Archive for the ‘Paper’ Category
Trolley Stairs, Glen Echo Park
This is a blended platinum/palladium print (60% platinum, 40% palladium) print, on Bergger COT320 paper. This was by a student from my Intro class, but I reprinted it for this session (the student left the negative behind after the Intro class, and I happened to really like the shot anyway). This one was coated using a glass rod as opposed to a brush, to demonstrate the difference in the coating technique, and the final appearance of the print.
Crystal Pool, by Patrick Brown
This is a palladium print on light Kozo paper, by Patrick Brown, one of my students in Advanced Topics. He was also in my Intro class. It’s so nice to get follow-on students so you can see their progress!
Kozo paper is a Japanese paper made from tree bark, and it is surprisingly strong for as delicate as it is – this is perhaps a 90 lb paper. It does have a tendency to dissolve in aqueous solutions, but if properly masked when developing, the image area can be preserved, even if the edges do get fringed a bit. This is a perfect example. I included the paper margins to show more clearly what the paper texture looks like.
We had some challenges this class session – the original idea was to try out some different paper types, and I had obtained a sampler of several kinds. We started the morning with Stonehenge, which was supposed to be a good paper, but something was dramatically wrong with the batch we got, as we were making 30 minute exposures and still coming up weak and flat. After this is over, I’ll get a little more for myself and try pre-acidifying it to see if that helps, but no mention of acidification was made in the sample kit and I couldn’t find any reference to acidifying it online. Fortunately we didn’t waste too much time before figuring out it was the paper at fault and not the chemistry, and life moved on.
Here is the first print in a series I’m working on. I’m going back through some negatives I made in 2004 with my Hasselblad on a trip to Spain. This shot is the cathedral in Salamanca, or more specifically, both cathedrals – the Romanesque and the Late Gothic/early Baroque, which oddly enough was built into the older cathedral instead of replacing it. I forget the reasoning off the top of my head. After I get a half-dozen or so printed, they will be going to a new gallery in Charlottesville, Virginia called Manu Propria, which specializes in handmade photography. The print is palladium, made on Bergger COT320 pre-treated with fumed silica.
Ok – frustration time rears its ugly head again. Got all my software updated and connected together, and I even went out yesterday and splurged (there goes the rest of the tax refund!) on an Epson 3880 printer. Now that everything is wired up, I tried doing some scans with the new SilverFast AI8. Reflective scans at medium and even high res (1200 dpi) worked great. Scans from negatives worked up to 2400 dpi. The software allows you to input resolutions beyond 2400 dpi – I wanted to see what would happen at 4800 dpi because I was scanning a large negative (5×7 inch) to have it reproduced at very large size (30×42-ish, maybe even bigger). Well…… SilverFast AI8 choked on the request. The scan completed in a reasonable amount of time (maybe 5 minutes- SOOO much faster than on my old computer), but then took 20+ minutes to “process”, at the end of which, it failed. Again at 3200 dpi – same thing. At 2400 dpi, it worked just fine, so I’ll live with that, as A: technically that’s the optical resolution maximum of the scanner (anything higher is software interpolation I believe), and B: it’s still big enough a file (about 600mb) for the custom lab to work with.
I LOVE Kodak Portra 160nc film after this exercise though – it is VERY easy to scan (with decent software – with craptastic software no film scans easily) and it handles chaotically mixed lighting conditions with ease and aplomb. In the shot I was scanning last night, I had rainbow-colored neon, sodium-vapor streetlights, and fluorescent and incandescent interior lighting, at night, all in the same scene. The only thing I had to color correct for was a minor overall tint caused by sloppy processing at the lab I used at the time. Pretty amazing stuff. Now if they’d only charge less than $350 for a 50 sheet box of the stuff, I’d shoot it more often!
I do have to give SilverFast its props – I tried scanning the same negative with the EpsonScan software that came with the scanner – I had to do MAJOR color correction and density correction with the EpsonScan file. The SilverFast scan was almost dead-on on the first try, and I’ll just need to tweak to my taste, along with some dust and hair removal via the Healing brush. Figuring out how to do this myself saves $80-90 per image in scanning fees at the custom lab every time I want to make a print. Now, to figure out which paper surface(s) and brand(s) I want to use. I got a pack of Epson’s top-of-the-line premium glossy, along with a pack of the Calumet heavy-weight glossy paper to compare; the Calumet paper is dramatically cheaper than the Epson.
