Why I like cream puffs so much.

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Sam's club sells ready-made cream puffs for about $7-$8 for a gallon sized pail. They really aren't too bad so long as you don't let them sit thawed long enough to get mushy and I highly recommend them.

More to the point of this forum, these cream puffs come in plastic containers which are square, white, with an air tight lid ...and I can't tell you useful I've found these things to be in the darkroom. They are the perfect size for hanging 4X5 film hangers, so I use them both for hanger storage and open tank film processing. They're big enough to process 10 sheets easily, or to store 12-14 hangers with a piece of cardboard thown over the top to keep dust out. They're white, so any residue from incomplete washing after processing shows up easily. They have an air-tight lid that makes temporary storage of mixed developer/fix possible. They're flat bottomed which makes them perfect as water baths for roll-film tank processing -- the tank is always kept vertical. They're square, and therefore ideal for bringing those brown, squarish, gallon sized chemical containers up/down to temperature. The lids are white and flat, so I've cut several into frames either for field use or for cropping purposes in the darkroom (I simply put an old 4X5 negative down on the lid, trace around it with an exacto-knife, cut the rim off and the thing's done. Easy!) ... By now it should be clear I really love the things. In fact, there isn't a time when I process film that I'm not tickled by their cheap usefullness.

So my question is this: what simple and cheap aides to some of large format's challenges have you found? Either out in the field or in the darkroom? Please chime in.

-- Michael Veit (pocoveit@yahoo.com), March 07, 2002


I bought some cheap plastic sweater boxes for processing film, although I got some streaking when I used them for developing. I use neoprene wader gravel guards (from Cabela's sporting goods) to protect my lenses when not on the camera.

-- Bruce Schultz (schultzredfish@aol.com), March 07, 2002.

I'm new at all this, but found in my first essays under the darkcloth that my trifocals made me have to crain my neck quite uncomfortably to scan the GG for composing and preliminary focusing through the very bottom of my glasses lenses. I went to the drugstore and bought some fairly powerful and compact reading glasses. I started with 2.5 diopters and then acquired a 3.5 diopter pair as well, both of the half-frame sort, so that I can look over them when using the loupe. They cost between about 10 and 15 USD. I can get quite close to the screen with them, getting much like the view one has through a medium format SLR/TLR through the pop-up magifier in a waist-level finder. Both pair fold into a small package and easily fit within various pockets in my bag.

-- Tony Galt (galta@uwgb.edu), March 07, 2002.

I am always on the lookout for inexpensive alternatives for darkroom equipment. What I have found is that with a liitle ingenuity one can manufacture or have made many essentials for much less than you can buy retail.

I have constructed my own print washers, light box, adjustable enlarging table, neg carriers for D2, processing trays for multiple 4x5 negs, drying enclosure and print drying racks. I had a custom sink built for much less than the cost of a new one, and am now having a friend build a aluminum light box to be incorporated into an 8x10 enlarger that I am slowly putting together.

I use a black t-shirt sown inside of a light white windbreaker for a darkcloth/rain cover/ semi-reflector. I use a less expensive jewlers loupe for composing and made a base for an old 50mm lens from a dead 35mm camera for a loupe on my light box.

My photography budget is limited. I would love to be able to purchase a new 90mm Super Angulon XL but the 70s version does fine for me. My cameras and most lenses have been purchased used to allow for the purchase of materials. The only new lenses are my enlarging lenses and a 150mm G-Claron.

One of the great beuaties of LF is the fact that you can use a 20 yr old camera, 40yr old lens and a 30yr old enlarger and produce stunning images. Even though many of my freinds consider me cheap, I just consider myself a "retro" photographer.

One specific suggestion, I use Ilford Rapid fix purchased in the 1 litre bottles. After its empty, I rinse, bleach, then use a prolonged rinse on the bottle. They make perfect storage for chemistry. I have stored both film and paper developers of various types for up to 3 months with never a problem.

-- James Chinn (JChinn2@Dellepro.com), March 07, 2002.

Michael question is interesting, and I'm always on the look out for cheap non-photographic items which prove to be perfect for what I need. My favorites: (1) From the office supply store (Office Max) a computer backpack which perfectly holds a Tachihara, film, three compact lenses and has comfortable waterproof construction. Price: $19 (2) From same store, insulated Nylon bags, really well made, with velcro and D-ring straps, intended to keeping a lunch cool but the best thing I've seen for holding loaded 5X7 film holders. Price $4.95, with choice of colors (3) From the restaurant supply store, sturdy indestructible trays, any size you want, cheap. Intended for holding food like washed lettace, etc.

