Posts Tagged ‘4X5 Transparencies’

Philip Hyde At Home In The Wilds 1

June 17th, 2010

Darkroom Photography Magazine: Masters of the Darkroom Series Presents Part One Of An Interview With Philip Hyde By Merry Selk Blodgett

At Home In The Wilds

One of this century’s premier interpreters of the American wilderness, Philip Hyde has carried his 4X5 to places no camera had been before. Famous for Sierra Club books like Island In Time and The Last Redwoods, Philip Hyde is also a dedicated darkroom “do-it-yourselfer” who uses the complex and beautiful dye transfer process to make color prints. (See the blog posts, “The Legend Of Dye Transfer Printing 1,” and “The Legend of Dye Transfer Printing 2.”) Together with his wife and son, Philip Hyde lives far up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in a house he built himself…

“When I first chose photography, I knew I was choosing the pleasures of creativity over the consolations of wealth.”

 

Virginia Creeper, Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 1977 by Philip Hyde. This photograph made at the home of the artist, became one of his signature images, though it is not in a pure sense a landscape photograph, as it depicts a domesticated vine on the wall of his house. The photograph appeared on more magazine covers than any other Philip Hyde image, starting with the now defunct Darkroom Photography magazine in 1980. Records are incomplete but some other covers included the Audubon Nature Calendar 1986, Scribner’s Group Catalog 1986, Photo-Design Magazine 1985, a poster by James Randklev 1986, New York Life Calendar 1987, Fine Print Custom Photo Lab Catalog 1987 and a number of other company catalogs and brochures. Ardis Hyde originally planted the Virginia Creeper. She was locally well-known in Plumas County for her work with the Audubon Society, for organic gardening and because she gave Virginia Creeper starts to many people. Virginia Creeper can be seen growing all over the Feather River country partly due to the gifts of Ardis Hyde.

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: It’s very beautiful up here in the mountains; the view from this window could be a Sierra Club calendar. But you’re also very far from any large towns, not to mention cities. Do you ever feel isolated up here?

PHILIP HYDE: I don’t think it’s isolation, I think it’s insulation. We’re insulated from a lot of urban influences that I’m not all that interested in. Don’t get me wrong…I like people. I’m very involved in the photographic workshops I’ve been doing. But I guess I like people best in small quantities. For me, the urban environment is too much of a man-made kind of thing. What’s most important to me is to be able to look out the window and see the changes of the seasons, or the rain pouring down, or the stars at night.

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: You’ve got a reputation as one of the top nature photographers in the country. Has your photography made you financially successful?

PHILIP HYDE: I’m not really trying to play the money game. Photography has provided a living, not a bad living at all. But when I left the city in 1959 to come up here, I knew that I was leaving behind the opportunity to make lots of money. I think that when I first chose photography, I knew I was choosing the pleasures of creativity over the consolations of wealth.

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: What is your personal definition of success?

PHILIP HYDE: I define success for myself in terms of my lifestyle. Success is freedom and opportunity to do what I want to do. I would say I’m a success in that respect. But some people seem to think that once you’re successful, you can just coast from then on. That’s certainly not true for me; I have to keep working hard, which is a good thing, or I might sit back on the oars and float downstream.

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: Anyone who makes his own dye transfer color prints certainly isn’t resting on his oars. Frankly, I was surprised to discover that someone as closely associated with outdoor color work as yourself would be spending so much time indoors. Dye transfer color printing is notoriously difficult and time-consuming; it’s usually done only in specially-equipped labs. What made you decide to tackle such a formidable process?

PHILIP HYDE: The beauty of a well-made dye transfer print, for one thing. It’s permanence, for another. I don’t know, maybe it’s lunacy. Or maybe it’s self-punishment and that’s part of my philosophy too. I think that you don’t get something for nothing in this world, and that perhaps struggling for it is a good thing. I’m saying that somewhat facetiously, but I’m not joking. I think there are a lot of aspects of photography now that are so automatic and so easy, and I think that explains the fact that there isn’t an awful lot that’s significant, from a long-term standpoint, being produced.

“Success is freedom and opportunity to do what I want to do.”

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: I take it you’re not partial to motorized, auto-everything 35mm SLRs.

PHILIP HYDE: Well, do you know that old saw about the bunch of monkeys? If you set a bunch of monkeys up at typewriters eventually they would end up typing the Encyclopedia Britannica. That’s a lot of nonsense really, but it’s certainly true that if you run enough film through a camera, sooner or later you’re going to make a significant image. I think an awful lot of people are using 35mm that way. On the other hand, there definitely are people whose work is suited to 35mm…people who can exploit the freedom and flexibility of that format.

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: But you’d rather carry around a 4X5 camera and 30 pounds of gear as you hike through the wilderness.

PHILIP HYDE: Yes.

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: Why?

PHILIP HYDE: For one thing, it would be very hard for me to make high-quality large dye transfer prints from 35mm originals. But deeper than that, I like the 4X5 format because it disciplines you to see carefully. By the time you’ve made the exposure, you are aware of little things you wouldn’t notice in a 35mm viewer. And it’s a discipline in not being profligate with materials; when you’re carrying 30 pounds on your back and have a limited supply of film, you look at everything very critically. You’re less apt to bang away and ask questions later.

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: Let’s return to your current work with the dye transfer color printing process. How long have you been doing it, and how did you get started?

PHILIP HYDE: I began dye transfer printing in 1974. I had been mulling it over for a few years before; my photographer friend Dennis Brokaw tipped the scales when he said he would help me begin. I can still remember the first dye transfer print I made. I was so excited, after years of seeing bad color prints made from my transparencies.

