Ansel Adams Enlarger

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by ghuber480, Nov 20, 2004.

  1. Several years ago, I was given a copy of Beaumont Newhall's
    biography of Ansel Adams. In it, there is a picture of AA in his
    darkroom. I have always been intrigued(sp) by his homemade
    enlarger. Rather than project on a table, it puts them on the
    wall! Does anyone know where drawings or designs of this maple
    marvel are available? I am building a new darkroom and this would
    be perfect for my application.
  2. I'm not sure about Adams' personal enlarger, but many models allow you to tilt the head so that it projects onto a wall (for example, my Beseler 23CII does this). You might try a Google search for enlargers that have swiveling heads, because you definitely don't need to reinvent the wheel just to have a projection enlarger.
  3. The Beseler 45MX will do this also, i.e. the head will pivot up 90-deg for wall projection. Keeping the paper flat is an issue but should be solvable with one of: (1) 2-sided tape (2) 1-sided tape (3) mild gum adhesive strategically placed on the wall (4) magnets over metal strips (5) vacuum easel.
  4. Check out Ansel Adam's excellent book "The Print" for a description of that particular enlarger. I remember reading that it was built around an 11x14 camera.
  5. Biography of Ansel Adams by Beaumont Newhall? I didn't know he wrote a biography of Adams. Do you have an isbn number, title, or other information about the book?
  6. correction: The Autobiography of Ansel Adams with a forward by Beaumont Newhall. Sorry, its still packed away and I am running on memory.
  7. Why build one. It would be more cost effective to get a cheap Durst 10x10 enlarger and rotate the head 90 degrees from the vertical to the horizontal and print wall size murals just like AA did. The problem with customized projects is that they can get really expensive really fast.
  8. Many off-the-shelf enlargers have this feature via a rotating head, e.g., the Durst L1200.

    The drawbacks are how to hold the printing paper and the work of aligning the enlarger with the wall.

    Other ways of getting extra large prints: 1) use a wide-angle enlarging lens. These lenses have a shorter than normal focal length for the format so that the print size at a given height of the enlarger head is larger. 2) Some people build a table for their enlarger with a removable top, below which are additional positions for the easel. 3) Many enlargers (e.g., the Durst L1200) have columns that can be repositioned to face the enlarger away from the baseboard so that easel can be placed on the floor.
  9. Horizontal enlargers show up on the famed auction site now and then. A horizontal process camera could easily be adapted, too. These type of things usually go pretty cheap.
  10. You might need long arms and a tele-photo grain enlarger to focus the negative on the "baseboard". I think he used a metal "baseboard" with magnetic strips to hold the paper in place. I have several of his books but can't recall seeing any drawings of the enlarger. There are pictures of it in his book "The Print". Go for it!
  11. Hi George, John was right.. the enlarger he used was built around a large format (11x14?) camera. The book (ie: "the print") also talks of the lighting source/s used for the enlarger.
  12. Made from an old camera and the light source was bent glass tubeing filled with gas of some sort. He also tried an array of small bulbs similar to a contact printer, but a lot of heat was generated. This set was custom made buy an electrician/craftsman. Look to spend big money for the light.

    In 35 mm, a slide projector with a flatfield lens and glass mounted slides will do as well.
  13. Clyde Butcher uses a similar arrangement for his murals. I believe their enlargers started life as huge horizontal process cameras.
  14. Clyde Butcher is quite the photographer and I would be inclined to use any setup he uses as he's a "current time" practitioner.

    My son & I had the pleasure of meeting Clyde & it appears that outside of limited print runs he's using an Epson large scale printer (9600?) that is phenomenal and a treat to watch print.

    When I was young my dad had a friend that used his enlarging column upside down mounted to the ceiling in order to do large prints. Have to make sure the carriage works in both directions.

    Adams's first large format enlarger was some kind of a homemade unit based on a view camera mounted into an outside wall like an air conditioner & he had reflectors outside or something to help collimate the light into the device & project onto the wall. This obviously required very long exposure times. He complained that on certain days that after exposing a test print & calculating exposure that clouds would block the sun & lengthen the exposure times so he would have to compensate accordingly.

    The coolest configuration in my opinion was his custom unit using an array of lights arranged in a grid behind the negative whereby he could selectively turn on & off certain bulbs in order to customize the amount of light going through the negative to simulate a burn/dodge zone based on the negative he was printing. I feel that something similar would be nice even today.

    I would post scans of the darkroom from the book but don't want to violate any copyrights.

    Good luck & let us know how it goes.
  15. Even my lowly, elderly Elwood can project an image vertically on to a wall mounted easel. The problem is keeping the easel square with the lens stage of th e enlarger. Probably a verticle process camera with a buit in vacume easel would be the way to if you want to convert something into an enlarger as others have already mentioned.
  16. Align is critical. I find it an important task in setting up a new or moned enlarger.

    Many machines lack adjustments on some ar all axis and you have to use shims and tape.

    Forget the lazers etc, use the best peak grain magnifier as it sees into the corners. A level on a stick in the neg stage works wonders. It need not be accurate, simply repeatable. Hold across the front face of the lens to set that up.