-- Kevin Crisp (KRCrisp@aol.com), March 07, 2002.

Hey, I love that restaurant supply store idea! I want to move up to 16X20 prints and have been looking for appropriately sized kitty litter trays for the longest time. I guess they don't make them to seat 6 cats.

-- Michael Veit (pocoveit@yahoo.com), March 07, 2002.

Tool boxes...

Hardware store tool boxes, with a lift-out tote tray....Best way to carry your large format goodies. Make some corrugated dividers for each lens, the light meter, a compartment to stuff the dark cloth into, a spot for some holders. The tote tray is great for filters, hoods, cable releases, loups, viewing cards, repair kit, note book, & candy bars.

I haul around 5 lenses for an 8 x 20 camera, and I can asure you that the traditional "designer" camera bag can't even come close to the utility of a plain 'ol hardware store tool box at a fraction of the cost.

For cut film holders, my wife sews up some rectangular "pouches" out of Cordura pack cloth, and attaches a shoulder strap. A great way to deal with monster sized holders in rotten weather.

I try to make sure I can set my stuff down in the mud or out in a field of fresh cow patties without worry. (Ain't large format FUN??? It sure weeds out the armchair snapshooters )

-- Reinhold Schable (rschable@quik.com), March 07, 2002.

I second the notion of using insulated lunch bags to carry film holders. I got one at Office Depot that holds 18 4x5 holders like it was made for them (although I seldom carry that many).

I also keep a $30 ShopVac under the table in the darkroom. It's dedicated to vacuuming film holders (and the inside of the camera) prior to reload. Not exactly an out of context solution, but having an inexpensive dedicated device sure makes it easy to perform this necessary function. I know when I had to carry the ElectroSux up the steps, I used to forget to clean the holders all the time.

I was also recently measuring gym bags to carry the B&J 8x10. I think a cheap laptop bag would carry a small number of 8x10 film holders just fine.

I love these solutions!

-- Kevin Bourque (skygzr@aol.com), March 07, 2002.

By the way, I was also checking out the aluminum surveyor's tripods in the tool section of Home Depot. They don't collapse as far as a photographer's tripod, but they're a lot of beef for the buck. Might be just the ticket for the afore mentioned B&J 8x10. Anyone tried this?

-- Kevin Bourque (skygzr@aol.com), March 07, 2002.

I'm still trying to get the jelly out of my copal shutter...

-- Douglas Gould (assistdelrey@earthlink.net), March 07, 2002.

Kitty litter boxes for 16x20 prints? Home Depot sells a large, black "tray" for mixing single bags of cement. Having multiple cats in our house, we use it for a litter box. You might just find that it fits the bill for your needs. It costs about $6.


-- Alan Agardi (alanagardi02@sprintmail.com), March 08, 2002.

One of my tripods is a second-hand, fibre-glass, surveyors tripod. It is a little heavy, and completely unuseable on a hard slippery surface (floor tiles, lino, etc), but it is rock solid when used outside.

My film holders (6) are carried in a plastic lunch box bought at kmart, my tachihara and three lenses in another kmart plastic food container (tupperware look-alike), and my backpack is a AU$60 (~USD$30) job from a local discount sport store.

Sometimes it is good to live in a town with no pro camera store!

-- Graeme Hird (goldeneyephoto@hotmail.com), March 09, 2002.

I keep my stock solutions-developers only-in brown glass gallon jugs with heavy duty black plastic caps , free, from a local pharmacy there is still one variety of Robitussen syrup that comes in them. Sometimes I come across old film holders that are missing locks--- those little squared off pieces of metal that you twist to keep the darkslide in situ. For pennies you can get threaded square bent hooks the same diameter from the hardware store, cut to length(a wee bit longer on the shank end so you'll probaby need to make a new bend) and screw it in the old hole. This works on Eastman-Kodak- Graphlex, Agfa-Anso, and Lisco Regals 4-6 cents apiece! On trips, my gear rides in an Igloo cooler(no ice)It provides a good job insulating my loaded holders during the hot summers and, I hope, keeps thieves from being tempted. Cost? Lots less than the camera store! Since my photography requires a lot of car camping, I've accumulated a supply of meat boxes, free from the grocery store. These are heavy waxed cardboard boxes with tight fitting lids and heavy handles originally used for poultry and shellfish and the like. I give them a good hosing inside and out(they are waterproof)before use. All my camping gear is organized and stored in them, ready for that last minute call out. In the field they'll survive being left out in a rain or snowstorm and if need be, you can always start a campfire with one. Hit up your local Lions Club or Knights of Columbus at their next lobster or crab feed and you'll be set for years to come.

