the darkroom process

The darkroom is an incredibly creative place; however there are some basics to printing a photograph in the darkroom...
The negative is placed into the negative carrier and the resulting enlargement is projected onto the paper; the starting point is to determine grade (1 = soft - 5 = hard), and exposure time, this is done by first printing test strips. A strip of photographic paper is exposed for increasing amounts of time, I generally work in 5 second increments, some printers work in stops. After exposure the strip goes through the three chemical baths, first the developer for between 1- 2 minutes, stop which prevents the developer working any further on the paper - for 1 minute and finally fix, which allows the print to be exposed to light without any further development - for between 4 - 8 minutes depending on strength of the fix and paper type being used.
Once the strip is fixed it can be viewed in the light and decisions can be made about printing grade and length of exposure. A number of test strips are usually printed to help determine any areas on the negative which may require additional expose to bring out the detail (burning in), or areas requiring less exposure to prevent shadow detail blocking up (holding back), and whether the print requires split grade printing, which is where differing grades are used during the overall exposure. Each test strip helps to build a printing plan which can then be used to make a full print from the negative.
I mainly print on fibre based paper, this paper requires an hour of washing in an archival print washer, it then takes several days to dry.

Darkroom printing is a slow, methodical, magical process, it can on occasions be frustrating but it is always rewarding.

In the darkroom I use a third hand Devere 203 enlarger with a condensing head and I use variable contrast papers; my current paper of choice is Adox MCC 110 fibre based paper, but I also print on Ilford Art 300 paper which has a textured surface similar to watercolour paper and have recently started to work with Ilford's Multigrade Cool Tone Fibre based papers. I have also recently started to use cold print developers.

I shoot on a second hand Nikon FM3 and I tend to shoot on Ilford HP5+ film, although I also use Ilford Delta 3200 and Ilford SFX; I have also had some positive results from Rollei retro 400s, although this is a trickier film to process than those made by Ilford.

Dev Tank and Reel
Tank and Chemicals
Film hanging to dry
Prints drying