Update From My Off the Grid Darkroom

February 08, 2016  •  5 Comments

It was been a little while since I have posted anything new because I have been working diligently on getting my new off grid darkroom built.  

I have winter weather to deal with and even floods too.  I wanted to provide everyone an update on where things stand and my thoughts about my next steps as I continue to evolve creatively.  

Darkroom Update

In regards to the darkroom itself, I have the building up and in place.  It is water tight and level.  That in itself is a big accomplishment when you are working remotely.  All of the windows are in and the metal roof is water tight.  I am starting on my office area first so that I can get myself organized while I am continuing with the build.  I will be making my own hardwood floors, building in the wall book cases and building my own desk.  I will be using reclaimed wood for my flooring and walls.  

I have my solar power system designed and all the equipment sourced and on site.  My next step is to build the stands for the solar panels and get everything connected and wired to the building.  I will then finish up with my internal electrical wiring and get everything insulated.  

I have a lot to do, but it goes pretty fast.  I have been very fortunate to get some help from my son and a buddy of mine.  I am hoping to be functioning within the next 60 days.  

Creative Update

The process of transitioning from my current darkroom to the new off-grid setup has evoked a lot of thoughts and emotions.  At this point, it is clear that I am going to be forced to downsize, at least a little bit.  I have been wresting with this for a month or so now, and I am finally at a place where I feel like I have a plan that makes me happy.  I primary love to use my 11x14 and 8x10 field cameras for contact prints, even though I can make enlargements from my 8x10 negatives.  I use my 4x5 field kit when I need maximum portability and/or a lighter pack because of the hiking conditions.  Up to this point in my journey, I have always printed everything in the darkroom by hand.  It is my first love and will forever be a passion for me.  With the new darkroom, I am going to have to make some adjustments and wet enlargements are the one area that is most likely going to have to be modified.  

I will continue to make contact prints from all three of my cameras (11x14, 8x10, 4x5).  I primarily used my 4x5 when I wanted to make very large mural prints.  That demand has dwindled for me personally and so this is an area that I am going to modify.  I will continue to use my gear as I have in the past, but I will be moving to doing high-resolution scans of my negatives and positives.  I will still keep one enlarger to make up to 16x20, but no more 60 inch wet prints as far as I know.  I am going to hang on to the equipment for at least a year before I let go of anything.  

I am starting to explore making my own silver gelatin emulsions for paper negatives and glass plates.  This is an area that I am going to continue to pursue over the long haul, and I will be contact printing from these sources.  I love using HP5+ and Kodak X-ray film in my 11x14 and 8x10 cameras and this won't change.  In the spring and late fall, I use slide film to take advantage of these times when I think color is the right choice.  

I will keep you posted as things continue to progress and evolve.  

Scroll down to the bottom of this article and click on the "Add comment" button and say "Hi".  Let me know what you think about my off the grid project.  

-Tim Layton

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Tim Layton
Darkroom & Large Format Photography - Alternative Printmaking
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Tim Layton Fine Art
Hi Michael, thanks for commenting. I am still in the process of building and working out all of my solutions. But in the short run, I use eco-friendly black and white chemicals so I know that won't be an issue. I haven't done the research yet in regards to my E-6 and C-41 chemicals yet, but I will post a detailed article once I get to this point.
Tim Layton Fine Art
Hi Jim, thanks for the comment. I personally use my 4x5 for my ultra-large mural enlargements for 2 reasons. First, I custom built an enlargement system to create enlargements from my 4x5 enlarger before I bought an 8x10 enlarger. The second reason is that I simply have never found a need for a bigger negative to create my mural prints. I love my 8x10 and 11x14 cameras, but primarily do contact printing with them, even though I can enlarge with my 8x10. I figure why carry the 8x10 in the field when I know I am going to make big enlargements when I can carry my 4 lb. 4x5. I hope that helps!
Glad to see you posting again. I just started using a 4x5 and know nothing of large format. I didn't understand this statement: "I primarily used my 4x5 when I wanted to make very large mural prints." I would think you would use one of your larger cameras for such work.

To emphasize my comment about "just started", I've taken 4 shots, only one of which is actually useable (though probably not by your standards).
I'm curious about how you are handling the discarding of chemicals for you darkroom. What do you do with the liquids, and if you dispose of them on the property, do you have a septic system? I have a similar situation, and am concerned about polluting the local environment on my property with the chemicals. Thanks for your reply
Rolf Schmolling(non-registered)
Hi Tim, quite a lot done and still quite a lot to do! Wasn't there a picture showing some panels already up!? Truly great stuff.
I am putting the darkroom work on hiatus, it's just too cold in the cellar. In the coming weeks I hope to get some testing done (Densitometer! hope I get the hang of it.) and (tadaa!): finish a self built f-stop-timer following William Brody Tyrell's advice & example. So when spring finally is coming I just have to set up my table for the trays, make it dark and start printing.

Best regards, Rolf
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