Photographs by Frank

6 January 2023

Three New Salted-paper Prints

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Landscapes,Salted-paper Prints — Frank @ 6:30 PM

I spent yesterday afternoon and evening in my basement dim room. After my recent flirtation with cuprotype*, I have returned to making prints on salted-paper. I made three useful prints.

The three exposures shown here were made in December. The first is another view of Mount Monadnock and Silver Lake from Leadmine Road in Nelson. (I am still working to get the ‘perfect’ exposure of this scene, but this one is pretty good.)

The second exposure is an example of the adage which circulates among landscape photographers… i.e. “Remember to look behind you.” The rock outcropping in this photo was off to the right near the camera when I made the first exposure.

I have probably made as many exposures of the outcropping as I have the grand view of the lake and mountain. However, the light on the out cropping is really only nice in the morning. Whereas, I think one can make nice photos of the grand view in either morning or evening light.

The third print is of a new (to me!) barn in Harrisville. One my way home from a previous trip to Nelson, I followed another landscape photographer’s adage… i.e. “Turn down any dirt road you come across.” Many times these are just roads through the woods with nothing of particular photographic interest. Sometimes, though, you find interesting barns!

The first print is my standard ‘large’ size (a 6×7 .5 inch image on 8×10 inch paper). The other two are 4×5 inch images on 6×7.5 inch paper; my standard small print.

All these prints were made on Legion Revere Platinum paper. This paper is specifically made for alt process printing and is somewhat less expensive than the Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag I usually use**. So far, I am liking this paper a lot except for the shipping***.

The odd paper size for small prints comes from the way I cut up large sheets of paper. It is my habit to buy paper in large sheets; 22×30 inch sheets are a common size. This allows me the most flexibility in sheet size for various project. However, my standard way to cut up the large sheets yields six 8×10 inch sheets and four 6×7.5 inch sheets from a 22×30 inch sheet with zero waste.

Enough technical talk! Here are the prints:

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* I’m tempted to return to cuprotype in the near future. There have been some interesting developments in the ferricyanide toning step yielding cleaner highlights. I also want to perfect cuprotype on cloth.

** The Revere Platinum is about sixty percent the cost of the Platinum Rag. Otherwise the two papers are quite comparable. They are both heavy (300/310 gsm) smooth, bright white and contain no carbonate buffers. The last feature is important for most alt process printing. When one uses papers not specially made for alt process printing you need to pre-treat papers to remove the carbonate present in most watercolor or printmaking papers. This is not difficult but it adds an additional step to the process.

*** I buy most of my paper from a small company (Acuity Papers) that sells only art paper. When I say ‘small’, I mean ‘small’. As far as I know the company consists of two brothers. Anyway, these folks really know how to package large sheets of paper so that they are not damaged in shipping. However, they do not stock the Revere Platinum.

Thus, I ordered the Revere Platinum from B&H Photo, a large, well-known photography/camera store in New York City. B&H is a great company to buy from. However, they clearly know very little about safely shipping large sheets of fragile paper.

For the first shipment, the package of 22×30 inch sheets was rolled up and stuffed into a nine inch square (by roughly 40 inch long) box. The entire stack of paper was crimped as it was carelessly rolled up. Furthermore, the plastic wrapper was torn and tattered. B&H, to their credit, were very easy to deal with and issued a RMA including a prepaid shipping label quickly. Of course I had to wait for them to receive the return and resend another package. They took my complaint to heart and shipped the second package of paper flat. I’ll spare you the details (which included FedEx misdirecting the package) but it arrived in barely acceptable condition. I am hoping to convince Acuity to stock then Revere Platinum by the time I need more!

23 May 2022

Keeping Cool

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Salted-paper Prints — Frank @ 2:00 PM

I spent the last two days keeping cool* in my basement dim room making salted-paper prints and experimenting with gold toning.

In addition to the five new images (shown below), I made larger finished versions (6×7.5 inch image on 8×10 paper) of another five images that I worked on in the recent past.

All of the images shown here are scans from 4×5 inch images on small sheets of Hahnemühle Platinum Rag paper. For the last two images, I show the entire sheet of paper thus revealing the ‘raw’ edges of each image. All of the others are similar but I have cropped them down to show only the image area.

Each image is shown in an un-toned version and a version toned with gold in sodium bicarbonate. It the past I had experimented with a gold-borax toner but I have trouble keeping the borax in solution in my cool work space. Thus, I decided to test out gold-bicarbonate this time.

