The Darkroom

The design of a darkroom depends on the room: the space available, the position of water taps, electrical outlets, doors and windows. Ideally a darkroom should consist of a dry and a wet area, well separated. The dry side is occupied by the enlarger, guillotine, paper safe etc. The trays for paper development are placed the wet side and film is also developed there. Never put anything that is wet things on the dry side.
Ventilation is important, especially if long periods are spent in the darkroom. If there is no extraction fan, take a break from time to time and ventilate the room.


The Enlarger
An enlarger consists of:
a. The baseboard
b. The column
c. The enlarger head
The enlarger head can be raised and lowered to increase or decrease the size of the image on the baseboard. It also houses the light source and a removable negative carrier. An enlarging lens is connected to the head by means of adjustable bellows. The lens openings are marked similarly to the f-stops on a camera lens.
We distinguish between condenser and diffusion enlargers.

a. Condenser Enlargers
A large converging lens (the condenser) is used to direct the light from a bulb through the negative to the point of focus of the enlarging lens. Some condenser systems need adjusting for enlarging lenses of varying focal lengths. The image of the negative projected on the baseboard will be more contrasty than that projected by a diffusion enlarger and dust and scratches show up more clearly.

b. Diffusion Enlargers
In diffusion enlargers a translucent grainless diffuser is placed between the lamp and the negative. This will give diffuse, even illumination to the negative. Unfortunately, since much light is scattered, a powerful bulb is necessary and this may produce heat, making ventilation for the lamp housing necessary.

2. The Safelight
Photographic papers are not sensitive to all colours. This makes it possible to work in a room with subdued light of a specific colour, the safelight. Safelight recommendations vary from paper to paper. Read the manufacturers instructions and if in doubt, do a safelight test. The test is described in detail in Ansel Adams' book "The Print" on pages 31-33.
Safelights come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges, from bulbs similar to normal household bulbs to expensive sodium vapour lamps.
3. Miscellaneous
Although the enlarger can be switched on and off by hand and the printing time counted, 1001, 1002, 1003 ... , an enlarger timer makes for accurate printing times and avoids many possible mistakes. An enlarging easel comes in handy to hold printing material flat and to position the paper correctly. A 'focus finder' makes focusing of the negative on the baseboard easy. Something to cut paper with like a pair of scissors is necessary, but a guillotine is better.


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