Another image in that nighttime series. Palladium print, Bergger COT320 paper.
Here’s another of my 5×12 panoramics of Dupont Circle here in Washington DC. This was several exposures on the same negative, yielding an approximate minute and thirty seconds or thereabouts. We were printing from this negative in my Advanced Topics in Platinum/Palladium Printing class out at Photoworks Glen Echo this past weekend. The print I scanned for this image was printed on Bergger COT320 pre-treated with fumed silica. The fumed silica yields a definite boost in dmax.
The next print is of the same negative, but printed as a Ziatype. Ziatypes are a variation on palladium, but they use either Lithium Palladium or Cesium Palladium and Ammonium Ferric Oxalate instead, which yields a neutral-to-cool tone image more like platinum in color, and they are a printing-out process developed in water as opposed to a develop-out process that requires Potassium Oxalate or Ammonium Citrate as a developer.
The distinction between printing-out and developing-out, in addition to the chemistry variations, is the fact that a printing-out print’s final exposure is judged by visual inspection – what you see when you pull the print from the contact frame is pretty much what you’re going to get when it is washed, cleared, and dried, but a developing-out print will have some kind of ghost image that is anywhere from almost imperceptible to a partial rendition of the final image prior to development. Neither one is better than the other, except that the Ziatype is easier for beginners until they gain confidence in their coating and printing skills. Ziatypes also have a wide range of contrast controls that will also affect image color in addition to contrast.
So far this blog has been long on pictures and short on words. Lucky you. I figured it was time to actually write something, and now was as good a time as any to explain how I got into all this giant cameras and funky antique process stuff. The story of it kind of mirrors the story of how I got in to photography to begin with- almost by accident.
I started doing photography after college, as something to do while looking for a job. I originally thought I would learn JUST enough to use it to record subject matter for painting and drawing. It was a means to an end. That plan went out the window when I saw my first negatives come out of the developing tank, and was even more firmly convinced that this was the thing for me when that first print appeared in the red-lit tray on a rack in my bathtub.
Back maybe six or eight years ago, there was this big scare that Ilford might go bankrupt and that silver gelatin paper might go away, and maybe even film too. Well, I was so much in love with wet darkroom printing that I figured it was time to learn how to do hand-coated processes so I could keep using my 4×5 that I liked so much. I didn’t realize what a Pandora’s box this would open. Prior to this epiphany, I was only vaguely conscious of the existence of antique/alternative processes. I knew cyanotypes existed, and someone in a class I took once did some VanDyke Brown prints on fabric. I saw a handful of platinum prints at the View Camera conference, but that was about it.
That event was I think the turning point for me because it was there that I also saw people working in wet plate collidion. My eyes were opened to the possibility of what could be done without commercially manufactured products. After seeing some more prints,
I decided I would try platinum printing. I was mostly shooting 2 1/4 inch square roll film with some 4×5 mixed in at the time, and 4×5 negatives were big enough to learn on, but platinum like almost all other alternative/antique processes is mostly insensitive to non-UV light. This means that you can’t enlarge an image to whatever size print you want from a small negative- you have to work from a negative the size you want the finished print to be.
Realizing the limits of 4×5 prints rather quickly, an 8×10 camera ensued. 8×10 is a beautiful size print but a pain in the ass of a camera. Along came my Argentina trip and a 5×7 joined the family. And so on. Platinum printing became my mainstay as I grew to love the medium for itself, to the point that I have all but retired my enlargers, and only work in contact printed alternative processes. I’ve dabbled in wet plate and I’ve even learned how to make daguerreotypes.
This is my medium, these are my processes, and this is the how and why I make my photos.