View Full Version : Changing tent for those on a budget

25-May-2005, 11:07
There was a recent thread on this forum on the Harrison changing tent. Here is an inexpensive solution that I came up that, though not intended to replace the Harrison changing tent, might work for people who don't need 100% light protection to change film in full daylight.

What I have found is that there are very few times when I want to actually change film in the field in daylight. My most common problem in working with ULF cameras is trying to find a place inside at night that offers enough protection from light to change film. Motel and hotel rooms almost always have extraneous coming in from somewhere that is often difficult or impossible to block.

My solution to this was to take one of the small dome kits intended for kids and treat it so as to make it light proof enough to use in the above conditions. The one I use is 6'X5' and sets up very easily almost anywhere. To dark proof it I first sprayed on a couple of cans of the rubberized paint that is used to coat tools, then finished it off with two cans of silver metal paint. The result is a small dome tent that a person can tclimb into with plenty of room for changing any size holder, up to 20X24" if you want to go there.

The finished tent offers what I consider 100% protection for changing film inside at night, with the main lights turned off, even with a fair amount of ambient light coming in through doors, windows, etc. I have recently sealed off the breathing vents at the top of the tent and it now appears to be light tight even in direct sun with everything zipped up, though I would only use it in these conditions in an absolute emergency.

Total cost less than $40, including $18 for the tent at Wal Mart, and $20 for four cans of spray paint, two rubberized black and two of metallic silver. For use in full daylight I think it would need a couple of coats more of the silver metalic paint.

BTW, I have seen even smaller versions of dome kits intended for very small children that might be even more practical for some uses.

paul owen
25-May-2005, 11:16
Sandy! Fantastic !! I'm sitting here chuckling to myself at the thought of setting one up in the field to change films!! I get enough strange looks with a view camera!! Imagine crawling into a silver dome!! Cool idea though :)

John Kasaian
25-May-2005, 11:55
Very interesting idea! How do you get air to breath in there?

Joe Smigiel
25-May-2005, 11:55

Another option might be to purchase some of the aluminized fabric similar to the material used in the Harrison tents. I recently purchased several yards of it through Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics (owfinc.com) to use in constructing a ULF darkcloth for my 11x14. It would be a simple matter to stitch together a piece to cover the child's tent frame and this would eliminate any mess or costs associated with the spray paints, etc.

I recently purchased a 4'x4'x7' camping shower online for $40 in order to get the frame and zipper. I'm going to use it to make a portable darkroom tent which I'll be able to stand in and backpack to do wetplate collodion, and had thought of using the aluminized fabric for it initially but reconsidered since the image of a bright reflective tent out in the woods was a bit too "Lost In Space" for me. I settled on some curtain blackout material (Roc-Lon ?) I found at a local fabric store. Off-white and fairly lightweight, I momentarily wrapped it around a 1000 watt studio light and it was completely lightproof. Cost for that on sale was about $4 per yard of approximately 5 feet of material (about $6/ yard normally).

I plan to build a cloth shelf inside the tent to allow me to change 11x14 holders easily within the tent.


Joe Smigiel
25-May-2005, 11:58
BTW, I also momentarily considered using the aluminized fabric to construct a camera bellows for a camera that would have aluminum boxes, standards, hardware and extension rails. A bit too much...

25-May-2005, 12:00
"Sandy! Fantastic !! I'm sitting here chuckling to myself at the thought of setting one up in the field to change films!! I get enough strange looks with a view camera!! Imagine crawling into a silver dome!! Cool idea though :)"

For use in daylight just be sure to kill the dome with the silver metallic spray because direct sun is insidious. But on second thought, it might take 4-6 more cans of the mtallic paint for daylight use, and I would recommend painting the inside of the dome as well, but the resulting total cost will still be very small, relatively speaking.

But you don't have to limit yourself to silver. What abut gold metallic spray. That might really get people to thinking watching someone crawl into a small golden dome. Maybe a TM addict who can not stand to be away from the big golden dome in Iowa!

Dave Moeller
25-May-2005, 12:40
Two thoughts come to mind:

One: Sandy, you're amazing.
Two: Why didn't I think of this?!?

This is a fabulous idea Sandy, and one that lends itself to countless variations. Thanks very much for sharing it.

25-May-2005, 13:05
"Very interesting idea! How do you get air to breath in there?"

What I did was seal off the air vents with a light proof cloth that I purchased from Porter's Camera. I attached velcro to the sides of the cloth, and to the side of the vent, so that I can cover off the vents from inside the tent just by attaching them to the velcro. This way I can open the vents to get some fresh air into the tent during the course of the changing operation, if necessary.

Struan Gray
25-May-2005, 13:11
If you get a pop-up tent rather than one with sleeved poles, you can use it semi-collapsed as a reflector. Picture, if you will, a cube with white, black, gold *and* silver faces.

Alan Davenport
25-May-2005, 15:01
"For the Photographer who has Everything: the Walk-in Changing Bag!"
Clever idea.

Donald Hutton
25-May-2005, 21:42
Now I am definitely gonna get me a 12X20 - the idea of owning a "photographic XBox" I can hide in for a while is very appealing... I suppose the cost efficient alternative is simply to send my son (15 months old, but seemingly very interested in all manner of things related to photography) into my Harrison tent for a half hour with some clear instructions on the mission.

Darin Cozine
25-May-2005, 21:44
I just noticed that Big-5 has a 'self-erecting' tent for a reasonable price. It is built with the flexible rings that photo-reflectors and dashboard sun protectors are made with. Hmmm this has potential!

26-May-2005, 17:09
Hmm, maybe this has potential.....if it could be modified to be lightight.


Joe Smigiel
26-May-2005, 23:12
Here's the shower tent I'm adapting: