Press "Enter" to skip to content

Darkshop Posts

Light cork


DIY convertible darkroom window block

A cheap way to black-out windows in a multipurpose room is to make a panel out of rigid insulation and masonite- a cork essentially- which fits by friction into the window jamb and can be easily removed.  My old version is about 10 years old now and getting pretty beat up. It’s also too heavy and thick due to the masonite and 2″ foam board construction.  I thought about stepping up to a Indow Window panel, but at roughly $30 a square foot means it would cost close to $350 for my single 26 46 darkroom window. I decided instead to just make a new lighter one using 3/16″ plywood underlayment and thinner 1″ RMax foil-faced rigid insulation (polyisocyanurate) sheathing. Both materials are very lightweight- this one is 14.5 square ft overall and only weights 5 pounds. Continue » Light cork

Kelty P1, updated

It’s been a rough year so far, but at least the frequent colds and injuries have given me more time to print and to catch up on projects while I’m recovering. I’ve make a few improvements to my 5×7 pack since the last version here.

The bag itself is great and fun to modify. Outside it’s essentially the same. Different tripod but it still attaches to the side with a compression strap at top and a leather loop hooked to a carabiner at the bottom.  It has a decent suspension and very roomy at almost 60 liters and it’s very durable. And the main compartment is full access due to full-length zipper, the main reason I bought it over three years ago. Continue » Kelty P1, updated




Another simple but important accessory. This is a very lightweight, compact, comfortable, and dark view camera focusing cloth.  Quite simple to make with a basic sewing machine in about an hour.

Continue » Darkcloth

5×7 film scanning hacks


Mystery shadows with Epson V700, parallel lines on right vertical edge of frame
(enlarged and contrast boosted for clarity)

I went though some embarrassing fits of misdirection trying to track down the cause of these odd parallel shadow lines of less density around the negative’s rebate edge. First I thought that it was an artifact of slosher tray development- due mostly to the tendency of film to curl along its length, thus leaving a edge of the film that would stick out of the developer and receive less development due to the meniscus effect. But the artifact was still there when I began to develop film in a Jobo drum, which spins the film in individual tubes through the solution constantly during processing. At that point I was convinced it was caused by using excessive movement of the front standard of my camera when composing a photograph, which then would cause an off-axis shadow from the back aperture to be cast along the corresponding edge of the film. So I beveled the edge of the back aperture to make this impossible. When that didn’t work I stained all the margins of my film holders flat black to make sure they weren’t causing some odd light scatter. When that didn’t work I finally looked at my scan procedure itself. Continue » 5×7 film scanning hacks

Carbon Transfer Printing

Reading over the tissue making part, I may have given the impression that time is the overarching expense of this process. Nothing I say in part 2 will dispel that notion. Carbon tissue is a very inexpensive process as far as material costs go, but the overall investment of time can feel a bit conspicuous.
Continue » Carbon Transfer Printing

Carbon Transfer Tissues

 This might get long…

I print carbon only a few weekends a year, so I thought it would be worthwhile to make a visual log of the process before I forget it all. I  have a written journal for carbon stretching back to the beginning, filled with meticulous notes of every step and every change along the way.  Not surprisingly, the journal is increasingly tedious to wade through when I decide to make a few prints. So this is an attempt to digest what is working well for me at the moment into a relatively brief overview. Continue » Carbon Transfer Tissues


Jobo motor base, in progress

October 11

I’ve been developing film in trays in the dark almost 20 years, which sounds more like a prison sentence than a term of experience. To be able to work in normal room lighting, I’ve made a few daylight hand-inversion tanks, and had good results with 4×5- but for 5×7 the tank size and solution amounts make this approach impractical.

I’ve always wanted to try a Jobo ‘Expert’ Drum, which uses a minimum of solution, and works by rotation instead of inversion. I finally found a deal on one (they are ~$500 new), and was excited about putting it to use. I was struck, using this thing for the first time manually, how unbelievably tedious it is to spin this drum for 10-15 minutes, and how awkward to get the chemicals in cleanly, and how much of a hassle to clean and dry between batches of negatives.   Out of desperation, I made all these cheap and ridiculous ancillary items – funnel and stand, converted skateboard roller base,  hair-dryer to dry the tank between uses, and a ridiculous crank-wheel- all just to be able to give this thing a proper evaluation.  Since I was already in over $300 over the drum, I didn’t want to waste a bunch more money if I was just going to go back to tray shuffling. (Trays cost under $15 and need no accessories.)
Continue » Jobot

The paper year


Cloister, Catedral de Sta Maria
Carbon transfer on Lanaquarelle

I haven’t done a lot of alt printing lately, but with all the recent remodeling I had to find new space for my stash, and so I took a little inventory.  Also, for some reason this fall my interests have returned to the darkroom with an eagerness that’s startling. Here’s to extending the shortening days with long hours of music and printing. Maybe this is just from some general registry for the tactile, all knotted up with nostalgia for the new school year.  I always thought October was a better start for the new year than January- the fiscal calendar has it right.  Time to find a comfortable place indoors and take stock.  I’ve always loved any craft supplies but paper is special, almost fetishistic. Doing the things that concern themselves with paper as possibly just an excuse to handle the paper itself. Drawing, printing, painting. I quit writing as much when I switched from a typewriter to keyboard. Continue » The paper year