Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Back In The Darkroom Again!

Strange how things repeat themselves, events seemingly re-enact themselves years later. I remembered the photos I'd shot of myself way back in the late 60's I guess, using the 19mm Canon lens I'd just bought, to take some photos of myself in my brand new just built darkroom, showing off the fiberglass over plywood sink I'd made, my 3 or 4 year old Omega B-22XL enlarger and my just purchased 2.5x3.5 ancient old Kodak Precision enlarger. I had no wrinkles or lines in my face, didn't need glasses to focus the image, and had a big mop of unruly curly brown hair without a trace of grey. I was wearing a leather vest, no shirt, probably bell bottom jeans which don't show in the photos, the epitome of hippie photographer sylishness. I propped the camera on various surfaces with the little Leitz table top tripod and used the self timer for a few shots so I could mail off some pictures to friends in Boston and Wyoming.

Fast forward to the Now! I decided to add some darkroom images to my self portrait project using the 15mm Heliar on the Bessa L. The 19mm Canon had been stolen a dozen years ago and been replaced with a 21mm Super Angulon, but I'm mostly using the 15 these days. No tripod needed because I just hold the rig at arms length and shoot. a sixth sense doing the framing, which kind of amazes me too! I honestly don't know how I pull off the framing and compositions with the camera "out there".

So here we are over 35 years later. What's changed? The end wall is now covered with wide shelves storing what were once 250 or 500 sheet 8x10 paper boxes, each now used to store 100 contact sheets and the 500 sleeved negative strips numbered to match, all neatly dated by months and year. Shelves under the sink hold trays and bottles of chemicals. The beat up used air conditioner I started with has twice been replaced with newer more efficient units. The planned paneled ceiling never happened, nor did the tiled floor.

Along the way a yard sale yielded a box of about every size negative carrier Kodak made for the Precision enlarger, for long obsolete sizes of film pack and roll film negatives. I also got a tripod adapter for horizontal projection on the wall for murals, but never locate the "camera back" that gave you a ground glass panel and allowed you to insert sheet film holders like a view camera. The strangest thing fits below the lens where the swinging red filter is on many enlargers. It has three color seperation filters. Instead of using a filter pack to get the correct color balance in color printing you make three exposures through the three filters, controlling color balance with the length of the exposures. I never tried that.

I have a 50/2.8 El Nikkor that I got back in '62 when they first became available on the Omega and a 105/4.5 Rokkor on the Kodak. I also have two lenses for 6x6cm that I can use on either, a 75/3.5 Spiratone, again from the 60's, and an 80/5.6 Componon that I picked up new for cheap when the Componon-S hit the market. The Componon is extremely crisp but truth is I mostly use the Spiratone. Why? Well with medium speed film like FP4 or Plu-X the Componon will clearly resolve the grain. The inexpensive Spiratone produces what looks to be a sharp print but the grain isn't clearly resolved, creating a much smoother image. Over the years I've picked up two 11x14 four bladed Saunders easels for centering an image on the paper. Prints to 11x14 are washed in vertical Mid-Jet washers made by Saunders but once marketed by Omega.

All in all it's the same me doing pretty much the same thing with pretty much the same equipment in the same place as when I put it all together back in 1968. Let's see, in another 38 years I'll be 101...Nah! Well, you never know, do you?


Blogger Todd Frederick Photography said...

Al, it's interesting to see your current darkroom set up. I think if I had something like that I'd do far more wet printing. For me it's always been a real hassle to set up a darkroom in a dry space everytime I wanted to make prints. Very interesting photos. Thanks for sharing them.

11:25 AM  

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