Making a Print in the DUPA Darkroom
If you are a current member of the Dublin University Photographic Association you have access to two fully equipped photographic darkrooms. It is worthwhile availing of the facilities and giving traditional darkroom printing a try. This post should shepherd you from the process of booking the darkroom to drying your final print.
1. Booking the Darkroom
There is a sign up sheet in the front arch pinned to the DUPA notice board. Pick your slots and put your name down.
2. Collect the key at your allotted time
The keys for both darkrooms are kept in the security office – on presentation of your DUPA card and a photo ID you can get the keys. Your DUPA card will be kept until you return the keys.
3. Finding the Atrium Darkroom
This is possibly the most difficult aspect of printing in the DUPA darkroom. The atrium darkroom is hidden next to the committee room in the lower reaches of the atrium next to the dining hall. The easiest way to find it is to aim for the cash machine next to the dining hall go up the steps and keep going until you find a door. Enter the atrium and go down the stairs. Go through the double doors and the committee room is on the left hand side as you walk towards the toilets. The darkroom is next to the committee room. If you found it well done!
When you enter the darkroom you will find black concertina bottles filled with all the pre-mixed chemistry you will need for basic printing. These are made fresh every Monday and so far every-time I have used the room they have been in good condition and ready to use. There are lots of bottles of chemicals, stop, fix and developer if you do need to mix these fresh for yourself. The instructions are on the bottles.
Pour your chemicals into the trays provided, they are labelled Dev, Stop and Fix the fourth tray is for water, once you have developed, stopped and fixed your print you can rest your print in the water before your final rinse.
6. The Enlarger
Insert your negative into the negative carrier. You should place it with the shiny side facing up. Turn on the focus light using the timer switch.
You can adjust the size of the picture you want to print using the easel to crop the frame and using the handle on the right you can make the image larger or smaller. When you have the picture you want you can use the focus knob to sharpen the image. I find if I place a sheet of paper on the easel it makes it very easy to see the picture. There is an aperture adjustment on the lens – in the DUPA darkroom i have been setting this to f4 for most of the prints and it is giving short exposure times and sharp images, as you practice more you will see a benefit in adjusting this to allow for longer exposure times.
There is a colour head on the enlarger that can be used to take advantage of split grade printing and other creative opportunities but that is best explored once you have the basics.
7. The Timer
You can use the timer to turn on the focus light to arrange you composition and find your focus. The + and – buttons are used to set the exposure time and when you have you sheet of paper ready to go you hit the big button to start the timer and turn on the light.
8. Making a test print
In order to find the correct exposure time for your shot it can be helpful to make a test print using different exposure times. This will let you see what effect using more or less light can have on your final image. Place your paper under the enlarger and make a base exposure for the entire sheet – my base exposure above was 10 seconds. You then cover the page with cardboard and set the timer for 1 second. Move the card along the page in 2cm gabs to give a selection of exposures. In my example above after the initial base exposure I then exposed at an additional 1 second for each of the gaps to give an idea of the correct exposure. Looking at my test print I determined the correct exposure to be around 15 seconds.
9. Develop, Stop and Fix
Take your print from the enlarger and glide it into the tray of developer. You should start to see an image after about 15 seconds and after about 30 seconds – depending on how fresh the chemistry is your print should be fully developed. Using the tongs lift your print and put it into the stop bath for about 20 seconds. Then you can move it into the next tray – this is the fixer and once you have left the print in here about 60 seconds you should be able to turn on the lights and have a look at your print.
10. Making your Final Print
It is very similar to making the test print but instead you expose the entire page from the time you have determined using your test print. Then develop, stop and fix as above. For my final prints I always fix for a full 5 minutes and then move them to a water bath where I will rinse a bunch of them at the same time. You need to rinse them for long enough to wash away any residual chemistry. The rinse times for fiber papers are much longer than the resin coasted paper.
11. Drying your Prints
You can either hang your prints to dry on the line above the sink or if you are in a hurry you can use the print dryer on the counter by the door. This can only be used for resin coated paper. You turn it on, set the temperature and when it has warned up you can insert your prints into the rollers and they will appear on the other side already dry.
12. Clean Up
It is always best to leave the room how you would like to find it, pour the chemistry back into the correct bottles, wash out all the trays and tongs, clean up any spillages. Turn off the lights and fans, lock the door and go home.
This has been a rough guide to making a print in the DUPA darkroom and it gives a very basic overview but my hope is that there is enough information here to let you make you own prints without over-complicating it. Feel free to ask me questions here or post them on the DUPA Facebook page and I will try to answer what I can.