As I was building out the new darkroom, I was just about to set up an overhead light source hanging over the workbench for making my large format and ultra large format contact prints. Then, I saw a post by Stéfane France in the Heiland Split-Grade System Users Group and a light went off in my mind.
Stéfane France and I have become friends recently and he had invited me to the group a couple weeks ago. I was scrolling through the posts in the group and then I saw this post by Stéfane.
As noted in his post, if you select the fixed grade paper type on the Heiland Split-Grade controller, you can use the LED cold light head as a continuous light source that is also controlled by the integrated timer!
After the initial discovery was circulating through my mind for a little while, I then realized another huge benefit of using this approach for making my large format contact prints.
Having the ability to control the intensity of the light with the aperture on the lens is also a huge benefit over using a bare bulb hanging over the bench. In all fairness, I used a dimmer switch on my previous bare bulb system, and that was effective too.
All of this is a big win for me because I already own the Heiland LED cold light system with the Split-Grade controller, so there is no extra expense involved. Also, it saves me valuable space on my workbench because I don't need to setup another are exclusive to large format contact printing.
You will see all of this in action in our new darkroom as we begin to make new large format contact prints and huge silver gelatin enlargements up to 40 inches x 60 inches. All of this can be enjoyed via our new YouTube Channel.
I use my enlarger to make large format silver gelatin contact prints all the time.
I love to make silver chloride large format contact prints which requires much more light than the typical enlarger is capable of producing. Also my homemade DIY AZO emulsion is very slow and requires a lot of light. Using a regular enlarger light source is not possible with slower contact printing emulsions, so being able to use the Heiland LED cold light in this way is a big deal for me because I save a lot of time, space, and effort because I don't need an entirely different system for making these types of large format contact prints.
The Heiland LED system in the white light focusing mode is extremely bright and this is how it is possible to use very slow emulsions for making the contact prints. My traditional enlarger light sources simply don't have enough power. All of my enlargers are now equipped with the Heiland LED Cold Light Split-Grade systems, so this is a big deal for me.
However, there is one challenge with this setup if I want to make traditional silver gelatin contact prints with papers like Ilford MGIV, etc. They need much less light than the silver chloride contact printing papers, so I need a way to reduce it.
For now, the Heiland Split-Grade controller does not offer a variable way to reduce the white focus light, but I have sent this suggestion to Heiland for a possible firmware update. I got an email from Heiland and they are working on a software update where I will be able to control the intensity of the light when I have the Splitgrade controller in Fixed Grade Mode (white light). This is really amazing if you think about it. Companies like Heiland are rare. Their level of intelligence goes beyond my understanding, and I just grateful that we have companies like Heiland that are willing to use their intelligence for helping analog photographers.
In the meantime while the software update is being developed, I have a few things that I can do to reduce the strong white light.
First, I can elevate the light source to help reduce the intensity. If that doesn't do it, then I could also stop down the aperture on the enlarger lens. If that doesn't reduce the light, then I could also put some Variable ND filters on my enlarger lens. I have a high end 1 to 5 stop variable ND filter and a 10 stop filter which I will try and get an adapter ring to use on the enlarger lens if the other two methods don't reduce the light enough.
All in all, this is a big win for me for the reasons above and I am really excited to discover additional use cases for the Heiland LED system as well. I already have a few more ideas that I am going to explore.
If you have ever considered purchasing a Heiland LED cold light system, but haven't because of the price, I can assure you that if you are truly a darkroom printer, that pain of the expense will quickly fade because this gear is incredible to work with. I also have the Splitgrade and Comfort controllers as well as the B&W LED Safelights.
As things continue to progress with the new darkroom build project, I will be making lots of videos of all the various darkroom methods that Tim Jr and I use to make our prints. You can see my 8x10 and 4x5 enlargers with the Heiland Cold Light system here.
As I test all of this out, I will come back and write new articles and make some videos showing you how it all works.
In episode 13 of my Darkroom Diary, I cover all of this information in the video.
What Are Art Buyers & Collectors Saying About Tim Layton Fine Art?
I want other people to know the attention to detail that Tim puts into the making of his fine art.
As a fellow large format photographer and printer of my own B&W darkroom prints, I can tell you that Tim’s work is exceptional.
Now having this print in my hands, I can tell you that this selenium-toned print looks three-dimensional. That is high praise considering we work in a two dimensional medium. If you have not already joined Tim’s Fine Art Print Club, I strongly recommend that you join now! You will not regret your decision. -John D'Angelo, NY
"The size of your prints are amazing, but it’s the minute detail and tonal range you capture that give your images their aesthetic qualities. Every one of your handmade fine art prints that I have seen, has blown me away to the point I pause the video to look at them more closely. It never ceases to amaze me how you create images that look so simple, and yet many of us watching that doesn’t mean easy. I can only dream of capturing anything 1/10th as beautiful as you do." -Mark Harris
Keep up the good work Tim, love your work and contribution to conservation" -Rodney Rudman, Cape Town, South Africa
"The artwork by Tim Layton is very unique, all handmade, from the negative to the final print on Ilford MGIV fiber paper and gently toned in selenium. The tones are subtle, and distinct, and placed in just the right grey scale zones so the overall contrast of the print feels complete - from pitch black to delicate highlights. Holding one of his prints in your hands and viewing it carefully in daylight will reveal the beauty of his handmade darkroom prints. In addition, Tim's prints are simply beautiful and artistic." -Anders Blomqvist, Sweden
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What Are Members Saying About The Darkroom Underground?
There is no shortage of people providing information on photography on YouTube and the internet. Some are even aimed at the analog photographer, but what Tim has done with the Darkroom Underground (DU) is nothing short of pure brilliance. DU is not only for the analog photographer it is also for the Large Format & Ultra Large Format Photographer. I don’t know of anyone else who is covering ULF.
He has simplified learning with wonderful videos that are supplemented with show notes so you have all the information for you to do this on your own. But unlike anything else out there you have Tim as a resource, too. He has always been easily available for questions or clarification and he welcomes suggestions for future shows.
If you are serious about learning all aspects of analog and LF/ULF this is the place to be. -Michael Wellman
The videos and blogs are shot and edited in a very professional way. Tim is always ready to receive and share the suggestions and ideas coming from other people. He is a very good community manager.
I would like also to underline the growing role of his son, Tim Junior who contributes also greatly to the quality of the videos, text and explanation. Last but not least, Tim is always welcoming suggestions and questions and ready to interact. I recommend warmly the work of Tim Layton. -Stéfane France
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