A place in the dark

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I live in an apartment that is way to small to have a darkroom in. So I found a college that would let me volunteer in the lab in exchange for darkroom time. Perfect right? Not exaclty, the darkroom is great with one fatal flaw all of the enlargers are hopelessly out of alignment so everything is hopelessly out of focus. Its going to be quite a job to get them into alignment since they are Saunders enlargers that were ripped off the base boards and mounted to crooked counter tops then sealed, union labor. This has me thinking of other options and I am wondering what other photogs do. Surely not every photographer has a home equiped with a darkroom. So What do you do for a darkroom?-J

-- Josh (devil_music@usa.net), October 05, 2000


Josh, I live in a small studio (SF rents are the highest in the country and the only darkroom rental house in town just got evicted for the dot.commers), the first thing I got was a Harrison changing tent (should have got the biggest one) this works very well for loading and unloading all formats of film and I can also take it on the road. My Eenlarger is on a very solid heavy desk (used office furniture) on one side of the room, across the room is my "kitchen" and I place a plywood top over the entire counter area and this gives me a level worktop for my trays and access to some running water at the sink. The 3 level drying rack from calumet sits on the nearby kitchen table (folds up when not in use) and I darken the whole room with blackout cloth and usually print after the sun goes down. I use my film and print washers hooked up in the bathroom tub and store them there when not in use. Cramped? you bet..but it works. good luck.

-- bill zelinski (willy226@yahoo.com), October 05, 2000.

My first darkroom was a portion of the basement with no windows. The door was light proofed with a large piece of Duvytene and the other "finished" room had to have the lights of so they wouldn't leek through the cheap panel job the owner had installed. I set the trays on a large piece of 3/4 ply on top of the washing machine and dryer. The enlarger sat on a homemade work bench - cast off top of an old kitchen table and legs made of 4 X 4's.

My most recent darkroom is a 6' X 6' X 6' walk-in cedar closet in the basement with no running water. Electricity comes from a power strip, the cord run through a hole drilled in the door. The trays are on a shelf that used to hold clothes and the Beseler 4 X 5 sits on the floor. All washing and mixing of chemistry occurs in the two chambered deep sink that came with the house. I still have to use the Duvytene to block the light when developing film.

-- Sean yates (yatescats@yahoo.com), October 05, 2000.

New York has some pretty serious rents too. My current darkroom is a bathroom. Trays and washer are in the tub, enlarger on a board across the toilet seat, and I put some velcro over the long narrow window to hang my darkcloth, which has velcro along one edge. I develop film at night, but it is dark enough to do prints in the daytime. I've mounted a retractible clothesline over the tub to dry film and RC prints.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), October 05, 2000.

"You think that's hard, my darkroom is a desk drawer." "You have a desk? I have to do my printing in a coffe cup." "Oh yea? Well I just put a bag over my head." "You have a bag? I have to close my eyes to make it dark."

-- Chris Patti (cmpatti@aol.com), October 05, 2000.

Why not make an easel stand to use under the enlargers. A small stand that you can shim to align with the lens and enlarger heads? It would be a lot less trouble to do so. Even the older enlargers that seem hopeless can be aligned either this way or with a bit of quiet work with a file if the upper parts have been knocked way out of alignment.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), October 05, 2000.

Rip the best enlarger off the counter top and remount to a baseboard. Should take you 2 hours with the right tools. The college will probably love you forever and you'll never have to worry about owning a darkroom, which can get expensive with lenses and all. Otherwise your kitchen becomes your darkroom and the local fast food place your kitchen. Spend a little time now to save lots of bucks later.

-- Wayne Crider (waynec@apt.net), October 05, 2000.

I live in a tiny house with no basement. The kitchen is a good size for a darkroom, and it even has a window. So what I did was first, black out the window, I built a frame from 1x3 pine, stapled "black out plastic" to it, and even put a Doran exhaust fan on the frame. I used black Duck tape to seal any leaks. The "black out" plastic is the same as the plastic used in landscaping, even extra heavy dark trash bags will work. Next, I bought what I thought was light tight material. Its not, but close to it. I purchased it at a fabric store. What I did was to put the material permanently on the wall. I actually needed to create a wall and a half with the material, so I stapled the material across the top of the open wall space with something, whatever, to "tie" the material when I roll it up. The ties are permanently in place at the top of the material. The next step was to purchase "Velcro". Its damn expensive in the store, so I found a web site that specialized and sells it cheap. I spent a long time sewing the Velcro down the sides of the material, and of course it was glued down the wall on either side, too. Since the material was not light tight I put hooks across the top of the wall and hang regular material across to cover length wise and width wise. I cut out a square in both pieces of material to put an 8'x8' air vent. So simple, all I have to do is put the frame in the window, untie the ties and let the material drop. I just don't like having to ad the " second wall of material", but I can allways put a second layer of material along with the permanent material.

-- Raven (mtand13@netreach.net), October 05, 2000.

p.s. The cut out square thats 8"x8" for the vent has a square of Velcro sewn around it, and the vent itself is Velcroed, so I just join the two together.

-- Raven (mtand13@netreach.net), October 05, 2000.

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