Home Printing in the Darkroom for the First Time

I mentioned at the beginning of December that I had acquired a Kaiser colour enlarger . Having done a dry run it was now time to try it out for real. The pictures below shows my setup.


After turning the lights out and while my eyes adjust to the lack of light, I can turn my attention to focusing the image. I turned on the enlarger and set the lens aperture to f2.8 so I get maximum light available. I then place an old piece of paper in the easel, which is then positioned under the enlarger to focus the image so that everything is as sharp as possible. I then set the lens aperture to f8, apparently this can be the focus sweet spot for many lenses.

One of the nice features of the Kaiser enlarger is the addition of a filter that turns the enlarger into a safelight. So once I acquire focus, I slide the filter into place and then put my paper in position, Ilford MGRC multigrade RC Pearl, 8 by 10 inches. I chose this paper because I didn’t want glossy or Matte and thought this would be a good place to start. Ilford have produced a really helpful video running through their paper stock. Having turned off the enlarger I then slide the safelight filter out of the way.

As can be seen from the results I got, I did struggle to position the paper within the easel. It is old and I am not used to it. I will persevere to see if I can improve.

For my film developing I use the Develop app which allows me to setup a series of steps, timings and alarms. It has a darkroom mode too, which I am trying out for my printing.

Switching on the enlarger and starting the timer I did my first test strip. After every five seconds I would cover up a section of the print until 25 seconds was up. That way I can see what 5,10,15,20,25 seconds worth of exposure looks like. The enlarger was then turned off.

I then placed the test strip in the Ilford multigrade developer for 60 seconds; Ilfostop stop bath for 30 seconds and then the Ilford rapid fixer for another 30 seconds. Finally the strip was placed in a bath of water and washed for 2 minutes. At this point I turned on the light.

From my test strip I chose 13 seconds as the time for my negative.

I then repeated the above steps. Lights out; paper out of the box and then box resealed; safelight on and paper placed in the easel; enlarger off; slide safelight filter out of the way; enlarger and timer on for 13 seconds and then turned off; developer 60 seconds; stop 30 seconds; fix 30 seconds and finally washed for 2 minutes. First prints complete and resplendent in all their lopsided glory.

Even though there isn’t much light available, the thrill of seeing something appear on the paper as it goes into the developer is incredibly satisfying 😁

Among the first photos I chose was one for my daughter, pictured below. She has had a rough time trying to deal with ME, which results in her feeling tired and frustrated. Added to this a small operation was needed at a time when the last place you want to visit is a hospital in the height of a global pandemic. One thing that has helped, is a “good memories board.” This is a cork board that hangs on the wall and where she can place things that remind her of happier times when she is feeling low. The picture below is a place we have visited a number of times that she can now pin to her board that will hopefully lift her spirits during difficult times. The healing power of photography😊

Apart from the easel issue, I’m delighted with how the whole thing went and the results I’ve got. Clearly there is much to learn, paper stock, timings, dodge and burning but I look forward to the experience.
Now which photos to make next. 🤔

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