The Platinum Paradigm

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by ann_m, Jul 30, 2003.

  1. Twenty-seven prints later and.......Nothing! nada! niente!..... Zip!
    zero! zilch!.... I could be doing better with a Xerox machine and a
    roll of toilet paper....Blacks...sooty. Whites...chalk. The midtones
    (all two of them) have all the charm of something stinky I once found
    stuck to the bottom of my shoe.

    I have tried 5 different emulsion contrast solutions on the same
    negative.... Not much difference between the prints.... All are
    contrasty with blown out highlights. I have tried pure platinum &
    pure palladium and several combinations between.

    What I have been doing....... Paper, the Cranes that comes with the
    B&S kit. Single coating under bug light with the rod (love the rod!).
    Air drying the paper in the dark. Exposing in full sun at peak time
    for UV, humidity has been about 50% lately. Exposure times from 5-9
    minutes.... That contact printer gets HOT. Then I develop in ammonium
    citrate and clear in EDTA.

    Life of chemistry... It takes about a month for shipments to
    arrive... Could the chemistry be exhausted from it's journey by the
    time it arrives?

    I have been perusing platinum images and have noticed that they are
    often of rather low contrast scenes... foggy forests,moody ruins,
    misty Venice, (Strangely enough I even encountered a photograph that
    included my apartment window from when I lived there!) . Is the
    probability of success increased by shooting low contrast scenes then
    really putting the negs through their paces when developing?

    Or is it that my negs are still too far off from the platinum

    I would be grateful for any insights to this situation....... I
    plan to keep trying but a pointer in the right direction would
    certainly be helpful.... Cheers Annie.

    PS What happened to the Alternative Forum?
  2. For many years, from when I was still in high school, I printed the most difficult color methods including Dye Transfer. No doubt about it, I was a master color printer. Then I decided to shoot B&W on a vacation to Paris. The pictures were teriffic, the prints were...well...awful! Finally in despiration I signed up for a week-long workshop with George Tice, and while he didn't teach me to print, he taught me how to teach myself. Now my B&W looks darn good (if not quite superb). Anyhow, the point of this long story is to suggest that you consider a workshop with an established Platinum printer. I doubt that you'll need more than a long weekend to learn how it's really done. Good luck.
  3. Hi Ann, your best source of information for Alternative Processes
    is , where you can
    subscribe and ask questions and receive the answers in your
    E-mail .
    good luck , Domenico
  4. I had actually hoped to line up a one on one workshop early next Spring... At this point my skill level is so poor I don't think I would even be accepted at a workshop. Domenico I think the Alt Process list is too advanced for me...... besides, this week they are very busy bickering about gum. Thanks.....A.
  5. I have had all the bugs you are having too! To get going in the right direction I would
    recommend the following changes.

    If your not already, don't use the ferric solution #2 as contrast control. B&S sells
    something called Na2 that comes in a 20% solution. You can cut this down as
    necessary to make solutions for different contrast gains. FYI 1 drop of the full
    strength in an 8x10 print is A LOT so adjust accordingly.

    You might want to ditch the ammonium citrate and use potassium oxalate as your

    I think the paper you have is Cranes kid finish. It's not the easiest to coat or use. I
    would look at Arches Platine (cot 320 at B&S) with a pre soak or pre coat with 1%
    Oxalic Acid (this will help your blacks) It has downsides too, but it's a lot easier to
    use IMO.

    There are of course many many many other things, but your getting close believe it or

    B&S site has some instructions posted to get to the alt email list.

  6. Hi Ann,

    You might try posting your question on the Bostick & Sullivan Webboard:

    You don't mention the characteristics of the negative you are using to print in platinum. My understanding of the process (I've never made a Pt/Pd print although I have done similar processes) is that the negative needs to be much denser and have much more contrast than a negative used in conventional b&w silverprinting...maybe two stops more exposure and "pushed" two stops in development to expand the overall density range. A conventional negative just isn't going to print very well in Pt/Pd.

    Or, as you suspect, it might be the chemistry at fault. There is always a lot of discussion of Pt/Pd chemistry issues on the B&S as well as the alt-photo board.

