Darkoom project: Christmas card

I got a nice Christmas surprise: an unexpected card from a friend. I myself had sent none, for shame. I had been challenged; the gauntlet was thrown. Not to be bested, I could not not pick it up; a card had to be made.

That's perhaps not an altogether honest way to frame the situation, but I got my poetic licence in a box of breakfast cereal.

Anyway, it got me in gear to make my own card. Having recently set up a mostly complete darkroom, the process for doing so was given, and I got an idea: a contact print + rayogram collage kind of thing.

First test print


Too cramped, needed some adjustments; pull thought bubble north; move "thought dots"; make dots stand out more. Also I decided to add the accompanying text through photographic process rather than with a pen afterwards.

Final prints

All of them are different, since the only parts of the process I really made any effort to make repeatable across prints was the alignment of the negatives and graphic detail masks used. Even so, with things stacked on top of each other, uneven surfaces, and only some quickly drawn registration marks for alignment, there will be some variance even here, but it's part of the fun I think.

Placement of weights, glass for putting pressure on the negative, and black paper masks to not expose any unintended parts of the paper was opportunistically based on what seemed to make the most sense each time.

For the first print I was a little careless with the masking with the result that part of the image I wanted to copy was blacked out by overexposure during other steps, on the other hand I think the overall balance between dark and light areas is better/more interesting on that one compared to the other three.

As for being Christmas cards, it's a bit of Swedish wordplay using the homophones jul/hjul which translate to Christmas/wheels.

Suffice to say, I hope you had a wheely great Christmas...

Video of the process:

8x playback speed. NB: Some flickering.

Exposure for each step is about 4s (8x0.5s) I'm fudging a bit with the first exposure alignment since I did things in the wrong order.

Not shown here are the chemical baths to develop the image after exposure, it was too dark for the camera to pick up anything interesting.

  • ~5 minutes in Ilford multigrade paper developer (old, the concentrate has attained coffee-like colour)
  • ~1 or so minute of Foma citro stop bath
  • ~2 minutes of Ilford rapid fixer
  • wash

To some extent the whole thing reminds me of the papercraft I got to do in daycare and early school years, and I realize with some nostalgia that it's still pretty fun. I still get to feel like a grown-up though because it involves pouring smelly chemicals. Ten-year-old me would be so jealous.