Photographs by Frank

15 September 2020

Another Batch of Cyanotypes

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Cyanotype — Frank @ 6:30 PM

Last week I prepared another batch of four negatives (at 4″x5″ on half a letter-sized sheet of OHP film) from some old files and made some more cyanotypes. I am pretty pleased with my process as it stands and am now able to confidently make nice prints without much struggle.

I am still trying to decide on my “standard” paper(s), for cyanotype. I printed each of these four negative on four different papers*.

The differences between papers are very subtle and all made good prints. So as not to bore anyone, I show only one print from each negative!

NextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnail
baskets-unica-white
baskets-unica-white
buckets-stonehege-warm
buckets-stonehege-warm
sap-bucket-tiepolo-130
sap-bucket-tiepolo-130
usa-rives-heavyweight
usa-rives-heavyweight

* The four papers are:

Fabriano Unica White (250 gsm, 50% cotton, $0.11 for a 5″x7″ sheet)
Stonehenge Warm (250 gsm, 100% cotton, $0.17 for a 5″x7″ sheet)
Fabriano Tiepolo (130 gsm, 100% cotton, $0.16 for a 5″x7″ sheet)
Rives Heavyweight White (175 gsm, 100% cotton, $0.27 for a 5″x7″ sheet)

All these papers were purchased as large sheets from Acuity Papers (a small outfit in Indiana; highly recommended) that I cut to size myself.

21 August 2020

New Cyanotypes

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Cyanotype — Frank @ 12:30 PM

Back in March I began the process of relearning/perfecting the making of cyanotypes after a twelve year hiatus. Following, much experimenting and testing over the past few months, I am now trying to make some finished prints some of which might even (hopefully) rise to the level of “art”.

All of these small (4″x 5″) prints were made in the last week or two by contact printing a digital negative on hand coated paper.

NextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnail
Still Life with Bottle
Still Life with Bottle
East Quoddy Light (Campobello Island, NB)
East Quoddy Light (Campobello Island, NB)
Gosport Chapel (Star Island, NH)
Gosport Chapel (Star Island, NH)
Mill Building (Harrisville, NH)
Mill Building (Harrisville, NH)

23 May 2020

Cyanotype on Vellum Backed with Copper Leaf

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

Back in early April, when I started making cyanotypes again one of the papers I tried out was a cotton vellum I had lying around. I thought it might be interesting to layer the translucent vellum on top of other materials.

I was aware of Dan Burkholder’s work where he backs prints on vellum with gold leaf and thought that maybe his methods would work with cyanotypes. I signed up for Dan’s “Inkjet Alternatives Workshop” which was scheduled for the end of April. Of course, given the current state of the world the workshop was cancelled.

However, the Burkholder’s recently began selling a kit for gilding prints so I bought a kit to experiment with. I figured that a workshop would have been ideal but that the kit would get me started. I was intending to learn the materials and method with inkjet prints before moving onto cyanotypes.

However, as I went to start experimenting with the kit at the beginning of the week, I said to myself… “Self, why not just try with cyanotypes.” So I did!

I chose an image of the Cape d’Or light in Nova Scotia made with my camera obscura for this test. The negative is 4.5 inches square.

After a delay of a couple of days during which I made a stock of cyanotypes to experiment with, I began the gilding process on Wednesday. I had my first finished glided (using copper leaf) cyanotype by late yesterday (i.e. Friday) evening. The image is 4.5 inches square and it is mounted in an 8×10 inch mat.

Here it is, although I don’t think that the scans do it justice:

NextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnail
Final Product (matted)
Final Product (matted)
Front
Front
Back
Back

It has a few flaws which I can hopefully avoid with the next one but it is, I think, not half bad for a first attempt!

9 May 2020

Cyanotype Toning Experiments

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Cyanotype — Frank @ 4:00 PM

If you follow my blog, you will know that back about a month ago I started making cyanotypes again after a hiatus of roughly twelve years. I began by adapting my previous knowledge to my current situation.

Since pretty much everything (printer for digital negatives, UV light source, physical space, etc.) had changed I began more-or-less from scratch. The learning curve was relatively short since I was not starting anew in terms of experience. Once I had the basics figured out I moved on to toning cyanotypes.