I will be doing a live demonstration of the platinum/palladium printing process at Photoworks in Glen Echo, Maryland as part of the FotoWeek festival. The date and time has been finalized – Wednesday, November 9, from 7-9 PM. Topics to be covered include: tools, paper, chemistry, coating techniques, processing, contrast control and altering image color. The session fee is $40. The session will be held in the upstairs classroom in the Photoworks facility.
Photoworks location and directions
If any of you out there have ever done alternative process printing, you’re probably aware of the increase in technical difficulty that comes along with making bigger prints. Each size up adds a new wrinkle, especially when it comes to getting an even, consistent coat. It certainly helps to have a good paper that facilitates a consistent coating via sizing, baryta, or other pre-treatment. Another very important step is using the right brush. I’ve become very fond of the Richeson 9010 “Magic” brush for a good reason – the Richeson brushes have earned their name “magic” by the way the bristles are designed, they just make it easier to coat evenly and smoothly without disturbing the paper surface. They’re worth the price you pay for them from the savings in coating time, reduced re-prints, and hair not pulled out in frustration.
Especially when getting into platinum/palladium printing, most novice printers are extremely cost-conscious. After all, a basic pt/pd kit to make roughly 30 8×10 prints costs in the range of $200 today. And that’s just for the chemistry. However, you’ll quickly learn that there is such a thing as false economy. While printing at smaller sizes, it’s fine to try and economize on your coating solution to see if you can still coat the entire image area. If you under-coat, it’s painelss enough to toss a bad print and start over. All that goes out the window when you start printing bigger than 8×10. Better to be generous with the chemicals until you KNOW your requirements for your paper and your image size, otherwise you’ll be throwing away blotchy, uneven print after blotchy uneven print until you get one. A couple extra drops of palladium or platinum “wasted” will cost you far less than an entire 14×17′s worth that turned out poorly. I was printing some 14×17 prints this week and I realized at the current prices for materials, I was somewhere in the region of $30-40 per print, my cost. You don’t want to mess that up.
When I coat prints that big, I usually mask the edges of the coating area for several reasons. One: I’m using a 3″ or bigger coating brush. Watercolor wash brushes that big are not precision instruments capable of stopping on a dime and not slopping chemistry around. Two: I like nice clean white borders on my paper unless I’m aiming for that ragged, handmade look. Three: the masking tape helps keep the paper in place while coating so it is easier to brush on an even coat of emulsion. One of the challenges of masking is preventing the paper from adhering to the masking tape and tearing when you lift it off. To that end, I’ve found that the 3M “delicate surface” blue painters tape works best. It’s still not a 100% solution, because even when I’m being what I think is careful, I will have the odd occasion where the tape sticks to the paper a little too much and a layer of the paper surface comes up with the tape. I prefer masking with tape during coating to using rubylith to mask while exposing because the rubylith mask just prevents the emulsion from being exposed. You still have to clear the unexposed chemistry out of the paper and if your paper is particularly binding and/or your clearing bath is insufficient, you’ll end up with a rather embarassing looking stain on the paper around your image area. The 3M tape is cheap enough, don’t skimp and try to go cheap. Throw away your tape and pull new strips with each print – again false economy if you try to re-use it, as you run the possibility of contaminating your new print with old chemistry. At potentially upwards of $40 per print, is it worth it trying to save money on $0.10 worth of tape?
Still Life, Lanterns
One of my 14×17 still life shots. Printed in palladium. Making a palladium print (or any hand-coated emulsion) this large presents unique challenges – trying to coat something this big is a lot harder to get even because it’s such a large surface. You have to work with a much bigger brush, and make sure you keep the emulsion moving around quickly. Don’t be afraid of getting sloppy outside your margins – it’s more important to be evenly coated than it is to be precise and tidy. I printed this on Bergger COT320, a 320 gsm uncoated paper designed specifically for alternative process photo printing. It’s a beautiful, heavy-weight paper with great wet strength and a bright white base – it gives you easily another full stop of contrast range over a more warm white/eggshell paper.
