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 work in 5 second increments, some printers work in stops. After exposure the strip goes through the three chemical baths - developer for between 1- 2 minutes, stop which prevents the developer working any further for 1 minute and finally fix, which allows the print to be exposed to light without any further development fix is used for anything 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 also whether the print requires split grade printing, which is where differing grades are used during the overall exposure. Each one of the 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, this 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 fibre based papers and the majority of my work is printed on Adox MCC 110 paper.
I shoot on a variety of second hand manual cameras, and I have experimented with various black and white films however my film of choice is Ilford HP5+ film, it has a great deal of latitude and copes well with in wide variety of situations.