The difference between the toned and un-toned prints is subtle but significant. Toning cools down the warm tone of the native salted-paper print and increases the contrast slightly.

All of the original exposures were made in either December 2021 or January 2022.

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* The high both days was near ninety deg. F

15 May 2022

New Salted-paper Prints / Old Photos

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Salted-paper Prints — Frank @ 6:45 PM

A few days ago, I decided that I wanted to get back to salted-paper printing. My specific aim was to make myself a print of the photo titled “Harvest Still Life”. I printed this image back at the end of March during a lecture/demo I did for the Tuttle library. However, I did not end up with a final print for myself.

While I was at it, I looked through my archives for a few other photos that might look good as salted-paper prints and prepared some additional negatives for test printing.

Then, I spent most of yesterday afternoon, when the outside temperature was a very unseasonable 85 degrees F, in the pleasant cool of my basement dim room.

Harvest Still Life is about 6 by 7 1/2 inches on an 8 by10 inch sheet*. The other two prints are about 4 by 5 inches on 6 1/2 by 7 inch sheets**. The paper is Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag paper for all.

The first and last prints were gold/bicarbonate toned***. This treatment cools down the warm brown of an un-toned print resulting in an almost neutral tone. I left the middle print is un-toned, as I thought the natural warmth of a salted paper print suited the image well.

I printed three other negatives as well, but none of these are ‘ready for prime time’. They will all need a bit of tweaking before I print them again… stay tuned!

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* This has evolved to be my standard-size for alternative process prints.

** This is my usual work print size; used when I am working out the details (mostly dodging and burning) of the negative.

*** This was an experiment. Previously, I have used gold/borax toner exclusively if I toned prints. However, I have trouble keeping the necessary amount of borax in solution in my cool (OK… downright cold at times) basement dim room.

1 April 2022

Yesterday’s Lecture/Demo

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Salted-paper Prints — Frank @ 10:08 PM

Yesterday evening I gave a presentation titled “19th Century Photography” at the Tuttle Library here in Antrim. The presentation accompanied an exhibition of my cyanotypes, salted-paper and platinum/palladium prints* that are currently on display in the library.

Along with the talk/slideshow I did a demonstration of salted-paper printing; shown below is the print that resulted from the evening’s festivities. I have matted the print and will take it down to the library for their collection.

* These processes were all invented in the 19th century: salted-paper printing in 1839, cyanotype in 1842 and platinum/palladium printing in the 1880s.

15 August 2021

New Salted-paper Prints

I have spent the past week making a new batch of salted-paper prints. In doing so, I mined my archives for photographs that I think will work well as salted-paper prints. The initial exposure for all of these photos were made between five and ten years ago.

Making salted-paper prints is an iterative process.

I process the image in Photoshop making educated guesses as to how the negative should look to give me a good print. Then, I make a negative and use that negative to make a small test salted-paper print on 5×7 inch paper.

I probably get things exactly right the first time about two-thirds of the time. If the print is not to my liking, I go back to the computer and make further adjustments in Photoshop. Most often these adjustments involve dodging and burning… adjusting the brightness of very localized areas of an image. It is very rare that I need to make more than a second negative.

The photograph of the dragonfly in this series is one of those rare images. After the second iteration, I was still not satisfied with the print. In this case I went back to the original file and began anew. Of course, I had the ‘education’ gleaned from the first two unsatisfactory versions and thus the third version “hit the nail on the head” as they say.

The first five images below are all 4×5 inch prints (on 5×7 inch paper). Many times, after making a successful print at that size, I will make a larger negative (6×7 1/2 inches) and print that on 8×10 inch paper. The last two prints in this series are of the larger size.

This process illustrates why I much prefer working with digital negatives for alternative processes compared to analog (film) negatives. Both ideas (making detailed adjustments to the negative and printing an image at different sizes) are possible but extremely difficult in the analog realm.

I often have thought of making even larger prints, maybe up to 11×14 inches. My light source is large enough for a 16×20 inch contact printing frame. However, when I begin to work out the logistics of the larger trays and the space they would require as well as the cost of the materials for such large prints, I run smack into the wall of reality!!!

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4 July 2021

Grange Print Sale

Filed under: Salted-paper Prints — Frank @ 12:00 AM

Using one’s talents to do good in the world is always a good idea.

