Red Light District 03: Dan Domme

After his recent guest appearance on the Pdexposures Podcast we thought it would only be fitting to have Dan show off his personal darkroom setup. We hope you can learn from his wealth of knowledge. And be sure to listen to Episode 25 of the Pdexposures Podcast to hear Dan for yourself!

I thought I would give everyone a quick whirl around my darkroom space. I’m very fortunate in that we have a guest bedroom on the top floor with a spacious bathroom. Since we don’t usually have guests, I can usually claim it as my darkroom, on the condition that I clean it out once we’re expecting company to stay for a night or two. I still want to build a fully furnished, permanent basement darkroom, but after listening to Pdexposures, I’ve learned to quit my complaining. Nate and Tony are doing just fine working in smaller spaces than I have.

First, here’s a general shot of the area from the doorway. What you’ll notice is that my enlarger—a Beseler 23C—is on a cart that I picked up from Goodwill. Perfect for transporting a lot of stuff in and out of the darkroom at once. Underneath the enlarger are two shelves, one of which is where I keep my selection of papers. I keep a number of resin coated and fiber base papers on hand, and about half of them I got either free or dirt cheap thanks to Craigslist.

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On the left of the sink is where I keep my safelight and my GraLab timer. The timer is there as a quick and easy way to keep track of time when I develop film and paper. If the safelight is plugged in, it lights up whenever the timer is at zero. It’s a great signal that a print should move on to the next chemical bath, for example. Apart from the two boxes of Forte paper I got for pocket change, you can see a humidity monitor (for some alternative processes) and a 35mm film leader retriever.

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Moving on, you can see my water pitcher, a Darkroom Automation enlarger lightmeter, a vacuum pump for getting air out of half-empty bottles, random film developing stuff, and my digital enlarger timer. This is my main timer, which consistently controls the enlarger’s power to within 0.1 seconds. The enlarger lightmeter is able to read the light output from the enlarger, and simple testing and addition lets you know how long you should expose your paper. These have been two of my best tools.

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Next, we’ve got the trays. All are clearly marked—Develop, Stop, Fix I, and Fix II. A number of darkroom printers advocate two fixer baths instead of just one. The reasons are complicated, but they make sense and I have the counter space. A towel is set under everything to keep spill stains to a minimum.  I should also note that I usually move the electrical cord a bit more out of the way when I’m actually printing.

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Here, by the way, is a sample of what I used to black out my windows. I used to put plastic sheeting over the windows and hold them up with painters’ tape. However, since I was printing a lot and painters’ tape is expensive, I needed a better solution. I measured and cut some black foam core to fit in the windows, then I lined the edges of these panels with some strips of black felt from the fabric store.  The felt fills in the light leaks quite well and adds friction so that the foam core panels don’t fall away from the windows and let light in.

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In the bath tub, I have my somewhat elaborate print washing rig. The freshest water trickles into an aquarium (kept from blocking the drain by an upside-down tray), in which a sideways rack keeps the prints vertical and separated. When I’m doing fiber based printing, I use some plastic tubing as a siphon to transport some of the wash water into another tray, which is my first washing bath. The prints get washed there for five minutes before going in a Hypo Clearing Agent bath for a few minutes, then into the washing tank. Fiber takes a lot to get clean, but it’s worth it!

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Outside the bathroom, there’s a linen closet in which I’ve claimed a shelf for all my darkroom chemistry and storage of tools I’m not using at any particular moment. The stock of chemicals builds up quickly, and it’s nice to have a place where you can accumulate everything in one spot.

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In the guest bedroom itself, I have a few other goodies, including  my latest acquisition, a heated print dryer. It gets fiber prints dry relatively quickly, and also flatter than any other method I’ve found. I still want to get a dry mount press so that I can get them truly flat, though. On the bed, you can see the VWR heated magnetic stirrer that I use for mixing up various chemicals from scratch. That’s really one of my favorite things to do. There’s also a series of contact prints I’ve made, all affixed to their corresponding negative sleeve pages. I really should get caught up on making those.

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Well, there you have it, my exhaustive darkroom setup. I hope that this overview gives any prospective darkroom builder some ideas and inspiration. If you have any questions about my darkroom, don’t hesitate to ask me on twitter (@yeknom) or via the contact page on my website, http://www.dommephoto.com/contact/.  Happy printing, everyone!

Thanks for the great submission and walk through Dan! If you have a home darkroom to share, send an e-mail to info@pdexposures.com and we’ll feature you here!

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