I just needed to put in a good plug for this book. It’s what I learned gum printing from, and contains some very useful information on other alt processes. The book is “A Non-Silver Manual: Cyanotype, Vandyke Brown, Palladium & Gum Bichromate with instructions for making light-resists including pinhole photography”. It was available for sale for many years in a soft-cover spiral bound edition directly from the author, Sarah Van Keuren. Mrs. Van Keuren has decided that she no longer wants to maintain the book and deal with the printing and shipping, so she is making it available chapter by chapter for free to download on www.alternativephotography.com If you want a hard copy, you can contact the publisher of AlternativePhotography.com and see about remaining stock.
Well, my experiment with pre-acidification of Rives BFK for doing palladium/platinum/Ziatypes was a success. I got a flawless Ziatype over which I will now try several gum layers. My pre-acidification consisted of a 5 minute bath in 5% Oxalic Acid. I sized the paper AFTER the acidification bath. Image to follow.
Here is the image with the first two layers of gum over Ziatype. Colors are Alizarin Crimson and Sepia. I’m planning on doing at least two more layers, probably another sepia or burnt Sienna and then another red, maybe something deeper red.
Heart In Hand
Well, today was spent prepping paper for gum and gum-over-platinum printing. I did two batches of 10 sheets of 11×15 Rives BFK. The first batch had an oxalic acid pre-bath. The last time I used Rives BFK for a platinum/palladium print, I got these funny discolored blotches, which could be attributable to paper pH, so I’m trying the acid pre-bath to see if that makes a difference. Twenty sheets doesn’t sound like a lot, until you realize that I can really only size paper in 10 sheet batches because that’s about all my clothes-drying line in my darkroom can handle. In any case, it’s enough to get me printing for a few weekends, so I won’t have to do it again for a while. It’s a necessary evil in the gum printing process, because without it your gum image would dissolve off the paper in the development step.
Here’s my darkroom sink with ten sheets of sized paper hanging up to dry:
Freshly sized paper, hanging to dry
Sizing is an interesting creature – basically it’s Knox unflavored gelatin with a hardening agent added. To make it, you put a box of four 7 gram packets in 300 cc’s of cold distilled water, let the gelatin bloom for 30 minutes give or take, then mix the bloomed solution with enough water to bring it to 1 liter. Place this new solution in a water bath and heat until the gelatin solution reaches 140 degrees Farenheit. Add your hardener, mix, then you’re ready to coat. I have a bain marie pot that I use on a hotplate for heating the gelatin so it doesn’t scorch, and I can do it in my darkroom instead of on the kitchen sink.
Here’s a shot of my sizing mixing setup-
Sizing prep station
Sizing needs a hardening agent to help it stand up to repeated soakings in water. Hardeners are all something other than pleasant chemicals – typical hardeners are Chrome alum, Glyoxal and Formaldehyde (Formalin), in ascending order of toxicity. This time I decided to give the chrome alum a try because it doesn’t off-gas, has minimal effects from exposure, and requires the least safety gear for handling (latex gloves are sufficient). I had been using Glyoxal before, which requires good ventilation. My darkroom has minimal ventilation, and at this time of year, fresh air comes with a massive temperature penalty. Formalin pretty much HAS to be used outdoors, so that’s not happening either.
Here’s my Chrome Alum, 5% mix-
Isn’t it a lovely purple color? Don’t mistake it for grape Kool-Aid though…
I got a new batch of 100 sheets of Rives BFK from my favorite supplier, Bostick & Sullivan, today. I’ll be having a sizing marathon this weekend getting all that paper ready for gum printing. I’ve not tried a lot of other papers yet, to keep the variables down, but I’ve been quite happy with the Rives BFK so far. It’s a 90# watercolor paper with good wet strength, and I’ve been able to coat up to five layers so far without having to re-size. After I get through this lot, I’ll have to try the Lana Aquarelle I have sitting around. I’m also going to try using an alum-based hardener in the sizing instead of glyoxal because it’s not exactly practical to try and size paper outdoors in this weather, and my basement darkroom doesn’t have good ventilation.