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Friday, 16 February 2024


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Well now, the Intrepid kit would be tempting as I already own all the other “bits”, but I also own two Beseler 4x5MXT! The space savings might be worth it. (I don’t do 4x5). I could sell the Beselers to cover the cost, but my reservation is that I am really tied to my RHDesigns Fstop timer. Any enlarger that comes with a proprietary timer won’t do. The first Beseler I bought had the computerized head with its own timer. It had to go and be replaced by the older straight dichroic head.

Fabulous! Seems ideal for a closet/bathroom/pantry setup, for those without a basement.

For a time I used a small red LED headlamp as a safe light. Far, far smaller, lighter and cheaper than the fancy analog filtered safelights I'd been borrowing, and much brighter too.

There is a lot of interesting stuff on that Intrepid Web site besides the enlarger head.

I recall your attempt to build a darkroom in your Wisconsin house. Next thing we knew, you moved to this house, and built “pool hall” instead. Priorities (including maybe following a girlfriend? :) )

I designed and built 4 darkrooms from 1984-2007, in 4 different houses following work related relocations. Each included a dedicated space, with proper ventilation, light proofing and the works, including big sinks. My favorite was the first, with a Beseler 45 MXT enlarger. I remember hiring an expert to more optimally align it. I wonder what he ended up doing for a living.

I transitioned fully to digital in 2009, after another house move, and now make inkjet prints. Far more convenient and flexible. Not a silver print (although some companies can use digital files to make them), but still satisfying when done well.

Speaking of LEDs... This YouTube video by Veratasium tells the history of the blue LED. We wouldn't have LED light sources, monitors, or TVs without it and it was a bear to develop. Not a pretty story. Worth a view.

The Veratasium video:


I definitely want one... Will never use it, but helluva looker/conversation piece!

Re: LEDs. When my brother was a graphic design artist with an advertising firm, he told me that some company was going to try to make car headlights using LEDs. At that time, LEDs were usually used for red indicator lights.

Imagine our surprise about 20 years later!

Yes, I have fond (maybe) memories of my darkroom days in the 70s & 80s - a Durst F60(?) 35mm and 6x6cm enlarger, Paterson tank, Rodenstock and Minolta lenses and all the gubbins. Also a Cibachrome roller (yes, I tried). Agfa Speed rings a bell.

I produced quite reasonable B&W prints (by my very amateur standards) and an occasional Ciba success, but the cost was too high for me - AU$4 per sheet if I remember correctly. If I took three attempts per Ciba print, it was better to go to the professional labs.

In the end, when I moved house in 2013, I gave the lot away free to a friend. He was very happy.

But digital changed everything! I had a Fuji 6x9cm at one stage and in film days would not have been able to print them. But flat bed scanning opened it all up for me. Wunderbar! I produced damn good scans this way.

The Intrepid enlarger solution is really a blissful thing ! Light source, the timer/contrast regulation and the small size and weight of it is altogether "enlightening". Intrepid Co. has even made it possible to convert a 4x5" camera into an enlarger using the "Intrepid 4x5 Enlarger Kit" that uses the same light source as their "Compact enlarger". Downsizing and enlarging 120 and 35mm negatives is possible as well !

All these articles about enlargers remind me of a memory gap I have: I can remember my early endeavors in a darkroom and I can remember that in my student years I took pictures of events on Saturday, then developed the film and printed the images and dropped those off at the local paper, with some ending up in print. But for the life of me, I cannot remember where I did the developing and the printing. This bugs me whenever darkrooms come up.

Sounds like the Graflarger in my speed graphic kit.
From the ad copy for it:

*with Aristo Cold Light
The Graflarger Back plus your Graphic or Graflex Camera equals a really good enlarger everyone can afford to own.
Graflarger can be used either as a horizontal or vertical enlarger. It's an excellent retouching stand, also suitable for contact printing. Its light source, the famous Aristo Cold Light, will not buckle film or harm your camera or lens. Three sizes: 2¼4 x 3%4,
3¼ × 4¼ and 4 x 5.

Apparently, it’s just the thing for setting up a 4 x 5 darkroom in a hotel.

Cool concept. Wish it had been available 30 years ago.

I revived my interest in film cameras in 2017, when I decided to make a photographic record of Phoenix, Arizona. It's possible that this metroplex of five million souls will be dust in the wind, perhaps in thirty years when the water supply runs dry. After exposing about 5,000 images (mostly 35mm but some medium format)I completed the project at the end of 2023.

Film provides a tangible means of storage for an unpredictable future. No darkroom or englarger was required --I have a dark closet for loading my developing tanks. High definition camera scans with the negatives sandwiched between anti-newton glass plates complete the process.

I have not had a darkroom since the start of the 21st century. I'm happy with Lightroom.

Re: Be sure to pay attention to ventilation. Often an afterthought, but essential, not optional.

