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Photographic Print Types

Canning River Sheoaks raindrops

Below I have listed four photographic print types using silver and chemistry as their basis. These include traditional silver gelatin fibre based prints, Polaroid prints, Type C colour prints and Cibachrome or Ilfochrome prints. There are many others, including a whole range of printing substrates available to digital printing. If you have a favourite printing process please leave a comment.

Traditional silver gelatin fibre based prints

Calgardup Brook Redgate Margaret River Australia
Calgardup Brook 16x20in silver gelatin More Info

Traditional silver gelatin fibre based prints have a baryta base (made from a clay) that accentuates the perception of image depth, tone and luminosity compared to today’s commonly used plastic coated papers. In recognition of this standard, manufacturers of inkjet material are now trying to mimic this richness of tone in silver containing prints by developing “traditional” inkjet substrates.

Fibre based prints have been in existence long enough to have a proven track record of image stability.

You can read more about what is involved in a typical printing session here.

Polaroid prints

Dune Cabbage (Arctotheca populifolia)
Dune Cabbage Polaroid Type 55 PN More Info

Polaroid prints once came in a range of sizes and types, from the small SX-70 style instant colour prints up to a massive 20×24 inches. Polaroid sheet film, like the one pictured here, was exposed and processed in Polaroid’s own film holder. The holder was mounted on the rear of the camera, the film exposed and then the holder and film removed. The exposed film/print sandwich was then pulled through rollers within the film holder, breaking gel pods containing the chemistry to instantly develop the negative and positive. After about 30 to 60 seconds the sandwich was peeled apart, revealing a Polaroid print on one half and the negative on the other. Sx-70 style films were ejected directly from the camera immediately after exposure and developed before your eyes. Polaroid prints could be colour or black and white. Not all Polaroid processes yielded a usable negative, so each print was unique.

The 4x5in print above of Dune Cabbage was made with Polaroid Type 55 positive/negative film. With Polaroid Type 55 4×5 film, each exposure yielded a positive 4×5 Polaroid print and a 4×5 negative that could be used in an enlarger for printing.


C-Type Digital Prints

Lefroy Brook #02 More Info
Lefroy Brook #02

C-Type prints are regular colour prints made on photographic paper, they make up the majority of photographic prints people have made at the local mini labs or at professional laboratories from colour negatives and digital files.

The “C” stands for chromogenic, the nomenclature that Kodak used back around the 1940s. Today’s C-Types are usually produced by digital printers using laser light, such as Durst Lambda or Lightjet printers. Photographic papers must be handled in total darkness and only exposed to image forming light. The paper is then processed in RA4 photographic colour chemistry. This is very different to inkjet printers which spray inks or pigments directly onto the surface of non light sensitive paper or canvas under daylight conditions.

R-Type and Ilfochrome Cibachrome Prints

Karri forest Shannon National Park
Cibachrome print made in author’s darkroom: karri forest Shannon National Park

Before the advent of digital printing, colour prints made from colour slides, also referred to as reversal or transparencies films, required a different process to colour negatives. Kodak, and others, produced positive to positive photographic papers for creating prints from reversal films. These were referred to as R-Type prints, the “R” for reversal, and used R-3 chemistry.

Ilford Cibachrome paper was another popular way of making colour prints from reversal films, with one of the most stable colour processes. This was a positive to positive process, the colour layers being already present in the paper, rather than in the chemistry process. The image was formed by a dye destruction chromolytic process using a bleaching step in P3 chemistry. Cibachrome became Ilfochrome in the 1990’s. In 2011, Ilford announced it would nolonger continue Ilfochrome production.


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Photo Canning River Kent St Weir Perth recent rain

Kent St Weir Canning River

Photo Canning River Kent St Weir Perth.  Printed this morning in my darkroom, I made this image last weekend just after some recent rain. It was rather impromptu in one sense. I had been out earlier walking the dog, minus my camera, and noticed that in the late afternoon the weather had abated and everything was becoming wonderfully still. When I returned home I grabbed by 2 1/4 square camera and went back to the river in the fading winter light.

