Check Out My 30 Year Old Photo Desktop Printer

April 25, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I am always seeing new advertisements for the next best "desktop photo printer" and I laugh to myself because I have been using the same printer for 30 years.  I will never need expensive ink cartridge replacement or any type of repair.  You can obviously see by the photo at the top of this article that I am referring to my large format contact printing frames.  

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All joking aside, this highlights one of the reasons why I love the art and craft of large format photography so much.  It isn't for everyone, but I love making and fiddling with things.  I am always making new lens boards or even single element meniscus soft-focus lenses or something along those lines.  I love the ability to shape my final print in a natural way with things that I can touch with my hands.  I love the creative freedom that large format affords me.  If I am bored, it is my own fault.  

Some of the best photographs of all time were large format contact prints in my opinion.  I have been making contact prints for over three decades now, and I still feel like I am learning.  I love the simplicity of the process, but it is deceivingly difficult to create a negative that is suitable for contact printing.  I always say, "there is nowhere to hide in a large format contact print".  You either get it right or you don't and there is little room for adjustments.  If the composition is wrong, or there was a technical error in exposure, these sorts of things can't be masked like they can when making enlargements.   Depending on the printing method, there are a lot of options for the large format contact printer and the rest is up to your imagination.  

I have made a lot of different print types over the years beyond silver gelatin-based prints such as salt, van dyke brown, palladium, ziatype, platinum, and so on.  Of all the contact printing options available to black and white darkroom photographers today, my absolute favorite is an 8x10 or 11x14 platinum print.  If I could get the deep blacks that I can with silver gelatin prints, I would define this as heaven on earth.  There are always tradeoffs with most creative choices, so I choose to accent the positives and push the limits as far as I can.  

There is just something magical about a platinum print that I connect with.  Even if platinum prints were not highly desirable by collectors, I would still choose to make platinum prints for myself.  The subtle tonal separation and transitions are what do it for me.  While very similar results can be made using palladium with Na2 or palladium with platinum, I still prefer the more costly platinum print.  Maybe it is the purist in me when it comes to analog photography.  I have perfected the selection of my subjects along with how to create the proper negative to make a suitable platinum print, so I don't need the added contrast control benefits of the other processes, nor do I want or need the warmer tones that are possible with the above mentioned.  If pure platinum prints were good enough for Weston, Penn, and many of their peers, it is certainly good enough for me.  

So, the next time you see an advertisement for a new "desktop photo printer", think of my simple contact printing frame and I hope it puts a smile on your face.  :) 

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