The last week has been a momentous one for me photographically. I finally have a darkroom at home. So far I’ve been using Ffotogallery’s darkroom in the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff for printing. It’s a great facility but it’s an effort to get there and parking can be difficult, so I only use it occasionally. Having a darkroom at home should hopefully allow me to really concentrate my efforts on printing.
My darkroom is nothing fancy, I’ve just used one half of my home office which was previously full of junk, bought some blackout material for the window, some foam for the door frame (complemented by some strips of the blackout material which was left over when I cut the window material to the right size) and bingo! A darkroom.
A couple of years ago I was lucky to be given some darkroom stuff, including trays, a safelight, focus finder and various other bits and pieces. And then last Monday I picked up an Ebay purchase which included a Durst M707 medium format colour enlarger, a Meopta Axomat 5 B&W 35mm enlarger, trays, easels and various other things. One of the things that appealed to me about the stuff that was for sale on Ebay is that it was all complete. Very often enlargers offered for sale don’t have lenses, or timers, or there are other bits missing. You would then have to hunt around for the missing bits and pieces before you can start using it. These enlargers came with all the negative holders, masks for different film sizes, timer, lenses and so on that you could ever need, so I could get it up and running straight away.
And of course the first print in my new darkroom had to be one from my daughter’s wedding.
It’s taken me a while to get used to the Durst M707. It’s more complicated than what I’m used to, but those little things that make it seem complicated at first aren’t really that complicated when you get used to them and they’re actually quite useful. Such as the ability to switch between 35mm and medium format lightbox at the flick of a switch. And the sliding blades to mask the edges of the negative carrier. So although I found it frustrating at first, the Durst has definitely grown on me.
Having an enlarger at home has enabled me to experiment more. Previously whenever I visited Ffotogallery I’d have a number of negatives that I wanted to print and I just concentrated in getting it done in the time I had available. Now I can play around and try different things, such as split grade printing.
I don’t have plumbing in the darkroom, that might come later. For now print washing has to be done in the bathroom, which has worked out fine so far.
I’ll still retain my membership of Ffotogallery. I’ll need to use their DeVere 5×4 for large format printing – unless I buy a 5×4 enlarger for use at home. But that would be getting ahead of myself. I need to get the most out of what I have for the moment.
And so begins an exciting new adventure. I just have to remember to venture out and take photos occasionally!