This image is of the Kent Street Weir, using my Bronica SQA and 105mm lens. Exposure time was 8 seconds at about f16. Film was TMax 400 developed with LC29, with slightly less than normal development. Scan is from a 7.5 x7.5 inch Foma RC print.

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Laundry shed Margaret River

Margaret River Australia

Laundry shed, Margaret River. I didn’t set out to deliberately make this image. Call it exploration or perhaps just a happy accident. I had my medium format camera set up on a tripod outside my late grandparents’ farm house looking out across the paddock. For whatever reason, I abandoned my initial plan and turned the camera 180 degrees back onto the shed behind me. The sun was hitting the north face, with some of the aged grey weatherboard almost reflecting specular light. In stark contrast the other side of the shed was in deep shadow. Only the sunlit heads of dried grass swaying gently in the breeze created a bridge between the two opposing tones. The portrait lens on the camera allowed for a tightly composed image. It accentuated the visual tension created by the weatherboard’s converging perspective culminating at the shed’s corner. That corner also delineates the image between sunlight and shadow. There is further tension within the image created by the vertical planks of the doors which run at right angles to the wall planks. Across the composition there is a repetition of rectangular shapes and opposing tones. The image oscillates between a perceptible three dimensional perspective realised by the shed’s corner, to an image reduced into two dimensions by its columns of tone and shapes. In the original 11×14 inch silver gelatin print, the three dark windows above the barn door hold good shadow detail allowing some internal window frame to be seen.

This image of my late grandparents’ laundry shed, Margaret River was made with a Bronica ETRS and printed on Foma fibre based 11×14 inch silver gelatin paper. I find the composition pleasing for its underlying visual tension, repetition of shapes, opposing perspectives and tonalities.

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Canning River Wetlands Samphire Environment Perth

Canning River Wetlands Perth

Canning River wetlands Perth.

I often make my more personally satisfying images when I am alone. It’s not that I don’t photograph when in company, it is just easier to immerse myself more fully with my subject when alone. When I am in company there is always an imperative or priority which more often than not tends to prevent me from connecting more fully with what I am seeing.

I seek quietness, stillness. My eyes are constantly scanning, yet at this early stage I may not be conscious of looking at any one particular thing. Suddenly I am conscious of something catching my attention, my eyes returning to it over and and over, reading tones, shapes, textures and colours. How the object would look in black and white, or would be better in photographed in colour? My attention now focussed I consider my potential subject more carefully.

There may be technical problems, my eyes and brain see more than what film and camera is capable of recording. Is this worth a photograph? Can I resolve the technical problem or should I reject the idea of a photograph?

I look away, turn around, and there just a few feet away below the trunk of a swamp sheoak is the soft glow of a tendril like branch.  It is the delicate shape of a broken paperbark resting upon a carpet of sheoak branchlets. I shift my camera and tripod, focus, insert the film holder and make the exposure. In a few days this branch will disappear underwater. The samphire wetlands around the Canning River will fill with winter rain.

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Canning River Perth oxygenation trail river environment tryptich

Canning River Perth oxygenation trail tryptich

Canning River Perth oxygenation trail tryptich

Canning River Perth oxygenation trail tryptich made of three 8×10 inch hand printed silver gelatin fibre based prints and framed in 100x40cm aluminium.

First published in “Lost in Suburbia” in 2013, this is the only images in my Canning River exhibition “Dissociation” which were made from 35mm format.

Each image is from a three sequential 35mm frames, made down stream from the oxygenation tank at Greenfield Street. During conditions when the wind is relatively calm and there river flow rate is slow, the oxygenation process creates bubbles which form a thin white foam on the surface of the water, creating fascinating patterns.

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Canning River Perth burnt woodland Western Australia

Canning River Perth burnt woodland

Canning River Perth  burnt woodland

Canning River Perth  burnt woodland was first published in “Lost in Suburbia” in 2013, “Dissociation” 2015 Heathcote Museum & Gallery exhibition catalogue. 

