Hey everybody! I hope your photography adventures are going great. I’ve been having some fun in the darkroom lately and figured I would share.

St. Patrick’s day this year was a bit mellow as I was at home with my wife who was recovering after surgery. I decided to get into the mood by pouring a pint or two of the black stuff and hitting the darkroom to print a few of my favorite photos from my honeymoon trip to Ireland last year. I brought in a Bluetooth speaker to play some Frankie Gavin & Alec Finn fiddle music and realized darkroom printing to music is every bit as fun and relaxing as I’ve heard.

So far I’ve only printed a few times, and I’m burning through some expired kodak paper I got with my enlarger. My previous results have been heavy on the fun, but produced some prints low on contrast and not as sharp as I’d like. I was blaming both the paper and my developer of choice - the homebrew of coffee and vitamin C known as caffenol. I ended up getting some real Ilford developer, but as my closet isn’t really vented well yet I decided to give the Caffenol one last try. I got a different coffee brand and baked all my washing soda (one of the ingredients) for several hours to try and draw off any water. This must have had an effect, because things were different this time!

Developing times went down to about a minute rather than 7+ like they were before, and the contrast got much better. The heavy sepia staining (probably from paper sitting in coffee for so long) got significantly lessened. Coupled with that I finally figured out how to properly use my Bausch and Lomb parallax grain focusing loupe. What a difference! I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I feel like my prints made a huge jump in quality almost overnight. I also started using the film holder I filed down to make sloppy borders, and I’m loving the result.

I love sloppy borders and I cannot lie

Advertisement

The next day I had a friend stop by and ask if I could take a couple headshot portraits for his job. Wanting to use my new lights and backdrop I said sure, as long as he’d agree to sit for a 4x5 portrait from my Graflex as well. I’ve been wanting to try this camera in the more controlled studio setting it was built for! Every previous time I’ve used it I’ve messed some step of the process up pretty good.

He agreed, and while I somewhat rushed the developing job (12 minutes in Caffenol C-M seemed about perfect) and scratched and fingerprinted the negative I’m still pretty excited about how it came out. I need to use this camera more. Scanning the negative proved to be a pain though as I can only scan it in 2 sections which then have to be stitched together through software, but it will work until I can upgrade from my $4 salvation army CannoScan 8800f.

Advertisement

Overall I’m pretty happy with this weekend’s progress, but I can’t rest yet. I’ve got my first ever show next month at Saratoga Coffee Traders in Saratoga, NY (home of Death Wish coffee) where I’ll be hanging something like 40 8x10s and 11x14s. It’s just a coffee house showing, but considering I develop everything in coffee I think it’s a cool tie in and I’m very excited to see my work finished and on a wall for the first time.

Of course for now that meant ordering some 35 frames (12 of which arrived broken) and a stack of mat board I need to feed my Logan cutter in the next 10 days. I had planned to do all hybrid prints (film I developed then scanned and printed digitally) but I’m liking the darkroom printing so much I might include a small run of those too. Time to get busy - Have a good week everyone!