How I enlarged a super 8 film over 100x

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by gattu marrudu, Dec 30, 2010.

  1. gattu marrudu

    gattu marrudu Member

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    In reply to this thread I started: http://www.apug.org/forums/forum41/78351-xxl-enlargement.html
    I want to thank everybody who gave me suggestions on how to do extreme enlargements and share a little bit of what I have learnt during the process.
    My goal was not to make the largest print possible, but to achieve the highest degree of enlargement (still using the largest commercially available paper).
    I used an Ilford Multigrade roll for this project, even though I hate the lack of detail in the shadows this paper has, for two main reasons:
    - it has a very high contrast and a very high sensitivity
    - it comes in 140cm roll vs. the 104/106cm of the other papers (including my beloved Adox MCC)

    I had a pinhole photograph on a tiny fragment of super 8mm film that needed to become 140x200cm large. I wanted the grain, dust and scratches to literally explode in the image, that was basically a very blurry silhouette. So this procedure might not be suitable for who loves fine grain and nice looking pictures.

    I set up my darkroom in an old house I have access to, so I had to make everything from scratch.

    I used a simple Durst M60 for this job, with its head tilted vertical and using a 6x6 glass film carrier masked to only show the film area in order to minimize light spill.

    Light insulation was a major issue, since I had to project such a large light surface, so I covered the whole room with black paper, including the floor for which I used black painted corrugated cardboard. I wetted one side of the cardboard and peeled off the first layer, that would expose the wavy texture underneath which makes the perfect light absorbing surface.

    The key to everything was the lens. I bought a Schneider 24mm lens on eBay, which allowed me to project at "only" 4m away. After endless tests, I realized I could achieve the greatest image sharpness having the lens completely open. Stopping down made the image blurrier, I guess because diffraction gets so strong that it overcomes the advantages of having a higher f-number. Of course, I had to have the most accurate alignment between the enlarger head and the projecting plane. Being in an old house, I could not just rely on the facing walls to be parallel, so I hung a vertical surface (to minimize error on the horizontal plane) made with 20mm thick plywood on the wall, checking it with a bubble level.

    Another major issue was getting enough light. After trying dozens of solutions, especially using cold light (to avoid expansion of the negative due to the prolonged heating), including some ridiculous ones (the "light funnel" mentioned in the previous thread took me a whole day to build and was useless) I came up with the simplest solution: using the standard color head of the M60, with the dichroic filter box removed. This gave me an extremely strong illumination due to the halogen lamp being directional. For such a small negative I had no problem with illumination evenness. This method, combined to the lens working at full aperture and slightly underdeveloped negatives, gave me exposure times as low as a couple of minutes! The contrast was great, I even had to tone it down.

    I cut sheets to size from my paper roll and stored them in a separate container. Then, I took one rolled piece, climbed on a ladder, pinned the top edge to the plywood surface with pushpins and let it roll down, while I pinned the side edges step by step and eventuelly fixing the bottom edge. It took me several minutes. After the first exposure, I noticed the ladder had left a shadow in the image, so I had to dim the safelight until I could barely see, and move the ladder here and there all the time.

    I spent hours focusing. I used a binocular to check the image on the wall while I focused, and eventually walked back and forth for fine tuning.

    The first complete print was way overexposed. I guessed that was because while I was taking test strips, the yellow/brown wooden surface of the plywood was exposed, while when the full size paper sheet was in place I had a glossy, bright white surface that reflected the light on it and on to the room and back to the paper, causing an additional fogging. To counteract that, I had to take the fogging into account. I painted the surface where the sheet had to be pinned bright white, to simulate the white surface of the sheet.

    The next headache was processing. I had to do it by myself, since I was on a time/cash crunch and could not afford to pay and train an assistant. The reel to reel method that somebody suggested was the best. Here again, the simplest solution won. I used two long troughs, which I built with plywood and coated with a thick plastic foil. I used several large basins to collect chemicals and recycle as much process water as I could.

    I used Ansco 130 developer and basic fixer (sodium thiosulfate + sodium sulfite). 130 is an extremely durable deverloper that yields the best tones (IMHO) and can stay in an open tray for very long times. Plain fixer was the cheapest and most archival solution, it's so cheap to buy bulk that you can discard it as often as you wish. But you have to rinse off the developer very well with plain water.
    - I rolled the paper on a 80mm PVC pipe and soaked it in clean water. Then I rolled it on to a second pipe, and back, and so on.
    - Dumped the clean water in a basin to be recycled, and filled the trough with very diluted developer.
    - Rolled back and forth for 8 minutes
    - Dumped the developer into another basin, to be put back in its container in a second time
    - Used the previous water to rinse off the developer
    - Second bath with clean water
    - Dumped water and poured fixer in the same trough
    - Fixed for 4 minutes
    - Turned on white light
    - Quick rinse
    - Second fixer bath, 4'
    - Water rinse
    - Kodak Hypo clearing agent
    - Second KHCA bath
    - three consecutive rinses with plain water
    - Transported sheet and unrolled it into a tray as large as the sheet, and filled it with water.
    - Let sit for 5' agitating occasionally and dumped water
    - Filled again and let sit for 10' agitating occasionally
    - Dumped water again, refilled and let sit for 20'
    - Rolled sheet back in PVC pipe, which had been soaked in the rinsing water all the time
    - Also washed the second pipe
    - Put the rolled sheet in the second trough, which had not been used yet, and treated with Agfa Sistan (could not afford the money or health to use selenium in such scale - plus it helps a lot with drying evenly)
    - Hung the sheet

    Sistan played me a bad trick. I hung the sheet using many steel paper clips nailed to a wooden stick, and put another wooden stick with more clips and two weights to keep the sheet in tension. Sistan is very slick, so as soon as I hung the sheet, it slipped from the clips and fell on the ground! It was my first good print! After that I decided two things:
    - Use pushpins to fix the paper edges to the wooden stick;
    - next time I get a bad print, I process it all the way to the end, so I can experience any further mistakes and possibly save a better one from destruction.