When I first viewed this on the ground glass screen of my camera I was excited by the prospect of producing a wonderful print. As is so often the case in photography, Burnt woodland Canning River proved for me to be much harder to realise in print than I had anticipated. The curve of the trunks and branches combined with the lines of shadow created a visual rhythm.

The image is back lit and high in contrast and the negative received reduced development and slight increase in exposure. My main problem in making this print is to preserve the feeling of intense light which reveals the flatness and dryness of the subject. To make an print consistent with my vision I had to avoid the back lit trunks and and their shadows from printing too dark. The print was made with a series of hard and soft exposures. An initial soft exposure was made to retain a suggestion of detail in the dried sunlit leaves, during which the central trunk was carefully dodged. A series of higher contrast exposures were made to selected areas to introduce more black and therefore some contrast. It is not an easy print to make and if making a new print I may well try a different approach to see if I could get a print closer to my vision. Hand printed 16×20 inch silver gelatin print.

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Canning River Perth sunrise Western Australia

Canning River Perth sunrise Western Australia

Canning River Perth sunrise Western Australia

Canning River Perth sunrise.  Whenever I wake to a misty morning here in Perth I try to get down to the river. Mist or fog transforms the landscape, highlighting visual elements close to the viewer by fact that it obscures the view of more distant objects. It also transforms the quality of light and depending upon the mist’s density it can have a soft enveloping light. The disappearance of distance adds mystery to the landscape. Mists do not occur frequently in Perth, so I when they do I try to make the most of exploring the environment in a different light. Sunrise Canning River Perth Western Australia 16×20 inch hand printed silver gelatin fibre based print

first published in “Lost in Suburbia” in 2013, “Dissociation” 2015 Heathcote Museum & Gallery exhibition catalogue

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Canning River Perth fire paperbark regrowth

Paperbark regrowth fire Canning River Perth

Paperbark regrowth after fire: new shoots on burnt paperbarks, Canning River Perth 16×20 inch hand printed silver gelatin fibre based print. It was exhibited in the 2015 Canning River “Dissociation” exhibition.

After a serious fire in 2011 in which water bombing was required to prevent the fire spreading into neighboring houses, much of the park between Greenfield Bridge and Kent St Weir was burnt. Several weeks after the fire the first green shoots of regrowth started to appear.

It was first published in “Lost in Suburbia” in 2013 and an 11×14 inch print exhibited at the 2013 “Lost in Suburbia” exhibition, Riverton Library, was sold.


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Bannister Creek Canning River Perth Western Australia

Canning River Perth

Bannister Creek tributary to Canning River Perth

Bannister Creek tributary to Canning River Perth Western Australia 16×20 inch hand printed silver gelatin fibre based print -sold.

This image was made in a section in which some restoration work was recently undertaken. The creek runs through suburbia, at the rear of housing whose back fences close off their view and connection to the watercourse behind them. The fact that the houses face their backs to the creek is curiously dismissive of the creek’s significance in this ancient flat landscape, something I have previously commented about.

Although not readily visible in the photograph, immediately behind the paperbarks are houses and grey super six fencing. The fencing travels almost the entire length of both sides of the shallow depression that contains Bannister Creek.

300mm nikkor lens on TMax 4×5 sheet film, 1 second at f64.

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Canning River Wetlands Perth Paperbark Australia

Canning River Wetlands Perth Paperbark

Canning River Wetlands Perth Paperbark #02

Canning River Wetlands Paperbark Perth. Many areas around the Canning River are natural wetlands which flood during the winter months. Some areas have been infilled over the years for subdivision. Small pockets remain of samphire and paperbark wetlands. These are important breeding grounds for water birds and they also act as a filtration system to water runoff before it reaches the river. Restoration of wetlands which have previously been infilled is now being undertaken in areas along the Canning and Swan Rivers. Paperbark stump Canning River Wetlands #02  11×14 inch hand printed silver gelatin fibre based print