Dark cloth recommendations?

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I'm looking for the quintessential dark cloth. Something the stays put in the wind, blocks extraneous light as much as possible, durable, compact, obedient and safe (no lead weights, please!). Any tips? Is such a thing available commercially, or do I go to my local tailor?

-- Ted Kaufman (writercrmp@aol.com), January 18, 2002


Go to your local tailor!! The 2 commercially available types - the horse-blanket or the tube, both have their pros and cons, but neither is perfect. The ultimate darkcloth (IMHO) would be : breathable material, waterproof, and edged with "velcro".

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), January 18, 2002.

You can go to Calumet and pay $40+ or just use some black corduroy with a sewed in elastic strap and or velcro to close the cloth around the camera...

-- Scott Walton (scotlynn@shore.net), January 18, 2002.

BTZS tube style - check their website for more details. There are also a number of threads in the archives on this subject, with many good ideas.

-- Michael Mahoney (mike.mahoney@nf.sympatico.ca), January 18, 2002.

The BTZS 4x5 cloth has elastic at one end, an apparent advantage but it crimps the bellows on my camera (a Canham) and so I use the cloth backwards, with the elastic around my neck. I would prefer something larger without elastic, and the price is really high.

Go to your local tailor. Have him make it out of two pieces (white and black) of waterproof material so you can use it to protect your camera in rain. And if the fabric is light weight, you can make it bigger. Snaps or buttons would turn it into a tube easily enough.

-- Burke Griggs (griggsb@bc.edu), January 18, 2002.

I'd be careful on the weight of the material that you use. Some materials can get downright heavy. I'm not sure yet how it will behave in the wind, but my wife is making me a new darkcloth out of a light-weight, but none the less light-tight cloth. When I really considered, I was surprised at how heavy my current darkcloth is. With 30-50 pound packs, any place that one can cut back on weight is a plus.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), January 18, 2002.

After reading several comments about how well a black oversized t- shirt worked, I tried it on a day hike. It worked just as well as my large heavy Zone VI dark cloth. It did everything a dark cloth needs to do and weighs next to nothing and it's cheap. No chic, but cheap.

-- Kevin Crisp (KRCrisp@aol.com), January 18, 2002.

Maybe we should all just go down to the nearest "Wicken" shop and pick up cloaks? It might bring them back in style. :-)

-- Wayne DeWitt (wdewitt@snip.net), January 18, 2002.

When you consider the number of comments these darkcloth threads provoke and the occasional passion expressed, you'd think we were talking about stem-cell research or nuclear disarmament or terrorism.... Anyhow, I'll stick to my previous guns that it's no big deal, it's just a dark cloth. -jb

-- jeff buckels (jeffbuck@swcp.com), January 18, 2002.

Here is my "rocket science answer. As already stated use a heavy duty black t-shirt. I use one with long sleeves. The reason for long sleeves is I also carry along a very light weight nylon windbreaker. If it rains I can side the sleeves of the T-shirt into the windbreaker to hold them together and place have the windbreaker as a rain ocver. Total cost about 10 dollars.

-- James Chinn (jchinn2@dellepro.com), January 18, 2002.

Ted, My lovely Bride made mine for me as I am downright dangerous with sharp things like needles and scissors. It has three thicknesses; two of black clothe one white 4'x5' for my 8x10. It works just fine and we can modify it any number of ways to suit the need. If velcro works for you then by all means use it. I like snaps since velcro can pick up debris(I shoot outdoors alot)but that is matter of personal preference. A black sweatshirt sounds like a great route to go with 4x5, but might get a little claustrophobic with an 8x10 ground glass in there with you. If you"re going to get a tailor to knock one out for you have it made larger that you think you'll need , you can always cut it down if it is too unwieldy and see if you can get something called 60/40 clothe. They used to make parka shells out of it BG(before Gortex) Its a cotton blend with synthetic. The idea is that the cotton fibers swell when wet keeping moisture (Rain) out while the synthetic keeps the whole thing from becoming a soggy mess, and it breathes. You miight be able to find it at REI. Lead wieghts in the corners , IMHO, is a bad idea. Good luck!

-- John Kasaian (www.kasai9@aol.com), January 18, 2002.

Thank you, everyone, for the excellent responses--and the number! I never figured this to be such a hot topic, but it certainly reveals the resourcefulness of LF photographers.

BTW, since this issue has been covered in the past I'm curious to read the prior posts. So how does one search the archives for a given subject?

-- Ted Kaufman (writercrmp@aol.com), January 18, 2002.


I use the sweatshirt method (although I like that idea of the cloth being used to protect the camera from rain).

If you want to test the sweatshirt idea I'd suggest that you figure out which size shirt you need, and then go to a craft store. The store may have lots of different sizes and colors of shirts, and there probably won't be any logos. Also, the prices will be a lot lower than in most other places.

-- Matthew Runde (actorm@hotmail.com), January 18, 2002.

Being a mere photographerette, I do know how to run a sewing machine, and sewed my own dark cloth from a lightweight, tightly woven wool twill. The weave is tight enough that one thickness is sufficient; it's light enough to fold up quite small, heavy enough not to blow around in a breeze, and being a natural fiber it breathes and wicks moisture. The only sewing necessary is to fold and sew the edges, as one would for a tablecloth, or sew a prefold tape around the edges, to keep the edges from fraying. I thought I was eventually going to put velcro on the edges but I find I prefer it without, since it seems like my lens wraps that have velcro are always having to be extricated from themselves or other things, which is annoying and interrupts the work flow.

-- Katharine Thayer (kthayer@pacifier.com), January 18, 2002.

Hi Ted, You should have a look on Michele Vacchiano Website (www.michelevacchiano.com, he is Italian and has experience about shooting in LF in the Alps, he has a dark cloth made by Lotus view camera in Austria, and it seems to be very practical. regards

-- Daniel Luu Van Lang (daniel.luu@worldonline.fr), January 18, 2002.

Ted, do an advanced Google search limited to the domain greenspun.com and look for results with 'any of the words' dark, cloth and focusing.

-- Sal Santamaura (santamaura@earthlink.net), January 18, 2002.

I use the large film changing bag as a dark cloth. I also put my flat bed camera inside the changing bag before I put the whole thing in the backpack in case of rain. C.W. Lee

-- C.W. Lee (leechenwah@hotmail.com), January 19, 2002.

If you make your own, be wary of using heavy material. My wife made me a really nice dark cloth years ago, and it occurred to me only recently how heavy it is! So, we found a much lighter weight cloth that still keeps out the light. LF packs can easily run 25-50 pounds, and you want to do what you can to limit weight.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), January 19, 2002.

There is no such thing as a quintessential dark cloth!!!

-- Ken Burns (kenburns@twave.net), January 19, 2002.

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