Big Big Prints - 7.5'x6' - What does it take?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by holmburgers, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    This is a discussion minded thread, and I'd like to hear from those who have done work of this scale, or know what it takes.

    I saw some prints of photographs by Hew Locke the other day, and they nearly blew my mind. They were 7.5 feet x 6 feet chromogenic prints that looked absolutely stunning. Sharpness for miles, grainless, and enormous.

    http://collections.kemperart.org/VieO1047$23*45964958
    http://collections.kemperart.org/VieO1046$23*45964953

    (to say that these online images don't do the prints justice seems like a silly thing to have to say...)

    If you go to his website, you can see the whole film w/o cropping. Apparently he used Kodak 100T & the shadows from the film holder tell me it was 4x5"; do you agree?

    How do you process a print this large? Does it take a top-notch lens to do it, and how long of an exposure does this kind of thing usually take? How much would it cost? I figured only 8x10" could do this, but apparently I underestimated 4x5".

    It really just goes to show what film is capable of. By taking photographs on a sizable film you have captured enough visual information to reproduce life size images that look nearly perfect upon the closest inspection.

    Anyways, I was just ecstatic to see these (among many other amazing prints at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art) and further pleased to see that they were chromogenic prints.

    Thanks for your input,
     
  2. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    As a teen ager, before I really knew what I was doing photgrapher./darkroom wise, I worked for a night or two with an older guy in my home town, who had done photgrahic work in WWII.
    Fred Noakes loved all sorts of stuff. The quntesential older English bloke.

    His specially was to be commissioned to make large prints, hand colour them (sometimes), mount, laquer, and have them hang in public buildings around the county. A lot of time he would dupe a photo of some departed public building.

    To enlarge, he would stick the photo paper - I seem to recall it was something like 54" tall, on the far wall of the very good sized darkroom that took up most of his basement. The 4x5 enlarger was on a cart, with a 45 degree front silvered mirror that sat on the baseboard to make the mural projections.

    The basement floor was not flat, so shimming to level the cart was one of my tasks.

    Exposure was for a few minutes.

    The paper after exposure was rolled up again (or should I say let to reroll itself) and taken to his custom home made fibreglass sink. It was about 6' long, perhaps 4" deep and 4' to the back.
    It had two drain systems. One to the sewer like normal, and one to a pipe that openned under the sink. He would get out a gallon or so of developer, and pour it into the whole sink, and proceed to roll the print out, wiping the developer across the paper with a sponge.

    You would roll the paper out about 3' at a time, and then roll on to the next part. The developer must have been quite dilute. At the end of development, the jug it was stored in was put under the 'second drain' and the devloper was thus drained from the sink back to the storage jug.

    Then lots of water and sponge work as a stop, then on to a sink of fixer, then second fixer, then rinse, then HCA, then wash wash wash.

    He would leave them washing for hours, the next day, moving them every half hour or so to let a fresh section be unrolled.

    Kodak's mural paper was very robust, and seemed to hold up to being wet for a very long time.

    Initial drying was by mopping the floor clean, and laying it out on the floor, and gradually raise one edge.

    It would then hang clipped from a bunch of yard sticks thet Fred had suspened on brackets from the basement roof, while you stood on a milk crate to reach them.

    I went to look him up after uni when I was in town visiting Mom; alas he had passed only a few weeks earlier.
    I did not have the financial resources to contemplate buying up his gear at that time.
    I have no idea what became of it.

    I would have loved to learn more from him.
     
  3. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Subscriber

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    Unless he says otherwise I would guess he is drum scanning and lightjet printing to get that size.
     
  4. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    I'd definitely recommend 8x10 film. Lenses and lighting is a much more detailed discussion. Fuji Crystal Archive paper is available both paper and polyester base in big roll sizes. Kodak too for the
    moment. But printing anything this size takes a lot of equipment and elbow room, and will probably
    require the services of a pro lab still offering chemical printing. Major cities still have them. Setting up a personal darkroom to handle this indurstrial scale of color work would be very difficult and expensive, but if you want to proceed on that premise it can be discussed further. Just plan of your
    electrical bill alone going up several hundred dollars a month, that is, on top of your building lease,
    hazmat and license fees etc etc. The biggest size one can comfortably do in a really big home darkroom
    is about 30x40.
     
  5. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Mike & Greg - he's talking about color work here. It would require a basic pro horizontal enlarger and
    wall mounting of course, then a very big RA system with the appropriate scale of industrial wiring,
    effluent control, and plumbing behind it. Plus some way to cut the roll paper. Too big to do in sinks
    or drums, if one values their lungs at all. But traditional chemical printing is far more cost effective
    than scanning and Lightjet. I think Bob Carnie still does both. And in this immediate neighborhood
    a big optical printing lab has survived. I only do personal work, and am at the moment trying to decide whether to increase my own size capacity or not. But all things being equal, direct enlarging
    cost is only about 5% to 10% of the cost of sending 8x10 work to Lightjet. That's a helluva difference, and I like the quality of optical a lot better too.
     