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: Doesn’t the process require a lot of skill and care on your part?

PHILIP HYDE: I suppose so, if you define skill as a reasonably precise manipulation of the material, and having your head together enough so that you do all the intermediate steps in the right order. Dye transfer is a rather complex process, especially when your originals are transparencies, as mine are. But there’s one nice compensation for all the complexity; there are a tremendous number of adjustments and controls at each step of the process, so you can alter the color balance, intensity of colors, and contrast along the way. Even after five years, I haven’t been able to get into all the refinements of the process.

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: How does your dye transfer printing relate to your primary objective of portraying nature?

PHILIP HYDE: I have always wanted to interpret and express the beauty of what I see in nature. My major objective is…

CONTINUED IN THE UPCOMING BLOG POST, “Philip Hyde At Home In The Wilds 2.”

The Legend Of Dye Transfer Printing, Interrupted 2

May 31st, 2010

CONTINUED FROM THE BLOG POST, “The Legend of Dye Transfer Printing, Interrupted 1

Darkroom Photography Magazine and Dye Transfer

Aspens, Delores River Canyon, San Juan Rockies, Colorado, 1979 by Philip Hyde. One of the photographs featured in the "Images of the Southwest" dye transfer portfolio."

(To see the photograph full screen Click Here)

The now defunct Darkroom Photography Magazine, published Philip Hyde’s “Virginia Creeper, Northern Sierra Nevada, California” on the cover of the March/April 1980 issue. “Virginia Creeper” made more magazine covers than any other Philip Hyde photograph, but Darkroom Photography Magazine also ran an in-depth feature article with the cover photograph. Merry Selk Blodgett of Darkroom Photography Magazine interviewed Philip Hyde about his dye transfer printing process. See the blog post, “Philip Hyde At Home In The Wilds 1.”

The article titled, “At Home In the Wilds” by Merry Selk Blodgett included a sidebar about dye transfer printing that makes a good introduction to the rest of the article, which will appear in a future blog post. Below is an excerpt from the Darkroom Photography Magazine sidebar:

What Dye Transfer Is All About

The color printing process Philip Hyde uses, dye transfer, is one of the finest (and most difficult) techniques currently available for producing a photographic color print. Color quality and tonality are excellent, the final image is relatively immune to degradation over time, and the process offers a degree of control over contrast and color unmatched by other techniques. To make a dye transfer print from one of his 4X5 transparencies, Philip Hyde first makes three black and white separation negatives by contact printing the transparency onto panchromatic sheet film. One separation is made with a blue filter over the light source, another with a red filter and the third with a green filter. Together these three separations comprise a complete “record” of the original color image.

The three separate matrices, one for each color are eventually dunked in their respective color dyes and then rolled carefully onto the paper using a positive register of rectangular-shaped pins that fit precisely into rectangular holes punched into the matrices for a perfect alignment of the three separate color versions of the final single print. Here is Philip Hyde’s complete statement of the process from start to finish as written in his “Images of the Southwest” Dye Transfer Portfolio Introduction:

The following is Dad’s description of his dye transfer printing process from his dye transfer portfolio packaged by Lumina, Palo Alto, California in 1982 called, “Images of the Southwest: Twelve Original Photographic Prints by Philip Hyde.” The plan was to print 50 portfolios but only 31 were made, which still was a huge production considering it adds up to 612 handmade prints.

A Brief Description of the Dye Transfer Color Print Process by Philip Hyde

The prints in this portfolio were made from 4X5 Ektachrome original transparencies by the dye transfer process.

To begin, a set of three separation negatives are made from the original by contact printing onto a black and white film. Exposed to red, green,  and blue light respectively then processed and dried, these three negatives record and translate the color information from the original into silver negative densities.

Film positives are then made from the separations, enlarging them to the finished print size on a special matrix film capable of absorbing and transporting dyes in the precise degree required for the differing portion of the final print. These matrix print films correspond to plates used for printing reproductions in the ink process.

After processing and drying, the three matrices are immersed in their respective dye solutions: cyan, magenta and yellow. The printing paper which is coated with a non-silver-sensitive emulsion to absorb dye, is mordanted then sqeegeed into position on the register printing board. Each matrix in succession is then removed from its dye bath, rinses, then placed on the register pins of the board and rolled into contact with the printing paper, remaining in contact for 3 to 6 minutes depending on dye color. It is then stripped off, washed in warm water and returned to its dye bath to repeat the cycle. When the third matrix has been rolled and removed, the full-color image is revealed on the printing paper, which is then dried, trimmed, and mounted, as in the Portfolio.

This portfolio is issued in a limited edition of 60 copies, of which 50 are for sale. Copyright Philip Hyde 1982.

Archival Statement

All of the prints in this portfolio were made by Philip Hyde in his darkroom, to exacting standards for color, quality, and longevity. They are dry-mounted to acid-free, 100% rag Museum Board, and overlaid with cut-out mats of the same Museum Board attached with acid-free tape. 100% acid-free rag paper interleaves are used to protect the print surfaces. With proper care, the prints should last  a long time, but as with most materials made by man or nature, they should not be subjected to direct sunlight, or high intensity fluorescent lighting.

A future blog post will describe the interesting and challenging process of trial and error, with good help from expert friends, through which Philip Hyde learned dye transfer printing. Also in a future blog post the Darkroom Photography Magazine Interview about Philip Hyde’s printing processes and his life living in the northern Sierra Nevada and travels to photograph mountain scenes and southwestern desert landscapes, see the blog post, “Philip Hyde At Home In the Wilds 1.”