Thoughts About Starting 2017 With Some Mobile Darkroom Photography

December 05, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

It is hard for me to believe that it is the first week of December.  I am hard at work developing a host of darkroom and large format workshops for the next two to three months.  I am starting to think about doing something fun after I get the workshops published.  

One of my personal goals is to do more analog photography on the road.  Over the last few years, I have tried a variety of processes on long road trips ranging from wet plate collodion to direct positive paper prints.  I travel in my Sprinter van (tiny house on wheels), so I have enough space to live and work comfortably for extended periods of time.  I plan to be out West in Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone National Park, and Glacier National Park next summer for a good stretch, so I have to come up with my winter and spring trip idea soon.  

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The easiest choice would most likely be Harman Direct Positive Paper (DPP).  After exposing the positive paper in the view camera, it is just a matter of developing the print. I travel with a small Jobo where I could develop the print using Rodinal very easily. Since it is a direct positive, there is no need to work with a negative making this option very appealing and easy on the road.  I don't like not having a negative, but there is something very special and simple about the direct positive paper that I really like and appreciate. 

Paper negatives are a good option too.  I built a portable darkroom box where I can develop and print up to 8x10 size.  I have done this many times, so I know the process works.  Between my 4x5 and 8x10 view cameras, I have four possible formats to choose from (4x5, 8x10, 5x7, or 4x10).  I might even just use my new whole plate camera for the entire trip.  I have fallen in love with this aspect ratio more than  I could have predicted.  I think my darkroom box is a little small for 11x14, but I will have to check into this a little more to see if that is even an option.  

It might be fun to travel somewhere warm to explore the landscape while most of the country is in winter mode.  I could easily use X-Ray film and develop it in the small Jobo with Rodinal and either create contact prints on silver gelatin fiber paper with the same box that I use for paper negatives, or I could push myself and make pure platinum prints while on the road.  I could try and experiment with using sunlight to expose my platinum prints, or I could take my small UV printer that I made for mobile use.  Controlling the humidity and warming my platinum developer would not be a lot of fun while mobile.   

Another option would be to work with E-6 slide films like Provia 100 in medium and large format sizes and develop the positive in the Jobo.  This approach is quick, easy, and also very rewarding for the right subjects.  I have never used positive films in the winter, so that might be something new to explore.  I tend to see in black and white 99% of the time.  

I am not sure what I will end up choosing, but it is just fun to think about the trip right now.  

More to follow in the coming months as I complete the workshops and work towards the opportunity to travel.  

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