Storytime 49

The author dicking around in the dark
From a whopping 13 years ago, back when the continents were all different (well, they were,) comes to you this image from my very own darkroom, the last one that I had active. Over the years, I’ve had four darkrooms, actually, starting with my first (well, duh) in a spare closet back in NY, the only one without running water, but then the next three were all set up in bathrooms in apartments, two semi-permanently in half-baths – makes it easier than setting up and taking down everything. Here in the new house, there really isn’t the space for a semi-permanent one, but at some point I may tackle a temporary one; I’ve still done negative developing in a bathroom here, but no printing, which is what this image shows. Printing requires the enlarger and at least three trays to develop the print within, and running water sure helps. The running water is necessary for the negative bit too, but by that time the image is fixed and no longer light-sensitive so the developing tank can be carried to a sink anyplace.

I forget what I was illustrating with this, but the challenge was to see if I could get a usable image in the narrow confines of the half-bath, and the narrow settings of the camera, which was my Canon Pro 90 IS: fixed zoom lens, maximum shutter speed of 8 seconds. To give you an idea of the room size, the toilet is directly alongside my left leg, and one wall of the bathroom is just a wee bit behind my back. The sink and just-barely-adequate tray counter space are out of sight below the frame, while the camera itself sits on a shelf against the remaining wall. Overall, it came out fairly well, I think, and I even held reasonably still for the eight seconds.

The print I’m working on is another matter. First experiments showed that it was getting ridiculously overexposed in the eight seconds (in the digital image – I wasn’t actually exposing print paper here, just staging it,) and I wanted a discernible image in the easel, so I had to cut down the time that the enlarger was actually on and throwing the image down; for most of the exposure duration the enlarger is simply off, and that’s what gives the print image down there its sepia tone, because the red darkroom light is illuminating the background paper for a few seconds. I could easily correct it for accuracy, but then where would my story be?

This particular darkroom, however, was the best organized and laid out, despite the small size, and three different people had used it while it was set up: Jim from the Kansas branch had a couple of sessions, and The Girlfriend’s Sprog was using it while taking classes at school. I’m not going to make any comments regarding real B&W work, but darkrooms are a lot of fun and a whole different aspect of creating images, and for anyone that has the chance and is wondering if it’s worth the effort, I can answer that one easily: it is. Go do it.

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