Greenbelt Community Center Darkroom
There is a darkroom on the third floor of the Greenbelt Community Center. Much of the equipment was donated by the Greenbelt Police Department in the 1990s when it switched to digital cameras. Recently I met up with photographer Steve Skolnik at the darkroom and observed him making some black and white prints.
The darkroom is on the third floor of the Greenbelt Community Center, and here Skolnik signs in. Those who would like to use the darkroom are asked to register with the Recreation Department each season, and they need to attend an orientation and take a certification test if not certified previously.
Skolnik’s task today is to make a 5-by-7-inch, black-and-white print of a photo of his granddaughter Aliya. On the left is a print he made previously.
To make a print from a negative, the solutions needed are print developer, stop bath, and fixer.
First the print developer is diluted with water in 1:9 ratio. Here Skolnik adds 50 ml of developer and 450 ml of water.
The resulting solution is poured into the first tray.
Skolnik gets some fixer.
The fixer is poured into the third tray.
Skolnik checks the temperature of the developer. It is about 25 degrees Celsius. The time the paper should be left in the developer depends in part on its temperature.
Skolnik developed this roll of film here at the darkroom the day before.
He places the negative into a film carrier.
The negative carrier is inserted into a Bogen enlarger.
He adjusts the blades so that they form a 5-inch-by-7-inch area on the baseboard.
The paper he uses is Ilford Multigrade IV RC Deluxe.
The paper is wrapped in a black plastic bag so that it is not exposed to light.
This scope is used to check the focus of the enlarger lens.
This ring sets the aperture of the enlarger. Here f/8 is used for the first attempt.
The timer for the enlarger is set to 10 seconds for this first attempt. The aperture and exposure time combine to determine the amount of light that shine on the photo paper.
Lights are turned off in the room, and the enlarger is turned on. An image is projected through the negative on the photo paper.
The photo is then put into the developer for about 2 minutes, the stop bath for about 10 seconds, and fixer for about 1 minute.
Skolnik thinks the contrast of the print is a little low so he selects a magenta filter to add more contrast.
The magenta filter is added to the filter drawer.
With the addition of the filter, the exposure time needs to the lengthened. He tries 20 seconds (instead of 10 seconds without the filter). Indeed the contrast has increased however there is a tiny white spot near the left eye.
Skolnik checks the negative and discovers a grain of dust.
He uses a brush to clean the negative.
He repeats the process, from the enlarger to the chemical solutions, and the resulting picture (right) is what he wants.
He places this photo into a running water wash to wash off the chemicals.
The photos from the water wash are put into a dryer.
The photos come out of the dryer.
Skolnik then shows me how to develop film. The first step has to be done in complete darkness: take film out of the canister and load it on a reel.
The reel is put into a light safe tank.
The chemicals needed include film developer, stop solution, fixer, Heico perma wash, and Photo Flo.
These solutions are poured one after another into the tank containing the reels.
Skolnik shows me a chart regarding processing Kodak T-Max 100 film.
The resulting negatives are hung using a clip.
The negatives are hung in a dust free area.
When the negatives are dry, they are cut into strips of five or six frames and put into archival sleeves. These negatives can then be put under an enlarger to make contact sheets.
This contact sheet was made from photos Skolnik took at the National Arboretum’s Bonsai/Penjing Museum using a Leica M3 camera.
Skolnik takes a break before going on to make more prints.
Those who are interested in using the Greenbelt Community Center darkroom should sign up for open darkroom with the Greenbelt Recreation Department. They need to attend an orientation session and take a certification test which is to make sure that photo chemicals are handled properly. There is also a $50 fee per quarter for residents. More information can be found in the city’s recreation brochure.