  7. Don't worry about the experience level in signing up for a workshop. If you can fog a
    mirror, they will take you. A workshop will be the single best thing you can do to get
    a jump start on the process. There are a lot of little things that can be done wrong, or
    just plain go wrong in this process, and if you try to do it completely on your own, it
    will be a long journey, rife with frustrations and expense. Some well regarded
    instructors I personally know are kerik kouklis (, Dan Burkholder and
    Dick Arentz ( I am sure there are many others who could give
    you hand as well, such as Carl Weese, Sal Lopes, and Tillman Crane. There is bound
    to be someone nearby with some experience to share. The other thing to keep in
    mind for platinum printing is that most traditional platinum printers shoot their
    photographs with the process in mind as they expose and develop their negatives.
    However, with the advances in the creation of easily-done digital negs, even that is
    not a requirement any longer (see especially Dan's page at

    Good luck
  8. Hook up with a platimun printer in your area and watch them make a print. There is nothing more valued than a personal network in your personal and professional life.

    Another alternative was the recent Alternative Process International Symposium (APIS I believe) that was recently held in Sante Fe would have been a wonderful opportunity that for at very reasonable fees. A week of work making prints with a master for under $400.

    Keep your head up. Success is when persistance overcomes the obstacles in your path.
  9. Don't get discouraged Ann, the problems you are describing are typical of someone just starting. I have to say the B&S is not the ideal way to start, is good to get your feet wet and see how you like working the process but it is not by any means the way to produce the best prints, at least in my experience. As you said Cranes Platinotype is not the best paper, I had the same results, muddy prints.

    Clay recommends Arches Platine or COT 320, I would heed his advice and try that. The second best advice Clay gave me and it was mentioned here was to get away from the evil #2 solution and use other means of contrast control. IMO the Sodium platinate mentioned above is too hard to use for someone inexperienced, but it is a wonderful contrast increasing agent for use with negatives meant to be printed on silver paper.

    Another thing is the developer, the ammonium citrate is easier to use and it is less toxic than potassium oxalate, I suspect this is the reason B&S uses it for their kit. But it will never give you the rich deep tones that PO does. Believe me, I tried it, I tried it in combination with PO at different dilutions and no dice, PO was much better all around.

    The method I use, which again I learned from Clay but is also mentioned in the Arentz book, is to add contrasting agent to the developer instead of the emulsion. So I have 5 bottles with varying amounts of potassium dichromate mixed in with the potassium oxalate.

    If your negatives were meant to be enlarged onto silver paper, then I would say that right there is the biggest reason for the disappointing results. Try and make a new negative with high contrast and work with that, it does not have to be a good picture, only one with good enough contrast so that you get an idea of the kind of negative you need.

    Good luck....BTW also go on the B&S web site, there are many people there who will be happy to help you and guide you. Again don't be discouraged, once you get the first good print you will be hooked...
  10. Ann,

    The suggestions from those above are good ones... primarily to work with a Pt/Pd printer in your area. I am lucky to have participated in one of Kerik Kouklis' workshops ( and found the tips and tricks were critical.

    You asked the question about the durability of the chemistry. The one chem that is time sensitive is the Ferrix Oxalate (sensitizer), but my experience is that the contrast goes away and could noit get whites or blacks... just grays. You should only mix enough for what you plan to use in the next few days. Dry is has a much longer shelf life (months etc...). I also use the PO as developer with contrast agents built in - like suggested above. This allows you to coat with one set of chemistry and adjust contrast with development. This is very convenient and makes the process more effecient.


    ps - congrats on finding a 7x11 - I hope you enjoy it!
  11. Not sure of your location (city, state/province, nation), but if you're anywhere near the northeast U.S. the Newark Museum in Newark, N.J. has a weekend workshop (yes, Newark really has a museum, and it's quite good). You could even fly in reasonably cheap if you're at a Continental hub, and it's fairly close to NYC. Check out:

    I'm sure there are others out there. But this one is just a weekend and reasonably priced.
  12. Ann,

    Don't give up!! Once you get it down, I'm sure you will fall in love with platinum/palladium printing.

