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Ultra Large Format Photography Diary – Broken, But Still Connected

As I continue thinking and reflecting about my new “Broken, But Still Connected” project, I thought I would share a few of my thoughts and observations about the technical aspects of creating expressive and unique ultra large format fine art analog prints in the darkroom.

I consider the project to fall into the fine art realm because the work is deeply personal, and I am creating the work as part of my journey to heal and recover. I have no commercial intentions for the artwork. I am not opposed to selling a print if an art buyer or collector would like to purchase it, but at this time, I don’t plan on proactively promoting the artwork for sale. I am doing the project because I need to do it as part of my healing and grieving process.

If you are interested in learning more about creating fine art photographs and prints, I encourage you to visit my friend Quinn Jacobson’s page which he published on this very topic.

If you are not already a member of our Free Ultra Large Format Photography Facebook Group, please join a thousand other ULF photographers and us from around the world.

TECHNICAL INFORMATION

When I talk about my ULF (ultra large format) photography projects with digital photographers, they are amazed at the amount of time and effort that I invest in making a single print. I don’t really think anything about it because it is just part of the territory as far as I am concerned. A digital photographer could take tens of thousands of exposures daily, and I use the word “take” on purpose.

I believe there is a big difference between “taking” exposures and “creating” images/artwork. I am not suggesting the only way to create contemplative and thoughtful fine artwork is to use an ultra large format workflow. “Creating” exposures with a digital camera is possible, but I believe it is rare and unusual.

If you haven’t already noticed, every step of my creative process is planned and explored with significant thought and care. This is the first clue that I am creating artwork and not “taking” exposures. The process that I use and describe is much different than pressing a button on a computer-driven digital camera and riffling 20 or 30 frames per second, then pressing another button on a computer, and the print is created with an inkjet printer attached to the computer.

I am documenting this new project from the very beginning and carrying it through to the final print as part of my personal journey. I will be sharing my work with you on my YouTube channel.

I hope my notes and articles help provide some insight into the creative and technical aspects of working and creating ultra large format fine art projects.

TOOLS & MATERIALS

NEGATIVES

I will most likely try a couple of different negative mediums. I think I will use silver gelatin RC glossy Ilford Multigrade IV and then try some sheet film. I have FP4 and Shanghai GP3 100 in 8×20 format on hand, so I will probably use the FP4 because it is more reliable and flawless where as the GP3 is created with less quality control.

Ilford Multigrade IV RC Glossy makes a good negative and contact prints well, as I have shown in multiple videos on my YouTube channel. I rate this paper negative at ISO 1 when working indoors and up to ISO 6 outdoors, depending on the light. I always attempt to expose my negative for the shadows because I develop by inspection in a dilute paper developer, which means I can pull the negative from the developer before the highlights get too blocked up. I tend to use Ilford Multigrade developer diluted 1:30 for these paper negatives.

I have conducted previous tests with the Shanghai GP3 large and ultra-large format sheet film, and my tests indicate an EI rating of 80 using PMK Pyro developer. This developer is extremely flexible and optimized for UV printing processes such as platinum and palladium, but it also works great with standard silver gelatin contact printing.

I rate my FP4 at EI 80 typically and either develop in PMK Pyro or D23. Depending on the contrast of the scenes, I will pick the developer that I want to use at that time.

I share my latest work in the darkroom with you in the Darkroom Diary on my YouTube Channel. If you are interested in coming behind the scenes with me as I work, this is the place for you.

PRINT TYPES

Regarding the type of print, I like to start with Ilford Warmtone (WT) Fiber Glossy, developed with Ilford WT paper developer or Ilford Multigrade.

The RC glossy paper negative with Ilford WT FB Glossy is one of my trusted and beautiful combinations to create expressive artwork. If I like more of a matte look, then I use Ilford Warmtone Semi-Matte.

These papers are straightforward and easy compared to hand-coated sensitizers/emulsions. I typically start by contact printing to another sheet of Ilford RC Multigrade Glossy to see if I want to invest the time and money for a fiber print. I don’t want to waste the fiber paper and also the RC is faster to process. I may also explore a silver chloride contact printing paper like Adox Lupex or some old stock Lodima, but I am not sure now.

I can always explore various print types like platinum, palladium, salt, kallitype, and others. I won’t know if I want to explore any of these until I get into the work.

OPTICS

Since I am creating this artwork for personal reasons, my initial intention is something in the soft-focus realm instead of a newer ultra-sharp lens. The challenge is soft focus, and ultra large format is rare because most soft focus lenses were made for 8×10 and smaller formats. Since I will be exploring landscapes, this means I need coverage at infinity. If I were doing still life, I could use my soft focus lenses that are made for smaller formats and simply extend the bellows for higher magnification ratios. I have a few options that I am going to explore, but I will be limited in my optic choices.

CAMERA

I will use my Chamonix 8×20 ultra large format view camera for this project.

The folded dimensions of my Chamonix 8×20 camera are 635mm x 320mm x 130mm or 25″ x 12.6″ x 5.1″. The camera has bellows that will allow lenses from 120mm to 620mm and it weighs about 14 pounds or 6.5 Kg.

NEXT STEPS

I have already begun scouting locations and scenes for this project, and I am very close to loading some film holders and making some new prints.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, we have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.