Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Types of Enlarger Negative carriers

There are two main types of negative carrier, with and without glass. There are arguments for and against each type. Lets be honest there are three types, the adjustable.

Glassless carriers avoid the Newton rings effect (a post for a later date) but also have the disadvantage of allowing the negative to buckle when they warm up, this is more pronounced with 6x6 negatives. To minimize this you should be very careful when focusing and use a smaller aperture to increase the sharpness across the negative.

Another disadvantage of a glass carrier is dust; to be honest it is not the big deal that everyone makes it out to be. It is just a case of being methodical in your approach. The main advantage of glass carriers is that they keep the negative flat. Another plus is that you can experiment with unusual effects by using various materials such as flower petals, salt crystals and soap suds etc in the carrier.

There are adjustable carriers also, which are very handy as they allow you to mask out badly illuminated edges without having to increase the magnification, or you can adjust them to include the rebate of the negative.

Enlarging Lenses

Enlarging lens mounted in lens saver.
When choosing your enlarging lens you should choose one that reflects the quality of the lenses you use on your camera. If you do not, that quality will not transfer to the final print. Of course there are other factors in play when making these decisions namely your own financial position; it maybe better to wait a little longer and purchase what you need instead of what fits your pocket at the time.

I cannot repeat this often enough that high quality camera lenses need high quality enlarging lenses, likewise reasonable quality camera lenses need reasonable quality enlarging lens. In other words like for like.

Enlarging bulbs

lamps in enlarges are usually opal this gives a diffused light which plays an essential part in providing even light over the whole negative this keeps the contrast to a reasonable level and has the further effect of reducing the intensity of any marks or dust you might have on the negative.

Lamp wattage is from 75 to 150 w. Their working life is about 100 hours, so it is a good idea to have a spare bulb. For those who have to move the enlarger after use because it is a temporary darkroom should allow the lamp to cool before moving, this may increase the life of the filament. It is far easier to damage/ break when warm or hot.


An enlarger consists of:

Enlarger for 35mmm negs
only. with out multigrade
head. Condenser type.

A baseboard on which enlargements are made; a column, which serves as a slide for the support arm, that holds the enlarging head, which consists of the lamp housing that contains the bulb; a single or double condenser; negative carrier, a place to fix the lens; a means of focusing and lastly a red filter that swings in front of the lens.

The lamp contained in the light housing is of the opal type and has a power output of 75, 100 or 150 watts. The pearlescents of the bulb with the help of a condenser distributes the light evenly across the negative. The lens focuses and projects the negative image on to the baseboard or rather an easel with paper on it. The higher the enlarging head is from the baseboard the closer the lens is to the negative the greater the magnification. The closer the head is to the baseboard the greater the distance the negative is from the lens the smaller the magnification of the picture. The typical focal length of lens for 35mm negative is 50mm and for a medium format (6x6) is about 75mm.
A multi format Enlarger with multi grade head.
Diffuser type.

The negative is clamped in the carrier which incorporates a mask that is the same size or format as the film and then placed in the light box. It is not a good idea to cut the negatives into single frames, it is better to leave them in strips to make it easier to line the frame up with the mask in the carrier, this also means you are less likely to scratched them.

Focusing is usually done manually, although there are enlargers available with automatic focus, these are usually more expensive.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Fox Talbot a short history

William Henry Fox Talbot born 1800 died 1877.

Fox Talbot was considered a polymath some of his interests and qualifications included Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Egyptology, Philology, Syrian, Chaldean cuneiform text and photography. Fox Talbot carried out his experiments at the family home which was Lacock Abbey Wiltshire.
Fox Talbots sketch of Lake Como using camera obscura
The idea of photography came to Fox Talbot while he was on a family holiday at lake Como Italy. He was using a camera obscura and lucida to aid his fruitless attempts to sketch the lake ( Pictured right is a sketch drawn by Fox Talbot of lake Como using a camera obscura in October 1833) He put these devices to one side and thought back to a procedure he had used with a camera obscura that put an object on to a piece of paper attached to the back plate; this image did not last long it disappeared like a ghost in to the night. It was at this time that he thought it would be nice to fix the image permanently to the paper.

Fox Talbot started looking in earnest for a way to fix an image to paper in 1834; he would first have to find a paper that could be submerged in a solution of salt and silver nitrate without it disintegrating. The result of combining these two chemicals would make silver nitrate a light-sensitive salt that was not affected by the moisture in the paper. He now had a paper that could be used for photogenic drawing. The first pictures he produced were of leaves and lace. He placed these on a sheet of light-sensitive paper and put a sheet of glass over them, then left them out in the sun.

