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Your first darkroom!

Discussion in 'Everything Film' started by plugsnpixels, Dec 10, 2016.

  1. plugsnpixels

    plugsnpixels Well-Known Member

    Did you begin your photo career by developing your own photos? I did, as a teen back in late 1974. Starting with blue solar prints of box camera negatives and working my way up to 126 and then 35mm, I’ve still got most of my old negatives which include photos of my darkrooms.

    With the weather cooling down (even here in LA), it’s nice to sit at home and dig through the old photos scanned to the hard drive.

    Here’s a pic of my younger brother helping me in my first home darkroom, circa late-1974 (B&W Polaroid photo). No enlarger at this point, only contact prints. Then a pano of the same room a few years later.

    Finally a screenshot of a set of my very first 126 photos as contact prints, 1974-5.

    Please post some of your old darkroom facility photos.



  2. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    That's very cool. I didn't have a home darkroom...wasn't allowed! But I set mysefl one up in our own downstairs loo in our last house. Unfortunately we moved in August and I am struggling to see how I could have one at the moment. The flat's just too small. There isnt' really even room to store the chemicals for film processing. Hopefully things will improve soon and we'll be able to put up a shed so I can store things in there and drag them out when I want them because I think the kitchen would convert easily enough!
  3. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Long gone I am afraid. It was the cupboard under the stairs. The working space was a shelf going under the stairs that I could sit at. An enlarger (a Gnome) and 3 trays would just fit. The two trays at the back were a bit cramped because of the stair slope and this limited the enlarger movement too. The air supply ran out quite quickly so the dash to the kitchen sink to wash the print without dripping too much fixer on the carpet was very welcome.
  4. Trannifan

    Trannifan Well-Known Member

    My father set up his darkroom in a corner of what was otherwise the playroom. The nearest I've had to a darkroom was in my previous flat which had a short hallway which didn't need blacking out, had room for a couple of kitchen cabinets as working surface and led to the bathroom. Where I now live I have used the kitchen as a darkroom. This meant carrying the enlarger about. Then new windows were put in which meant that the hooks for the black-out went and, on top of that, I had to get a new cooker, fridge and sink installed.(Not so bad as it sounds - the cooker etc. had been installed when the flat was built in the late 1960s /early 1970s so scrapping them was a pleasure!) So the Axomat sits next to the PC in the guest/ work alcove and gathers dust, the papers are probably still usable as are the dishes and safe light, but the chemicals are almost certainly long past their 'use by' date. Basically I'm too lazy to put a couple of hooks into the window frame so that I can hang up the black-out! And of course, there's the problem of getting the chemicals and so on nowadays.

  5. plugsnpixels

    plugsnpixels Well-Known Member

    Great stories! I'm reminded that the upstairs room I used didn't;t have a sink, so I had to carry the film tank and water (step after fixer) tray down to the bathroom.

    My first darkroom materials were given to me by a former neighbor across town. The chemicals in powdered form had to be from the '40s or '50s and were rock-hard in their bottles by the mid-'70s...
  6. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    My first adventures were in a darkroom when in the RAF in 1965. But that's another story...

    In British Airways I used a darkroom there which was allied to the camera club, It was fabulous, but a journey to get to it every time. I also used the one at Brunel Uni, which was spacious and easy to navigate!

    Eventually I made the third bedroom into a darkroom ay home. It was OK, but the blackout polythene on the double glazed window was a disaster! It worked, but it also absorbed the heat of the sun, until one day I heard an almighty crack - and that was my window broken. Subsequently I went on to digital photography!
  7. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    I've had my own darkroom (or access to one) since I started photography in 1952, and that was in the under-stairs cupboard. Very smelly paraffin safe(?) lamp. Far worse than diesel fumes!
    Doing National Service in Germany I used the darkroom provided for our use, and 3 years later had my enlarger etc. shipped to Uni so that I could print graduation snaps of friends. Looking back, I suppose I must have been a bad flatmate as I always had my photo gear with me, but eventually I had my own home with a darkroom in the bathroom or loft. My present home was chosen for its large lounge for full length portraits (used a few times), and its utility room with sink for conversion to a darkroom. Sadly the whole house is now very cluttered, but recent acquisition of a used Leitz Focomat V35 means that emphasis has shifted to getting my darkroom working again.
  8. plugsnpixels

    plugsnpixels Well-Known Member

    Amazing how many of us had our own little darkrooms when young, despite the expense of running one.

    Back in the '70s when I was in high school I had this fleeting dream of outfitting a darkroom van so I could travel and develop my pix along the way. These days that's called an iPhone... ;-)
  9. Snorri

    Snorri Well-Known Member

    I was lucky to have unlimited access to a good darkroom at school and later at my work. But this was long time ago, now it is just Photoshop... I miss it though, I like digital but the fixer smell and the magic of a HP5 plus was something else compared to coffie at the PC.
  10. plugsnpixels

    plugsnpixels Well-Known Member

    Snorri, I used mainly Tri-X (and sometimes Plus-X, bulk loaded) as well as HP4 and 5, but I liked Kodak film better ;-). I think the Ilford film was supposed to have smoother grain. I did however use Ilford photo paper.

    PS: And I play guitar as well as you do...
  11. taxor

    taxor Well-Known Member

    I've had various darkrooms in constant use since 1973. Back then (at the tender age of 13) I used to turn the enlarger off and on by pulling the plug out of the socket - until I nearly friggin' electrocuted myself when I touched a bit of bare wire where the flex had frayed. I splashed out on an in-line switch after that.
  12. plugsnpixels

    plugsnpixels Well-Known Member

    Funny, taxor, did you eventually discover the timer?
  13. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    Timer? Enlargers with timers were for posh people!

    Cheers, Jeff
  14. plugsnpixels

    plugsnpixels Well-Known Member

    True, I suppose so long as one could count accurately... ;-)
  15. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    A small table with a Gnome cadet enlarger three trays in my bedroom. managed to fit myself into a two foot square cupboard to load the films into the development tank. Don't think I'd fit in the cupboard anymore.
  16. Snorri

    Snorri Well-Known Member

    I did use Kodak as well but prefered the HP5 I liked the grain and I used it at anything from ISO 200-1600 possibly even higher... Multigrade pearl was my paper of choice, I guess mostly as everything was set up Ilford paper so it made sense to use it.
    Ahh guitars, well you know what thay say "I play cause I like it, not because I am any good at it"
  17. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    If you do an image search of 'Jimmy Page with camera' you get a fair number of pictures of him with a Nikon F2 which suggests that he is either a keen photographer or that he has a door that keeps blowing shut and is trying to find a way of propping it open!

    Ansel Adams was a trained classical pianist, but this was in a time when the guitar was (as far as I am aware) shunned as a 'true' classical music instrument so the likelihood of him ever having bashed out a creditable rendition of Black Dog is very low indeed.

    Cheers, Jeff
    Snorri likes this.
  18. taxor

    taxor Well-Known Member

    Not for a long long time. I did the one elephant, two elephant method of timing for ages but if I had music playing in the background my timing would vary alarmingly with the tempo.
  19. RobertCoombes

    RobertCoombes Well-Known Member

    My first personal darkroom was our bathroom. Window and fanlight blocked with battened hardboard edged with carpet underlay, bath covered with playpen base. MPP universal enlarger and 20 x 16 trays. No domestic conflict. Then I got my 5 x 4 Gandolfi......
  20. plugsnpixels

    plugsnpixels Well-Known Member

    Fun discussion that brings up a lot of nice memories. Except the smell of stop bath...

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