    I hope this little story will help some people as other forum users have helped me.
    The final prints have been shown a couple of months ago privately in Chicago (still unframed/unmounted - that will be another job)
    Here are the links:
    http://lii.cc/articles/view/146
    http://lii.cc/projects/144

    I will post photos of the darkroom setup soon.
    gm
     
  2. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Nice work!
     
  3. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Great work!

    See also for a 2-step enlargement:
    http://www.gigabitfilm.de/download/thousandfold_linear.pdf

    more detailed German version
    http://www.gigabitfilm.de/download/tausendfach_linear.pdf



    Wouldn't it be more wise to paint the other part black or cover it temporarily with black cardboard?
     
  4. kraker

    kraker Subscriber

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    Thanks for sharing. I'm curious to see the photos of the setup.
     
  5. gattu marrudu

    gattu marrudu Member

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    That was the point. I can't avoid fogging from the paper when the sheet is in place, so in order to calculate the correct exposure/contrast on test strips, I must have the same reflecting surface as when I have the full scale sheet in place. That is why I painted it white (same reason why enlarger planes are white too, I guess).
     
  6. gattu marrudu

    gattu marrudu Member

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  7. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    Hi Gattu,

    Sorry I hijacked your pictures, but I think they are to nice not to have them as attachments safely in the APUG database for future reference, so here they are attached in a post.

    By the way, thanks for sharing all your experiences! It was an interesting read.

    Marco
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 30, 2010
  8. gattu marrudu

    gattu marrudu Member

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    Thank you, I was too lazy for that. :smile:
     
  9. frotog

    frotog Member

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    Way to go! As a printer who makes murals all the time it's interesting to see how someone successfully figured this out (albeit in a Rube Goldberg kind of way) on their own and with minimal gear. My favorite part is spending hours focusing using binoculars. A few questions... How on earth did you get your exposure plane parallel to your film plane? Your drying set up intrigues me. How flat did the print dry? A large wet piece of fiber-based paper shrinks considerably, oftentimes pulling tacks loose. Was this a problem with your hanging dowel rod?
     
  10. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    beautiful series of images !
     
  11. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    My question exactly.

    And probably the answer is one of those "DUH! Why didn't I think of that" solutions.
     
  12. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Wow, great account of a fascinating project. Thank you for saying something and then doing it and then sharing it on APUG. This is what it's all about.
     
  13. gattu marrudu

    gattu marrudu Member

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    Patience, binoculars, bubble level and following the floor tiles.

    The prints curled on the long edges, but not too much. They did not twist or do weird stuff. I pinned them a bit loose (letting the edge make a very slight bow, not a straight line between two pins) to compensate for shrinking. They ripped just a little bit, not severely.
    Of course, in order to be displayed properly they need to be mounted. I thought about pinning the wet paper on a 10mm plywood board with back ribs, folding the paper around the edges like a canvas, and let it stretch dry. But keeping it clean would be hell.
     
  14. frotog

    frotog Member

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    Crazy! A carpenter's laser might have shaved a few hours off this part of your process (but I would not want to deny you your love-labor).

    I bet the center is sharp but how did your 28mm lens perform around the edges of the print? From a 16mm neg. that lil' pup is optimized for a 5x7 print (inches, not feet). And at wide open your stuff has got to be flatter than flat. Did you sandwich the neg in glass? Tape and stretch the paper on all four sides? In any event, you deserve a medal for your persistance.
     
  15. frotog

    frotog Member

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    Tiles, binoculars and patience? More like "Far-out! I wouldn't have done it that way but it's impressive that someone did". Darkroom technique bordering on process art.
     
  16. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    With very high magnification like this, as you near 'infinity focus' your projection paper can be skewed to a large degree and still be in focus. Just imagine taking a picture of the wall with a Minox or Minolta 16 from where the enlarger is. The optics are exactly the same.
     
  17. gattu marrudu

    gattu marrudu Member

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    ic-racer, I guess you are right. It's not the enlarging plane that should be perfectly flat, but the negative. That is easy with a glass carrier.
    And, about laser levels, it's just that I don't have enough experience with them, and prices in Italy for any reliable model are outrageous.
     
  18. frotog

    frotog Member

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    In theory yes, but in practice - not in my experience, especially at f2.8 and over 40x. A print this large will show soft grain whereas you might not notice with an 8x10. I used to enlarge on a five foot wide sheet of 3/4" plywood that doubled as a shelf. Eventually a slight sag set in, enough to throw the corners out of focus. By slight I mean a deflection of less than 1/2" across the 6 - 1/2' length of board. Problem was remedied when I got a very rigid sheet of aluminum panel. Granted that the problem was most apparent when using a 50mm lens and the distance to paper (about 9') was probably nowhere near infinity focus. Of course this would not be an issue at f11 but then, as Gattu discovered, the depth of field compromises sharpness of focus to a considerable degree, even with a rodenstock G lens.
     
  19. dehk

    dehk Member

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    I'm sure I'm not the first or last to say this, good work!