Earlier this week, I decided to do a bit more systematic experimenting with the toning of cyanotypes. I began the process by accumulating multiple copies of more-or-less the same cyanotype prints to use as starting material for toning. I won’t bore you with the details, but it took me two evenings of work to accumulate enough small prints for a toning trial.

Toning cyanotypes requires two components, a polyphoenol and a base (or alkali). There are three commonly used pure polyphenols: tannic acid, gallic acid and pyrogallic acid. Natural mixtures of polyphenols in the form of coffee and various teas are also sometime used. They are not considered here.

Most of my previous work was with tannic acid. I did have a stock of gallic acid which I had tried only randomly before. I had never tried pyrogallic acid before so I ordered some for this set of trials.

The commonly used bases for toning are sodium carbonate (washing soda) and ammonium hydroxide (household ammonia). I also wanted to include (because of some very preliminary tests a week or so ago) sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in my trial.

The general procedure I used for these experiment was as I described previously. I pre-wet the dried prints in water for two or thee minutes minimum and then transferred the print to a bath of the 2% (w/v) polyphenol in water (i.e. 2 g / 100 mL). After soaking in the polyphenol solution for 5 minutes, the print was drained and dipped briefly (10-15 seconds) in water and then transferred to the base solution (7.5% w/v for sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate or 5% v/v of household ammonia) for another brief interval (15-60 seconds; tone judged by the eye of the beholder). Finally the print was washed thoroughly in water before drying.

In general this procedure causes, in addition to the desired shift in hue, a very mild bleaching of the color . Thus is is best to start with a print that is on the dense side of acceptable rather than one on the light side.

There is also a lose of contrast due to staining of the highlights. This staining seems least with gallic acid and worse with pyrogallic acid. I have not investigated the staining of papers in any systematic way, but expect that there will be some variation among papers.

My first series of tests investigated the effect of changing the polyphenol. All the toned prints in this series were treated with ammonia as the base. These prints were on Rives Heavyweight cream paper (175 gsm). Here are the results:

NextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnail
Untoned
Untoned
Tannic Acid / Ammonia
Tannic Acid / Ammonia
Gallic Acid / Ammonia
Gallic Acid / Ammonia
Pyrogallic Acid / Ammonia
Pyrogallic Acid / Ammonia

For the second series, I used prints made on Arches Hot Press (300 gsm) paper and varied the polyphenol again. The base was ammonia as it was in the first series.

NextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnail
Untoned
Untoned
Tannic Acid/ Ammonia
Tannic Acid/ Ammonia
Gallic Acid /Ammonia
Gallic Acid /Ammonia
Pyrogallic Acid / Ammonia
Pyrogallic Acid / Ammonia

It is interesting to note that the paper seems to affect the final tone achieved by each combination; compare the corresponding images in the first two series. Given that I have only tested two papers, this will need further testing to confirm the generality of this observation.

For the third series, I again used prints made on Arches Hot Press paper (300 gsm). Tannic acid was the polyphenol and I varied the base. (Note that first two prints in this series are the same as the first two in the second series.)

NextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnail
Untoned
Untoned
Tannic Acid / Ammonia
Tannic Acid / Ammonia
Tannic Acid / Carbonate
Tannic Acid / Carbonate
Tannic Acid / Bicarbonate
Tannic Acid / Bicarbonate

When toning with sodium carbonate, the color, which ends up as a chocolaty or reddish brown at completion, passes through a warm purple phase on the way from the native blue. In the past, I have tried to stop the process at the intermediate stage without much success and without any reproduciblity.

Since bicarbonate is a weaker base than carbonate, my thought was that it might let me “trap” the intermediate tone more reliably.

The result of this trial shows that bicarbonate certainly gives a different tone that is less reddish-more purplish than does carbonate; compare the last two prints in this series.

20 April 2020

Toned Cyanotypes

Filed under: Cyanotype — Frank @ 10:00 PM

I’ve spent the past week and a half working to perfect both my basic cyanotype process and to re-explore the toning of cyanotypes in order to get colors other than the Prussian blue that is the native cyanotype hue.

If you are interested in the gory details of toning continue reading after the images. Otherwise you can stop here!

NextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnail
Cyanotype Toned with Tannic Acid and Ammonia
Cyanotype Toned with Tannic Acid and Ammonia
Cyanotype Toned with Tannic Acid and Sodium Carbonate
Cyanotype Toned with Tannic Acid and Sodium Carbonate
Cyanotype Toned with Tannic Acid and Ammonia
Cyanotype Toned with Tannic Acid and Ammonia
Cyanotype Toned with Tannic Acid and Sodium Carbonate
Cyanotype Toned with Tannic Acid and Sodium Carbonate

The first three prints are on platine (a paper designed for alternative processes such as cyanotype); the last image print is on Stonehenge Warm, a traditional printmaking paper. Note that the tone achieved with carbonate is influenced by the paper.

Here are the gory details…

Toning of cyanotypes involves two classes of chemicals, one needs a polyphenol and a base (alkali).

Tannic acid and gallic acid are commonly used pure polyphenols; coffee or tea are also sources of polyphenols and are sometimes used to tone cyanotypes.

The two most common bases used are sodium carbonate (washing soda) and ammonium hydroxide (common household ammonia).

If one looks at the literature, there are many, many different procedures people have devised to use these compounds to tone cyanotype.. Many of the descriptions talk about the variability in cyanotype toning and some even entourage one to embrace the serendipity and make one-of-a-kind, never to be reproduced singletons.

I guess that I am too much of a scientist, I want toning procedures that are repeatable and controllable. Thus, I have spent sometime experimenting to find a stable procedure.

My procedure, using prints that have dried overnight, is this:

  1. Re-wet the print for at least 2 minutes in water
  2. Soak in tannic acid* (2.5 g / 100 mL) for 5 minutes
  3. Rinse by dipping quickly in water (15-30 seconds)
  4. Place print in either sodium carbonate (7.5 g / mL) or ammonia (5 mL of household ammonia in 100 mL water) until desired tone is achieved; generally 30 – 90 seconds.

When one places the print in the base, the color quickly begins to change. I usually let the color change go to completion as I have found it difficult to stop the change in a reproducible manner; something to work on in the future. Sodium carbonate gives red-brown tones ending with a rich chocolate brown at completion. With ammonia one gets various shades of purple ending with an almost gray color at completion. In both cases the final shade achieved is influenced by a little by the paper used.

This procedure gives little if any bleaching of the image. In my view, this is a big plus. It basically eliminates the need to print the original cyanotype on the dark side and then hope that the result of bleaching (characteristic of many other procedures) is both pleasing and reproducible.

* I have done a few experiments using gallic acid as well but for the moment have concentrated on tannic acid. I have been using reagent grade tannic acid which is fairly expensive. I have ordered some food grade tannin, which is a reasonablly priced, but less pure for of tannic acid. We’ll have to see if it is an acceptable substitute.

9 April 2020

Cyanotypes

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Cyanotype,Landscapes — Frank @ 4:30 PM

It has been just a month since my last post. Like most of us, I imagine, my world has shrunk in these strange times. I have not made many new photographs in the past month. I have been busy though.

Back on 3 January, according to Amazon, I bought some “black light” LED strips with the intention of refitting my UV exposure unit. This unit is used for making alternative process prints via contact printing.

When I made this unit, probably fifteen years ago, I used fluorescent bulbs designed for reptile cages. These bulbs were getting old and cranky. I know… just like me! Three of the six bulbs would not start at all no matter how much I fiddled.

Thus about two weeks ago, I finally broke out the screwdrivers and pliers, removed the fluorescent fixtures and replaced them with the LED strips. It took me all of a half hour. I’m not sure why I waited so long!

Light source at hand, and a bunch of virially induced downtime available I have begun making cyanotypes again. It has probably twelve years since I last worked regularly in cyanotype

Since 31 March I have spent six sessions working in my “dim room” in the basement*. I basically started from scratch by determining exposure times with the new light source. The LEDs are about twice as fast as the old bulbs were. Exposures are taking 5 minutes give or take.

I moved on to printing step tables in order to optimize the curve applied when I print negatives digitally. These curves are used to control contrast.

