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View Full Version : Where to begin in making very large prints from 4x5?



jesse1996
6-Jul-2016, 21:09
Does anyone have experience in developing some larger prints? As of now I shoot digital and simply stitch the images together in photoshop. However I'm about to get a 4x5 camera which will pretty much make my digital camera a lightweight in terms of larger photos (3'x4' plus) a more recent panorama i have done is 54"x210" at 300DPI to give a sense of what i do. With film its obviously not as easy as just pushing a few buttons then going out for lunch while me computer does all the work. So! does anyone here have any methods they use for these much larger prints? is there a place i should go to get massive developing bins for these leviathan photos once the enlarger has been turned off? Are there places to get that sized paper for a better price? and are there places to get the chemicals is large enough quantities to even develop a print that has the sam square footage as a small bathroom?
I am aware that most people don't dive into massive prints right away, and chances are i will practice with much smaller prints to get the hang of using the darkroom properly, however making massive images is sort of my thing, I've done it since my mum gave me my first camera! Most of my photos on my hard drive take up at least a gigabyte, so its just me!

I would buy an 8x10 camera however I don't feel like spending the cost of a small car for an enlarger that might fall over and kill my frail hipster body.

Thanks in advance and i will do my best to reply and thank each comment!

Below is the aforementioned 54x210" panorama, the finished product is in black and white.

Light Guru
6-Jul-2016, 21:38
I would not try and chemically print them. Have your negatives drum scanned and print them digitally.

Randy Moe
6-Jul-2016, 22:33
Why change? Looks like you have it all figured out. Not kidding.

Look up Clyde Butcher to see what he does to wet print big.

Ken Lee
7-Jul-2016, 04:33
A 4x5 inch sheet is 3.75 x 4.75 inches once we account for the blank film edge. Scanned at 2000 dpi (with an affordable scanner) we get a 68 megapixel file, but that's if we use the entire width and height.

Your panorama image (54x210) is roughly of the ratio of 1:4 so you'd only be using only a 1.2 x 4.75 inch piece of film. Scanned at 2000 dpi that gives around 21 megapixels.

A 54 x 210 inch image at 300 dpi requires around 1 Gigapixel.

As others have suggested, it's better to stick with your current method.

bob carnie
7-Jul-2016, 06:23
first question do you want to do this in one single piece or do you want to do this in panels.?

Jim Jones
7-Jul-2016, 06:34
A quality 3'x4' optical print from a 4"x5" negative requires good equipment and meticulous technique. Wider panoramas would logically be digitally stitched and printed. A successful optical 210" print would even outclass George R. Lawrence's giant photographs over a hundred years ago http://cs.trains.com/trn/f/111/p/199777/2197909.aspx and http://www.pacificrimcamera.com/milanpub/Alton-Limited.pdf.

vdonovan
7-Jul-2016, 08:08
Wet mural printing requires special equipment but it is a lot of fun. Rayko Photo Center (http://raykophotocenter.com/) in San Francisco has a darkroom just for making big prints - I've made murals there 30' long using all sorts of negatives. While it may not be part of your regular process, you might find it fun to go out there and try it out.

blindpig
7-Jul-2016, 08:13
A long time ago the folks I worked for wanted a series of 4X8 foot panels,each utilizing cropped images from 4X5 inch negatives.They were B&W images projected on to roll paper and developed in "trays" made of 2X4's covered with plastic drop cloth type sheets and filled half way with chemicals.Once the paper was submerged we mopped the surface with an actual cotton rag mop.Because of the area taken up by these"trays" we only used developer and fix baths then washed with a garden hose and hung the prints to dry. After two or three preliminary tests we made a series of 8- 4X8 foot prints and mounted them to plywood backs for display.
Not very "high tech" but worked ....

Jac@stafford.net
7-Jul-2016, 08:21
[...] Look up Clyde Butcher to see what he does to wet print big.

See the video of Clyde in his darkroom here (https://youtu.be/RCN_WQeEKnc).

Ah, he uses a Saltzman enlarger, so that means he probably has a 14' ceiling!

Jim Noel
7-Jul-2016, 08:22
Blindpig has the best idea if you want to make wet prints. I have been with a group which worked in a similar fashion quite successfully. If you search around you should be able to find a business which makes massive prints on a regular basis.

jesse1996
7-Jul-2016, 19:54
Well thank you, however I prefer film heavily over digital, its just magic to me

jesse1996
7-Jul-2016, 20:00
Very Interesting! though i do live in Nashville I will definitely keep the Rayko in mind if I'm ever in SF

jesse1996
7-Jul-2016, 20:05
I would sell both kidneys and a pint of blood to get my hands on such a beautiful piece of machinery for my enlarger! He does exactly what I want to do with my prints, big and beautiful, bellying with detail

Jac@stafford.net
8-Jul-2016, 05:02
I would sell both kidneys and a pint of blood to get my hands on such a beautiful piece of machinery for my enlarger!

