In the field with my 8x10 (photo by Craig Spradling)In the field with my 8x10 (photo by Craig Spradling)Subscribe to my newsletter and never miss another article or update.

Learn more about my Fine Art Platinum and Platinum/Palladium Printmaking.

Read exclusive articles, both technical and creative, and view fine art portfolios in the Darkroom Underground Magazine.
I prefer using large format 4x5 and 8x10 cameras for most of my landscape and nature scenes.  I use black and white film, C-41 color negative film, E-6 transparencies, paper negatives, and historic mediums to include wetplate collodion and gelatin dry plates.  

I continue to maintain a large darkroom where I have large format enlargers capable of printing very large black and white gallery prints and color RA-4 prints.  I develop all of my own films up to and including my 11x14 large format negatives.  I also print, mount and frame all of my own work.  

For some of my commercial projects, I take advantage of a Nikon D810 small format DSLR and a Phase One digital back for my Hasselblad.

Most of my landscapes are created with large format film.  After I develop my films in my Jobo processor, I have the option to print in the darkroom and/or create high-resolution scans on my iQSmart Creo scanner by Kodak.  I can do a native scan at 4300 DPI and on an 8x10 negative or chrome, that creates a very high resolution TIFF file that I then edit in my digital workflow to make wall-sized prints and murals.

Darkroom Work

I continue to produce at least one darkroom portfolio per year.  Working in the darkroom is an enjoyable and never ending love affair to me.  The making of darkroom analog prints is an involved and tedious affair often spanning days or weeks, and that is why I love it so much.  The sense of accomplishment that I feel after producing a darkroom portfolio is unparalleled to anything I do with modern digital workflows.  

In the age of all things digital photography, one may ask why anyone would go to all of this trouble?  It is simple for me. First, black and white film meets my creative needs and the analog workflow enables me to bring my vision to life in a way that I cannot personally duplicate by any other means.  There is nothing else like a black and white silver gelatin darkroom print to me.  The visual qualities, tonal ranges, and detail is unparalleled by any other type of fine art print in my mind.  The proven archival permanence is unparalleled by modern computer-based prints and the dynamic range is just spectacular.  The ability for me to transform my thoughts and emotions to a two-dimensional medium is eased by the unique qualities of analog photography.  

I use my equipment as tools to help me reach an end.  I must have total control over my creative process allowing me to communicate my three-dimensional experiences in nature to a two-dimensional medium. Based on my choices, I have the ability to consistently create in my style which in turns makes my artwork easy to identify.  There are also many other intangibles.  The ability to pull a viewer in like no other type of print and the seemingly magical impact my prints have on viewers.  Most first-time viewers of my prints in person ask if they are real.  They are indeed real.  I don't use over saturated HDR images because I don't want or need to.  

By combining the right combination of equipment with a subject, the image literally sings and has a brilliance that captures the eye from any distance.  If I want delicate highlights for a print of a white Tulip, then I would use a film that has the characteristics that I am looking for in combination with the developer and paper that embraces my creative goals.

Knowing how to select and use the right tools to create an image that properly communicates my vision, is something I have earned over many years and I am still learning after three decades.  

You know you are viewing a piece of quality art the moment you lay your eyes on my art.  The presentation and attention to detail stand out.  The quality and weight of my mid-tones really sets my prints apart from other prints.  The luminosity and overall aesthetic gives one the impression they could walk right into my scene with me.

8x10 in the morning sunrise light at Shaw Nature Reserve8x10 in the morning sunrise light at Shaw Nature ReserveSubscribe to my newsletter and never miss another article or update.

Learn more about my Fine Art Platinum and Platinum/Palladium Printmaking.

Read exclusive articles, both technical and creative, and view fine art portfolios in the Darkroom Underground Magazine.
I mostly use large format view cameras ranging in size from 4" x 5" up to 11" x 14".  For the 8x10 and 11x14 systems, I use a custom cut dark slide and ultra wide-angle lenses to create panoramic formats at times.  Needless to say, I draw quite a crowd if I am in a public space, which I try and avoid at all costs!  Most people have never seen my equipment in person and most ask "is this really a camera" and want to take a photo with me.  
I assure them these very large pieces of equipment are in fact cameras and then I hand them one of my business cards so we can stay in contact. 

My typical process for creating fine art darkroom prints starts with the development of my sheet films in Pyro HD developer for most films. I use Pyro HD because of the wide contrast range I can create and for the consistency factors.  The interaction between the films characteristics and the effects of the developer create a very unique, but controllable negative that amplifies the qualities that I feel with make my subject come to life. I often use a two-bath developer for printing that allows me total control over my highlights and general contrast.  With this combination, I have a tonal scale at my disposal unequaled via other mediums.  

For my large gallery darkroom prints, I use large format negatives in my custom designed enlarger.  I had to design and build my enlargement process from scratch.  Because these prints are so large, I worked with a professional carpenter to build my development trays from raw materials.  

Subscribe to my newsletter and never miss another article or update.

Learn more about my Fine Art Platinum and Platinum/Palladium Printmaking.

Read exclusive articles, both technical and creative, and view fine art portfolios in the Darkroom Underground Magazine.
For my
silver-chloride and collodio-chloride large format contact prints, I use a 40-watt household light bulb about 3 feet above my printing station as the light source.  My printing station is nothing more than a flat surface where I lay the contact printing frame in total darkness while being exposed.  This could be a bathroom or a formal darkroom.  Just any place that is totally dark for a brief period of time.  This is the same way the greats such as Edward Weston worked in the 19th century and Ansel Adams did as well before he started making big enlargements.  

For my historical prints (e.g., Van Dyke, Salt, Platinum, Palladium), I hand coat the emulsion onto hand-torn watercolor paper that is then placed as a sandwich between a large format negative and the paper.  I am not using a digital negative made in Photoshop, I am using a real large format sheet film negative created in my view camera.  I then take the loaded contract frame and expose the print in natural sunlight.  This is known as POP (Printing out Paper).  This is how all prints were made before electricity and modern day enlargers were manufactured.  I literally watch the image come to life and remove it from the sunlight when it has "printed out" to my specification before finishing the rest of the processing and archival methods. The choice of paper along with other variables such as humidity and type of sunlight ultimately directs the aesthetics of the final print

If you have any questions or would like to know more, feel free to call me at +1.314.972.4900 or send me an email to tim@timlaytonfineart.com.  

-Tim Layton