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  1. #1
    David Ruby's Avatar
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    Enlargements from 4x5

    Have any of you ever thought that for certain large format negatives (4x5 here), there is simply too much information in them for a small (8x10 ish) print?

    I seem to recall Ansel mentioning something about this in his book The Print. I think he was discussing the optimum print size, relative to the viewing distance, relative to the actual distance between lens and negative. I'm not sure I fully understood what he was saying.

    I recently printed a 4x5 negative of a landscape. It was a shot from the top of a small mountain overlooking a mountain lake, with distant mountains, i.e. quite a bit of information. The forground was very dark and rocky, the middle ground had pine trees etc. then the lake, the hills in the background were very light due to haze etc.

    Looking at the 8x10 print, it almost seems that there is simply too much going on to comprehend at this small scale (relative to the real scene). There is a ton of detail in there, but something is odd when looking at it. I'm not sure if I'm taking what Ansel said and inventing an excuse, or if my brain is really trying to tell me something. Anyone have any experience like this?

  2. #2
    jss
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Ruby
    Have any of you ever thought that for certain large format negatives (4x5 here), there is simply too much information in them for a small (8x10 ish) print?
    im just starting to print from 4x5 negs. i find it silly to do anything less than 11x14. i find i most often print 16x20 and want to printer larger. for me personally, its a matter of having so much clarity that doing "small" prints don't do the negative justice.

  3. #3

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    I prefer small prints with lots of detail. I like to hold a print close & examine it. This is the main reason that I choose to contact print only.

  4. #4
    rbarker's Avatar
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    I think you're really talking about two different things, David.

    There are some subjects that are so full of detail, they "demand" to be printed large. I've seen extreme cases where large, panoramic prints have been mounted on curved panels, creating a walk-in print to achieve the desired level of "immersion".

    Separately, there is the issue of the relationship of the print size to the typical viewing distance. Absent physical barriers, the smaller the print, the closer people will tend to get, while larger prints are usually viewed from a greater distance. There's probably some statistical average, but individual viewing preferences also play a role. There's always someone who will walk up to a 30x40" print with a magnifying glass.
    [COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]

    Ralph Barker
    Rio Rancho, NM

  5. #5
    Ole
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    It also depends on the image. I have 35mm and MF negatives that beg for mural size, and 5x7" ones that are perfect as contact prints. I'm working on a theory on the relationship between size of image vs. size of "significant detail" - if I ever think up something really wise, it will be in the "articles" here.
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  6. #6
    Loose Gravel's Avatar
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    I love making 11x14 prints from 45 or 57, but it gets to be too much to store. Now I'm making 8x10 prints from 8x10, 57, and 45 negs, and 57s from 35mm. 6x7 goes either way. If I mount them, I put them on 2 ply. Otherwise the volume is huge. I'd have to add onto the house and this takes time away from photography. I don't really care what AA said. Little prints are fun and personal. No matter how big you make a print, it seems like people view it under a magnifier anyway.
    Watch for Loose Gravel

  7. #7
    roteague's Avatar
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    I don't print anything smaller than 11x14. I like big prints.
    Robert M. Teague
    www.visionlandscapes.com
    www.apug.org/forums/portfolios.php?u=2235

    "A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist" -- Louis Nizer

  8. #8
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ole
    It also depends on the image. I have 35mm and MF negatives that beg for mural size, and 5x7" ones that are perfect as contact prints. I'm working on a theory on the relationship between size of image vs. size of "significant detail" - if I ever think up something really wise, it will be in the "articles" here.
    Throw in one other factor: Whether or not it "works", and this defines a problem I have given up trying to resolve a LONG time ago.

    Some things "work" as small prints and fail as large ones; some are far better large: case in point might be Georgia O'Keeffe's flowers. Why? - I have *no* idea.

    I think, Ole, that if you come up with a solid, cookie cutter formula - or even one somehow vaguely effective - we should build temples and dedicate them to you.
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

  9. #9

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    the only thing I would add is that smaller prints printed from Modern tabular films of slow speed look more 'frustrated' at small sizes than, say, a 5x4 HP5 neg. As the fine grained films lack edge, the detail (resolution) is there, but it is not casually apparrent due to low acutance, you are therefore forced to look too close. This is why you probably wont find many contact printers using fine grain solvent devs like perceptol along with fuji acros for their contact prints - ABC pyro or pyrocat HD perhaps! Yes, subject matter makes a huge difference, but I have yet to find the 'rule' either. I simply live with a test print for a few days to years and then get a feel for what i 'needs'. I go with that, having no real idea why I have come to the conlcusions I have. I rarely feel like I have made a mistake, printing 5x4 from 8x10 to 20x24 (at a push).

    For 8x10 prints, 5x4 has little to offer over 6x7, which will still give great tonality IMHO and that bit more 'edge' due to the grain starting to come into play, tho perhaps not get obviously visible.. This is a subject the late Barry Thornton wrote about a great deal in 'Edge of Darkness' - a great semi-technical book.

    Tom

  10. #10

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    I also read the same thoughts somewhere...perhaps it was A.A.; smaller subject matter (close up of a rose for example) look better printed smaller, because of their actual size- whereas a large mountain range and clouds might be better suited as a 30x40 print. It sorta makes sense to me (can't imagine a large scenic printed at 4x5, or a rose printed at 30x40).

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