A few weeks ago, I approached my friends at the Antrim Grange offering to sell salted-paper prints of three photos to aid in their fundraising towards a renovation of their very old building. The details of this offer can be found here.

As part of the “kickoff” for this effort, we sent a press release to the local papers. The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript in Peterborough picked up on this and a very nice article appeared in Thursday’s paper. A scanned copy of the article (as a pdf file) can be found here.

I guess that this counts against my proverbial fifteen minute of fame!

2 June 2021

New Salted Paper Prints

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Landscapes,Salted-paper Prints — Frank @ 4:00 PM

I have been ‘mining’ my archives looking for photographs that I think would do well as salted paper prints.

Here is the latest batch made yesterday evening. The images are 6×7.5 inches or 6.5 inches square on 8×10 inch Hahn. Platinum Rag paper. I made two copies of each.

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27 May 2021

Salted Dragons

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Odontates,Salted-paper Prints — Tags: — Frank @ 9:00 PM

Hopefully you were not expecting a new snack food!

I have been ‘mining’ my archives for photographs of dragonflies that might make good salted paper prints. Here are three examples made yesterday.

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19 April 2021

Dodging and Burning

Warning… photographer talk ahead!!!

Dodging and burning are terms that describe making local adjustments to a photograph during the making of a print. Dodging is the process of selectively lightening an area. Burning is the opposite; selective darkening.

In the days of yore, when working in the darkroom, dodging and burning were done one print at a time. One manipulated the light falling on the photographic paper as one exposed the print. Master printers were able to make these adjustments with a fair amount of precision, but there was always some print-to-print variability even with the best printers.

For the UV sensitive contact printing processes (e.g. cyanotype, salted-paper printing, et al.), dodging and burning were not practical for a number of reasons. The main one being that there is necessarily little space between the light source and the print. Thus one’s ability to see where you were attempting to dodge or burn was limited and thus imprecise.

Using digital negatives to make contact prints has changed all of this. By making adjustments to the digital file we can make very localized adjustments that are “frozen” when one make the digital negative. Thus, one gets the same adjustments in each print when one makes a contact print. Furthermore, since those adjustments are made in the negative, one can apply them to the UV sensitive contact printing processes without the need to actually get one’s hands in the space between the light and the paper.

With experience, one’s first draft of a digital negative is usually pretty close to ideal, but after one makes that first print from a negative you often see that a small amount of fine tuning is necessary. Thus, one goes back to the computer to make a few tweaks to the image before printing a revised negative and making another print. I probably make second drafts of about half of my negatives. It is very rare that I need to make a third draft these days.

The four images show below are examples of the end result of this process. I had made initial prints of these images previously but each of them needed a bit or dodging and burning to be ‘perfect’. I made those adjustments and printed new negatives on Saturday. Yesterday, I made new salted-paper prints using those negatives.

The differences between the two drafts were small. A bit of burning in (darkening) on the shoulder of the marmot. Similar adjustments on the lily pad in the second photo and the dead tree to the right of the gate in the last photo.. The third image had a bit of dodging (lightening) of the pinecone and a bit burning in of the lightest leaves throughout.

The resulting prints are, to my eye, subtly but significantly improved over the initial prints.

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17 April 2021

Tonight’s Fortune / New Salted-Paper Prints

Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought.

— Found in a fortune cookie this evening.

The ‘fortunes’ usually found in Chinese restaurant fortune cookies usually leave much to be desired. However, this one seems worth sharing.

Early spring (and that is stretching it… we had eight inches of snow yesterday) is tough photographically. The light is often drab, as is the landscape. Thus making new photographs is hit-or-miss.

However, I have been staying busy experimenting with salt-paper printing. I’ve been trying different types of subjects and different papers.

The prints shown below were made on three different papers. Artistico Hot Press is a medium weight (200 gsm) very traditional water color paper; it is just a little bit warm. Crane’s Cover is a moderately heavy (240 gsm) paper that is often used for alternative process printing; it is a fairly warm paper. Platinum Rag is a heavy (300 gsm) paper made specifically for alternative process printing (especially platinum printing, as the name suggests); it is pure white. All of these papers have very smooth surfaces.

Each paper has its idiosyncrasies when it comes to coating and exposure. It is amazing to me how different the same negative can look when printed on two different papers. This is all part of the fun!

Here are a few salted-paper prints made in the past few days…

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