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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.

I needed to do some research. Eventually, I settled on the Vivitar VI. In its day, it was at the cutting edge of enlarger design. Vivitar’s designers had done a bit of thinking. It had a halogen lamp, (new at the time.) dichroic filters (which I had to look up) and a new method of mixing the light by passing it through a cylinder of transparent acrylic.

The innovative Vivitar VI.

The emerging light was cool so it didn’t heat the negative. Consequently, there was no cooling fan, making it both cheaper and more stable. Two large handles moved the head on the sloping column. Sadly, unlike my two previous enlargers, it wasn’t British. Despite that, it was sturdily built and worked well. I know of at least one that’s still in active use.

About this time, I bought a scruffy Yashica twin-lens reflex (which would only click if the cable release was bent to the left) and began to try the larger format. A Rollei was out of reach.

The darkroom was now rather crowded and when I discovered that somebody I’d met on a workshop was setting up a photography centre in Scotland, I offered my monstrous MPP enlarger to them and they hired a van and took it away.

You may remember the difficulties of printing colour in the good old days. We had to buy a special rotating drum and a special water bath to keep it at exactly the right temperature. We set the colour head to whatever values were suggested on the packet and made a first test strip.

When we’d got the exposure right, we made successive tests tor colour balance. Each one had to be fully dry before we could begin to puzzle out if the colour cast was red or  magenta. Eventually, just having something to hold in your hand and look at seemed a miracle.

Can it be that the complication and uncertainty of this process cemented my love of black and white? Darker forces were stirring. The bigger Yashica negative had whetted my appetite.You may recall the name, MPP.

Continued tomorrow.

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Jan Moren said...

Thank you very much for this series! It's immensely enjoyable, and once again I'm thinking of doing the impossible and actually set up an enlarger at home.

Michael Stevens said...

Another cliff-hanger! Great stuff, see you tomorrow.