Photographs by Frank

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.

1 Comment

  1. And, I have one of your first cyanotypes hanging in my study!

    Comment by Joe Kennedy — 9 April 2020 @ 8:13 PM

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