    Then you can use the Peak to fcus the englarger when you are having fun.
  17. Ansel A. used numerous "cold" lights in his enlarger. A video done shortly before he passed away showed him working with the unit, and also destroying failed exposures. The Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona has an extensive collection of Adams' work and he used to "hang out" with the folks who started the center back in the seventies when it was informal and lots of fun. (I remember it being in an old bank building and spending entire Saturdays digging through all the stuff they had.) Now its a very formal affair with security guards..
  18. George, what is the largest film that you intend to enlarge? What is the largest print that you want to make?
  19. I had just converted a New Arc 14x18 process camera into a 11x14 vertical enlarger... Reasonabley easy to do... Turned everything upside down, so the controls were at waist level, removed the copy board, and hung it on the wall....It has 30 inches of bellows so it will take any lens that will cover 11x14......... All you need is a light source, and a adjustable height table...
  20. That light source or sources, could be the killer.....
  21. Yes, Ansel's camera is in fact a horizontal process camera. The
    model he is using has a strange backlight feature or he has
    modified this unit himself.
    If your interested in getting one, just check with larger printers
    and you can probably get one for the price of moving it. Which
    isn't as cheap as you might think as sometimes riggers need to
    be involved.
    A company called NuArk made thousands of them but I would
    look for Log-E or Robertson as NuArk equipment isn't all that hot
    and their camera lenses are not that sharp.
    Unless you are using 8x10 or larger I don't see a huge
    advantage here and they are certainly large and heavy. They
    would probably go through alot of house floors these days.
    They also have Vertical process cameras that if you are deadset
    in making a project out of this maybe a more reasonable way to
    go. Unless you have a ground floor external or basement very
    large footprint darkroom, the horizontal enlarger is probably not
    going to be in your future.
    If you have any questions, let me know I work in the Graphic Arts
    and have many years of experience on both vertical and
    horizontal cameras I would be glad to help.
  22. I appreciate all the input. I have a well supplied workshop and a background in wood working so the fabrication would be no problem. The goal is to be able to print 8X10 negs into 16 X 20 and larger prints. I will try to keep everyone posted as this project progresses.
  23. One of the things that has fascinated me about Adams enlarger was the individual intensity control on the many light sources in his light head. I use several different large format enlargers with a single light source so I have had to rely on the zone system or dodging and burning or other light controls to get the effect I wanted. I wonder if the Adams enlarger helped him get the results he wanted just as much as the zone system and other methods. I believe he later changed to a single cold head light source but he was known to experiment with equipment. Can anyone comment on the effect of the Adam light head with controllable light sources?
  24. Here is another note from someone with similar memories to mine about how Ansel made prints. This is from the Sierra Club (Ansel was one of the founding board members).
    ANSEL AT HOME My mother, who passed away age 99, came to America in 1922 from her native France, via French Indochina, a story in its own right. What is relevant is that she was a writer, poet, and music and art critic. Gregarious and highly intelligent, she made friends with all the great artists around her -- both then and throughout her life. This gave me the rare privilege of meeting and knowing many artists who later became famous. Two of her lifelong friends were the photographers Bret Weston and Ansel Adams. In my house in Malaysia, I have two portraits of my mother, one by Weston and another by Adams, done in Polaroid film when he was given it as a new experimental medium.
    When I was in my late 20s, I made many visits with my mother to Ansel and Virginia Adams's house south of Carmel, California. Ansel told me the house was financed by Kodak, whose film he used almost exclusively from the time his parents gave him a Kodak Brownie. The house was magnificent. The very large living room had a full-length window at the far end looking down on the rocks below, where the waves of the Pacific Ocean broke in flurries of white foam. Facing that window to the left was a large fireplace, flanked on both sides by very large Chinese drums. There were beautiful Native American baskets and some turquoise jewelry and photographs on the walls. The floor was covered with rugs acquired by Virginia's family's trading post in Yosemite, dating back to the 1800s. (Their trading post still survives there, as the only privately owned property in the national park). Although the room was large, with its chairs, rugs, fireplace, and decorations, it was very cozy.
    The house was entered through a door that led into a corridor opening into the living room. A door on the right led into Ansel's studio, which was very large with another large window at the far end that looked out on the Pacific from a slightly different angle. Ansel was very generous in letting me into his studio and in explaining his techniques to me. The studio had several large tables and organized shelves that stored his unexposed film and photographic paper. There were special cabinets to store the reagents that he used for development.
    While everyone interested in photography knows about his "zone system" for determining exposure time, not many seem to know about another device that he experimented with. This was a light box that had rows of lights, each of which could be controlled by a rheostat that determined its luminosity. By predetermining the lighting conditions of the scene photographed (he kept good notes when out taking pictures), he could approximate quite closely the lighting of the original scene. He used the device in the darkroom, first turning off the main switch to the box. Working with the safelight, he placed the unexposed photographic paper under the box, then turned on the switch for a fraction of a second. The box had a timer, thus exposing the film to lighting that was similar to the outdoor original. One of my favorites of Ansel's photos is "Moonrise Over Hernandez, New Mexico." I can't say for sure which method he used to expose it, the zone method or his experimental box.
    There were other pioneering efforts that I saw at the Adams's home. When holography was a very new development, made possible by the invention of the laser, someone had given Ansel a hologram. Walking down the entrance hallway leading to the living room, on the wall to the right, a woman blew me a kiss! I walked back and tried to walk down the corridor again and again she blew me a kiss. I was flabbergasted. It was the first hologram I'd ever seen, and when I examined it, I was surprised to see the hologram was flat, although the dimensionality was fantastic.
    I stayed over on many occasions and was always given a bedroom on the lower level. (The house was built on a hillside, so it had several levels; the Adams's own bedroom was on a lower level.) It was a privilege I will treasure all my life, a rare opportunity to meet this wonderful man and his wife, both so humble in spite of the fame that came to him in his lifetime.
Dato' Professor Haji Rudin Salinger

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