Developing Mural Prints

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by countingaces, Jul 28, 2014.

  1. countingaces

    countingaces Member

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    Hi All!

    I'm a first-time poster on APUG and am very excited to be a part of the community. Hopefully this isn't a redundant thread, and if so, please direct me to the appropriate thread and I'll take this one down.

    With the advancement of digital scanning and printing technology, museums and galleries are turning their eyes to huge, beautiful prints. A professor of mine recently started exhibiting in Germany and they requested that his prints be 40" x 50". That is soooo big!

    My professor (along with many other working artists) turn to professional printing services to accomplish prints this big. They drum scan the negative and use a (correct me if I'm wrong) hybrid printer emitting RGB light onto photographic paper and develop within the printer. This costs an incredible amount of money. My professor invested about 15k into these prints, without getting any gear. That money went directly to the printer and the prints went directly to the gallery in Germany.

    Now, I understand this is an investment and what better investment can their be (i.e. investing in one's self)? However, I don't have the funds to do that at this time. How do those of us still working with traditional materials in traditional darkroom spaces compete with the size and quality being produced by advancing technology? How can I process prints 30"x40" or larger?

    I'm interested in hearing the variety of techniques out there. I've heard of people developing in wallpaper trays, but there is not much literature out there and very little detail on forums. I've also thought of creating a series of dip-tanks made of Plexiglas (similar to a big, thin fish tank with multiple chambers) but I am not an engineer and worry that the water pressure would force the Plexiglas apart.

    Please post your techniques with detailed explanations or links to outside literature.

    Thank you!
     
  2. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    I bought some plastic wallpaper trays and cut and glued them together to make longer troughs. Also project onto the floor (or wall) and use a string wrapped around the knob to focus. I made 30x40" prints and not too hard, but need to be careful of crimping the print when processing with the rolling and unrolling.

    Jon
     
  3. Ian C

    Ian C Member

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  4. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    I assume you're talking about color prints? The simplest way would be a custom-built drum processor. That's the first step, with many many
    many more to follow. By the time you get good at it, everyone will already be weary of huge prints anyway, and the next trend will be displaying 35mm contact prints. Sounds like your "professor" is just blindly following the herd and expects everyone else to do so too. But
    there simply is no cheap way to do it. If you're not paying someone else, you're going to have to invest in some pretty serious equipment,
    supplies, and space to do it yourself. If you're persistent, building your own gear can be fun, but it would be wise to take some shop classes,
    and indeed also learn how to fabricate Plexiglas.
     
  5. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    The photo marketing guru Mary Virginia Swanson said in an interview (LensWork #70) that the Number One Problem photographers have is not paying attention to their cost of sales. That is, they spend carloads of money on printing and mounting, and after the gallery takes 50%, there's not much left to pay themselves a salary. oops...

    It might work if your professor has a fairly reliable sales pipeline. (I wouldn't want to have to make $15K just to get back to zero.) I do know of a fairly well-respected photographer who prints huge, mounts on plexiglass, sells a fair amount of work at top-end galleries and teaches at a community college to pay the bills. Want to work that hard and not make a living?

    The problem with the huge print approach is that, absent some consumer demand, you are likely to spend a serious pile of cash and end up with a bunch of prints that take up quite a lot of space. In five years, after your skills and aesthetic have evolved, you'll wonder why you spent all that time and money on an incomplete vision.

    My advice, stick to smaller prints and concentrate on making a ton of them to refine your vision. If you're good enough, eventually someone will pay you to make big prints.
     
  6. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    Plexi tanks will work, but as the point has been made, there may be structural issues with making them beyond a certain size. There was a video that I think you can find online about a photographer who makes pinhole images using color paper. His camera is a trailer he pulls behind his truck. His prints are so big, he lays them on the floor, pours RA4 chemistry on them, and brushes it around with a mop to develop the prints.
     
  7. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Big trays.
     
  8. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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  9. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I've printed a lot of images larger than 40"x50" and there's 3 ways I've processed then depending on the space available,

    1. Temporary trays, just wood and polythene lined.

    2. Place in the darkroom sink (mine's 6ft long) and process using sponges. Quite economic.

    3. When I had a horizontal enlarger I'd just spray the chemicals onto the emulsion, but I did have a darkroom geared up for this as we also applied photographic emulsion to various supports by spraying, some of these were significantly larger.

    I usually modified the developer to prevent aerial oxidation and used a higher than normal dilution to ensure slower and more even development.

    Smaller than 40x50 I'd see-saw through trays large enough for the papers width, as mentioned above.

    Ian
     
  10. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Processing large black and white prints is a totally different ballgame than doing RA4 color. In the latter case, your number one cost
    consideration should be, how expensive is it to replace your lungs? Some people are going to learn the answer to that the hard way.
     
