As a long time large format and darkroom photographer, I am fascinated by the underlying science to the art of traditional darkroom silver gelatin photography. Photochemistry is an art within the art of darkroom photography.

I am reading the historic literature to include the science and chemistry texts so that I can more deeply understand all of the variables when making silver gelatin emulsions from raw materials. I want to share in my journey to help other photographers with a similar interest and to also be an advocate to help keep the art alive.

I make my own negatives (film, dry plates), calotypes (paper negatives) and I coat darkroom printing papers for my large format contact prints.

While this can be accomplished for a number of formats, my focus is directed towards the gear that I use (4x5, 8x10, and 11x14) view cameras.  

This page is a place where I am sharing information that I have researched, my own experiments, and resources that I have found during my journey that I think will help others that want to pursue a similar path.  If you know of a good resource, please send it to me and I will post it here. 

I share exclusive articles and information like this with my darkroom and large format photography newsletter subscribers.  

PHOTOCHEMISTRY BLOG ARTICLES

  • Making Silver Gelatin Emulsion is an Art within an Art [read now]
  • Getting Closer to Making some Chloride Bromide (ClBr) Emulsion for Large Format Paper Negatives [read now]
  • Book Review - The Light Farm, Handmade Silver Gelatin Emulsions [read now]
  • Initial Testing of Papers to Identify a Paper Negative Candidate [read now]
  • First Steps in Exploring Dry Plates - Dry Plates for Babies [read now]
  • Materials List to Make the Chloro-Bromide (ClBr) Emulsion for my Large Format Paper Negatives  [read now]
  • Video - Materials Review in the Darkroom for the Chloro-Bromide Silver Gelatin Emulsion  [view now]
  • Video - Initial Test of Adox Baryta Paper for Coating with Silver Gelatin Emulsion [view now]
  • Adox Baryta Paper Initial Response to Silver Gelatin Emulsion Testing  [read now]
  • The Large Format Paper Negative Conundrum [read now]
  • Understanding the Color Spectrum for Silver Gelatin Emulsion Makers [read now]
  • Restarting my Journey with Silver Gelatin Dry Plates [read now]
  • Starting the Design Process for my Dry Plate Drying Box [read now]
  • The High-Level Steps for Making Silver Gelatin Emulsion [read now]

CURRENT STATUS

I have tested a variety of papers(substrates) ranging from watercolor to vellum to mixed-media to find one or more substrates that would be a reliable source for my modern paper negatives.  I explored the process of creating a Chloro-Bromide (ClBr) emulsion.  After this experience, I have decided to go back to the basics and create Calotype paper negatives on vellum and use modern silver-gelatin darkroom papers as my paper negative mediums.  

I moved off the grid and built a new darkroom in 2016 and I am now fully functioning and organized.  I have begun the process of creating silver gelatin emulsions (various formulas) to make dry plates.  I am currently making two different variations of the Ammonium Bromide (AmBr) emulsion.  I create this classic emulsion with two different spectral sensitivities (the historic color blind variant, and the orthochromatic version).  

I settled on glass plates as my substrate because I find it easier to make high-quality negatives in my lab/darkroom vs. using celluloid for film at this time.  After I get more experience with emulsion making and coating, I plan to pursue making some large format sheet film and then explore the differences between dry plates and film.   

CHEMISTRY RESOURCES

Tip: in the historic literature you will often find liquids measured by cubic centimeter (ccm).  1 cubic centimeter is equal to 1 milliliter.  

SILVER GELATIN CHEMISTRY LITERATURE 

I am creating a list of literature that I have personally acquired and have either read or in the process of reading to help others learn and understand the scientific underpinnings that constitute and impact the making of silver gelatin emulsions.  Also, be sure to refer to the literature list at The Light Farm website.

  • Emulsion Makers Vocabulary - Hosted by The Light Farm [online]
  • Photographic Emulsion Chemistry, by G. F. Duffin [PDF on TLF Website - Part 1 - Part 2]
  • Photographic Emulsion Technique, by T. Thorne Baker [PDF on TLF Website - Part 1 - Part 2]
  • The Photographic Emulsion by B.H. Carroll, D. Hubbard - Focal Press (PDF 50Mb, Online Version)
  • Making, Coating and Processing a Simple Gelatin Emulsion by Mark Osterman - PDF

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Tim Layton
Darkroom & Large Format Photography - Alternative Printmaking
Website & Blog: www.timlaytonfineart.com
© Tim Layton Sr. | All Rights Reserved