Using the PARALLEL Alignment Tool   by Richard Newman of Calumet


Enlarger alignment is one of the critical and frustrating things that darkroom workers must face up to. While there are several tools and lots of crazy techniques out there to help people align enlargers I find most of them funky or crude. I have spent a lot of frustrating time fussing with alignment over the years, but the PARALLEL alignment tool has changed all that! There are three points of alignment to enlargers, the film/negative stage, the enlarging lens stage, and the easel or baseboard. All three must be in very exact alignment (PARALLEL in fact) for the corners of your prints to be sharp. The PARALLEL uses laser technology to make it possible to accomplish this with ease.

The main projection box, about the size of a pack of cigarettes, sits on the easel and by way of reflectors for the lens and negative stages produces a laser dot on a target. Sounds a little like a Flash Gordon episode so let me explain.

The PARALLEL comes complete and ready to use on most any enlarger. There is a projection box with 2 AA batteries already installed, 3 small microscope slide reflectors for the lens stage (two are spares, you only use one), a large reflector that fits any negative stage up to 5 x 7, an odd looking rubber band harness, and a hex wrench for changing batteries.

I use the PARALLEL before every printing session - it takes almost no time and guarantees me that everything is right. I first slip the rubber band harness around the lens barrel. This harness is used to gently hold the reflector up against the front rim of the enlarging lens - which is great because many alignment tools requires specific lens adapters. Then I set the projection box on the easel under the lens and turn it on. When the PARALLEL is turned on it projects a red laser beam up to the reflector on the lens which reflects the beam back down to the target on the top of the control box. [Since the PARALLEL is factory adjusted to project a small beam VERY perpendicular to the surface it sits on, the reflection from a parallel (aligned) reflector will put the spot of the beam directly back to its source, the hole in the target. Any displacement of the dot shows misalignment.] I then adjust the lens stage alignment until the reflected beam shows no error. (side note: I use a Zone VI enlarger because it allows me three point alignment on both the lens and negative stage). Now I take the lens off the enlarger and set it aside. Next I use my glass carrier as the reflector for the negative stage. While the large reflector that comes with the PARALLEL is meant to replace the negative in metal framed negative carriers, I like using my glass carrier as the reflector. It is faster and more convenient for me. Again, with the projector box turned on, I move the alignment adjustments on the negative stage until the red dot is directly over the target hole on the control box. Then I reattach the lens to the enlarger and check too make sure that the lens alignment is still perfect!

I have been using this device for over a year now and can only thank the manufacturer for the time and supplies that the PARALLEL has saved me. Now when I produce a print, I know that my enlarger is exactly in alignment. On a side note: I also do a lot of copying of my photographs with a camera. I have been using the PARALLEL lately to make sure that the artwork, the camera lens, and the camera back are in perfect alignment. It speeds up the process because I can tell in a few minutes if the image and camera are in alignment. The PARALLEL has improved my copy results by using to laser beam to make sure that I won't have "bows" in the copy slides and negatives I am producing.





"I believe in the beauty and power of photography to express an idea or emotion. I believe it is the responsibility of the artist to look for that beauty and emotion and translate it to the photographic image. I am committed to my passion and to the creative photographic process.

I began photographing in 1980 after moving to California from South Dakota. In 1984, I began working with a large format camera to teach myself some discipline and allow myself to view the image as a completed form. On a John Sexton printing workshop in 1986, I met Rod Dresser of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. That summer I began working with Rod on defining my vision and also as an apprentice.

I decided on commercial photography as a full time profession in 1988, with clients including TWA, Studer Revox of America, and Audio Kinetics. In March of 1989, I was deeply affected by the Exxon Valdez grounding and left on a personal assignment to see what really was happening. When I returned from my first of 5 trips to Prince William Sound, I made a commitment to photography as a statement of my beliefs instead of a livelihood.

My work has appeared in Professional Photographer Magazine, StoryTeller Magazine,The Village Voice, Rangefinder, America's Third Deficit, Earth Island Journal, American Oceans Campaign, LA Weekly, The Book- Los Angeles, and The Amicus Journal. I wrote and produced a video "Footprint On The Water" with Val Kilmer and Jo Ann Whalley Kilmer, and contributed to the documentary, "Hard Aground", produced by the State of Alaska.

Two catalogs of my work have been published, both with writings and photographs. My work is in private collections as well as the White House Archives in Washington, DC. I have exhibited widely since 1988 (25 one man exhibits and 12 group shows) and am published in 3 books (Best of Photography Annual 1986, LA Nude available in Japanese and English, and The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill-Final Report.)

In 1992 I went to work for Calumet Photographic . In 1995 I accepted the position of Marketing Specialist to the Fine Art market. I am directly responsible to working with and furthering Calumet's position in the Fine Art market. I am also the editor of the "Newsletter for the Photographic Artist", a quarterly publication from Calumet that addresses new ideas and view points in the field of fine art photography. The Newsletter has just issued it's 11th edition. My position is an exciting one that lets me work directly with the most creative and exciting photographers in this field.

I am currently working on 3 bodies of work, a series of editioned, photographs made on the California Coast, a series of Color SX-70 images, and a "visual diary" of traveling. Besides my full time position with Calumet, I have lead workshops through out the southwest and the California coast sponsored by The Santa Fe Workshops, Hasselblad , Ilford, Mt Carroll Center, and The Calumet Institute.

My personal work is represented by the Ansel Adams Gallery in Peeble Beach CA. and the Swanstock stock agency, Tucson AZ. I sit on the Advisory board of the Project Workshops in Santa Fe New Mexico and the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel, Ca. "