  11. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Drew are you talking about big open trays of RA4 chemicals or large RA4 prints in Jobo print drums??


     
  12. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The OP isn't clear in his post whether it's Colour or B&W he's interested in.

    There was once a Cibachrome processing kit that used spray cans, I think you're tight about the lungs, it had a name like Aeroprint. When I used to spray emulsions and chemistry it was always with excellent extraction and we wore airline respirators so were breathing fresh air.

    If I had to make huge prints on RA4 I'd now make a slot processor like the Nova I already use, I built Gold refineries for a while and used the materials need, although I'd sub contract tanks, the guy I used made film processing units for a leading supplier.

    Back in the late 80's I designed a laminar flow unit for colour print processing, it's a very economic way of processing large colour prints without using an excess of chemistry. I never had the money to build it and when I had the money I'd stopped shooting colour anyway (except for happy snaps).

    Ian
     
  13. momus

    momus Subscriber

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    I don't understand how anyone is going to expose a negative on an enlarger to get the dimensions I see talked about here, so I can only assume they're talking about composite images? No enlarger/ enlarger lens can do the dimensions I see here w/ one exposure. None that I know of anyway.

    A properly made 8x10 photo has more value than a huge photo mural, all things being equal. I mean it's artistic value. Who on earth is going to buy a huge photo mural anyway? You need a huge home to display it in. Unless it's from a known artist or photographer, it wouldn't sell anyway. This is a far better job for a painting or a drawing. Horses for courses.
     
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  15. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Hi Bob. Jobo never made drums bigger than 20x24, and if they did, they'd be useless because they fill and drain too slowly for large volumes of this kind of chem with a relatively fast processing regimen. But my reference was to being exposed to big open trays of RA4 or worse (like mopping). A drum is much easier to capture fumes from. Or in my case, my 30x40 drum processor sits on a cart which I can simply move outdoors in mild weather to minimize exposure to the chem. Beginners naturally tend to confuse "low odor" with "safe". RA4 can lead to sudden sensitization. I know a couple lab owners who got horribly allergic to it. But with smaller tabletop drum processors, it is fairly easy to rig a little dedicated fume extraction hood to right above the fill/drain station, which will work much better than just general darkroom air exchange, and thus minimize exposure. I also use this kind of thing when mixing the component chems. Otherwise, a number of people have
    made their own large processing drums from various kinds of irrigation pipe and fittings.
     
  16. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    I should add that in the video of the photographer who shoots mural-size pinholes, he is wearing a full bunny suit and a respirator with eye protection while processing those giant pieces of paper with a mop.
     
  17. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    A respirator won't get out all the nasties. A supplied-air hood would make more sense. But those aren't cheap either.
     
  18. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    If you need mural size prints of any variety then let a professional lab handle the work. I'm printing on a 5 foot dog portrait for a client right now and, were I to attempt doing that myself, it would cost 5x what they charge me.
     
  19. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    RE "Pro Labs" being safe: I worked in a pro lab a few years and the owner/manager procrastinated adding ventilation to my room (cheap SOB!!). The fumes from the heated fixer burnt my lungs. I healed but haven't ever been the same. That was 27 years ago.
     
  20. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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  21. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    I have a friend who got out of the lab business when significant amts of scar tissue had to be removed from his lungs. Had an even worse situation with a 20 yr old helper around the store here. When he was 16 he worked one summer in a synthetic countertop plant in Minnesota.
    The place had no true ventilation, and whenever the Osha inspector intended to show up the owner was forewarned, so opened some doors
    and handed out paper dust masks (not as if that made anything legal or compliant, but it did put up a reasonable show for the bribed inspector). Then at eighteen this young fella had to have half of each lung removed. Partially handicapped for life. I asked him why he didn't sue the business owners and mgt. "Nobody to sue" he answered. They were all dead. That's one way to beat the system!
     
  22. laser

    laser Advertiser

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    An inexpensive technique uses a sheet of plywood covered with plastic sheeting and a sprayer to apply diluted chemicals and a garden hose for washing. Process with the plywood against a wall and tape the paper to the plastic sheeting.
     
  23. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    You can make any size enlargement you want particularly if you have a horizontal enlarger 40"x50" is not really that large. Mostly murals or large images are/were for commercial display not putting in a domestic house.

    Ian
     
  24. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    Well you can still get long wide rolls of colour paper seen them remaindered, 18m ago, and may be able to special order mono.

    I've done 4xoverlapping 16x20 in bath ( no trays) with sponges and tempered pails and guillotined and joined them for 30x38 nominal, the distortion was not too noticeable even with simple triplet.
     
  25. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    I wonder if the OP has now got sufficient information to finish writing his assignment? :whistling:
     
  26. paul_c5x4

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    The only limitation on making a single enlargement is the size of paper available. I have a couple of one metre wide rolls sitting in the fridge, but lack sufficient space and suitable trays.