‘Nicola #2’ is another triptych made from three 4″x5″ platinum/palladium prints. It is available in a limited edition of 24. These photographs were made one after the other, albeit with a little trial and error. The individual prints are made on Buxton paper, dry mounted to a larger sheet of Chateau Vellum.
‘Elizabeth’ is a triptych made from three 4″x5″ platinum/palladium prints, available in a limited edition of 24. These photographs were made one after the other, albeit with a little trial and error. The individual prints are made on Buxton paper, dry mounted to a larger sheet of Chateau Vellum.
A common question from photographers is, “How to get the maximum possible sharpness in a print?”
When seeking sharpness in a platinum/palladium print, there are several factors to consider:
The sharpness of the negative
Whether you use a split-back printing frame or a vacuum frame
The paper you are using
Your UV light source
It stands to reason that without a sharp negative you are not going to make a sharp print.
Your Printing Frame
Split-back printing frames are very convenient, but they often struggle to get good and even pressure across the whole negative. This is especially true for negatives larger than 8″x10″.
Low or uneven pressure can result in the paper and negative separating slightly during exposure, and this leaves the print with soft/blurry areas.
When making big prints it is almost essential to use a vacuum frame.
Your choice of paper affects print sharpness in two ways. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is that paper fibres shift around a bit when you develop, clear and wash your print. And the paper tends to shrink when it is drying. This means that you will always lose some definition when making a platinum/palladium print. But different papers may shift/shrink by different amounts, so if you are looking for maximum sharpness then you will need to experiment here.
The other way that paper affects sharpness is through its texture. Textured paper has lots of small indentations which create micro-separations between the negative and the sensitised paper surface. These micro-separations reduce the print’s sharpness. Papers like Arches Platine and Revere Platinum have very little texture, so are fairly sharp. Papers like Buxton and Rives BFK have quite a lot of texture, so they have more micro-separations, so give relatively softer images.
Figures One, Two and Three show how this happens.
The purple bar at the top of Figure One is a large UV light source, and the descending purple lines indicate the rays of UV light. At the bottom is a sheet of smooth sensitised paper with a negative pressed against it. For the sake of simplicity, the negative is assumed to be fully black with only a single, small spot that is transparent (signified by the little gap).
Light can pass through the transparent spot from a range of angles. Any micro-separation between the negatives and sensitised paper leads to softening of the image. With smooth paper pressed tightly against the negative, this softening is minimal.
Figure Two shows what happens when you use textured paper. The increased micro-separation between the negative and sensitised paper leads to a softer image. This softness is quite subtle, and one of the major reasons that I use textured paper.
Figure Three shows what happens when micro-separations become actual separation: the image becomes even softer.
There are several ways separation can occur:
Poor or uneven pressure from your split-back printing frame
Flipping your negative so the emulsion is on the top, separated from the sensitised paper by its support
Putting a sheet of transparent material between the negative and the sensitised paper, which is sometimes done to protect the negative from moist sensitiser
Your Light Source
Most people use banks of fluorescent tubes as their UV light source. These large light sources have many advantages, but they do tend to increase the softness caused by micro-separations or actual separation between the negative and sensitised paper.
For the ultimate sharpness, a point light source is better. This is typically a single, very bright UV bulb which is placed a long way from the negative. If the point light source is too close then the negative and sensitised paper will have uneven illumination, leading to visible fall-off at the edges of your print. For large prints you may well find that you need to position a point light source as much as 10 to 15 feet away from the vacuum frame.
Figure Four shows the effect of a point light source with smooth paper.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I haven’t been idle. I’ve been working on some big projects that have consumed all my available time.
One project has been to upgrade my website. Last weekend I switched on a new, and very much simpler site framework. The new framework fully support mobile devices, so hopefully the experience of visitors browsing on tablets and phones has very much improved.
When I think back to my first big website project, in about 2005 or thereabouts, I’m amazed by how things have changed. Back then it required a huge amount of work to produce quite basic content. And integrating with a database was a major achievement! Nowadays, with only a little bit of technical knowledge it’s possible to download, install and configure incredibly rich and flexible software that makes everything so much easier. I’d like to give a big thank you to everyone who makes the open source software that makes our modern web such a great place.
This evening I switched on SSL for end-to-end encryption and privacy. This means that not even your internet service provider can see which pages you’re visiting. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so I’m pleased to have completed it. All pages should now show the padlock symbol in your browser address bar to show that the page is encrypted.
I’ve been reading The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers, a collection of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s musings about photography and photographers.
I particularly like his comments about technique:
“Your own personal technique has to be created and adapted solely in order to make your vision effective on film. But only the results count, and the conclusive evidence is the finished photographic print… People think far too much about techniques and not enough about seeing.”
Happy New Year everybody! January is a time to reflect on the past year past, look forward to the next one, and make new year resolutions (I will talk about these next week). In the meantime, here are two short updates:
Firstly, thank you to those of you who ordered prints in my photographers’ print sale. I will make and ship the prints within the next four to six weeks. You can see the latest status of your order in the My Account section of the shop. The sale has now closed.
Secondly, I have redesigned my website to improve readability (especially on mobile devices) and simplify content. I have also made big changes to the photographs on display. Out go the dozens of pages showing as much of my portfolio as I could digitise. Managing these was truly a sisyphean task, and I never found the results satisfactory. I have replaced these pages with an Exhibition section that will show much more tightly focused selections of my work. The first online exhibition features my first Jazz folio, Inspirations. It will run until end of February.
I would love to hear what you think about these changes.