the campus that I wouldn't allow myself to photograph anything I've photographed in the past.

That would mean having to look for new subjects or at old subjects in a new way which is a good discipline to force upon oneself every now and then. The downside is that the worthwhile photographs were all spotted in previous outings so I'd be scraping the barrel, but no matter. Sometimes it's just good to be out with a camera, a roll of film and no schedule to stick to - beyond remembering to pick Cath up when she'd finished shopping!

I'm still in Rolleiflex mode so it was the 2.8F stuffed into a Domke F803 satchel that was hanging from my right shoulder. An exposure meter would have been nice, too, but I couldn't find my trusty Sekonic. I looked for it everywhere before leaving but gave up. I realised later that it was in the big custom case that houses the Kodak Specialist II, somewhere it hadn't occurred to me to look. I was just going to go by the Sunny 16 rule - or Sunny f81/2 as it is in my neck of the woods - but my iPhone has an exposure meter app which is fairly accurate so I used that instead.

Sure enough, it wasn't easy finding anything worthwhile to photograph that was new to my lens. Sometimes, no matter how hard I look, there just isn't a photograph there. At least, I now recognise this situation quite quickly which can save a lot of time and wasted film. The pics here were about all I could come up with - nothing worth mentioning but just enough to exercise the shutter finger and the wee grey cells.

Wednesday, September 9

Off Topic: Poor old chap

Do you see a face in this pic of the bag? The upright flap is like a gelled-up quiff,
the buckles are the eyes and the leather reinforcement underneath is the frog-like mouth.

Just over a year ago, I wrote about a barn find bicycle that I eventually got my hands on having been pursuing it for quite a few years. It's a 1948 Hobbs of Barbican that had been mouldering away at the back of a shed belonging to an ex-cyclist now in his 90s.

It was in a bit of a state when I got it as you can see if you visit the barn find post. It's in much better condition now but in bits as I took it apart to clean everything and haven't got round to putting it all together again. I'll probably wait until we've sold our house and are settled somewhere else.

We had a couple coming to view our home the other day so I'd decided to give the garage a good clean out and tidy. In the process, I came across this old bag that I'd taken off the bike before photographing it for last year's post. At first look, it was extremely dirty, dishevelled and, dare I say it, decomposed.

Monday, September 7

Some Leica Greatness

The tatty but characterful cover.

It's amazing what's been turning up as I've sorted through the darkroom detritus. I vaguely remembered seeing this old Leica News and Technique magazine at some point but I couldn't say what was in it. It turns out it was the second last edition ever printed.

It's dated March-April, 1939, the 38th edition published. The mag was published by the UK Leica importer, E. Leitz (London) Ltd. There was one more bi-monthly edition - May-June - and then the war intervened.  It was the Wallace Heaton camera dealership - publishers of the famous Blue Book - that broke the news to Leica enthusiasts in a letter dated February 2, 1940 that, due to the war, the 40th edition could not be produced. The magazine was never published again.

Saturday, September 5

Finalised Film Table

Finalised, that is, unless you can spot something that needs corrected! Many thanks to everyone who left a comment - there were some really good suggestions about how to improve the table. It's been a real community effort by The Online Darkroom readership.

You'll maybe notice a couple of films that will most likely be new to you. They're Filmotech DP3 and Nik & Trick FT12, both available from NTphotoworks, a Kent-based company that has some interesting products. I'm hoping to pick up a roll or two for review purposes. The table above is just a jpeg - the real thing's below.