Not necessary. Many Saltzman enlargers were virtually given away. They are so big and heavy, difficult to move and house that they just get passed on to the next appreciative user.

Mine is spoken for.

LabRat
8-Jul-2016, 07:00
Not necessary. Many Saltzman enlargers were virtually given away. They are so big and heavy, difficult to move and house that they just get passed on to the next appreciative user.

Mine is spoken for.

Though I love Saltzman gear, I'm relieved that I passed on a couple of the enlargers over the years... First for having to move them, and that I realized that they are really overkill for standard darkroom work... I figure that the massive weight of them was to offset vibrations that would be present in a high vibration environment, such as a printing plant where the darkroom would possibly be not far away from printing presses, etc, and would need the stability to make good halftones... Cool, but.....

Steve K

Jac@stafford.net
8-Jul-2016, 07:15
Though I love Saltzman gear, I'm relieved that I passed on a couple of the enlargers over the years... First for having to move them, and that I realized that they are really overkill for standard darkroom work... I figure that the massive weight of them was to offset vibrations that would be present in a high vibration environment, such as a printing plant where the darkroom would possibly be not far away from printing presses, etc, and would need the stability to make good halftones... Cool, but.....

Steve K

They were appreciated by military aerial recon units, too. One very handy feature is that almost all the mechanical parts are ordinary US standard. I got gears, chains, fasteners and column stays from a farm supply store.

Randy Moe
8-Jul-2016, 07:16
Horizontal enlargers make sense after a certain size print is desired. AA made his own.

Many upright enlargers tilt to project on a wall.

Beseler 4x5 and 2x3 both tilt the head.

Elwood 5x7 and 8x10 are fairly common and tilt in the middle.

The issue is perfecting your process.

Which takes time and money.

bob carnie
8-Jul-2016, 07:29
The OP has asked how to make super size silver gelatin prints.
the following is some of the things to consider if the OP wants high quality.


I have experience , as well Micheal Wesik has experience in this . He may chime in.

A roll of paper to start is around $ 1200 these days .
A single wall 210 inches would require a large room and a horizontal enlarger set up.

The OP could do in Panels with a enlarger with the ability to move the negative ( 8 x10 ) into sectional position. If using 50 inch paper minimum 5 panels would be needed
Chemistry would run into the hundreds of dollars and the space required to do this would need to be large.

To keep the 5 panels in register , consisent density would require patience and experience.

This type of project in Mural houses I worked in the past would take minimum one day to complete with experience.

I am sure one could jury rig something, I am just not sure what the expectations of quality would be.

Then of course we get into mounting of large silver gelatin prints.. I know of very few places that have the right gear to do this.

Drew Wiley
8-Jul-2016, 08:47
Doing color work that big from film is not likely to be an in-house operation. In the past (and still in a few cases), labs had big powerful horizontal enlargers, along with wide roller-fed processor machines, which had to be in routine use with thousands of dollars worth of chemistry in them. This is still done when actual photosensitive paper is scanned and then exposed with a laser rather than enlarger. And there's obviously inkjet. You could make a huge RA4 processing drum out
of irrigation pipe, like a few people have done; but maintaining chem temp and even loading them could prove difficult if you expect consistent results. So I wouldn't worry about the cost of a small new car - it's more like buying a Bentley if you're serious!

Randy Moe
8-Jul-2016, 08:54
Bob Carnie IS an expert and he does what he says. He prints for exhibition for a living.

I am not and do not.

Paper is not necessarily $1200, but it sure can be.

Last night I found this affordable for me option. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/447081-REG/Ilford_1769579_Multigrade_IV_Deluxe_Black.html

I would NOT be printing wider than 40", but this roll will let me play a bit with a bigger enlargement than I typically do, 16x20".

bob carnie
8-Jul-2016, 09:05
Hi Randy

for the size of print the OP is talking fresh Ilford Warmtone is what I would use and the last time I bought roll paper about a month ago it cost me this amount drop shipped to my location.
I was making 50 inch murals from 35mm strip and it was quite a process.
In my current darkroom I could not do what the OP wants to do, I worked at Jones and Morris Photo Murals and our BW printer at that time showed me how he
made panel murals in BW fibre and it was an incredible setup.

Today I could make a lambda silver print but my Durst is 30 inch platform , but we have made 15 foot prints. Duggal, Lamount Imaging, are two great sources for very large silver gelatin prints from
files at the 50 inch platform, I would thing the print would cost the OP over $1000 US

Bob


Bob Carnie IS an expert and he does what he says. He prints for exhibition for a living.

I am not and do not.

Paper is not necessarily $1200, but it sure can be.

Last night I found this affordable for me option. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/447081-REG/Ilford_1769579_Multigrade_IV_Deluxe_Black.html

I would NOT be printing wider than 40", but this roll will let me play a bit with a bigger enlargement than I typically do, 16x20".

