Making 40x50 Silver Gelatin Prints With my 8x10 Enlarger
I am working on a new solution to make 40x50 and 30x40 silver gelatin fiber gallery prints from 8x10 film on my Beseler 8x10 enlarger. I have the 810A cold light head conversion kit on the 45V-XL frame.
The photo to the left is the 8x10 enlarger setting on the darkroom floor and a piece of 32x40 white art board to illustrate the size of a new baseboard that I will have to build.
The ceilings in my darkroom are only 8 feet, so this presented a problem for me. I don't have the optional wall projection kit for my enlarger, nor do I have space for that, so I had to come up with a different solution.
I have previously been making my large prints with my Beseler 45MX enlarger and 4x5 sheet film using a custom cabinet that I designed and built. The system works really well, but it takes up a lot of space on a full time basis in my darkroom. I also wanted to be able to make the the highest quality large format gallery prints from my 8x10, 5x7, Whole Plate (6.5x8.5), and 6x17 negatives, so I needed to come up with a solution that had a smaller footprint using my 8x10 enlarger.
In the next edition of the Darkroom Underground Magazine, I plan to create a new article and possibly videos that shares my journey with all this over the next few months.
I primarily shoot 8x10 film because I am able to make my silver gelatin contact prints, platinum prints, and enlargements from a single sheet of film and of course the quality is unparalleled with 8x10. With this new approach, I will be able to offer a better variety of artwork to my collectors.
The first challenge that I needed to solve was understanding the maximum print size that I could make on the stock baseboard using my 240mm wide angle lens. When I make large prints, I like to leave a white border, typically two inches, for handling and processing of the prints. I had to sit the enlarger on the floor in my darkroom in order to be able to fully extend the head to test this (see photo above). Using the 240mm lens, I am able to make 30x40 prints with a 2 inch border after I create the larger baseboard. This allows for me to quickly start making 30x40 prints without any custom building.
I have a newly acquired Nikkor 210mm lens that will allow me to make borderless 30x40 prints right from the baseboard if I want or need to do that too. I am going to build a custom cabinet to get the enlarger off the floor. It looks like I will build a 24" high cabinet based on the maximum extension of the enlarger head as it relates to my ceiling height. I will be posting new videos on my YouTube Channel as I get all of this built and implemented in case you want to follow along.
The new 210mm lens will also allow me to make 40x50 prints with a much lower extension too.
After I make several 30x40 prints, I will be building the new base cabinet at the reduced height to accommodate the 40x50 prints. I want to run everything through the paces with the 30x40 prints first, and then have a solid plan for the bigger prints.
Because I am making gallery prints on fiber paper, there are a number of challenges that must be managed when printing this large. Probably the most problematic is getting the prints flattened after they have been processed and selenium toned. I will be writing other articles about my process on how I manage all of this, so you may want to subscribe to my free darkroom newsletter so you don't miss that update.
There is much more to come on all of this, so stay tuned and enjoy the story as it unfolds.
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Keywords: analog photography, black and white, black and white photography, darkroom, film, fine art, large format, large format photography, photography, silver gelatin
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