    I would agree with most of the suggestions made previously. If your kit came with Ferric Oxalate No. 2, throw it away NOW. Get yourself some Na2 from B&S and use that as your contrast agent. It is very easy to use and goes a LONG way. It comes as a 20% stock solution, some of which you can dilute into 10%, 5% and 2.5% portions which should cover most negatives you will ever make. Get yourself some more dropper bottles for the different batches and dilute with distilled water. I'm not sure what size you're printing, but start by adding one drop of one of these solutions to your sensitizer to boost contrast. The higher the % of Na2, the higher the contrast.

    Having said that, it sounds like you're getting too much contrast rather than not enough, so you want to eliminate any contrast agents for now. Joe's description of negs for pt/pd may be a bit of overkill. Two stops over exposure and N+2 processing will likely give overly dense (long print times) and overly contrasty negs. I'm wondering if you're there already. You want negs with plenty of shadow detail so your shadows don't just merge into blackness, but no need to make bulletproof negs either. Hard to know where you're at without seeing your negs in person. What is your film/ASA/developer/time/temp procedure?

    I also agree that you should try another paper. Although I've seen nice prints made on Cranes platinotype, I've never liked it myself. I use it for interleaving paper. COT 320 or Arches Platine are good suggestions to start with. You may want to try double-coating these papers for images with lots of shadow detail. You may like the richer blacks and better shadow separation that double-coating can give you. However, it will also boost contrast some, so keep that in mind.

    Switching to potassium oxalate should lower the contrast somewhat comapared to ammonium citrate, increase printing speed and will generally give smoother, richer looking prints with a warmer image tone. I think most experienced printers use potassium oxalate routinely. Heating up the PO developer will also lower its contrast somewhat, increase speed and warm the image color even more. I often heat my developer to ~140 Degreeds F or more because I like very warm toned prints.

    I'm not sure where you're located, but if you live in a very dry climate, you should consider running a humidifier in your darkroom to keep the ambient humidity in the 50%-60% range. Get yourself a digital hygrometer from Radio Schack and leave it in your darkroom. Also, don't dry your paper completely bone dry. You want a little moisture in the paper, but not so much that the sensitizer will stick to your negative - that will destroy the negative so be careful!

    A couple of good books to have on hand are The New Platinum Print by Sullivan and Weese (only available from B&S) and Platinum/Palladium Printing by Dick Arentz (Amazon, etc.)

    Finally, if you're interested in a workshop, I'll be teaching one in Washington state in Sept, my home in California in October and Yosemite in February. More info on my website (Sorry for the plug...) B&S also lists other available workshops on their website.

    Good luck. With a little patience and determination, you'll get there.
  13. Here's another vote for a workshop. Too many variables to tackle
    this point I've only printed Platinum at the elbow of a friend who does a lot of
    it...50% humidity sounds pretty dry from what I remember.
  14. Ann,

    You have recieved information and suggestions from some of the best
    platinum printers I know. Platinum printing is very easy, but until you know the
    secrets you will flounder.

    The biggest secret is the density range or contrast of the negative. Get that
    right and your prints will glow.

    Clay, Jorge, Michael and all the rest can really help you out....but my
    suggestion is to arrange for a workshop. Workshops are regularly taught my
    Kerik Kouklas, Dick Arents, David Michael Kennedy, Tom McCartney, Stan
    Klimek and many others. Call Santa Fe Workshops, Andersen Ranch or the
    Maine Workshops. I am sure you will make a great printer.
  15. Great...more things to try! Seems like workshop is the priority.... I just want to get some usable negs with my new 7x11 first (I am changing format and films...J&C classic... at the moment).
    Kerry I think you may be correct about the negs being too contrasty. Normal development for me... TriX/8min/HC110B/tank.......(I use a diffusion enlarger LPL) There was so much emphasis on contrasty negs I have been pounding them around in the developer for 15 minutes plus giving them a boost up the curve during exposure.... might be overkill..... Thank you everyone for your encouragement and sharing your valuable information....... Cheers....A.
  16. Oops..... Kerik..... Sorry.... (so much for my chances at that workshop :) )
  17. Ann just an offer to send you some paper coated for Ziatype. It's just a pop alt
    process with a water bath and citric clearing bath at the end. Pretty easy to do
    and colors are available by adding platinum or gold solutions. Might satisfy
    you while you experiment with the PD/PT. Both require the same type of
    neg.... I also find the COT 320 a better paper.
  18. Ann, fifteen minutes for Tri_x in HC110B?? That must be about N+5!! My N+1 time is 7 minutes with an EI of 160. I've pushed roll film that far using Xtol but I think you might be going too far with 110B and not really getting as far as you want. I could be wrong, but that just intuitively seems like beyond the point of 110B's capability.
  19. Anne,

