Lamborghini Dark Slides

Getting Through A Creative Block

 By Ryan Gillespie

Creative Blocks, or barriers to inspiration, can be described as the inability to access one’s internal creativity. Those in creative professions – writers, musicians, performers, artists – are often more likely to be affected by creative blocks, which can last for days, weeks, months, or even years.

Throughout all my years as a photographer, I have never found myself with a creative block, until now.

Just like everyone else in the world, in March of this year, I found myself in lockdown with my family in our home in fear of COVID-19 and a new worldwide pandemic. Weeks of uncertainty and social isolation were beginning to take a toll on me in ways I had never felt before. I wanted to get out of the house and explore the world around me and to get back to nature, but even the State Parks and many local areas had been shut down, and venturing out was almost frowned upon. Little did I know at the time but my desire to photograph and be creative was beginning to slip away. Another month passed and I began to realize that it had been weeks since I picked up my camera or made any prints and the desire to do so was gone. Another month had gone by and I thought that maybe I just needed to sell everything and find a new hobby in this new way of life and world that I was finding myself in.

My wife and youngest son noticed the change in me and expressed their concern as well as their desire that I don’t give up on photography. About this same time local restrictions were beginning to be lifted and venturing back out was possible, but I still was in a photographic fog, a creative block. One Sunday I turned to YouTube and sat and watched a few episodes of Ben Horne, Nick Carver, and Alan Brock and I began to feel the dim light of creativity turn a little brighter within me. I spent the next few evenings flipping through Photography books of favorite photographers I have in my collection. As I began to drive around town, I noticed I was “seeing Images” again, seeing compositions. The next weekend I grabbed my gear and hit the road to capture anything, anything that caught my eye. I didn’t care about the subject, or the location, I just needed to get back to feeling the process. Setting up the tripod, set up the camera, attach a lens, throw on the dark cloth, and view the scene on the ground glass. It was at that moment, the moment of seeing the scene on the ground glass that the dim light within me was now fully glowing. There is something magical when it comes to viewing your scene and composition on the ground glass of a large format view camera.

It breaks my heart to think about how close I was to selling everything and moving on. Creative Block can hit any one of us at any given moment and I’m sure I will encounter it again sometime. If you find yourself in the darkness of it, let me make this suggestion, seek inspiration in others, and then get out and waste film. Just expose film regardless of subject or location. Make exposures of anything that looks interesting to you. Don’t expose film trying for a masterpiece, just expose film to expose film and who knows, maybe a masterpiece is somewhere in all those exposures.

During my personal process of exposing film just to expose film, I came back home with a couple of images that I was happy with and they definitely make me want to get out and do it again.

Barn Road Dark Slides

(Chamonix 4×10, ADOX CHS 100 II, PMK Pyro)

Lamborghini Dark Slides

(Chamonix 4×10, Ilford Delta 100, PMK Pyro)


Name: Ryan Gillespie
Location: Vancouver, Washington
Description: I decided to get back into film photography in 2014, large film, and the large format process. The camera is big and the process is slow, but this oversized and somewhat primitive camera design is a romantic and creative way to become much more intimate with the subject and landscapes around me. The majority of my work is captured close to home in the Pacific Northwest.

A Path to Consistent Results

A Path to Consistent Results

By: Ryan Gillespie

Some time ago, I thought I would try some different developers for my black and white film. I knew there would be some differences in the chemistry and developing times, but I figured “As long as my exposure was correct, I should have a nice negative to work with.”
How wrong I was.

This is not a report on what developer is the best. I truly feel that all the developers on the market today are excellent developers to use and will give excellent results. Hell, for many months I only used a homebrew developer concoction called Caffenol made up of Washing soda, Vitamin C, and Instant coffee. Caffenol surprisingly worked very well but when I plunged into Large Format Photography, I thought I should also get more serious about the developer I was using to process my film.

I had heard some great things recently regarding a film from ADOX, their CHS 100 II black and white film and I wanted to give it a try. I went out on location to a scene I walk past multiple times during the week and thought it was interesting enough subject to photograph, as well as a perfect time to do a film test. I loaded up my film holders with ADOX CHS 100 II black and white film and hit the road. Luckily for me I had a nice completely overcast sky giving soft even light over the subject allowing me to keep the same exposure for all sheets of film being exposed, 4 sheets to be exact. My exposure for each sheet of film was f/11 @ 1/30 second at box speed. I then returned home and developed each sheet of film individually in four different developers that I have used over the years. My process for developing is as follows, a water bath/rinse prior to the developer. I keep bathing and rinsing the film until the water runs clear again from the anti-halation layer. Once the water runs clear it’s onto the developer. Each developer was used at 68oF/20oC for the recommended standard times from manufacture. After developer I used a water rinse to stop the development process and then a Fixer bath for 6 minutes.

The developers being used and tested with the CHS 100 film are as follows: Pyrocat HD mixed one part A to one part B to 100 parts water.
Kodak HC-110 mixed 1:7 (Dilution B)
Clayton F-76 mixed 1:9

R09 One Shot mixed 1:100 (one-hour stand development)

I was expecting all the negatives to be fairly close in density range, but I ended up with a very large range of negative densities as seen in the image below.

After a visual inspection, a scan inspection, and a physical print inspection, I decided that I preferred the results from both the Pyrocat HD Developer and the Clayton F-76 Developer. Both negatives did not quite have the density that I prefer to see and the other two negatives were too dense.

When printing for Platinum Palladium, I found that a staining developer works best with prints made from ultraviolet exposures. With this in mind, I settled on using Pyrocat HD as my preferred developer with this ADOX CHS 100 II film.