  6. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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    And add framing/sil mounting costs to the prohibitive account.
     
  7. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Thanks for the input guys. Mike, I really enjoyed your account of working with that fella. I know just the kind of prints; big hand tinted murals of old buildlings. I'm actually researching one right now in Lawrence here.

    Well I'm not planning or even thinking about doing this kind of printing myself; just curious to hear what it takes.

    I honestly believe it was an enlarged chromogenic print, primarily because other prints in the same gallery said things like "Digital Chromogenic" print and so forth. Even saw an "Iris" print.
     
  8. Existing Light

    Existing Light Member

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    must be impressive to see prints that big (analog or digital, assuming they are technically well done). If I ever see prints that big, I hope the composition and subject matter are more captivating, though
     
  9. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    ...... " Big Big Prints - 7.5'x6' - What does it take?"

    Bob Carnie in Toranto
     
  10. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    (I'm hoping Bob chimes in)

    Sure, the photographs are what they are. Beautifully done; not my favorite subject matter either. There were some other big prints that took care of that jones though.. :D
     
  11. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Strange I should come across this thread this morning!
    I had a visitor to my studio last night (digi wedding pro) and we were discussing the "world size" prints. This discourse then moved to thinking about having a print 2.40m tall (floor to ceiling) made, wide-sweep flood lip to replace two present prints on the gallery wall. The tranny would come from 6x7, drum-scanned and printed per usual digi work by my pro lab has done very large mural sizes for Government and wedding clients. Next week a discussion will be held about the cost, but he assures me it is not prohibitive. We'll see!
     
  12. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Someone will still have to mount of install a print that size, and that can cost as much or substantially more than the cost of printing it. Right now there's a "fine art" fad going on about super large prints, with high prices being sometimes paid for what are otherwise utter abominations
    esthetically, or for basically color redux work of the 70's, just way bigger. Most of this is largely Fauxtography, with all the usual esthetically adolescent digitial fooling around, and no doubt in a
    few years will burn out, and all the museums will want to start showing Minox contact prints. I like
    large prints when they reveal detail and nuances you cannot see otherwise. Otherwise, you're just
    talking about the price of decor - fancy wallpaper. But when someone comes nose to nose with a
    big print, and not only sees the whole field of grass, but the individual blades, and then notices a
    ladybug out there and can count the legs on it ...
     
  13. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    there was a Richard Mosse print that came close to this. that one received the blue ribbon from me that day. (the one on top)
     
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  15. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Anybody can make a billboard. What I like to create is a very compelling real-world compostion that
    holds its own at a distance, yet draws the viewer into the story of the detail, where they can spend
    years discovering new things. Totally different from the objective of advertising or most of the neo
    decor print market, which is to instantly grab your attention but only hold it briefly. If I can stand
    looking at one of my own prints for six week, I figure it's a success, because I'm my own worst critic.
    What I have zero respect for are those folks who use Fauxtoshop either because they're too lazy
    to learn how to actually paint, or too insensitive to study the real light in nature.
     
  16. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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    Drew, I'm with you on the decoration vs art idea. Many people can't seem to distinguish the two. Although that is a subject far from the OPs question.

    Not with you on the fauxtoshop though, we must accept digital painting as a medium (I have done quite a few illustrations in gouache, ink and aquarelle, and also all digital, all of them have their charm and curses), as we must accept digital photography.

    To kind of answer the original question, PE has many time mentioned doing RA4 printing in room temp, you could build a basin from waterproof barrier material (textile or plastic) and framing timber, use as a huge tray.. :smile: There are electrical blankets (used in beds) that could be used underneath for heating, maybe use them as a thermal element connected to a PID thermostat? Jeezus, I'm full of ideas.

    I have done b&w roll developing, took ages, and was boring. Got bigger trays in the end.
     
  17. John Austin

    John Austin Member

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    Not as big and in BW

    It is still possible to make prints to 40 x 50" inches in a moderately big darkroom on 42" wide paper processed in "roll troughs" - I am setting this up at the moment in my darkroom in Quinninup for my 2014 exhibition

    The enlarger is a DeVere 5108E with a turret in the ceiling, 42" wide Foma paper and a set of coated plywood "roll troughs" - I have done this before using Ilford paper in the WA Museum darkroom and later with Agfa MCC in a 42" wide roll

    Before the real printing is done I have tried a 2005 infra red neg' to 30 x 45", but I did not like the result, in theory all that grain should have made the image into a totally different thing when viewed very close up, but to me it just looks ugly, so I will sit at 14x21" for this image

    jbaphoto050122N17.jpg

    A good account of the roll-roll processing technique is in St Ansels's Print

    More on this later and in the Large Print Group - I have had a break while replacing our ancient Volvo wagon with a you-beaut-ute (better for camping and moving manure, seaweed and firewood) and during this too hot summer
     
