11x14 Ultra Large Format Photography
I created this resource page for analog photographers interested in the 11x14 format.
Each photographer would have to answer the question of why 11x14 large format for themselves, however, I will share some of my personal thoughts with you and if you would like me to update this section with your ideas, just send me your comments and suggestions, and I am happy to post them here.
First, I should mention that I love 8x10 contact prints, always have, and always will. Maybe the thought of Weston making 8x10 prints in his simple, but highly effective darkroom is part of the mystique and romance. I got my first 11x14 camera in 2010 and I was astounded by how much bigger 11x14 was over 8x10. I guess I didn't realize that 11x14 is about 192% larger than 8x10. An 8x10 negative has 80 square inches (8 * 10 = 80) and 11x14 has 154 square inches making 11x14 192% larger. As you can see in the photo to the left, the 11x14 camera on the right looks huge compared to the 8x10 camera on the left.
Once I started making 11x14 silver chloride and platinum prints and then matted and framed them, they seems huge compared to 8x10 prints and everything that I loved about 8x10 contact prints was even better with 11x14. The details were even more impressive and the "x-factor" of these bigger contact prints became very special to me. The detail and overall feeling of the larger contact prints is nothing short of impressive with the correct subject.
When I was marketing and selling my prints, this gave me a pathway to offer larger sized contact prints which increased my revenues. Both 8x10 and 11x14 contact prints are absolute gems and giving buyers and collectors two or more choices is usually a good thing. It certainly worked out for me over the years. I strongly considered 14x17 as well and I would have done it, but simply didn't have the time to take on a new challenge. Maybe that is something I can do now?
The 11x14 is the first step into ultra large format by most photographers definition, and I feel that it is as well. One of the things that I learned quickly is that everything from using the camera to developing the film and making the contact prints got exponentially more difficult.
Making 11x14 contact prints really helped build my skills and I think my 8x10 prints also improved as a result of the more difficult and intense workflow.
I think the difficulty factor of ultra large format really helped me improve my overall skills and I highly recommend any 8x10 large format photographers take the step up to 11x14 if it makes sense and if the opportunity is available.
There are plenty of other ULF formats such as 7x17 or 8x20 if you prefer more of a pano look and more traditional formats would include 14x17, 16x20, and 20x24.
Depending on your personal situation, you may find if you shoot 11x14 or another ultra large format exclusively that you may actually spend less money overall on your hobby/passion.
For example, if you use smaller formats and make enlargements, then you have all of that expense associated with that workflow. Large format enlargers and the full range of tools and supplies is typically not a cheap endeavor. But, if you only make ultra large format contact prints, then you can eliminate a lot of other gear and expenses.
Everyone comes to ultra large format with a variety of different needs and desires, so your mileage may vary on some of the considerations that I list in this section.
Depending on your physical ability to lug, transport, and haul your big camera around, this may be an issue for some people. Make sure you understand the total size and weight of your future kit before making a purchase. Some of the smaller lenses are relatively lightweight, but others are the size and weight of a small child!
Make sure you have a dark tent or other suitable means of loading your big film holders.
If you are on the fence about getting an ultra large format camera, do everything you can to see if the new gear is what you are truly seeking. For example, if you think your 11x14 contact prints will be better than your 8x10 prints, buy an 11x14 contact print from an accomplished photographer or maybe try and work out a print swap deal or something similar if money is tight.
Make sure you know how and are capable of doing ultra large format negative development in trays because this is most likely how you will be developing your negatives. If you don't have a proven process for developing in trays, start with a smaller format and master that first because everything is much more difficult at full scale.
If you tend to fly by the seat of your pants, then ULF might not be for you. You will need to plan just about everything from ordering your film once a year to doing extensive research if you plan to go out in the field with your kit. Working with larger formats like 11x14 and larger requires a lot of patience, planning, and willingness to work through a series of inevitable problems.
I personally think the challenges are worth the end results and when you get to the point of making high-quality contact prints that bring a tear to your eyes, I think you will feel the same way.
The Large Format Photography Forum has a list of 11x14 lenses that is a good place to start if you are looking at lenses that are known to have enough coverage for the 11x14 format.
If you are just starting out and don't already have any lenses that will work on the 11x14 format, then your least expensive choice would be to get a Schneider G Claron 355mm F9 lens, which may be all you ever need. Keep in mind that a 450mm lens is considered to be the normal lens, so the 355mm is slightly wide, which I actually like better anyway.
My personal lenses for my 11x14 are the Rodenstock APO Sironar W 300mm F5.6, Schneider G-Claron 355mm F9, and Nikon Nikkor M 450mm F9.
Some of my favorite lenses for the 11x14 format include:
COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF LENSES FOR 11x14
You can still easily buy 11x14 B&W film, but you can also use silver gelatin RC paper as a negative medium as well. In fact, it is one of my favorite negatives in the 11x14 and larger cameras. I have an entire video workshop dedicated to using silver gelatin darkroom paper as a large format negative.
To get you started in the right direction if you want to explore using silver gelatin darkroom paper as a negative, I highly recommend using an RC glossy paper. The RC glossy paper produces an incredibly sharp negative and allows you to make very high-quality contact prints that are unlike film, wet plate, or dry plates.
An inexpensive way to get started with 11x14 is to use Arista EDU Ultra Glossy VC RC Glossy paper as your negative and then use the same paper to make your contact prints. It is only $39 for 25 sheets making the cost per negative only $1.56 as compared to $11.80 for HP5, which by the way is the only 11x14 film that is typically available from B&H. Anything else is a special order or you would have to wait for the annual Ultra Large Format film order from Ilford.
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