I agree it's good to pay attention to ventilation in the darkroom and it should be essential, not optional. I have worked in several darkrooms over the years as a newspaper photographer and also for my photography. My very first darkroom was a closet in my parent's home, I never even thought about ventilation and no one ever mentioned it, but that was close to 50 years ago. However, the first real professional darkroom I worked in was when I started working for a local weekly newspaper, the Goldstream Gazette in my hometown on Vancouver Island this was soon after I graduated from high school. The darkroom had no ventilation system, it was in the back of the newspaper office. We made half-tone prints with an 85-dot screen that was made with print paper held down with a vacuum easel with a conventional enlarger (Beseler) The print paper was fed into a Kodak Ektamtic machine. I suppose the ventilation system was maybe not as crucial as there were no open trays of chemistry to develop the prints. Film development was done with stainless steel daylight tanks. The Kodak Ektamtic machine had two chemical solutions that sat upright in the machine, developer, and stabilizer. Once a week or so the machine had to be taken apart and the transport rollers had to be cleaned.

When I moved to Ontario for a photographer's job at the Brampton Daily Times, the darkroom had no ventilation system. I don't recall ever having a conversation with other staff or even thinking that a ventilation system was needed. We made prints on regular RC print paper in open trays, these were sent to the production department to be turned into half-tone prints.

When I moved back to British Columbia, I started at the Kelowna Daily Courier, where I spent the majority of my 41-year newspaper career. The darkroom did have a ventilation system! It was a fan mounted in the lower part of the darkroom door. As I recall it was never plugged in, It did work through, but I'm not sure how effective it would have been as it was venting the stale darkroom air directly into the general office at the paper, so maybe there were too many complaints from staff when the fan was plugged in. The paper had a darkroom technician and I filled in for him on the weekend. So my darkroom time was much less, eventually, the paper went all color and we used a Wing-Lynch semi-automatic film processor for the C-41 film, the negatives were then scanned. My exposure to darkroom stale air was minimal as the years went on, although when I had to make up new chemistry for the Wing-Lynch machine, the worst part was adding a few drops of glacial acetic acid to the bleach, that was nasty stuff.

For my work outside of my day-to-day newspaper work, I had a darkroom of my own at home because I was shooting black and white 4x5 sheet film with large format cameras. First I used the bathroom in my apartment and used the fan in the bathroom for ventilation. Eventually, I moved into a house and turned one of the bedrooms into a darkroom, I closed off the window and even had some plumbing connected to a sink as it was next door to the bathroom. For several years I happily printed away sometimes making large 16x20-inch prints which produced a lot of chemistry odors because of the big trays until one day I started thinking "Hey what about ventilation?" I gave this a lot of serious thought and research. I thought about sticking a bathroom fan in the ceiling above the sink where the development was done. I found out that those bathroom fans don't do much, they were never designed to get rid of that much nasty darkroom odors. Plus where to vent it to?

What I found is that a proper ventilation system could be very, very expensive and would require significant alterations to my house. There is something called negative airflow and positive airflow. To exhaust the chemical fumes properly I would need an exhaust hood, these hoods are generally made of stainless steel, about the length of the sink or working area in the sink, and would sit about 24 inches or so above the trays, this is the fan that exhausts the stale chemical-laden air to the outside, in the case of my home the vent pipe from the hood would go up through the ceiling and out the roof. There is a lot of technical knowledge that is way beyond me in how chemical fumes can be heavier than air so from what I understand, the closer the exhaust fan is to the source of the chemical release (ie trays) the better.

Then there is the positive airflow, since I would be sucking the bad air out of the sealed darkroom then there has to be a source where new fresh air from outside is brought into the darkroom at the same rate as the old air that is being expelled. I would need another fan system to bring in the fresh air. So really two fan systems are needed one to remove stale air and the other to bring in fresh air. All of this would have to be built and designed by a professional as it would have been beyond my basic home improvement skills to tackle such a project. The cost would have been prohibitive, not hundreds of dollars but in the thousands of dollars and that was close to 20 years ago. In the end, it was one of the reasons I decided to shut my main printing darkroom down and just have a small area in my laundry room to process my film where ventilation was not as much of an issue.

I'm glad to see someone answering a question that the photo industry dismissed as irrelevant decades ago. The Intrepid enlarger looks like a quite usable machine, and I expect that they'll sell quite a few.
Admittedly I spent a fair amount of time from 1981-2009 around color enlargers, but I think that this is like someone re-inventing the phonograph turntable: pointless to most, but very useful to a small (but dedicated) minority. And here's to them!

My memory and a quick check on the internet says blue led's were not available until the early '90's. Color enlargers are going to need red, green, and blue led's. Red, green, and yellow led's had been available for years by the early '90's, but not blue. White led's came even a bit later. So I question the ability of the Intrepid to print color by using led's in 1979.

Just after reading about the new blue led's we had a family get together. My brother's then wife worked for a patent attorney. I talked with her quite a bit about patenting a led enlarger and started preliminary work. The electronics were simple, needing not much more than what could be purchased at the local Radio Shack.

But about the same time I purchased my first Mac and an early version of Photoshop. A few years earlier I had seen prints made by a tri-color scanning laser printer. They were the handwriting on the wall, so to speak. It was 10 years or slightly more before I had my first digital camera, but sure saw it coming. Analog photography was going the way of the passenger pigeon. I can still see where printing b&w analog could be an enjoyable hobby. Printing analog color, not so much. Hell, printing digital color is not all that much fun.

I did end up building a led color enlarger head. It resides on my unused for 20-plus-years Durst L1000. I still think about printing analog, but then have a lapse back to sanity.

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