  18. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    The question centers around RA4. Doing anything like that with exposed trays is just plain stupid if
    you value your health at all. Yeah, yeah... someone will start telling me thay they've already been
    doing it for ten years and it doesn't smell that bad at all. Then suddenly they'll hit a sensitivity
    threshold and they won't even be able to touch a C print without breaking out in hives and taking an ambulence ride. I've seen specific cases. As far as "art" goes, I've got nothing against PS as a tool, but placed in the hands of a fool, PS can make a mess faster than anything before. But this is
    APUG, and here at least would be a good place to preach the genuine merits of doing things optically. I really don't care either way. But I for one can debunk the whole idea of optical color
    printing being obsolete just by personal results.
     
  19. Danielle

    Danielle Member

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    RA4 is colour, yes? If so, I agree. I remember in my study years ago, my main tutor was telling us we could develop colour prints in exposed trays etc. I didn't get a chance to try, for I didn't have access to a colour enabled darkroom. However I crossed paths with another tutor at that photography college who warned me NOT to try and just use the closed machines they have available. He proceeded to tell me that one of the other students went and did it and consequently burned out her sinuses and that my tutor shouldn't be suggesting it. Putting two and two together I'd suggest its doable but go and buy the best gas mask you can get and make damn well sure the place has state of the art ventilation!

    On the subject of huge prints, I still aim to try that one day when I find something which is applicable to do that big. Cut my own rolls and somehow find trays big enough (for B&W). So Im quite intrigued about this type of topic.
     
  20. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    Dunno what you guys are on about but I enjoy the sweet aroma of RA4 chemicals. :smile:
     
  21. SimonSutcliffe

    SimonSutcliffe Member

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    My cousin is works at jack shainman gallery that represents richard moss and he just uses 8x10 camera with it being scanned and then directly printed no post production. His other camera was a mamiya 7
     
  22. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    The widest generally available RA4 colour paper was from Kodak. It came in various sizes but the largest size I ever used, was paper that was 6' wide by 100' long.

    The actual largest single one piece print I have ever done, is 6' wide by 18' long. This was around 23-24 years ago, things have changed somewhat.

    The roller transport developing machine was 6'6" wide, let me tell you that feeding in a piece of paper that long and wide in total darkness, was an art form by itself. The paper had to go in dead square, otherwise somewhere after the start, the edge of the paper would start meshing with the gears, which would firstly stuff the print up, and secondly, possibly jam the processor; real problems and time waster when that happened.

    If you do a search, you should find some threads regarding large prints.

    For wall projection with these sizes a metal wall is best, using magnets to hold the paper up. You must remember that all of this is done in total darkness and for a print of this size two people work in complete darkness to unload a specific length of paper, cut it with a Stanley knife, then affix it to the wall in the correct position. Exposure is often up to 10 or 15 minutes with very big enlargements. Familiarity with your co-worker, was an important pre-requisite to working in the darkroom with this kind of enlarging!

    The minimum negative size is 4x5" with 8x10" being preferable. By using copy internegative materials (no longer available) one could take a 35mm transparency and dupe it up to an 8x10" negative for enlargement.

    From start to finish often took a minimum of three days as checks and client approval was needed at every step of the way. The process is/was so expensive, mistakes had to be kept to a minimum.

    Mick.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2012
  23. OzJohn

    OzJohn Member

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  24. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    No big deal. Portra 160 will probably do as good for interneg work as the
    official film ever did, as long as Kodak itself is around. PE has some suggestions for using it, and I personally mask the chromes for high quality interneg work. I still have some fine-tuning to do with really harsh
    chromes like Velvia (the color can get a bit more exaggerated), but otherwise it's straightforward. A good copy lens like an Apo-Nikkor helps, a very good glass neg holder, and a vacuum 8x10 holder, or something equally flat, and a top notch easel grain magnifier.
     
  25. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    John, we only ever had one warehouse in Australia for that material, which was in Melbourne, Sydney had a small warehouse for quickly moving products, but all graphic arts materials and fancy film processed materials, emanated from Melbourne.

    I may be wrong, but I remember our Sydney factory would sometimes get us to overnight ship materials to them, as Kodak weren't able to get it to them from their much smaller warehouse Sydney.

    Melbourne was actually a manufacturing plant and fed most of Asia their Kodak graphic materials as well as a 100/200 C41 colour negative material. Although the C41 film may have just been spliced in Melbourne; any ex Kodak employees out there?

    Mick.
     
  26. Danielle

    Danielle Member

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    :laugh: Well, hopefully nothing. If someone knows for sure my paranoia with toxicity of the colour chemicals in open trays is nothing, tell me. :smile: