Photographs by Frank

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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Shorebird (on Aristico HP)
Shorebird (on Aristico HP)
Dragonfly (on Crane's Cover)
Dragonfly (on Crane's Cover)
Dragonfly (on Platinum Rag)
Dragonfly (on Platinum Rag)

16 March 2021

Three More

Yesterday was cold and blustery; the high was in the teens. We had the stove in the basement going so the temperature there was in the upper 50s. All of which made spending the afternoon in my basement dim room appealing.

I made ten salted-paper prints from four negatives and added some experiments in toning the prints with gold/borax.

The first print below (“Untitled”) is on Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag and is untoned. The second print (“Cobblestones”), on BFK Rives, is toned for a short time. The last print (“Farm Field Fence”), on Rives Heavyweight, is toned pretty much to completion.

As usual, showing the subtilties in these prints after scanning them is always suspect. The artifacts are best experienced in hand.

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Untitled
Untitled
Cobblestones
Cobblestones
Farm Field Fence
Farm Field Fence

5 March 2021

Trees

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Landscapes,Salted-paper Prints — Frank @ 12:00 PM

I have been making photographs of trees in winter, showing their “bones” for a a couple of years. Most of these photos are made using my camera obscura.

I decided that these photos might look good as salted-paper prints and thus prepared negatives from six images in this series. I finished making 4×5 inch prints on Stonehenge Warm paper yesterday.

I have many more images in this series, that I think I will print this way in the coming weeks/months.

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Apple Tree #1
Apple Tree #1
Apple Tree #2
Apple Tree #2
Pine Tree
Pine Tree
Maple Tree
Maple Tree
Tree
Tree
Apple Trees & Crotched Mountain
Apple Trees & Crotched Mountain

Missouri River Homestead

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Landscapes,Salted-paper Prints — Frank @ 11:03 AM

The end of September 2017… Joan and I had left Yellowstone National Park via the northeast corner of the park and Cooke City. We were headed north through central Montana; our eventual goal was Malta.

After spending a night in Roundup, we continued on our way north. We made an unscheduled and very productive stop at the CM Russell National Wildlife Refuge where US191 crosses the Missouri River. There is a wildlife drive through the refuge on the north side of the river here.

In addition to river access, this gravel road is a hot spot for viewing elk during rutting season, i.e. at the end of September! However, this post is not about those photos!

Rather, this post is about the photos I made of an old river bottom homestead that is a short walk off the refuge road; I wrote about this site and showed the photos I made back in 2017.

Recently, I revisited these photos as I thought they would be good candidates for warm tones of salted-paper prints, an old, so called “alternative” photographic process. Or, in the words of Mike Johnston of The Online Photographer, an “ancient but still unconventional medium”. (Said about cyanotype, but equally applicable here!) I wrote about this process a couple of weeks ago when I made my first salted-paper print.

On Wednesday, I finished making salted-paper prints of nine photographs of this riverine homestead. The prints are 4″x5″ on Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag paper and are untoned. The scans I show here are a inadequate representation of the actual artifacts. The prints really need to be seen and held to fully experience, but in these days of COVID this will have to suffice for now.

I am planning to make a set of larger prints, but I am still mulling over how large. I have the trays needed to make prints on 11×14 inch paper (i.e. an image size of about 8×10 inches. However, I’m not sure that I have the space needed.

I would really like to make 11×14 inch prints but I have neither trays large enough nor a large enough space for all of the trays needed. The cost of the chemicals also becomes a factor in making large prints. An 11×14 image is almost eight times the area of a 4×5 image and thus requires eight times the chemicals.

I’m thinking that I should work out the mechanics of making large prints with cyanotype before attempting prints involving silver! I’ll probably have to also wait for warmer weather when I can set up tables for trays in the garage… we’ll see!

Anyway, here are the 4×5 inch prints:

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Missouri Riverine Homestead #1
Missouri Riverine Homestead #1
Missouri Riverine Homestead #2
Missouri Riverine Homestead #2
Missouri Riverine Homestead #3
Missouri Riverine Homestead #3
Missouri Riverine Homestead #4
Missouri Riverine Homestead #4
Missouri Riverine Homestead #5
Missouri Riverine Homestead #5
Missouri Riverine Homestead #6
Missouri Riverine Homestead #6
Missouri Riverine Homestead #7
Missouri Riverine Homestead #7
Missouri Riverine Homestead #8
Missouri Riverine Homestead #8
Missouri Riverine Homestead #9
Missouri Riverine Homestead #9

19 February 2021

A Response to Joe’s Questions

In his comment on my “first salted-paper print” post, my friend Joe raises some interesting questions (in italics below). I thought that I would reply publically here rather than in an email to him alone.

So, do you prefer this process to your cyanotypes?

It is not so much as preferring one process over another. Rather the key, I think is to fit the photograph to the process and to the “mood” (aesthetic?) that one wishes to convey.

And, for me, why?

I think that I can answer this on many levels. The fun of learning and hopefully mastering something new. Having another tool for artistic expression. Or to paraphrase Sir Edmund Hillary… “Because I can”!


You have a good image that would be a great print via the usual ways of printing.

It is interesting that you raise this point. Back a month or so ago, as I was setting up a printer with Piezography Pro inks, I make prints of this series of photographs using the “full warm” inks*. These prints (scans shown below), on a satin paper, are very nice but not as ‘special’ as the salted-paper prints.

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Warm-toned Piezography Pro inkjet print
Warm-toned Piezography Pro inkjet print
Warm-toned Piezography Pro inkjet print
Warm-toned Piezography Pro inkjet print

* The Piezography Pro system modifies an Epson printer to use only black/gray inks. The inkset consists of two sets of four inks. One set is warm toned and one is cool toned. The software allows one to mix the two set of inks to arrive at a final print of any tone in between, including dead neutral, if that is the desired result.

Second Salted-Paper Print

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Landscapes,Salted-paper Prints — Frank @ 10:00 AM

Here is a scan of a print I made yesterday from the second negative. (An 18 minute exposure.)

This one shows that I have a bit of work to do on the highlights, but it’s not bad.

These two negatives come from a series of photos I made in September 2017 at an old river-bottom homestead along the Missouri River in central Montana. I am planning a portfolio of salted-paper prints of these photographs, I think that the warm tone of salted-paper fits this subject well.

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Salted-Paper Print (untoned) on Hahn. Pt Rag
Salted-Paper Print (untoned) on Hahn. Pt Rag

18 February 2021

First Salted-Paper Print

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Landscapes,Salted-paper Prints — Frank @ 11:30 PM

I’m excited!

After much reading and gathering of supplies, I spent this afternoon and evening making my first salted-paper prints*.

Salted-paper printing is the progenitor of all of modern (film-based) photography. The process was invented in the 1830’s by Henry Fox Talbot and announced at the Royal Society in London at the end of January 1839, a few weeks after the Daguerreotype was announced in Paris. Both processes lay claim to being the “invention of photography”.

The salted-paper process is deceptively simple, one begins by soaking paper in salt water. After the paper is dry one makes it light sensitive by coating the salted-paper with a solution of silver nitrate.

When the sensitized paper is dry one exposes the paper to ultraviolet light through a negative. Traditionally the sun is used as a light source. I used the same exposure box containing blacklight LEDs that I use for cyanotype. Upon exposure, an image ‘magically’ appears on the paper, fully formed.

One then processes the paper through a number of solutions to remove the unreacted silver making the print stable to further exposure to light.

The procedure I used is essentially that described in Chapter 5 of Christina Anderson’s book “Salted Paper Printing/ A Step-By-Step Manual Highlighting Contemporary Artists“. I used a 4×5 inch digital negative and printed on Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag paper as it came from the mill (i.e. I did not size the paper.) The prints are untoned.

I made four prints today using two different negatives. Shown below is the very first print I made. The others are still too wet to be scanned, so I can’t show them yet!

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My Very First Salted-Paper Print
My Very First Salted-Paper Print

* Well, this is not precisely true. I made a few salted-paper prints at a workshop I attended maybe 15 years ago. But that is not anything close to making prints in your own dimroom. I have no idea what has become of the prints I made back then. I must have decided that they were not worth keeping.

19 December 2020

Steel, Stone and Wood

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Cyanotype — Frank @ 10:00 PM

I haven’t made any cyanotypes in about a month. It has been too cold in my basement “dim room”; about 45 degrees. A few days ago the house was chilly enough that we started the basement stove and suddenly it was warm enough in the basement to work again.

I printed three 4×5 inch negatives from exposures I made several weeks ago, coated some 5×7 inch Rives BFK paper and made these prints.

It is satisfying to be at a place with the cyanotype process that I can get nice prints without much fussing about. I am not sure that I ever got to that point my first “go round” with cyanotype a dozen plus years ago.

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steel-wheel-bfk
steel-wheel-bfk
stone-god-bfk
stone-god-bfk
wood-bench-bfk
wood-bench-bfk

30 November 2020

More Hand-Colored Photos

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Hand-Coloring — Frank @ 11:31 PM

Here are two more hand-colored inkjet prints made in the past couple of days.

Both of these were printed on using Epson’s Advanced Black and White mode on 200 gsm hot press Fabriano Artistico paper. The paper is about as traditional a water color paper as you can find.

The bird houses were colored using Faber Castell water color pencils and blended using, unsurprisingly, water!

The shovels were colored using Prismacolor Premium pencils and blended with a 1:1 mixture of turpentine and vegetable oil as I have mentioned previously.

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Bird Houses
Bird Houses
Shovels ( But No Rakes or Other Implements of Destruction)
Shovels ( But No Rakes or Other Implements of Destruction)

All of the hand-colored images I’ve shown thus far have been printed on 5×7 inch paper. The image size is 4×5 inches or 4.5 inches square. My standard size(s) for small prints. (I’ve cropped away some of the blank paper from the scanned images displayed here.)

I am evolving a method for making this type of print. I start by making one or more “drafts” on an inexpensive paper (Fabriano Studio) in which I experiment with colors and blending. I make notes on the back of these drafts as to the colors used and other details. My intent is to file away the last of these drafts in case I want to go back and make another copy at a later date.

Next, I make an artist’s proof on a nicer paper at the 5×7 inch size. This is an object that I consider finished and worthy of matting and display.

Only at this point do I consider a larger print either on the same paper as the ‘proof’ print, or if I am feeling adventurous on a different paper.

Thus far, I have made copies of the above two photos on 8×10 inch paper. The image size is 7×9 inches, or about three times the area of the smaller prints. These take a lot more time to complete… as one would expect!

I guess that the next step is to consider editioning. Although I am not sure what I would do with even a small edition of a single print.

24 November 2020

2020 Winter Solstice Print

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Cyanotype,Winter Solstice Prints — Frank @ 9:00 PM

I don’t think that I have posted here before about my tradition of sending a print to friends and family in celebration of the winter solstice.

I am early this year because I was a bit nervous about having to print so many copies of a single print via a “wet” process. However, I was able to make twenty successful copies (on 5×7 inch paper) of this print in one long dim room session. I took prints to the post office yesterday.

The following is the photo (and accompanying text) that comprise the 2020 version of this tradition:

David Vestal (1924-2013) was a well-known photographer, critic and teacher. For many years he sent friends and family a small holiday print.  In 2013 I decided to begin a similar tradition. The print you have in front of you is my eighth “Winter Solstice Print”.

At the end of each year, I choose a photograph made during the preceding year; one that, I think, turned out well. I expect that most will not have a holiday, or even a winter, theme.  I make a dozen or so small prints and send them to folks whom I think might enjoy them. I do not keep a list of those receiving each year’s print and expect to send prints to a different selection of folks each year. Thus, do not be offended if you do not receive a print every year!

This year’s print, a cyanotype, is titled “Jane’s Barn”. The exposure was made on 6 April 2020.

I was headed back towards the house on my (allegedly) daily walk. The bright midday sun sharply illuminated this view of the back of our neighbor’s barn through the still leafless trees. It is a scene that I had passed by hundreds of times, but had never photographed.

Cyanotype is a photographic process invented in 1842 by Sir John Herschel. In this “year of the virus” I have taken up making cyanotypes after a hiatus of about a dozen years. It took me roughly a month back in April to work out all of the details of making prints in my basement “dim room”.

The cyanotype process involves painting a lemon-yellow solution of iron salts onto paper – Fabriano Tiepolo (130 gsm) in this case. Once the paper is dry, it is sandwiched with a negative in a contact-printing frame and exposed to ultraviolet light. Traditionally, the sun was used as the UV source. However, I use a homemade UV light box containing “black light” LEDs. Exposures take several minutes. These days, I work exclusively with inkjet negatives prepared from digital files and printed onto a clear film.

A pigment (Prussian blue) is formed via the action of the light on the iron compounds, producing the image. The exposed paper is washed free of the unexposed iron salts and dried to give the print you now hold.

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"Jane's Barn" (2020 Winter Solstice Print)
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