New Darkroom - Big Wild Horse Prints - Exploring Options
I am in the process of designing and building out my new darkroom for making 30"x40", 40"x60", and 48"x60" silver gelatin wild horse prints for my art buyers and collectors. I am designing everything around the larger 48x60 size. In other words, all my trays, print washer, etc in my workflow is built around the larger 48x60 dimension.
The basic dimensions of the new darkroom are about 30 ft. x 30 ft as shown in the first draft illustration to the left of this text.
I plan on spending a lot of time in the darkroom before I commit to a final build plan. I am using blue painters tape to lay things out on the floors and walls to help give me a sense of the size.
You will notice in the center of the diagram I have my large DEV/STOP/FIX 1 trays. This is actually a 4 ft x 12 ft table where these three trays sit on top and the other three for FIX2, WASH, and HCLR sit on a shelf below until I need them. I am designing a flip out top on one side to allow all six trays to available for use during a production run. A few years ago I attempted to use a very large PVC tube for making my big prints in an effort to save the floor space, but that never worked out for me above 30x40.
I also have a large utility cart that I sit one of the trays on and I can wheel it around as needed for when I am doing things like selenium toning. The floors are finished concrete, so it makes moving things around very easy and also very sturdy and stable.
At the heart of the process is my Beseler 45V-XL 8x10 enlarger with the Heiland cold light head and split-grade controller. You can see in this photo where Tim Jr and I custom built a vertical mount solution and had the 48x60 easel on the floor. Now that I have more than twice the space as before, I hope to either elevate the easel off the floor because that kills my knees and back, or possibly explore a horizontal solution this time. I won't know until I start the process and trying things.
My first order of business is to get my floor to ceiling 24" deep shelving build on the right side of the darkroom for a massive amount of storage. It only takes up 2 feet of floor space and I will end up with over 120 feet of linear storage. I can't wait!!
Then, I plan to start in on all of the 1x12 shelving around the interior walls that will hold all of my "stuff". With this much space, I will be able to get really organized and optimized for each of my silver and platinum workflows.
Over the last few years I have been capturing a lot of the wild horse images on my Nikon F6 35mm SLR and 600mm F4 lens and then making smaller silver gelatin enlargements as well as making enlarged 8x10 analog negatives for making my bigger 30x40 and 40x50 silver gelatin prints.
I even have my Linhof Master Technika configured with three different lenses that are properly cammed to the rangefinder so I can do some select handheld 4x5 exposures of the wild horses too. I am using HP5 rated at either EI 400 or EI 800 to help keep the shutter speeds up at a level where I can get sharp handheld images. That is an incredible amount of fun!!
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Over the last several months, I have been capturing thousands of wild horse images using my Nikon D5 and the same 600mm F4 lens. I have typically used the D5 for 4K video and some select wildlife photography.
I have figured out a way to create an FP4 analog negative from my D5 digital captures and I have made some test prints from these new negatives. This is a proprietary process that Tim Jr and I created.
I am exploring the idea of getting an Epson SureColor P9570 printer to make the 40x60 archival pigment ink wild horse prints.
I haven't ordered it yet because I need to get the space ready for it in the new darkroom first and I want to buy a couple test prints that are made with this specific printer. I need to hold some prints in my hand and hang them on the wall and view them for a while to make sure they meet my expectations.
The D5 files being upsized to make 40x60 prints is arguably challenging for even the best Photoshop wizard, however, Adobe just released a new "Super Resolution" feature in Adobe Camera RAW 13.2 that effectively doubles the resolution of your image along with some Adobe magic sauce. I have tested this on about 10 or so wild horse images and so far, I am really liking what I see.
Here is what Adobe has to say about this new feature: "Enhance provides a set of features such as Raw Details and Super Resolution to help improve image quality using Camera Raw.
Raw Details, previously called Enhance Details produces crisp detail and more accurate renditions of edges, improves color rendering, and also reduces artifacts. The resolution of the enhanced image stays the same as the original image. This feature is especially useful for large displays and prints, where fine details are visible.
Super Resolution, introduced in Camera Raw 13.2, helps create an enhanced image with similar results as Raw Details but with 2x the linear resolution. This means that the enhanced image will have 2x the width and 2x the height of the original image, or 4x the total pixel count. This feature supports the same file types as Raw Details, plus additional file types such as JPEG and TIFF. Super Resolution is especially useful to increase the resolution of a cropped image."
All of this could mean that my awesome D5 with its incredible low-light and AF performance could produce images that are comparable to the D-850 which is twice the resolution. Some initial basic testing has me very hopeful, but I need more experience and time to see if it will really hold up. If it doesn't, then I could just use a D-850 with the additional grip and that will produce more than enough pixels for the 40x60 pigment ink prints. There is also the Gigapixel AI option for file enlargements as well. Until I see the prints in person, all of this is just theory and a hopeful dream.
I am super excited to look at my big 40x60 and 48x60 silver gelatin prints next to the Epson archival pigment ink prints and see what I think. I am not in the mindset of trying to do a direct comparison, but looking at the pigment ink prints to make sure I think they are what I want to share with my art buyers and collectors.
My priority and heart will always be with the silver gelatin wild horse prints. The pigment ink prints could be a more cost friendly option for new or first time art buyers making it possible to get more wild horse prints hung on the wall for even more people.
Based on previous experience, I will be trying Canson Platine Fiber Rag paper as my first paper if I move forward with the P9570 printer. I think this paper is about as close as you can get to silver gelatin fiber baryta paper, but only time and experience can confirm this for me. I have made some 16x20 prints on my P800 and this is the basis for my current theory.
I also want to compare one or two Hahnemühle Photo Rag papers because I absolutely love Hahnemühle papers and their quality is something that I have relied on with my platinum prints for many years.
I will share new articles, photos, and updates as I work on the new darkroom and the wild horse prints.
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