ULF Diary 11/26/2022

Welcome to my Ultra Large Format Photography Journal.  I share my personal thoughts and experiences with my family and friends in the hope they will gain a deeper understanding of who I am and how much I love creating ultra large format contact prints.  I consider this process to be the ultimate medium for self-expression. Ultra large format contact printing is slow, contemplative, and never needs to change today or a thousand years from now.  It's already perfect, and no improvements are desired or needed.  If you want to watch some videos of me and Tim Jr. working in the darkroom, then you can follow our YouTube Darkroom Diary, where we bring you behind the scenes with us. 

ULF Diary 11/26/2022

As I continue thinking and reflecting about my new "Broken, But Still Connected" project that I introduced on 11/24/2022, I thought I would share a few of my thoughts and observations about the technical aspects of creating an expressive and unique ultra large format fine art analog print 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. 

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 that he published on this very topic at https://studioq.com/how-to-create-a-body-of-work 


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 art work is to use an ultra large format workflow. 

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 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.



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 Shanghai GP3 100 in 8x20 format on hand at this time, and my Ilford FP4 sheet film should arrive within the next month.  

Ilford Multigrade IV RC Glossy makes a very good negative and contact prints very well.  I rate the 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 is optimized for UV printing processes such as platinum and palladium, but it also works great with standard silver gelatin contact printing too.  I will share more in-depth technical information about this process once I am at this stage in my testing. 


Regarding the type of print, I like to start with Ilford Warmtone (WT) Fiber Glossy, developed with Ilford WT paper developer.  The RC glossy paper negative with Ilford WT FB Glossy is one of my trusted and beautiful combinations to create expressive artwork.  It is also very straightforward and easy compared to using 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 may also explore a silver chloride contact printing paper like Adox Lupex or some old stock Lodima, but I am not sure at this time. 

I am not sure until I get to this stage in the journey what I will do next, but I may make platinum/palladium, kallitype, or salt prints. 

If I explore all of the above-mentioned print types, this could be a journey that spans many months to create a final print. 


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.  Since I already know that I will most likely need a shorter focal length to allow for more bellows extension (higher magnification), then I will most likely start with my TT Signature Soft Focus lens that I had custom-made by Tri Tran.  One of the benefits of the TT lens is that I have 5 different elements for this lens, which can be changed in a matter of seconds.  I will use one of my shorter focal lengths to allow for the right degree of bellows draw and resulting magnification.  This lens is based on the original soft focus meniscus design and provides for a sharp center and increasingly softer focus that radiates out from the center. I think it may help me achieve the dreamy and ethereal vision that I have in my mind for this project. 

Depending on the degree of magnification needed, I may try and use my vintage Rodenstock Monar F3.5 soft focus lens, but I don't know if it will cover 8x20 or not.  


I will use my Chamonix 8x20 ultra large format view camera for this project. More information is available on the Chamonix website

More to follow.

You can follow my YouTube Darkroom Diary, where Tim Jr. and I bring you behind the scenes in our darkroom, where we work on our latest Ultra Large Format projects. 


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