Tim Layotn's 8x10 Heiland LED EnlargerTim Layotn's 8x10 Heiland LED Enlarger I use a Beseler 45V-XL with the 8x10 conversion kit along with a Heiland LED Cold Light Source and Split-Grade Controller to create all of our silver gelatin fine art prints for our collectors as well as our fine art photography print customers. 

I printed with regular tube-based cold light heads and variable contrast optical filters for over thirty years before buying the Heiland LED system in July of 2018. 

The Beseler 45V-XL and Heiland system was a game-changer for us.  The Heiland split-grade system allows us to work with great precision and create very consistent and repeatable prints down to 1/10th of an f/stop and paper grade.  This means our prints are very consistent no matter how much time has passed between editions.  

We are able to produce stunning split-grade silver gelatin prints on fiber paper that will make the most discerning collector take note.  All of our gallery prints are always selenium toned for an enhanced richness as well as archival permanence.  We can work with films ranging in size from 35mm up to 8x10 and make prints ranging in size from 8x10 to 40x50.  

Heiland LED Cold Light & Split-Grade System Overview

The SPLITGRADE system is like having access to 22nd-century technology in our 21st-century darkroom.  Before using the system to create our large scale prints, we would spend one or two days to get to a working print.  Now, we frequently get to a working print within 5 minutes.  The LED cold light source and the split-grade controller work together as one system in order to realize this benefit.  

The split-grade controller has special software that works the entire system.  I am able to make a working print that has excellent shadow detail and highlight values in a single exposure because the controller drives the LED light source to output the yellow and magenta light for the right amount of time down to 1/10th of an f/stop for the variable contrast filter and also for the exposure time.  The ratio of the two simultaneous exposures works in concert with the paper I am printing on to control the overall contrast of the print. I've never had access to that level of precision in over thirty years of making split-grade prints the traditional way. 

The process to make a working print is now simplified as follows:

  • I load my negative into my enlarger and dial in the working aperture of my lens.  You no longer have to leave the lens open for focusing and then close it down because of the power of the LED light source. 
  • Next, I compose the image on my easel and check for critical focus. 
  • I select the paper on the controller interface that I will be printing on which is almost always Ilford MGIV Fiber-Classic.  Many other papers are pre-programmed into the controller and you have the ability to set up your own.  
  • Using the special light-sensing probe, I scan the projected image on my easel looking for the darkest and lightest tones.  I simply press the record button on the probe in these two areas and the controller records the values. Based on my paper type and the measured values, the controller calculates a suggested contrast grade and exposure time to make a technically good print.  
  • Next, I turn off the focusing light and press the print button which initiates the controller to sequence the different exposure times for each grade.
  • I then develop and evaluate the print for any adjustments.  I am able to change the grades by 1/10th of a grade versus being forced to work in much larger values with the traditional optical variable contrast filters and I can also adjust for the exposure time in 1/10th of an f/stop for an amazing level of control. 

Tim Layton With Silver Gelatin Large Format PrintTim Layton With Silver Gelatin Large Format Print The time savings in addition to the ability to accurately reproduce prints at a later time is critical to my personal fine art workflow, as well as for my customers that I make prints for. 

My first print is oftentimes perfect with no manual adjustments required and those times when I do want to make adjustments to meet my creative vision, it is very simple and fast.  The system allows me to incorporate a very wide range of contrast, unlike my previous abilities. 

As a large format analog fine art printmaker, I am grateful that companies like Heiland continue to develop such innovative solutions for the darkroom photographer. 

I can only imagine what Ansel Adams and his peers would have said about having access to a system like this.  The system is ready to use when you receive it with no calibration or adjustments required.

Tim Layton Holding "New Life" Wild Horses of Missouri B&W Silver Gelatin PrintTim Layton Holding "New Life" Wild Horses of Missouri B&W Silver Gelatin Print Tim Layton Jr. Holding "New Life" Wild Horses of Missouri B&W Silver Gelatin PrintTim Layton Jr. Holding "New Life" Wild Horses of Missouri B&W Silver Gelatin Print