Subscriber's Q & A
I've created this page to encourage greater interaction, and to share more personally with you, my loyal subscribers. Whether you have questions or comments regarding information you've read in my newsletter, or if you have other photography related questions, I'll be happy to share my answers here. I expect that you won't be the only person in this group wanting to ask your question or share your comment. I hope everyone benefits from being part of the discussion. Thank you for taking part!
Enjoy the View!
QUESTION: (FEBRUARY 3, 2018)
Hi Jon, thanks for opening up to us and taking questions. I am curious about the Platinum Palladium prints you are now sharing. Can you share the basics of what make these "different"? I'm intrigued by how they look, and you stated that they are archival. Can you share what that really means?
Hi Stacey. I'm really happy to be able to have a venue in which to share with you! Let me get right to your question.
There are a few things that make the Platinum / Palladium prints "different" than most images today. To begin with, these are hand made prints in a traditional darkroom, they are not printed via computer. So, the down and dirty of what I do: I mix up a solution of Pt/Pd sensitizer and, using a brush, I hand coat a piece of Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag Paper, producing my own UV light sensitive photo paper. Platinum / Palladium prints are "contact prints". So, the next step is to lay my negative directly onto the sensitized paper. Naturally, the print is the same size as the film. I lay the paper and film in a contact print frame, which holds the two in firm contact, ensuring a sharp print. Next, I place the printing frame, paper and negative into an light box I hand made, which houses an array of Ultraviolet light bulbs. The platinum / Palladium sensitizer is sensitive to UV light, and this is where the exposure happens. After the exposure, I remove the paper from the printing frame, place it in a tray and pour my developing chemistry directly onto the paper. The developer reacts with the exposed metals in the sensitizer, and the Platinum and Palladium are ingrained into the paper. After several clearing baths to stop the chemical reaction of development, the print is dried and ready for framing.
Now, what I mean when I say that these prints are "archival", or have the longest "archival life" of any printing process: Very simply, the heavy metals that make up the image in these prints, Platinum and Palladium, will last forever. No fading as you would find with inks from inkjet printers. The limiting factors are the paper and the environment. So, I use 100% cotton rag paper, which is both acid and lignin free. The key is to then frame (or store) the print to museum standards so that contaminants in the environment don't leach into the paper and cause that to degrade. Cared for properly, Platinum / Palladium prints can last for 1,000 years or more.
Along with these amazing properties, these prints have a timeless elegance that simply can't be replicated digitally.
Thank you for the great question and for taking part in the community!
Question: (January 14, 2018)
Jon, you spend a lot of time photographing in bad weather and low light situations when you're in the mountains. Do you have one tip that would help someone that hopes to do more adventurous photography outings be successful? I'm excited to get out and shoot, but it's a little intimidating.
El Dorado Hills, CA
Thanks for the question Jason! I actually discuss this with almost every workshop/tour client I work with. The best tip I have, in general, is to organize your pack so that everything you use is always in the same spot! Eliminate every variable possible that you may have to deal with. It may be cold, snowing, raining, dark, windy. The light may be changing quickly or you may stumble upon a surprising opportunity. If you know exactly where everything, and anything, you need is located, you simply have to act. No searching, fumbling, time wasting, disappointment. EVERYTHING has its place!
Question: (December 31, 2017)
I'm an advanced amateur digital photographer that is considering making the move to film photography. Can you please share why do you develop your own black and white film, but not your color film?
Hi Corey. Welcome to the world of film:) Thanks for the great question. I've been asked this several times in the past couple of weeks, so your question will assist several followers out there. The answer is fairly simple.
A) There is no creativity I can impart into the development of color film. Both positives and negatives (C41 & E-6 processing) have set temperatures and durations for "correct" development. Therefore, I don't feel as though I am handing off creative input into my work. Black and white film development makes it possible to have a large impact on the contrast range of my negative, strongly influencing the qualities of the negative, and thus, the final print. While in the field, I will (basically) expose for the shadows in the scene, take note via meter readings, of the contrast range from shadow to highlight, and then develop my film in order to expand or contract that contrast range in order to produce the highlight values I desire in the negative, influencing the final print.
B) The second reason I don't develop my own color film is that it is much more temperature intolerant than black and white. It requires a specific temperature in order to obtain consistent results, period. I simply don't have the equipment necessary to maintain the specific temperature required to get consistent, predictable results processing my color film. Black and white is a little more "flexible". I can use water baths to maintain my temperatures within a couple of degrees and get solid results in my black and white negatives. At some point I will make the investment into that equipment. For now, I have to wait for my color film to be precessed elsewhere.
What qualities in your landscape photography benefit the most from you use of large format camera and film?
Thanks for the great question Tim! I get this one a lot, so I'm glad to share this with everyone. Here we go.
First is the obvious answer, quality. The amount of information I am able to capture makes it possible to create very large photographic prints. When measuring prints in feet, as opposed to inches, the amount of information captured is important.
Second, I feel as though the prints I produce with a big sheet of film have different qualities than with other media. The prints have a different "feel" to them. The best example I can share is the feedback I've received from thousands of viewers in my gallery for over a decade. When viewing my large images they would comment that my images were "so clear". Just like being there. They would then describe digital image they had seen as being "sharp". I believe this consistent use of these two words (clear vs sharp), by many hundreds of people over the course of many years, is evidence that we perceive a difference in images captured on big film as compared to digital.
Finally, I believe I am a different photographer / artist when I use my large format film cameras. These cameras are large, cumbersome, and costly to shoot. The idea of wandering around and taking hundreds of "test shots" is not an option for me. I have built a habit of only composing images I truly feel are special, that have an emotional pull of some sort. And when I do shoot, I feel I am much more engaged and focussed on the process, as it takes some physical effort with the gear. I also have a practice of composing the image in the field as one shot framed as I feel it while out there. No cropping. Interestingly (IMHO), I took an entire year and shot only digital. I was trying to see if I was being arrogant or ignorant by sticking with large format film. I didn't print a single image from that year!I didn't feel an emotional tie to them, no sense of pride, and I didn't like the "feel" when i viewed them enlarged. Amazingly, when shooting large format film, I would estimate that 80% of the images I shoot are gallery worthy. When I shoot large format film, I am fully engaged as an artist.
I have been enjoying your newsletter and beautiful images. I know the Canham field camera is excellent, but why did you select the 5x7 size? I noticed that you usually use 4x5 film.
I’m glad you’re enjoying my newsletter!
I chose the 5x7 at a time when I only shot color. No-one sells color film of that size in the US…..SO, I bought the camera with both 4x5 and 6x17cm panorama backs. At the time I was carrying two cameras; a Canham 4x5 and a Fuji 617, both with numerous lenses. I narrowed down to one camera with one set of lenses. Also, it was almost impossible to use split ND filters accurately on the Fuji. I also wanted to bring the precision of movements, like tilt for sharp depth of field, to my panoramas. Honestly, it is more difficult to use this setup in bad conditions. However, when I am passionate enough about a scene to actually want to expose film on it, I usually revel in the “suffering”, as I am proud of the work I am doing at that moment. I hope this answers your question adequately!