Dark Room Blues – Not So Black and White

Since living on my own… no longer than that… Let’s just say, since working in the dark room at Mom’s Junior High school, Sherwood Park Education Centre, I’ve always wanted to have one of my own. Since living on my own, I knew I would be able to implement it somehow into my apartment, it was just a matter of how.

I’ve heard over the years a lot of stories about how people set up their dark room in the bathroom, no matter how small the space. Somehow they did, explaining their set up, but not caring entirely that trays were set in the bathtub, or the shower, with chemicals splashing around. The enlarger on the toilet seat. Black fabric stuffed around the door to keep light from seeping through. If you have the ambition, then anything is possible.

When I worked in the darkroom at Sherwood, I guess you could say I was on a roll. Excuse the pun. That is, until, it was turned into storage. I remember being in there one day developing a roll of film Mom brought back from Thailand. Not even a knock! I heard the rattle of the doorknob and I said loudly, “Someone’s in here!” Or “I’m developing!” It was too late! The door opened and the film I was putting on the reel was fucked! It was the Principal at the time, getting students to help him move printers into the room. “Oh! You can finish up.” “It’s too late.” I said. “The film is ruined.” So what did I do? Offer to cart the school printers into the darkroom. Needless to say I was in a pet all day and Mom was upset as well. Once it was converted, there was no more dark room. I think by that time, I had gone to school in Truro anyways.

It was my friend, Magda, who had given me the brilliant idea of sectioning off my hall way where the bathroom and bedroom is. A few days after my visit on a ridiculously hot day, I hauled out some black muslin back drop. Double tripled it, tacked it to wall to ensure no light would come through. On a fold out table I laid my trays, timer and an extra tray of water to rinse the prints in when I was done. I have photoflo, but haven’t used it yet. My enlarger, I placed on a chair in front of my bedroom door, which was closed, and lastly turned on the bathroom fan.

All right! Ready to go. Just look online to freshening up on instructions and times. Darkroom books are practically non-existent now. But wait! What’s this? Again and again I adjust my F stop, the time, etc. No matter what I do, my test strips are coming out muddy. What the hell? Turns out that the paper I had in the box a friend had given me, was way too old. Yes it was opened before, but I didn’t think that would make much of a difference. At some point though, it must have been solarized, thus ruining the paper completely. So it’s off to Henry’s or Vistek to buy some paper, 4×6 or 5×7 to start with first. I can muck around with dodging and burning and other tactics before I go any bigger.

My goal is to have a print ready for the up and coming Beach Photo Club Print contest happening March 5th, 2015. I have already tones of negatives I need to go through. I should just systematically do them all and see what potential images actually have. My negatives range from 35 mm to 120 from my 35mm Canon, Bronica, King Penguin and Holga. Now that we are learning how to use 4×5’s in the new class I’m taking, I can now add that to my list. However, I am going to work with Polaroid back first before using film. Just so I can get use to using the 4×5 and all its intricacies.

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