    As a guide, Dick Arentz in his book recommends (Tri-X) TXT in D-76 as

    N SBR 7 EI-250 D-76 1:1 21C 14 minutes<p>
    N SBR 6 EI-320 D-76 1:1 21C 20 minutes<p>
    N+ SBR 5.5 EI-400 D-76 SRT 21C 18 minutes<p>
    N- SBR 8 EI-160 D-76 1:1 21C 12 minutes<p>
  20. I suspect your negatives are not contrasty enough.My negatives
    have a density range of about 1.40 to 1.50. I would highly recommend
    that you look at Bob Hebst's web page at and take
    his workshop which begins on 8/11/03. He's had articles in View Camera
    Magazine for your reference and is a great teacher and a wonderful guy. I've taken the workshop twice and there are others who come back year after year. You will be a master platinum printer after the week.
    Give him a call....
  21. The platinum coated paper produces a "printing out" image. Use a split back printer, or make one out of an old piece of glass and a piece of cardboard. Stand out in the sunlight and keep looking at the printed out image every 60 seconds or so. You _should_ get an easily visible image in no more than 2 minutes under a full sun. If you do _not_ get an image then the platinum chemistry is bad. If you do get an image then it's the development that's bad.

    Check the glass of the split printer, some glass is UV resistant, if so you will get _no_ UV on your paper and hence no image. You can get a simple UV tester from most any science supply house, they're cheap plastic card things that change color under UV.

    Mike :)
  22. Wayne, thank you for your generous offer but it seems with my printing 'talents' I will need a least a kit to try any new process..... I can get B&S to tack one on to my next order. Thanks everyone for the additional input...... In time I'll get there!!
  23. Silver looks so much better than platinum anyway, if you really want an exquisite print try carbon. Only advanced platinum printers try it and there are precious few of those ;-)

    CP Goerz
  24. Oh, come on CP. Everyone knows that archival carbon ink on fine art paper (Inkjet) is
    the only true expression of photographic art in the modern world. It just struck me
    that I'm wasting my time with platinum/palladium. All that beauty, all that time and
    expense, and for what? I can just crank out photos by the truckload with an Epson.
    Thanks for making me examine my worldview. ;^) [Note for flamethrowers: this is
    tonque in cheek. I am kidding. Early AM satire and so forth]
  25. :)

    CP Goerz
  26. Ann,

    It sounds like you are having the same (or similar) experience that I had when I started.

    If your negatives seem to print reasonably well on a #0 to #1.5 filter on MG paper, then you are in the ballpark for a pt/pd print. Try that to confirm the negative density range.

    You could have spoiled FO. If it sat in a storage container for a few hot days, the FO may have gone bad. Most regular printers purchase the FO dry, because it does not go bad in that form, only when in solution.

    One thing you may want to do is find a local printer, and see the will let you hang around for some printing. You can also try your chemicals in their conditions, and see if that is the problem.

    The alt-photo forum is not the best place for beginner questions, as there are some personalities on there that have the propensity for being rude and dismissive of others. The best place is the B-S forum (you can get to it from their website). There is less volume on that forum, and the people are generally more helpful to beginners. In fact, many of the responses you got here are from people that are on that forum.

    Persistance is the key to the platinum print. It's not like silver, where decent prints are easily achieved. However, once it is mastered, I think that pt/pd prints are more beautiful and expressive than a silver print, and ultimately are worth the effort.

    I suggest you email Kevin Sullivan and find out if there are any other pt/pd printers in your zip code region. That may open up some learning opportunities for you.

  27. One minute nothing... the next minute, the world.... literally in the palm of my hand. I have made a sublime little 4x5 platinum print of my beloved seacave..... Bliss.... Strangely enough it presents itself much like a photograph..... except of course for the magical nuance... and that is everything!
    At last a place to begin.

    Kerik was correct, my negatives had much to much contrast.... Dense City..... (on many levels).

    Thanks again everyone.......A.

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