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Archive for November 2014

Old Negs, p3

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These are a couple negatives that I was probably most excited to print once the darkroom was finished. On my monitor, the photos aren’t quite as… magical? I guess that’s part of the reason I built a darkroom in the first place. Photography is a printed medium.


But part of the fun of these negatives is that they were taken with his (my father-in-law’s) old 4×5 speed graphic – his old crime scene camera. He gave it to me after I graduated, but it actually wasn’t in his possession shortly before that. He had to track it down and clean it up. One of his old partners’ kids had it sitting in a closet or something. It still works pretty well.

It was pretty cold when I took these. But he sat and just smiled and talked to me while I fumbled around with the dark slides and shutter release. I really just wanted to test out the large format for portraits, so we were both pretty relaxed the whole time. And I usually don’t feel at ease when doing portraits, really. I need to practice more. I keep saying that. It’s just that rocks and trees and such don’t have many expectations of you.


When I’m showing prints to friends, these two photos are the ones they usually hang on the longest. I like to think it’s because it’s probably the first time he’s been in front of that particular lens.

Written by ryanstufflebam

November 13, 2014 at 10:39 pm

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the UV box

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Once upon a time, I decided alternative processes were pretty cool, but the desire to produce inevitably led me to spend ridiculous amounts of time at a friend’s house. See, he had the UV light source. I realize I could use the sun, but it’s so unpredictable. And while I’m learning to love the quirks and inconsistencies of the process, I don’t feel the need to emphasize the struggle – particularly when it costs (at the time for me) a good bit of money to make each image. So James and Emily gladly played host while I took up residence in their dining room and laundry room for about a month.

But now I have a house. Now I have a darkroom! Now I need a UV exposure unit. See the logic? And while I really enjoyed James’ company whilst printing (we always have good conversations about art and art’s purpose…), I would rather be having similar conversations with my wife – with whom I did not converse for practically that entire month because my phone just wouldn’t work in their house. Leah graciously put up with my absence, but we’d rather not do that again. So I built a sun in a box!


I know it doesn’t look like much, but that six-inch sub fueled most of the build that first day. And I don’t have any other pictures of the first few days. No idea why. Fast forward a week or so:


See that? That’s a complete electrical circuit including 4 ballasts, 12 bulbs, 2 fans and a switch. And nothing burned or exploded. This was a great moment. Leah painted the inside of the bottom cavity silver sometime during those few build days we fast forwarded though. I figure the more reflective the interior, the more even the already really even light should be. If it’s worth doing…


Here’s a better photo of the wiring. Most people put their ballasts on a piece of metal flashing to ground them – supposedly it helps with flickering. If it’s just a ground, I figure a ground wire would work just as well. So far, it has, but I’ll keep an eye on it to make sure. Shortcuts can be fatal, but I just really didn’t want to drill through a piece of metal umpteen times. You can see I also stained the exterior gray. My countertop on the dry side is the same stain. And plus I want my equipment to look good. Since I never really built a whole lot growing up, I’m using any excuse I can to hone some practical skills. AND, if it looks good, that’s one more reason to not build it again.

UV box-3

UV box-4

So this is the final product. A bunch of UV light in a pizza oven with a sliding vacuum drawer. My apologies for the crappy photos, by the way. I’m using either my camera phone or a practically defunct digital camera. The autofocus is just crap.

But, the vacuum part is pretty cool because it ensures that the negative and paper are in firm contact for the sharpest image possible. It’s also cool because there’s no actual seal or clamps or anything. The weight of the glass just seals against the edge of the neoprene rubber sheet laid in the bottom of the drawer. The edge is raised by some foam, but other than that, no seal. But it works. Pretty happy with that. I should be able to print a 13″ x 19″ negative without any problems so long as the paper isn’t too large. We’ll see how that goes.

Eventually it will live under the counter with a shelf underneath. But we’re not there yet. Probably after the holidays I’ll get around to it. But I just started test printing with it this past week. It definitely works, but since the light source is a bank of fluorescent tubes, the test prints are a bit different from my old prints done on a halogen (?) light source. So I’ll have to calibrate how I print the negatives again, but it should be much easier than last time. I don’t have to drive across town with every new calibration palette. I just have to walk downstairs. It’s awesome.

That said, the images are still pretty good. There’s just some muddling in the mid-tones. Once my ink refills arrive, I’ll be back to the races. In the meantime, here are the test prints – one old, one new.

UV box-2

UV box-1


You can see the mix up that starts to happen in Leah’s skin tones. It’ll get straightened out eventually…

Written by ryanstufflebam

November 9, 2014 at 10:55 pm

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