I then explored variations in processing and a number of different papers.

Yesterday, things really started to come together and I made decent prints from three negatives as shown below**.

Shown are files straight from the scanner with no further processing. They show the entire piece of paper… I even left in the step tables for those who care! 😉

The digital versions are just a bit flatter than the actual prints. The images are 4.5″ square and come from my camera obscura.

The first two are printed on Arches Hot Press, a traditional watercolor paper. The third is printed on Stonehenge White, a traditional printmaking paper. Both papers are very smooth, 100% rag papers and are relatively “heavy”; 300 gsm for the Arches and 250 gsm for the Stonehenge.

I’m close! Another final tweak to the curve to, hopefully, improve contrast in the highlights and I’ll be ready for serious work!

After that it is back to experimenting with toning of cyanotypes. This is something I had much fun with previously.

Then maybe I’ll move on to Van Dyke Browns or salt prints. Those will take much more effort in terms of a darker workspace and how to handle the waste. Having a septic system makes one think very carefully about the latter!

NextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnail
Hedgehog Mountain
Hedgehog Mountain
Harrisville Mill Buildings
Harrisville Mill Buildings
Cape d'Or Light
Cape d'Or Light

* One reason that cyanotype is nice is that, being a UV sensitive process, one does not need a strictly dark room. Avoiding sunlight or fluorescent lighting all together and using dim light otherwise suffices.

** I picked these three images to test with because, for cyanotype, these represent difficult tonality. Cyanotype has a fairly short range and contrast is somewhat limited compared to silver-based processes or, especially to digital prints. In my view, these three images push the limits of what is possible with cyanotype.

15 April 2014

Van Dyke Brown Prints

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Van Dyke — Frank @ 1:00 PM

Sunday, I attended a small workshop on Van Dyke printing at the Vermont Center for Photography. I spent an enjoyable afternoon learning a new alternative process.

The Van Dyke process is  very similar in many ways to cyanotype but yields a nice chocolaty brown print instead of the blue of cyanotype. It is an iron-based process (like cyanotype) in which the photoreduction of  iron  is used to drive the reduction of silver which actually forms the image.

I sent three files to the instructor (Bill Dixon) ahead of time and he prepared very nice digital negatives from them.

Scans of the resulting prints are shown below… pretty good for a first attempt, if I do say so myself!

I have all of the chemicals needed to try this at home… now I just need to find some time!


25 October 2010

Ferric Gum Printing — Experimental Images

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Ferric Gum — Frank @ 3:14 PM

As some of you know, I have an interest in alternative photographic processes. Alternative processes can be loosely defined as processes that form images without the use of silver salts and that involve contact printing. This group of processes are sometime also characterized as “historical” since most of them date from the late nineteenth century during the period in which modern photography was first developed.

In the main, I stick with making cyanotypes one of the easiest alternative processes to master;  examples of my work in cyanotype can be found on my main web site.

Additionally, I have experimented a bit with making gum bichromate prints as well. However, despite their inherent beauty, I have pretty much given up on gum prints because the  chromate compounds needed are toxic and very “un-green” in the environmental sense.

Thus, I was intrigued to read an article describing a “‘new”  method called the “ferric gum process” at one of the web sites I peruse on occasion (i.e. Alternative Photography.com). Over the past week or so, I have spent a bit of time experimenting with this technique and have found that it lives up to its billing… it is an interesting but still imperfect process.

I have posted the details of my experiments on the discussion board at alternativephotography.com and so will not repeat them here.

UPDATE (17 Dec 2017): It turns out that the record of the original discussion at alternativephotography.com was lost at some point when they switched discussion software. Fortunately, I had printed out most (all?) of the discussion for my records. I have scanned these paper copies and have added them here as thee pdf files: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. While not a perfect replacement for the original, it is the best we have.

Rather, I’ll just show scans of my best efforts to date:

Clearly, these images are not perfect and much work will be needed to perfect the process. I hope to play a part in this, along with Michael and Peter (see the link, above, to the on-line discussion). The combination of art and chemistry really hits a soft spot in my heart!

I’ll post more both here and on the message board at alternatephotography.com when I have new results to share.


Powered by WordPress