Brand Product Name Format ISO*
ADOX Silvermax 35mm 100
ADOX CHS 100 II 35mm, 120, 5x4, 12cmx9cm 100
ADOX CMS 20 35mm, 120, 5x4 20
ADOX Pan 25 120 25
AGFA APX 100 35mm 100
AGFA APX 400 35mm 400
AGFA Scala 35mm 200
ARISTA EDU Ultra 100 35mm, 120, 5x4, 5x7, 10x8, 2.25x3.25" 100
ARISTA EDU Ultra 200 35mm, 120, 5x4, 5x7, 10x8 100
ARISTA EDU Ultra 400 35mm, 120, 5x4, 5x7, 10x8, 2.25x3.25" 100
BERGGER BRF400 Plus 35mm 400
BERGGER Pancro 400 5x4, 7x5, 10x8, 18cmx13cm 400
EASTMAN 5222/7222 (Double X) 35mm 250
FILMOTECH** DP3 35mm 12-25
FOMA Fomapan 100 35mm, 120, 5x4, 5x7, 10x8 100
FOMA Fomapan 200 35mm, 120, 5x4, 5x7, 10x8 200
FOMA Fomapan 400 35mm, 120, 5x4, 5x7 10x8 400
FOMA Fomapan R100 (reversal) 35mm 100
FOMA Retropan 320 Soft 35mm, 5x4, 5x7, 10x8, 9x12cm 320
FUJI Acros 100 35mm, 120, 5x4, 10x8 100
FUJI Neopan 400 35mm 400
ILFORD Delta 100 35mm, 120, 5x4, 3.5"x4.75" 100
ILFORD Delta 400 35mm, 120 400
ILFORD Delta 3200 35mm, 120 3200
ILFORD Pan F+ 35mm, 120 50
ILFORD FP4+ 35mm, 120, 5x4, other sheet 125
ILFORD HP5+ 35mm, 120, 5x4, other sheet 400
ILFORD XP2 Super 35mm, 120 400
ILFORD Ortho+ 5x4, 10x8, other sheet 80
ILFORD Pan 100 35mm 100
ILFORD Pan 400 35mm 400
ILFORD SFX 200 35mm, 120 200
KENTMERE 400 35mm 400
KENTMERE 100 35mm 100
KODAK Tmax 100 35mm, 120, 5x4, 10x8 100
KODAK Tmax 400 35mm, 120, 5x4, 10x8 400
KODAK Tri X 35mm, 120, 5x4 400
KODAK Tri X 320 5x4 320
KODAK BW 400CN 35mm 400
LOMOGRAPHY Earl Grey 35mm, 120 100
LOMOGRAPHY Lady Grey 35mm, 120 400
LOMOGRAPHY Orca 110 100
LUCKY BW200 35mm 200
LUCKY SHD 100 35mm, 120 100
LUCKY SHD 400 35mm 400
LUCKY SHD 400 CN 35mm 400
NIK & TRICK** FT12 35mm 50
ORWO UN54 35mm 100
ORWO N74 35mm 400
RERA Pan 100 127 100
ROLLEI Retro 80S 35mm, 120 80
ROLLEI Retro 400S 35mm, 120 400
ROLLEI Infrared 35mm, 120, 5x4 400
ROLLEI Ortho 25 35mm, 120, 5x4, 10x8 25
ROLLEI ATP 1.1 120 32
ROLLEI ATO 2.1 120, 5x4, 16.5cmx20cm 15-25
ROLLEI Blackbird 35mm 25
ROLLEI RPX 25 35mm, 120, 5x4 25
ROLLEI RPX 100 35mm, 120, 5x4 100
ROLLEI RPX 400 35mm, 120, 5x4 400
ROLLEI Superpan 35mm, 120 200
SHANGHAI GP3 120, 5x4, 10x8 100
SPUR DSX 35mm 32-64
SVEMA Foto 200 35mm, 120 100
SVEMA FN64 35mm, 120 400

* Manufacturer's box speed. You may wish to rate the film differently for best results.

** Available from

Friday, September 4

Sharpness loss in scanning

Scanner technology has improved a lot in the ten years since I bought my old Epson Perfection 3200 Photo machine. It was quite good in its day as far as flat bed scanners with transparency hoods were concerned.

I often wonder, though, whether it's working to spec given the inevitable bumping and shoogling it's had as it was moved from house to house and room to room. When I scan 6x6 negs I'm always amazed at how sharp the results are - much, much sharper than 35mm. Obviously, the bigger negative plays a large part in that but there are occasions when I look at 35mm scans and worry if the negs were actually sharp to begin with.

Wednesday, September 2

Another few from the Rolleiflex

Rolleiflex take on the Leica bins

Back in June, I posted a pic of litter bins outside a public convenience in an Arbroath cemetery where we often walk the dogs. We were there again recently but this time I had the Rolleiflex hanging from my shoulder rather than the Leica M2.

Since the Leica shot was so well-received, I thought I'd give it the square treatment (like the other ones in this post, it's a big scan so make sure you view it at full size. All were taken on Tmax 400 developed in Firstcall Superfine)). I like it but it's a completely different shot to the 35mm format. The inclusion of the windows give the photograph the appearance of a face. It's not just about the bins but the whole toilet block.