I then decided to take an additional step and try to determine my preferred film speed and Developer combination with the Pyrocat HD, one that would give me a negative density that works for me and my printing methods. I set up a target to photograph under consistent lighting in a studio setting and began making an exposure of the target at different ISO settings on my meter.

After a visual inspection, a scan inspection, and a test print of all the negatives printed together on the same sheet of paper, my personal preference of ISO rating for ADOX CHS 100 II film in combination with Pyrocat HD Developer was an ISO rating of 80. Keep in mind that this is my personal preference and yours may be different.

My recommendation is to do a similar film test with your choice of film, your choice of developer, and whatever meter you use in order to determine your preferred ISO for the film and developer you are using, in doing so you will greatly increase the consistency in printing and or scanning of your images.

If for any reason along your photographic journey you decide to change one or more of the following in the process:

the film, the developer, the temperature of your chemistry, or your light meter. I would suggest doing another film test.

Here’s to more consistent results in your photography!

Best of 2019

Platinum Palladium Contact Prints

Platinum Palladium Contact Prints

When it comes to capturing an image, there is something almost spiritual when you do it utilizing a Large Format Camera. The entire process of capturing an image is so much more than just clicking the shutter. Viewing the image and composing it on the large ground glass, checking and double checking composition, metering for exposure, inserting the film holder, removing the dark slide, waiting for just that right light to fall on the scene, clicking the shutter release, re-inserting the dark slide, removing the film holder, writing down your notes regarding the exposure and subject, and then crossing your fingers that you did everything you were supposed to do correctly in order to capture that image on film.  For me, this entire process and experience of image capture is only one part of the overall experience of why I photograph with a Large Format Camera

Large Format Photography provides you with large negatives and positives full of detail and information that are just begging to be printed. I believe an image isn’t a photograph until it has been printed. The print is the reason I pack 60 plus pounds of gear around to capture that one image that speaks to me. The print is that one tangible thing that will remain with you or with your family, or with someone that appreciates your images for years and generations to come. Long after it has been seen and then forgotten on social media.

“Our lives have become digital. Our friends are now virtual, and everything you could ever want to know is just a click away. Experiencing the world through endless second-hand information isn’t enough. If we want authenticity, we have to initiate it.”

-Travis Rice

Hearing these words from Travis Rice had a profound impact on me and my work and how I thought about sharing my images. I decided that sharing my work and images on social media wasn’t enough and that social media does not do justice for images captured with Large Format Cameras. I wanted to offer and give “authenticity” I decided that I wanted to make hand-made contact prints of my images. I wanted something the viewer could hold, feel, and look deep into at the small details that are just not visible on a small handheld device.

Contact prints are something special to look at as they will show every small detail captured on the negative.  You can do contact prints in a variety of different media including traditional Silver Gelatin Darkroom Prints, but I choose Platinum Palladium prints for their range of tones, soft creamy whites, and most importantly long-life span.

I wanted my images to last for generations, long after I am gone from the world.

There is nothing quite like a hand made platinum palladium print.  It is simultaneously gentle and powerful, it is subtle yet rich and luxurious, and it has a physical presence like no other print. They are a work of art unto themselves.

I wanted to share a quick step by step of the process, but this is in no way a tutorial of how to properly make a platinum palladium print.  I recommend taking a workshop if one is available in your area or read a how to book.  I have done both and I definitely recommend reading The Platinum Printing Workshop by Ian Leake as a starting point before you dive into the process.

Cocoon – Oregon Coast – Platinum Palladium

Cotton rag paper is hand coated with a solution containing platinum and palladium salts and an iron oxalate sensitizer.

There are many paper choices, and some do better than others depending upon your environment, particularly your humidity level.

The mixture is then quickly brushed out across the paper as it is slightly absorbed into the paper.

After drying, the paper and your negative are carefully sandwiched together under glass in a contact printing frame and exposed to Ultraviolet light.

The contact frame is then placed inside an Ultraviolet exposure unit.  These can be made or purchased and use a variety of different Ultraviolet light sources.  I chose to make my exposure unit using LED Ultraviolet light strips.  You can also use the Sun as your Ultraviolet light source, but you may find exposure times to be inconsistent one print to the next.  The ultraviolet light causes a reduction of the platinum or palladium salts into pure metals.

The real fun and excitement to Platinum Palladium printing comes at the moment of development.  Once your developer comes into contact with the exposed platinum palladium coating, a reaction occurs where the image is transformed and visually seen at the same time the platinum and palladium have become embedded into the paper.

After several clearing baths to remove the remaining salts, the final print consists of pure platinum (Pt) and palladium (Pd) metallic fragments laid onto and embedded within the paper.  The process I use today is virtually unchanged from that first patented process in 1873.

The platinum-palladium printing process is such a fun way to print your images. You may find the printing process to have a steep and sometimes frustrating learning curve, but once you dial in the prints to your own personal liking you will find great satisfaction in printing your own images for lasting generations.

A full video of the printing process is available to view at:

Thick of Things – Redwood Forest, California – Platinum Palladium

Land Of My Fathers – Ramasaig, Scotland – Platinum Palladium


Ryan Gillespie

Name: Ryan Gillespie
Location: Vancouver, Washington
Description: I decided to get back into film photography in 2014, large film, and the large format process. The camera is big and the process is slow, but this oversized and somewhat primitive camera design is a romantic and creative way to become much more intimate with the subject and landscapes around me. Majority of my work is captured close to home in the Pacific Northwest.