-- John Kasaian (www.kasai9@aol.com), March 09, 2002.

If any of you bargain-hunters will be in Las Vegas March 21-24, the Society for Photographic Education is having its annual conference at the Tropicana. One of the talks (Friday 8:45 AM) is entitled, "How to Get the 'Photography' Supplies You Need from The Government for Free," by Jim West.

See you there!

-- Sandy Sorlien (sand44@mindspring.com), March 09, 2002.

Bought a rolling, carry-on flight bag for $19 at the local closeout store and a military-spec foam sleeping pad from the surplus store, to use as the source of padding and homemade dividers. Works well and costs little.

-- Steve Singleton (singleton1@bigfoot.com), March 09, 2002.

I discovered that I can buy an 8" sautee pan from WalMart for $3.88 that I can fashion into a Durst Vapla lens board simply by unscrewing the handle and drilling the right size hole in the center. Fits PERFECTLY.

The alternative is to wait on Ebay for lensboards to show up or buy new ones at $$$ prices.

-- Roger Urban (roger_urban@yahoo.com), March 10, 2002.

Kind regards! The Film changing bag that has so many times come close to being dumped doubles as the best dark cloth I've used(4 4x5). On windy days the arm are perfect for holding with my left hand at the bottom while louping with my right. Also, my clients love the look when I come up for air with the sleeves hanging from my ears.... I also discovered the bus trays from KS, Great finds there and the $ store. But always!!!!!!The glass has to be perfect......

-- john forrest grunke (johngrunke@msn.com), March 15, 2002.

Crescent board and black paint. There is nothing you can't make with Crescent board and black paint, up to and including working models of walking draglines and 24 x 6 pinhole cameras.

-- Richard W. Stein (stein@bigpond.com.au), March 15, 2002.

Happily using crescent board as negative holders in the enlarger for 6+ years. I did the first one as a temporary stop gap until something more appropriate could be bought, and never switched. They are also fabulous for scanning negs. Holds them up off the scanner glass. Made a great 4X5 ground glass "viewer" from crescent board and 1 group from an Oscilloscope camera lens. And of course my personal favorite of which I intend never to be in short supply, spent wine bottles for chem storage. .75 and 1.5 liter. I re-crunch all my formulas to fit in them. hiccup!

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), March 16, 2002.

Sorry to be so ignorant, but what is crescent board?

-- Kevin Crisp (KRCrisp@aol.com), March 17, 2002.

Negative holders from Crescent board. What an excellent idea. I've been trying to figure out how to make or obtain a 6x12 negative holder for my discontinued enlarger. I will give this a try.

I've custom made a lot for my darkroom, including my film drying cabinet, the sink-stand (w/drying racks, storage), etc. I have two that I will comment on.

On moving out of our last home, it was a "wrenching" experience to tear out all of my darkroom plumbing. This time 'round, I purchased about a 4'x6' sheet of half-inch plywood and built all my plumbing, filters, temperature control, etc., on this board. I also included a lot of my sink oriented electrical stuff, timers, thermometers, switches for above and for the safe-light, etc. I sweated the copper pipes onto the back of the board so that only the fixtures can be seen from the front. It's all organized in a geometrically pleasing way. This board is hung onto two 2"x2"'s that have been fastened to the wall. The plumbing is connected using two high quality hoses that screw onto the plumbing in the wall. It took me about six months to complete, what with my regular job. But, it was worth it. If and when I leave my current home, all this will easily transport to a new location.

I'm also pleased with the stand that I made for my Omega enlarger. I ran two 2"x6"'s up on either side that are connected at the top by a 2"x6" cross-board. I stabilized the enlarger by connecting it to this cross-board so that my entire enlarger is free standing on a concrete floor. No vibration.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), March 17, 2002.

Hi Kevin, Crescent board is the stuff that's laying around from all those pictures you Matted with it. Black is best. Jim

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), March 17, 2002.

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