Saturday, October 18, 2014

I'll Show You Mine if You Show Me Yours

Lately, I've been ordering film, chemicals, and paper from Freestyle. Although the shipping costs tend to wipe out the savings over Amazon, Freestyle has things that other places don't—like reasonably priced paper.

Freestyle often includes in the box a catalog of their film and darkroom supplies. Browsing through this catalog the other day, I realized (with only slight horror) that the kit in my basic darkroom would now cost more than a Leica Monochrom and a couple of Leica lenses. I was suddenly very glad that the enlarger always found a place in a closet no matter how many times I moved. And I felt a sudden urge to clean and polish everything in the darkroom.
I'm especially lucky that my dad was into photography and handed down quite a few pieces of equipment. Some of my favorites that I still use are a set of Nikon tanks and reels and a GraLab timer. There's a special joy in using well-made things that stand the test of time, and that joy is sweetened knowing my dad used these things as well.

My darkroom is in a light-sealed room in the basement. I have a full size Delta sink, Doran fan, and two safelights. The go-to easel is a Premier 11x14.

I'm still working through various chemistries to find what I like. Depending on the film, I will opt for HC110, DD-X, or Diafine. Lately, Diafine is getting used for most everything as I determine good exposure indexes. I still have Kodak stop bath from years ago, and it still works. For fixer, I'm working through Arista's offerings. I've used three versions of Arista fixer. They are all weaker than Kodak's fixers. Of the three, the Odorless is by far the weakest. A few prints and it's already exhausted.
My guess is that a lot of Arista buyers either only do one-shot film fixing and then scan the negatives, or they just don't print in volume. I do. Photojournalism habits are hard to break, and I tend to print many images off of a roll, and print in batches. I'm used to a fixer with longevity. Even in a newspaper darkroom with four or five photographers printing at the same time, I never saw Kodak Rapid Fix get saturated. I can saturate the Arista by myself, before getting images printed off of one roll.
For printing, I have trays for 8x10, 11x14, and 16x20. Back in the day, 16x20 paper was a reasonable option. With today's crazy paper prices, though, I don't know how much 16x20 I'll be printing anytime soon. Still, it's nice to have options.

My Beseler 23CII still gets the job done. I have a handful of enlarging lenses, but tend to use a 40mm Schneider Compomon f/4 (which they apparently don't make anymore) with a full frame negative carrier. Prints and film are dried on a line.

I'd like to see your darkroom! Drop me a line at philatawgrapher at gmail with pictures and a description and I'll post it here.