Fox Talbot used many different types of camera to produce his pictures. There we a couple of cameras or boxes that only measured two or three inches which Fox Talbot left around the grounds of Lacock Abby in different places with light-sensitive paper in for about an hour at a time. They were nick named mouse traps by the family. His early cameras would use telescope or microscope lenses.

This is the picture of the famous Oreil window in the south gallery of Lacock Abby. It is the earliest surviving paper negative dated 1835. when originally taken you could count the two hundred tiny pieces of glass that made up the window with the help of a lens. This is a replica of the camera he used to take the Oriel window shot.

By chance in 1840 Fox Talbot discovered when re-sensitizing some paper that the image had appeared; this became known as the latent image. Before this time he was having trouble with the sensitivity of the papers. Although he had been able to fix the images by using a strong salt solution of potassium iodine of hypo to stop the images fading. This new discovery was a major break through that meant exposures could be achieved in one to three minutes instead of half hour or more. The year after Fox Talbot discovered how to make his photogenic drawing process more sensitive to light by adding gallic acid to the process. He also found that a further treatment of gallic acid and silver nitrate would bring the latent image out. It was time he changed the name of the process to calotype (from the Greek "Kalos" meaning beautiful) the calotype was a negative/positive process introduced in 1841. Strictly speaking calotype should have referred to the Positive part of the process.

The advantages of the calotypes were unlimited prints from one negative, retouching could be done to the negative or print, the paper print was easier to see and could be handled with out damage and had warmer tones.

Some of the draw back of this process were that prints tended to fade; fibers in the paper reduced the quality of the print, making the focus soft but some people found this an advantage. Materials were less sensitive to light needing longer exposure.

For more information:

Friday, 18 November 2011

Preparing the Zero Pinhole Camera for use.

Using this camera is a real step back in time requiring you to put aside all those luxuries that the modern photographer has taken for granted. After all, it is just a box with a pinhole in it, the ultimate manual experience from loading the film and remembering to wind it on, to calculating the shutter speed.

Loading the film:

To start with you need to load a roll of film. That's obvious, most film cameras need film to work. If you are like me it has been a long time since you looked at the backing paper of a roll 120 film. I had forgotten that it is marked for the four different sizes in the 120 family and with the multi format camera it has three red coloured windows in which to view the film numbers. It also has a set of symbols that tell you when the number is about to appear in the window which also marks the middle of the frame. With this set up you cannot blame anyone else for winding it on to far, so it is a good idea to take it slow and gentle in the beginning. Before loading the film you need to set the format your going to use, once the back and top are in place, it is time to advance the film so the light-sensitive material is in front of the pinhole. When winding on you may notice that it becomes quite tight, this is where the celluloid attached to the backing paper is being drawn in front of the light box. Just continue gently on until the first frame number appears behind the little red window. Now the camera is primed for light capture.

Calculating exposure;

The Zero cameras aperture is set at F 235, it is important to remember this as this number is not written on the calculator attached to the back of the camera. The calculators outer ring shows shutter times from 8000 ths of a second too 15 hours, the inner ring shows F numbers from F 1.4 to F 500.

Please note that all the figures that follow are based on a film speed of 100 ISO.

Today, for example, my light meter is showing a light reading of F 5.6 @ 500 ths of a second. Now using the calculator move the dials so F5.6 is opposite 500 ths of a sec., then find F 235 on the outer ring and read off the time opposite which is about 3 second; you will need to make an adjustment for reciprocity effect by a factor of 2 making an exposure time of 6 seconds. I say 'about' because the next F number is 250 with an indicated shutter time of 4 seconds. To start with it is a bit hit and miss, that is why it is a good idea to make notes on shutter times so you can see where to make adjustments once the film has been developed.

You will need to make adjustments for the reciprocity effect as follows:

  • From 1 second and over compensate by multiplying by 2 giving an exposure of 2 seconds.
  • From 5 seconds and over compensate by multiplying by 5 giving an exposure of 25 seconds
  • From 50 seconds and over compensate by multiplying by 12 giving an exposure of 600 seconds/11 mins.

