Using Digital Negatives for Contact Printing
on Gelatin Silver Chloride Paper

with Richard Boutwell and Paula Chamlee

August 31–September 1, 2019

This workshop is designed to help you make better photographs—in the camera and in the darkroom—with confidence and renewed creativity.


Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee began teaching their popular Vision and Technique Workshop in 1998, with hundreds of participants in the last 20 years. These have been attended mostly by large-format analog photographers, with interest in developing film by inspection, and contact printing on Azo. What they really got was an often life-changing experience in how to see differently and make more creative photographs. Before Michael’s health started to decline, we discussed how to bring this to a greater number of photographers who now use digital cameras and still want to make silver prints, but never had the chance to hold such a workshop.

After Michael passed away in 2018, Paula and I have discussed how we can continue to teach in the spirit of their Vision and Technique workshop to continue a part of Michael’s legacy of teaching. We have designed a new customized workshop experience.

This workshop incorporates aspects of Michael A. Smith’s and Paula Chamlee’s Vision and Technique Workshop with the use of digital negatives. With the software I developed, it is now possible to easily make digital negatives that take advantage of the beautiful tonal range of this unique Lodima silver chloride paper. The technical aspects of making digital negatives have been simplified so you can focus on what is most important—your vision.

Each participant will individually spend time with Paula as she presents her unique “under the dark cloth” revelations about how to expand and improve your photographic vision. While an 8x10-inch view camera is used for this demonstration, this is not large-format specific, but applicable to all cameras.

As a group, we will go through all aspects of using the QuadToneProfiler-DN software for calibrating and crafting a digital negative suited to gelatin silver chloride contact paper. We will be printing with Paula Chamlee in the darkroom with special attention to evaluating the subtle tonal qualities of the paper. Then there will be a full-day critique session with individualized in-depth discussions about your work.


QuadToneRIP is arguably the best option for making digital inkjet negatives because the tonal corrections for the process are built into the ink levels rather than using drastic correction curves applied to the digital image tones. However, there are downsides to the way QTR negatives have traditionally been created. It can be a time-consuming and error prone calibration process, which involves entering settings for the ink levels, partitioning information, and the correction curve and linearization information into a text file. To do well, there are a minimum of four printing steps, along with measurements, manual calculations, and Photoshop plugins or spreadsheet tools used in the linearization process, all of which can add up from several hours to several days of work to produce a good negative. I came up with a better way.

A NEW APPROACH TO Quad Tone RIP DIGITAL NEGATIVES

This workshop utilizes my QuadToneProfiler-QuickCurve-DN tools. This new system still uses the QuadToneRIP driver, but does away with all the complexity and manual calculations typically involved in the traditional QuadToneRIP curve creation process. 

The whole workflow is based around three steps: a special set of pre-defined media settings, a simple method for setting the ideal blocking density for a wide range of processes, and using built-in linearization tools for profiling to the correct densities.

This system is designed to remove the need for Photoshop plugins and adjustment curves, and creates perfectly smooth digital negatives for any process, from albumen to ziatype.

Lodima-Silver-Gelatin-Paper-inkjet-negative-print.jpg
Gelatin-Silver-Lodima-Digital-Negative.jpg

Location

The workshop will be held in Michael A. Smith’s and Paula Chamlee’s unique home and studio in historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Michael passed away in 2018, but Paula is continuing their tradition of teaching with silver chloride contact printing paper, and now incorporating the use of digital negatives.

Schedule

Saturday 9:00AM–7:00PM and Sunday: 9:00AM–5:00PM. This will be an intense 2-day workshop that will cover a lot of ground. Our aim is to help you to make better photographs—in the camera and in the darkroom—with confidence and renewed creativity.

Day One

Morning

Introductions and looking at Michael A. Smith’s and Paula Chamlee’s large format film contact prints for an understanding of the tonal qualities we will be using as a standard for the digital negatives.

Each participant will individually spend time with Paula as she presents her unique “under the dark cloth” revelations about how to expand and improve your photographic vision.

We will then go into the darkroom to set up for the day and dive into the digital negative calibration and profiling workflow using the QuadToneProfiler-DN Software.

Topics will include:

  • Darkroom layout, best practices, and mixing chemistry from bulk chemicals

  • Find correct exposure for maximum black with room for creative adjustments in the exposure and development

  • Establish the needed blocking density for your process and install the initial quad curves

  • Print and measure the linearization target with workflows for different devices

  • Use the QuadToneProfiler-DN’s built-in linearization tools, and any iterative linearization if needed

  • Printing a standard image, use of torture-test images, and confirming linearity

  • Creating ICC profiles for soft proofing and final adjustments

Afternoon and Evening

We will print the digital negatives in the darkroom with Paula using Lodima silver-chloride contact paper. Paula will talk about the subtle print qualities that be achieved with silver chloride papers, and how to evaluate and manipulate the final print tones with additional exposure and development techniques.

Day Two

We will begin with the critique session, where we will then take a careful look at your photographs and discuss them in light of all that has gone before during the weekend. The more photographs you bring with you, the more helpful we can be. We recommend you bring twenty to thirty prints in as finished a form as possible—preferably mounted.

We look at participants’ photographs both before and after brunch. We will also demonstrate mounting prints and spotting both prints and negatives.

Travel, Meals, and Lodging

There will coffee, tea, and light pastries in the mornings, as well lunch, snacks and drinks throughout the day. You will be responsible for breakfast and dinner. There are several good local restaurants we can recommend for dinner, and a good local coffee shop for breakfast.

We also provide a list of lodging options and directions based on how you’re traveling.

All workshop attendees will receive my QuadToneProfiler-DN application for macOS or QuickCurve-DN for Windows, including a year of free email support and updates.