Category Archives: Darkroom

First Session of Intro to Platinum/Palladium Printing a success

I finished up my first session of my Intro to Platinum/Palladium Printing class today. I had eight students, all highly motivated and enthusiastic, and it was a big help in making the class succeed. I was a bit nervous as this was my first time running the class, and it was sold out. There was a very diverse audience – about half and half male and female, and age ranges from early 20’s to late 60s (maybe older than that, but it’s not a very polite thing to ask). I was really thrilled that everything went smoothly – on day one, we all talked about the process, shared work and little bios of our artistic backgrounds, and then went out in Glen Echo Park to walk around and shoot some images. We made 10 negatives all told, enough for everyone in the class to own one, with a couple spares. Since platinum/palladium is a contact printing process, we shot all the film with my 5×7. Most of the students had never used a view camera before, so it was an additional learning experience for them. I took the film home with me and developed it that night, so that students would have real live working negatives, properly developed, for the class, and to keep a sample to see what a good negative looks like.

Today, we got in to the darkroom early, set up and went through the process, end to end. I began with a coating demonstration, then exposed the print, developed, cleared, washed and dried it. Then I cut my students loose and let them coat and print away.

Students Coating and Printing
Students Coating and Printing

We used a combination of artificial UV light source and natural daylight – it was a cloudy overcast day, so actually not a bad day for doing pt/pd prints, but exposure times were LONG outdoors – with some negatives, up to 25 minutes. For a quick-and-dirty portable UV light source, I used a 16-socket PhotoDiox lamp house with black-light compact fluorescent tubes. It worked out great for exposing, if a little slow (the average exposure with it was 12 minutes), but we could only do one at a time with it. We still managed to get two prints done for each student, which is not bad for a single day printing session with so many people trying to use a small facility.

Exposing a Print
Exposing a Print

We got the chance to try both traditional develop-out palladium prints and printing-out Ziatypes (a variation on the theme but the image if fully formed during exposure and requires only a water wash step instead of development. Here are my students posing with their prints –

Class Photo - May 5-6 Intro To Platinum/Palladium Printing, Photoworks
Class Photo – May 5-6 Intro To Platinum/Palladium Printing, Photoworks

And here’s a finished print of one of the student images. The print is still wet, and the crappy Olympus digital P&S I was using didn’t white balance well, so my apologies in advance if the shot looks a little yellow –

Stairs, Glen Echo
Stairs, Glen Echo

Today’s Darkroom Work


Here’s a 14×17 portrait I shot a while ago and just got around to developing. I love what I can do tonally with FP4+ and platinum/palladium, but when you are shooting this big, the slow speed starts to hurt – its tough getting the f-stops you need when a headshot is also a 1:1 macro and costs you two stops (or MORE) just from the bellows extension.


Here are the first few from my outing to the Arboretum with one of the camera clubs I joined recently. These are 6.5×8.5 (whole plate) sized negatives.

I’d been in a bit of a blue funk as far as darkroom work was concerned, but getting ready for Artomatic has helped me find new motivation to get back in there and start working again. That and teaching my class this coming weekend. Can’t wait to finish developing all my film and see the results!

New Fixer, and Other Darkroom Topics

A long time ago, back when I was still printing enlarged silver gelatin prints from small negatives, I bought this multi-gallon cube of Kodak Rapid Fixer. I noticed recently that it seemed to have shiny particles in it that I couldn’t filter out, and that used fixer that should have had plenty of life left in it was silvering out on the insides of the working strength bottles I use when processing. This, combined with the sulphur smell it always had, pushed me to try a new fixer. I ordered a couple bottles of TF4 from Photographers Formulary. This stuff is a revelation – minimal odor, faster acting than Rapid Fixer, and they say on the bottle how many square inches of film one liter of fixer is good for.

And here’s a snapshot of my darkroom in action, for the curious:

That’s the wet side, with my Jobo CPP2 processor, with the last of the b/w negatives from the San Francisco sojourn in the drum. Tomorrow starts the printing.

Making progress (isn’t this my most common post title?)

Well, I have half of the black-and-white shots from the San Francisco Sojourn developed already, and I also got my UV printing unit re-configured while I was souping film.  I discovered the last time I tried to print a 14×17 negative that I didn’t have quite enough coverage and one edge was getting a little under-exposed. I had gone to Home Depot to find another blacklight lamp like the ones I’m using but they don’t stock them in the same size anymore. Fortunately I did have a regular fluorescent lamp in the same size that I can always get a blacklight bulb for, so I got down on the floor on my back and added it to the array (the home-brew UV exposure unit I use is a series of fluorescent fixtures screwed to the bottom of a shelf in an IKEA Ivar shelving unit). Now I just need to find a surge strip that takes 8 outlets instead of the 6 I currently have, and I’ll be good to go again. I also realized that after cleaning out the darkroom the other weekend, I have more storage space for my contact printing frames, so now they’re not sitting out on the floor or leaning up against something when not in use.