Zero pinhole camera

Pinhole cameras have been with us for a long time in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Aristotle wrote about this naturally occurring in the fourth century. It was not until the 1850 s when the Scottish scientist Sir David Brewster used a pinhole camera to produce the first photograph. It has taken on many forms ever since!

Over recent years the pinhole camera has come to the fore as a desired method of producing a different style of photograph. This popularity has been helped by the zero image company, making some wonderfully crafted boxes for the pinhole photographer. They are not just great looking collectibles but are fully working cameras that take some excellent photographs. They come in the three main formats of 35 millimeters, 120 medium format and 5x4 large format.

This camera has not been an easy acquisition for me, with several false starts I have had to compromise to get a deluxe model but it is in my format of choice if not the camera I really wanted for the project. Having said that I am not disappointed with the multi format camera. On hindsight this could be a good thing, as it allows me to play with the different sizes that make up the 120 family at a later date.

So whats in the box apart from a well crafted wooden camera that some quarters think would make a good jewelry box. Thinking about it, I can see what they mean with the multi format version!

  • A plastic view finder marked out in the different 120 formats.
  • A very nicely presented instruction manual that needs to be read if you are serious about getting the most from your camera.
  • A grey cord? Not sure why this in the box.
  • A certificate telling you who hand crafted your camera.

There are some other bits of kit you need to gather before you stroll down the road with your camera.

  • You will not get far without a spare spool to wind the film on to.
  • A light meter unless you are going to use sun rule 16.
  • A cable release is a good idea if you have the deluxe version as it removes any chance of camera shake.
  • Tripod.
  • A note-book and pencil is a good idea for recording frame numbers and exposure times. That then can be checked against the negatives once they have been developed. Giving you an indication as to whether you are over or under exposing.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Wet side of the darkroom.

On this side of the room you will have laid out your developing dishes in the following order: developer, stop-bath, fix, print washer and/or sink. These may have heaters under them or you can have a slotty laid out in the same way. Obviously this will take up less space.
Typical wet side layout

This is where you keep your chemicals, it is also the place that the solutions are poured out and back into their storage containers. The height of this table needs to be right so you can work comfortably in the standing position. It is a good idea to store these chemicals under the table if there is a leak it will go on the floor and not drip into your working dishes ruining your prints. For safety reasons it is not a good idea to lean over your dishes to retrieve items from shelves above while your working as you may knock the contents of the dishes over yourself.

Remember that these chemicals need to be treated with care and you should follow the safety advice recommended by the manufacturer.

Safety in the darkroom

There are some health and safety issues in the darkroom. The most commonly used chemicals are no more dangerous than household detergents and bleaches, some of the more specialised chemicals can be hazardous. Here are some do's and don'ts to make things safer.
  • Wear gloves ( rubber or Latex), protective cloths and use eye protection.
  • Wash spillage's to skin and eyes quickly with lot of water.
  • Keep a tap hose for this purpose'
  • Clearly label everything.
  • Make sure there is good ventilation.
  • Dispose of solutions safely' seek advice if needed.
  • Mix chemicals slowly and in the right sequence.
  • Filter water and home-made solutions to remove bits especially for film processing.
  • Eat, drink or smoke when mixing chemicals.
  • Inhale dust from powders.
  • Fail to read instructions and warnings first.
  • Use kitchen scales for chemicals.
  • Use metal containers, mixers and trays.
  • Add chemicals together without knowing if the outcome is safe.
  • Add water to strong acids or alkali's ( e.g. caustic soda-Na OH). Always add them to water not the other way round and slowly.
  • keep large glass bottles on high shelves.

Dry side of the darkroom.

Typical layout for dry side of darkroom
This is the area where you will have your enlarger set up. The table will need to be large enough to allow for timer, puffer (like a rocket air) and magnifying glass. There will also need to be space for you to lay out your negatives, printing paper, scissors and or guillotine/rotary trimmer and holding back and burning in tools. It is a good idea if this area also has cupboards and draws for keeping your paper and equipment in.

Darkroom layout

When setting out your darkroom it is best to set your work flow from left to right. By doing so you are less likely to contaminate the dry side with chemicals or water. You should keep the enlarger table separate from the development table. The dry side takes up less space than the wet side so can be put along a shorter wall. The support for the enlarger should be completely stable and set at a comfortable working level when standing. For a standing position the right height is 95cm (37").
A typical lay out
Remember electricity and water don't mix so take particular care when providing power for your equipment. If in doubt consult an electrician. It is not imperative that your darkroom has running water but ventilation is and will need a light proof grate.

This may sound strange but make sure that the illumination is sufficient to allow you to see round the room when printing.

Darkroom Heaven.

Is having a room set up permanently with plenty of space designed the way you want it. The most common conversions are the spear room, loft, garage and garden shed. All need to be planned carefully. It can be a bit tricky laying on power, water and waste disposal but worth the effort. It is also a good idea to insulate in the case of the garage, loft and shed, done correctly you should not get extreme shifts in temperature.

Kitchen darkroom?

This is a good place to set up. There are three draw backs: the first is the agreement of your other half, if you are the other half then there is no problem. Second it is not permanent. Third you will need to find some way of making the whole room light tight. The good points of this set up are you have running water, electrical sockets and extractor already in place. The enlarger (dry area) can be set up on the kitchen table and the paper processing (wet area) can be set up by the sink, with final wash done in the sink. If you use the kitchen you should clean up carefully when the session is finished.

Darkroom in the Bathroom

This is one of the most popular places to set up. Bathrooms usually only have one window to black out but the down sides are, it is still temporary and has a lack of power, requiring you to provide a safe source.

Wet and Dry areas can be set up in different places but the most common way is to put a board over the bath to provide a working surface. If you feel that the bath is too low you can build this up to a reasonable working height. If you step the board you can place the enlarger over the bath as well instead of placing it on the toilet, with the dry area being higher than the wet it will stop chemical splashes getting on to the baseboard of the enlarger contaminating the paper. If you use the bathroom make sure you clean up any spilled chemicals.

Darkroom in a cupboard.

This is the smallest place that you can set up a permanent darkroom. You will need to arrange some sort of ventilation powered or passive as the chemicals give off fumes. The space then needs to be big enough for you and your equipment. The dry area with the enlarger can be set up on the shelf above the wet area for paper processing with a bucket of water to store the processed prints in, until you are finished and the final wash can be done in the kitchen or bathroom.

Monday, 7 November 2011

My first intro to photography

My dad started it all off with a camera that he used to slip into his jacket pocket on days out. From that brief description it sounds like a Leica; it wasnt, it would fill his whole pocket and when he wanted to use it, he would lift it from his pocket, push the range finder housing to the left and a square on the front would pop open. He would then pull the door down as he did this the lens and mechanism would slide out pulling the bellows behind it.

He would raise the camera to his eye, finger on range finder wheel, read the figure off the side of the wheel and transferd that to the lens focus ring; looked at the sky, set the aperture, cock the shutter release and back to his eye.... click! all done in a matter of seconds. To a very young boy this was a wonderous thing to watch and from time to time I was allowed to take the picture, pure magic. The prints perfect.

So what was this wonderous piece of kit? An Agifold 120 format 6x6 negative camera made in Croydon from 1948 by the AGI company. We still have the camera, it's in working order but lets light in around the sides where the back come off to load the film and could do with a very good clean.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Developing tanks.

There are a number of well-known makes to choose from. The most popular and widely used is the Patterson system. Another and maybe not so well known is the German maker Kaiser no lesser a system. So what are the differences? When buying a universal developing tank, if cost is one of your main considerations the Kaiser system wins hands down as being very good value for money. So much so its worth considering if you are thinking of buying a Paterson second-hand.

Both systems have good and bad points to consider. Starting at the top in both cases I have found no matter how well the cap has been put in place it leaks slightly when inverting the whole tank. It can be a messy annoyance when using PMK Pyro as it stains whatever it drips on too. Yes I know that each system comes with an agitator but the Paterson one is difficult to use because it is so thin, unlike Kaisers which has a top to it you can grip and when turned also moves the spiral up and down in the solution as well. Each company uses a different way to fix their lids. Paterson's idea is a twist and click method which I prefer but can be miss aligned if you are not careful. The Kaiser tank has a screw top which I have managed to cross thread each time.

The Kaisers spiral design is the main reason that I have one of their developing tanks. I'm having trouble with kinking the film when loading 120 format onto Paterson spirals and have used lots of different ideas to overcome it. The main difference with the Kaiser reel is that it has two large feed in wings where you load the film which makes loading a lot easier and faster with no kinking. Because of the trouble I've been having with the Kaiser screw top tank I now use a Paterson tank with the Kaiser reel, it is a little loose on the centre tube but the C clip stops it moving up and down when inverting. So for now I have the best of both worlds.