Process

Most of my work begins as black and white image capture on medium format or 4x5 film. Analog film is still by far the most economical and convenient way to capture a large image file and it can be archived in a notebook. Recently I have converted to using Kodak’s improved Tmax400 film in all sizes. This film offers full ISO 400 film speed with grain nearly as fine as the slower Tmax100. Developed in PyrocatHD using a JOBO it yields relatively soft negatives with full shadow detail. They scan beautifully in my Imacon 646. The Imacon resolves the grain of the film and essentially sucks all the information from the negative.
After scanning all images are heavily edited in Photoshop. I have no interest in presenting a “straight”, unedited image. In Photoshop I can alter light, contrast, mood, and many other attributes to make the image conform to my personal vision rather than leave it as Nature chanced to be on some particular day.
Finally, most images are printed as palladium prints. This occurs in two stages. First, the edited computer image is enlarged to the size of the final print, inverted to a negative, and printed as a digital negative on Pictorico transparency material. I print using an Epson printer (an older 4000 or a newer 3800) driving the printers with the Quadtone RIP and custom ink profiles that I have written. With current technology digital negatives can yield palladium prints that are indistinguishable from those made from analog film negatives. In fact, the prints from digital negatives are usually better because the image can be more accurately edited in Photoshop.
Second, the digital negative is then used to contact print onto a sheet of Arches Platine watercolor paper, hand coated with sensitized palladium emulsion.

This “hybrid” workflow has several advantages. Film is still relatively inexpensive and I think I make better compositions working on a ground glass screen than when squinting through a viewfinder. Being able to edit in Photoshop is, of course, a huge advantage. Many of my images simply could not exist in the absence of this essential tool. The ability to make large, contact-printing negatives with an inkjet printer means that I do not have to lug a huge camera around anymore. Even a piece of medium format film captures more than enough information to make a 15x18 inch print – which is as large as I normally print. And, finally, I come back out of the digital world, and erase any digital signature, by making the final print in palladium. The palladium process I use is nearly identical to that developed by Willis in the 1870’s and creates prints with the mellow, slightly soft and antique look that I prize.

Sometimes I go a step further by overprinting the palladium image with one or more layers of watercolor pigment in gum bichromate. For many landscapes I now finish them with one layer of umber and/or ochre to further the mellow, antique look. And in some cases I use multiple colored layers, each exposed through its own separation negative, to create a more or less full color effect. The gum layers add surface sheen and depth to the image that completely eliminates any chance it could be mistaken for a simple inkjet print.