Bruce Watson
8-Jul-2016, 09:13
It took me a couple of years to get to the point I could make a technically acceptable (to me of course) 12x enlargement. I'm talking about camera technique, not darkroom printing. There's no point in making a print that big unless you have a negative that's worth it. And by worth it, I mean both technically and aesthetically.

I'm sure you'll make good aesthetic decisions without my dodgy advice. ;)

Technically, you'll find that what you've learned using digicams won't help you much, if at all, with a view camera. Just recognize that you've got some learning curves to climb, and don't let the climb get you down. If I can do it, anyone can.

The problem you'll have is that you want to print big. And that means that everything you do making the negative is going to be magnified. If you want to make a 120" print from a 5" wide negative, that's around 25x enlargement. Your technique is going to have to be close to perfect. That means your control of the camera must be top rate, your tripod technique, your exposure technique, all of it must be perfect. I lost an interesting shot made in the rain once -- 15 second exposure (yes, during the day). What happened? I moved. I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. This resulted in a slight movement of the tripod on the spongy rain soaked forest floor. Which gave me a kinda-sorta double exposure. Other than that, I did everything else correctly. But anyone could see that "tiny" mistake in a print of just 3x enlargement. All because I got irritated by a branch dripping rainwater down my back and moved a few cm to the side to avoid it. Boom. Gone.

The other thing you're going to have to deal with in these large prints from photographic film is graininess. If you don't want to see the grain, stay down below 10-12x (depends on the film and processing of course). This points you toward relatively slow emulsions, like TMX, Delta 100, and Acros.

Film has interesting reciprocity characteristics. You'll find that even in daylight, with view camera exposures in the 1/10 of a second range (nothing like the 1/250 shutter speeds of your digicams), it's easy to put some of the negative into reciprocity failure. If you have these problems (some people find this is a creative tool, not a "problem"), this points you toward modern t-grain films as opposed to older cubic-grained films, as the t-grained films typically have better low light performance.

Then you're going to need film processing that gives you completely smooth and even processing. If you're inducing the smallest amount of streaking in your skies, you'll see it with a 25x enlargement. That said, people get all kinds of results from every development technique known. Some people get beautifully smooth and even development from trays. I never could. Some from the BTZS tubes. I never could. I had to move to the Jobo system, and a 3010 drum to get really even development that was repeatable. Whatever it takes is whatever it takes.

You'll have to fight a continuous war of cleanliness also. A 5 micron dust spot enlarged 25x can be clearly visible in your final print. You'll be maintaining your entire process, from keeping dust out of your camera body, to keeping your film holders clean, loading them in a dust free darkroom with excellent technique, using them in the field (hint: don't ever set a film holder down -- it should live only 1) in the camera, 2) in its protective ziplock freezer bag, or 3) on the darkroom table that you load and unload film on. And that's it. You set a film holder down on a rock or a fence post, you may not believe what happens next from a dirt/dust standpoint. Again, been there and done that). You'll get grunge on the film during processing too. I learned all about the benefits of triple steam distilled water ($1/gal at the local store) in processing. And one-shot processing for film. And about keeping your darkroom immaculately clean, and drying processing equipment upside down so dust wouldn't fall into it while it's drying. The cleanliness war is never won, and you can't ever let up if you're after big enlargements.

So... is all this pain worth it? Hell yes. It's hard to describe what a big print that you put so much time and effort into is like. Well worth it IMHO.

Drew Wiley
8-Jul-2016, 10:57
If it's just b&w silver gelatin development you might luck out on finding a used trough developing rig, which cranks the big paper through successive chemical baths similar to wall wallpaper-hanging trays. You can also encounter various do-it-yourself design ideas for these on the web, reasonably affordable if you have decent shop skills. But enlarging itself will take a serious gear commitment. You need a bit of firepower for big enlargements, and a big enough room to back it off onto an aligned horizontal rail system. Cost of the paper depends on the specific paper and square footage of the roll involved. MGWT is obviously one of the most expensive options due to its premium quality. ...which reminds me to bring a wad of cash this weekend for a case of mere 20x24. You also need some way to cut it and attach it to a big wall easel. A step at a time. I eventually dismantled my own nuke-powered horizontal enlarger and went to vertical in a room with a very high ceiling in order to save floor space; but I have to load the thing with a big rolling ladder. No wonder I'm in the mood to make only smaller prints at
the moment.

Light Guru
8-Jul-2016, 14:01
Well thank you, however I prefer film heavily over digital, its just magic to me

So shoot film and scan it.

Drew Wiley
11-Jul-2016, 13:37
The output is different, regardless. An aesthetic as well as practical choice.

Randy Moe
11-Jul-2016, 14:36
Check CL in many cities, what you want is for sale right now.

Try Chicago, but it's in LA.

Saltzman. I have no connection or interest.