Watching a Picture come to Life

There are two special moments in darkroom work: the first is when you unroll the wet film from the black developing tank and see the negatives, and the second is when your first full size print comes to life in the developing tray and you see the image in the red light.

Basil-3446 It was a hot and humid day in Durban and I loaded the film into the reels and developing tank in a small windowless and airless room under the steps at home. Then I set about the chemistry of mixing the DF11 Ilford film developer, a homemade stop with vinegar and the Ilford fixer. The temperature of the developer is critical and fortunately Ivor Ginsberg had sent me a thermometer that fitted in the irrigation spout of the developing tank.

 

Classic equipment in original boxes with manuals

Classic equipment in original boxes with manuals

Using the Durst “Made in Germany” mechanical timer and Mike as a time keeper, I poured the developer into the tank like a celebratory glass of champagne and agitated the mix every minute until I poured that out and poured in the stop to cease the developing process. Then a few minutes in the fix, and after the first wash, I opened the tank lid and peeped at the negatives. My heart sank initially as I had exposed Mike’s film by opening the camera back as we had forgotten how to rewind the film in his “automatic” Minolta 500i. The OM1 was much easier with a manual rewind lever. But the negatives looked alight.

I used dishwasher rinse as a wetting agent, then dried the film with a chamois, as I only had an old squeegee that would scratch the film because the rubber had perished. Ivor had sent original film hanging clips so we left them to dry in the shower and had lunch.

After lunch I set up the spare room as darkroom.  I placed the Meopta enlarger and timer and the Patterson enlarging “computer” ( just a simple exposure meter) on a table. After a few test prints, as I had no idea of what time to use, we found some images appearing. When I changed the enlarger bulb to a full 150 Watt light things really started happening. Ivor had sent some old (from the fifties or sixties) Agfa Bronica paper. This was not a resin paper and dried badly without a proper drier or press. Then we started using the Ilford Mutilgrade resin paper and my first picture was born.

The equipment was working well enough to plan a darkroom party at Costa Calla.

Basil--5

Reliving the Photographic Tradition

My classic Olympus OM-1

My classic Olympus OM-1

A few weeks ago  a plan came together that had been hatched four years ago.

 I made a major challenge to myself, but hedged my bets. The challenge  was to embrace modern digital DLSR technology, so I bought camera equipment that performs far better than I make pictures.

But I hedged my bets by purchasing some second hand Zuiko lenses for my Olympus OM1. They cost a fraction of what my new lenses did, and weighed only a fraction as well.  I had to because about 15 years ago we had a robbery at home where I lost most of that kit, and all I was left with was an OM1 body and motor winder.

 I hedged my bets because if the digital experiment failed, then I would go back to film.

 Digital photography has not failed me. I have learnt so much and have so much more to learn, and have made pictures that make me smile.

The equipment from Ivor Ginsberg arrived in three boxes

The equipment from Ivor Ginsberg arrived in three boxes

 However, roots are important. In life and in photography.  I trawled the Internet for darkroom equipment: like everyone else I asked, I had given my darkroom equipment away. By a stroke of luck I found Ivor Ginsberg’s contact details on one of the smalls of a site and left a message on his mobile. He called back a few days later and three weeks later I collected 44 kilograms of darkroom equipment from the freight office at King Shaka Zulu airport. I had a large Meopta enlarger, 3 lenses, timers, exposure meters, safe lights, trays, developing tanks, measuring cylinders and some old Agfa Bromide Paper.

For modern film and paper I had been told about Photomax in Durban, so on the way to collect Ivor’s delivery I stopped by and bought Ilford film, paper, developers and fixer. Later I bought a contact print device there as well.

 The next day I unpacked Ivor’s boxes. An original Durst Timer, in the box with instructions. Made in

Classic equipment in original boxes with manuals

Classic equipment in original boxes with manuals

Germany. A Paterson Exposure “Computer” in the box, with the instruction manual. Made in England. The Meopta enlarger in its original cardboard box. Made in Czechoslovakia. Like the timer.

 I stored the film, paper and chemicals in the fridge. I had to look up equivalents for Stop (used vinegar to make up a solution of 1.5% ascetic acid) and dishwasher rinse aid as a wetting agent.

 I cleaned my lenses and camera. Ines tolerated the spare room beginning to look (and smell) like a darkroom. 

It was time to mix the chemicals, black out the darkroom and take some film pictures!

 

 

 

 

A digital picture that makes me smile: Humpback diving in front of a glacier wall

A digital picture that makes me smile: Humpback diving in front of a glacier wall