For information on Gallery Los Olivos, click here.
Over the years, I have worked in several somewhat distinct media, including, of course, traditional darkroom and silver printing, various internegative processes, and in recent years, a variety of inkjet media. With the advent of modern inkjet printers and inks, it became clear that the silver print had become an "alternative" medium. The wet process has simply been eclipsed by the best modern digital approaches. My effort has been to push the envelope in B&W inkjet printing, which has taken a back seat to color by the major printer companies. As a former darkroom worker who often mixed his own developers from the raw components (for example, POTA for Tech Pan film), the B&W inkset development work I did came rather naturally. (A brother who was a PhD chemist in the carbon field didn't hurt.)
At www.PaulRoark.com/BW-Info/ I cover or link to numerous current as well as older inksets and workflows that I have used in the past. For a number of years MIS Associates (inksupply.com) sold the older inksets that I developed. When their founder sold the company, it lost interest in B&W inks. I have continued to source the inputs for the former MIS inks through STS Inks in Florida. All of my B&W ink work and mixes are done on an open-source, royalty-free basis. I just make and continue to make what I want and have published my formulas and profiles.
Of particular interest to B&W printers who want the best for the least, the generic dilution base formulas for diluting matte black pigment inks is also linked to this page. These allow creative printers to make their own unique and very cost effective inksets, for for matte papers only.
My primary wide format printer (an Epson 9800) is loaded with a variant of what I call my "Glossy Carbon Variable Tone" inkset. This puts 100% carbon pigments, which are by far the most lightfast, in all but one of the ink positions. In one ink position I have a specially formulated "toner" that is light blue. This gives a print tone range from warm (natural carbon) to neutral, while at the same time keeping the job of making profiles rather simple.
The basic principle for making the most archival B&W prints is simply to keep the carbon content as high as possible for the tone you want, and use the best color (toner) pigments available. This maximizes longevity and virtually emiminates artifacts such as metamerism.
I generally print on Red River UltraPro Satin paper and coat the prints with Premier Art's Print Shield. I dry mount, the prints on acid free foam core or, for very large prints, have a service bureau mount them on a substrate that is appropriate for the size of the print.
Over the years I have used B&W film sizes from 4x5 to 35mm. In the film era, I thought medium format film was the best compromise. 35mm film didn't quite hit the sharpness I like, and 4x5 was a bit too heavy, slow, and, frankly, not necessary for the 16x20 inch display prints that were the easiest reasonable size wall display prints to make in the traditional darkroom I grew up with. I became a fan of Rollei 2 1/4 film cameras. My SL66 still sits proudly in a display case in my home, being, in my view, the most practical film format of the era camera that, with its built-in tilt function, could capture foreground to background sharpness comparable to the "view cameras" (sheet film camera with bellows).
With digital technology, I have found that my "Dual Focus" approach is very useful and viable alternative to the tilt function for capturing excellent depth of field. I take one shot of the foreground and one at the accuratelly-set infinity stop -- very quickly. They can usual be merged into a single image. It usually works. Note that a monopod is very useful for this "DF" approach.
With today's technology, my current favorite camera is a Sony a7c. A 25 mp, "full frame" sensor is enough. And, while I think Leica makes the best optics, Sony knows the electronics business very well.
I favor small, lightweight, high quality prime, manual focus lenses, where I can set the infinity stop accurately. As such, I work with an adapter so that Leica-M lenses can be mounted on the Sony camera -- after the Sony thick sensor cover glass is replaced with an ultra-thin one by KoloriVision.
Currently my standard lens is the Leica-M apo 35mm. As usual, when Leica puts the "apo" prefix on a lens, it is a very good optic. If a longer lens might be needed, I will most likely reach for my favorite old 90mm f/4 Leica collapsible, which will fit in a belt pouch and in a standard "ever-ready" type camera case when mounted. It pairs well with a 35mm main optic.
While the above Leica M optics are what a favor most of the time, I also find the now-discontinued Leica 50mm Elmar-M collapsible lens to be ideal when the most compact outfit is needed for outdoor, daylight activities. From f/6.7 on, it can make top quality 8x10 proportion images. The Sony a7c with this compact Leica 50 and rubber lens hood fit nicely in the Sony RX1rii case, and I vastly prefer the control I get with this outfit compared to the otherwise very good Sony RX1.
How I judge the sharpness of a lens now has been affected by the availability of Topaz's AI Gigapixel software. With this software, the question is whether the image file is "sharp enough" for the software to recognize what is supposed to be a sharp edge, further sharpness is of little or no value. This Topaz software has convinced me that "AI" is a field to keep an eye on; it may be more significant than just the usual hype.
In the "covid" era where most of my shooting has been at the relatively local Haskel's beach, a lens I find very useful is the old Canon FD mount 35mm Tilt-Shift lens. This is simply because at the beach the tilt function is very useful. This optic is widely available on the used market for a very reasonable price. If you like the feeling of extreme depth of field, combined with relatively normal perspective this is a most entertaining optic, particularly at a scenic beach. Do plan on using a tripod or at least a monopod if tilt is employed; hand holding a tilted optic and keeping everything in focus is difficult. Also, plan on using f/11.
For technical information on lens performance, see the MTF curves/charts at https://www.paulroark.com/MTF-Curves-LiecaM-Sony.jpg.
In general, B&W prints are available in a number of sizes from 8x10 up to 44" wide (Epson 9800). All are printed with a dedicated B&W, carbon pigment inkset of my own design. I do not sell color prints.
All of my prints are made individually, as needed.
Arches prints - "Carbon on Cotton":
I consider my most archival print technology to be 100% carbon pigments on Arches Hot Press (uncoated) watercolor paper. While I like the nature of this medium, I've found the market is simply interested in the image. All of my prints use predominantly carbon pigments that will outlive all of us.
The October, 2010 issue of "Cowboys & Indians" magazine also has a short article about me. See it here.
The first of my 100% carbon inksets, sold by MIS Associates, is written up in Shutterbug magazine. The article is on line here. My carbon printing information page is here
I use several Red River Paper products and beta test some of their papers. They have a short blurb about my work here.
The December 2013 "Shutterbug" magazine, in the Digital Help column regarding inks suggested, "visiting a black-and-white expert's website, www.PaulRoark.com."
In June 2018 I was featured on the Red River webpage/blog. The article can be see here.
From mid-Februry to mid-April 2019 a broad cross-section of my work was featured at the Elverhoj Museum in
Solvang, California. Click
here for a copy of the postcard relating to the exhibit. For a copy of the review of the Elverhoj show by the SB Newspress,
And there is always an exhibit of my work at Gallery Los Olivos (see above).
Thank you for visiting my humble website.
Solvang, CA, USA
All Photographs -- Copyright 1980-2021 Paul Roark -- All Rights Reserved