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Thursday, 01 February 2024


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Tedious correction: the game you referred to is table tennis. Ping Pong is a version of the game and the name is trademarked by Parker Brothers [in the US —Ed.] and should be capitalized.

All in good spirit,


[Fixed now, and thanks. I never knew that either. --Mike]

Lally columns, named after John Lally.

[Thanks! Never knew that. --Mike]

I think most of us print with makeshift darkrooms. And for as long as the space is almost light tight and has enough floor space separating the dry area from the wet area, we are pretty much ready for business.

I might even venture to add that some of the best prints were made in makeshift darkrooms.

Whatis really weird is that from just the photo I know that the photo is of, and that therefore you once lived at 5407 Spangler Avenue.


I had never heard of Lally columns and had to look them up. Shops, cafés and pubs in older buildings here in England often have steel columns where walls have been removed.

On Wednesday I had lunch in a café that has a few of these columns. It's in what started out, it seems, as the middle house of three. The houses were probably built in the 19th or early 20th Centuries.

I've just realised that the café building used to be the local newsagent. They delivered Amateur Photographer magazine to me every week when I'd started my first job and so could then afford it. The columns were in there then.

Of course these columns support beams, usually steel, that run along the line of the removed walls; the original layout can be worked out by looking at the ceiling.

Not too far from me is a mid 16th Century building that's always been an inn. The massive beams in the bar are wood; I should think it's a wooden framed building. By the way, the street level has risen since this inn was built, and the floor is a couple of feet below the pavement.

Don't remember the circumstances, but back in the '70s I once had occasion to use a 50mm German enlarging lens (Rodenstock, Componon, Rodagon, ?). I literally couldn't believe it! It made my usual El Nikkor look like a plastic lens on a disposable camera- I simply had to have it. I looked it up and it was selling for... hundreds, as completely unattainable as a Leica at the time.

I remember doing something extreme, something I usually don't resort to doing... I simply decided said event never, ever happened; the Nikkor was as sharp as an enlarging lens could (and needed to) be- and that was the end of that.

You had running water in your under-the-stairs darkroom? Luxury, sir! I used to monopolise the kitchen sink, which of course limited the time I could spend working in it. The rest of the family pretty much insisted on having dinner at some point...

And another response, on the subject of re-purposed spaces. There's a section in Kate Atkinson's first novel, 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum', in which the main character and her older sister are back in their childhood home town after many years away (they've returned to bury their mother). They find themselves in a cafe located in the ground-floor shop and upstairs living space in which they grew up!

Apparently something like this actually happened to the author, and one can see how this could be - all the old functional shops in the historic centre of York have been repurposed for York's principal activity, which today is to be a tourist town. The same would be true for all of the other historic towns in the UK.

It was fortunate that when I received the Sears Home Developing Kit for Christmas 1968, the hall bath in my parents' house was all mine. There was a linen closet just across the hall from the bathroom door that served as storage for the gear. Set up and tear down was easy.

Just for fun...
When I lived in England the adjustable steel uprights were called 'Acrows'. As in "support that with an Acrow". I believe that name was derived from an actual person - a Mr A Crow.

Yeah, I didn't believe it either.

I used my whole 1BR apartment at night. That was in the days of amber sodium vapor street lamps (same tech as fancier darkroom safelights). I was above them on the fourth floor, so that reduced the intensity, and I used shades and curtains as well. I did have an enlarger, so I was better equipped than, say, Edward Weston; didn't make me a better printer than him, though.

"Almost" light-tight—yep!

I got in the habit of loading film into developing tanks in a changing bag, and that suited me well all along, most recently I guess when I found myself (as assistant camera operator) loading 400' rolls of 16mm color negative film into magazines for an Arri 16 SR3.

My first darkroom, built in my parents' basement, was black plastic stapled to 2x4s, using computer punch cards (folded in half) to help keep the staples from tearing through. No running water, either; I hauled buckets of prints out to the laundry sink to wash them, and did film developing on a little table there.

Same structural materials as Ctein's. There's a brief comment on that here, at https://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/.m/the_online_photographer/2010/07/darkening-the-darkroom.html (And Ctein's is gone, but when my sister sold the house at least, the 2x4 frame of mine was still in place.) (Mine was much smaller, less dark, and less clean.)

Ilford offers a pop-up darkroom these days. No excuses!

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