Tag Archives: QTR

Intro to Platinum/Palladium Printing, Day Two- First Printing Session

This weekend was module one of two in my revised Intro to Platinum/Palladium Printing class. Module One covered making images from in-camera film negatives. Yesterday we went out in the park at Glen Echo and shot some film with my 5×7. This first image is one of the student prints from that outing – the rocks and water in the stream that runs through the park.

Rocks, Stream, Glen Echo Park
Rocks, Stream, Glen Echo Park

This second shot is a happy accident – one of my students wanted to do portraits, and shot this and another one (which we didn’t print) of two classmates. What we didn’t realize at the time, which was very much my fault, was that those two sheets had previously been exposed by me on an outing with my Intro to Large Format class to the National Cathedral, but not developed. So we had two negatives of students in the woods superimposed on the facade of the National Cathedral. In the other one, the student’s face was obscured by the rose window, but here it works well. We were joking that it would make a great political campaign photo.

Happy Accident - Double Exposure
Happy Accident – Double Exposure

Here are my students busy coating paper and working hard.

Students Coating Prints
Students Coating Prints

Another faculty member had been given this UV exposure unit by one of our long-time patrons, Grace Taylor. Grace is now retired from photography as she’s in her late 90s, and had given it to him when she stopped printing. At the time he passed it along to me, he said it might have an electrical issue and so may or may not work properly. I was leery therefore, but determined to give it a try. If it didn’t work, I would still have a fallback option of the blacklight compact fluorescent fixture I’ve used before. Fortunately, not only did it work, but it worked well. It gave us very fast exposure times (3 minutes was our base exposure, instead of the 6.5 I normally get with my own unit or the 7-9 we were getting with the CF fixture). So Grace, if you’re aware of this, a big thanks for your UV unit, it has found a new home and is once again being productive!

Grace Taylor's Old UV Unit in Action
Grace Taylor’s Old UV Unit in Action

This was another student image, this time one that one of the students brought in, from a digital negative she had made herself. The shot is an interior of one of the hotel rooms at the Chateau Mormont in Los Angeles. This foreshadows next weekend’s module, making digitally enlarged negatives for alt process printing. She had made this negative using the Dan Burkholder method, including using the printer adjustment curve he supplied as a download. The curve he supplied is a good baseline starting point, but as we saw in several tweaks of the print through the day, using someone else’s curve is not a true substitute for making your own.

Chateau Mormont Interior - Digital Negative
Chateau Mormont Interior – Digital Negative

I’ll have the students work through making their own curves next Saturday, and then we’ll make some digital negatives of our own and print from them. I’m having them use Ron Reeder’s book, Digital Negatives for Palladium and other Alternative Processes as the textbook for the digital negative process, specifically focusing on creating adjustment curves rather than using QTR to interpret the adjustments needed to create the negative. Ron covers both techniques in his book, and going through the ordeal of making a QTR to adjust the printer output has the advantage of being non-destructive to your digital file (meaning that it doesn’t make any permanent changes, so you don’t have to create multiple files to print negatives for each alternative process you want to use), but for all but the computer-geekiest of folks, it’s way too intimidating.

I have a great crop of students this time (well, I almost always do!) and I think I’m having at least as much fun as they are!

Photo Weekend in Connecticut

This past weekend I went up to Rocky Hill, Connecticut (just outside Hartford) to attend a two-day, three evening seminar and get-together, sponsored by the New England Large Format Photography Collective (NELFPC). The main theme of the weekend was to learn about digital negative making and carbon printing. The side benefit was most people brought examples of their current work to share and show after hours. What a terrific weekend! Our instructor for the weekend was Sandy King, an elder statesman for the chemical wet darkroom. A specialist in carbon printing, he is also the inventor of Pyrocat-HD (and its variants), a film developer with special benefit for people working in antique and historic photo processes.

Day one began with displays of some of Sandy’s carbon prints, and a discussion of digital negative making. Sandy does still use ultra-large format cameras from time to time (he has a 20×24 with 12×20 and 10×24 reducing backs), but he mostly travels with medium format gear and then scans his film to enlarge it digitally. He demonstrated the Precision Digital Negatives system for making digitally enlarged negatives, and discussed the benefits and flaws. He then discussed the QTR (Quad Tone RIP) method which has significant advantages over the PDN system, but is far more user-unfriendly to configure. We then scanned some film and made digital negatives to print from the next day.

After all the computer wonkery was finished for the day, dinner was served and the prints to show came out. I showed my two bodies of work, the platinum/palladium travel shots and the male nudes in gum and platinum I’ve been working on. Both series drew a lot of comments and praise, which was very nice. I was especially tickled when certain individuals who I hold in very high esteem made a point of complimenting me in private.

The next day we got down to the business of printing. Carbon is water-activated, like gum bichromate, and uses the same dichromate as a sensitizer. To make a carbon print, you first coat a gelatin and pigment (india ink mixed to taste with other pigment(s) to adjust the tone warmer or cooler) layer on a thin, flexible but non-absorbent medium (mylar or other similar material). This is your donor tissue. You then sensitize it with an ammonium dichromate and alcohol mix, dry it in a cool, dark place, then sandwich it with your negative, emulsion to emulsion, then expose to UV light. After exposing, you put your receiver paper (it can be anything from art papers to fixed-out silver gelatin paper) in a water bath, allow it to swell. After a minute, put the exposed carbon tissue in the water and sandwich it to the receiver paper. continue for another minute and a half or so, then take it out of the water. GENTLY separate the two, then place the receiver in another bath of warm water. You’ll see the image come up in the water bath. You can use a clearing bath as well, but it is not required. The clearing bath will greatly reduce washing time though, so it is a good idea.

To me, while learning carbon printing from a master printer was an awesome reason to travel 400 miles, the bonus that made it worth the effort was meeting the people who attended. Steve Sherman (the beyond generous host – we used his gigantic and brilliantly designed darkroom for the printing sessions and his living room for the show-and-tell sessions, general hanging out, and consuming all the amazing food), Gene LaFord, Dave Matuszek, Jack Holowitz, Glenn and Marie Curtis, Sandy King, Jim Shanesy and Diwan Bhathal (fellow Washingtonians and my travel pals for the trek up and back), Alex Wei, Armando Vergara, Robert Seto, Tim Jones, Paul Paletti just to name a few all made the weekend a really enjoyable experience and I am dying for the next one!

In the group photo, the one on the right, Sandy King is the one with the rolleiflex in his lap – which happens to be my rolleiflex. When I can get the negatives from the trip scanned, I’ll post some shots here.