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Showing posts from 2011

Van Dyke Prints: An Overview

For a little background to these overviews, see here.

History: Introduced in 1889 by Arndt and Troos, the Van Dyke print is part of a group of iron based processes which draw on Sir John Herschel's work on the Argentotype silver-iron process developed in 1842.

Negatives: A density range of about 1.5 is suitable.

Sensitizer: Part A: 9gms ferric ammonium citrate (green) + 35ml water
Part B: 1.5gms of tartaric acid + 35ml water
Part C: 12gms silver nitrate + 35ml water
In moderate light mix A, B and C (in that order) and age for a few days before use. The solution keeps well for about a year if kept in a cool, dark place. At times, owing to trace chemicals in various supplies of ferric ammonium citrate, the sensitizer may develop a muddy precipitate after about 2/3 of solution C is mixed. This can be allowed to settle and the clear sensitizer on top used, or adding about 2.5 gms more of tartaric acid can also dissolve the precipitate. The additional tartaric acid results in a fainter o…

Cyanotype: An Overview

As I explore a photographic process, I will post brief summaries of its essential technical elements. These summaries are not meant to be comprehensive or to substitute for books that deal in-depth with these processes. They are more field notes for myself and might be useful for a quick lookup while working with these processes. Remember that many of these alternative processes have been around for a century and a half and more and they have evolved considerably over that time. Remember, too, that these processes were not originally meant to be used with silver or even digitally printed negatives as most modern practitioners of alternative photo processes do. There are endless variations of formulas and techniques rather than one simple "right" method as my quick overview might imply to the superficial observer. But hopefully these summaries will serve as a quick reference or encourage you to read and explore further.

History: The Cyanotype was first described by Sir John H…

The Keepers of Light: Book Review

This book takes its subtitle - "A History and Working Guide to Early Photographic Processes" - quite seriously. It is as much a history of early photography as it is a practical guide to early processes. So, while most handbooks for these processes have a bit of history included for 'background' as a matter of course, Crawford dedicates the major chunk of the book to a detailed, sustained and quite insightful history of early photography. The practical guide to these processes is quite competent but it is almost an afterthought after the exhilarating tour-de-force of the first section of the book on the development of photography from its earliest days to well into the age of the silver gelatin print in the first half of the twentieth century.

I have always found most histories of photography to be quite tedious. They usually read like a long list of dates and developments and brief backgrounds of the persons associated with them. This approach is akin to history as…

Alternative Photographic Processes: A Bibliography

Here is a general bibliography on alternative photographic processes. I will keep adding to it as I come upon more resources and, over time, will put up more detailed reviews of titles I get to know well enough. If you have more suggestions to add to the list, please let me know.
Anderson, Christina. Alternative Processes Condensed: A Manual of Gum Bichromate and Other Contact Printing Processes. Self-published.Arentz, Dick. Platinum and Palladium Printing. St. Louis: Focal Press, 1999.Barnier, John. Coming into Focus: A Step-by-Step Guide to Alternative Photographic Printing Processes. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2000.Blacklow, Laura. New Dimensions in Photo Processes: A Step by Step Manual for Alternative Techniques. 4th Edition. St. Louis: Focal Press, 2007.Burkholder, Dan. Making Digital Negatives for Contact Printing. Bladed Iris Press, 1999.Coe, Brian. A Guide to Early Photographic Processes. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1984.Crawford, William. The Keepers of Light: A…

Hacking St. Ansel: A Homemade Densitometer

If, like me, you are still holding fast and shooting some film amidst the digital deluge, chances are you have delusional visions about Saint Ansel going forth and spreading the the light of the pure craft of photography (the light, of course, is divided into zones neatly marked I-X). But pure or not, the craft of analogue photography requires quite a bit of exactness and repeatability to give optimum results and for this, testing film and developer combinations often becomes necessary. But the one thing that hindered me most from really testing my film and having sleepless nights over geeky things like N-1 development was the lack of - or rather the cost of - a densitometer. I know those things cost a lot less than they used to - a few hundred instead of a few thousand several years back - but they are still expensive and bulky beasts. But not to be discouraged from my vision of photographic nirvana, I managed to put together a kit that cost me all of $30 - and can conceivably be don…

DIY Quick Release Plates, or, How to Put a $5 Camera on a $500 Tripod!

If you have a lot of plastic and toy cameras and like me want to use some of them as pinholes or use them on bulb mode for long exposures, then you've probably tried to device ways of putting them on a tripod. If the tripod quick-release system you are using is something like the Arca-Swiss then the cost of plates at about $50 or more a pop can become a major concern - especially on cameras which usually cost under $5!

I used Bogen's clamp system for a while and now use the Arca-Swiss system. They both share the same basic design although the sizes vary widely. The only pieces of equipment I wont put on a tripod without solid metal plates are my 'real' cameras - the Chamonix 4x5, and ยต4/3 Panasonic. But for most of my other cameras (I never seem to shoot rangefinders from a tripod, somehow) I have devised a simple way of making my own plates - modeling clay!

It's available from most art supply stores. I recommend the kind that hardens on baking. Cut out a block that …