Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Collodion prints without a camera.

I know what some of you may think about it and I've got ambivalent feelings about this too. But it is good to experiment a little bit sometimes and check what comes out from the connection of 'the new' and 'the old'. I think it's exciting.
Recently I did some contact prints and enlargements on collodion, using transparencies.

This is a collodion contact print of a positive image printed digitally on transparency, exposed under the enralger light:

This digital (sic!) image was taken a while ago in Italian Dolomites, (while climbing ferrata Giuseppe Olivieri, Tofane). I printed it as a rather week, B&W transparency and gave it 90s exposure @ f4.5, (5 months old collodion, poor boy).
I put the transparency directly on the wet plate (printed side up), but I was lucky it came out well. I think it would be better to put it somehow with a little distance to the plate.When putting it on the plate it is quite easy to create some stains, get air bubbles between transparency and the collodion film or scratch the plate. (and this was just 4x5 print, I'd imagine it would be even more difficult with something bigger)

The second image is an example of an enlarged print, from 6x6 colour transparency, 90 s exposure, with  dodging/burning the sky :).(it is cropped, enlarged on 4x5 glass)

I must agree that once you know how the image was made you can feel cheated. Someone may say there is no 'life' in it,  it's like an image of an image. But on the other hand it opens a lot of interesting possibilities, overcoming the limits of the collodion process and allowing to use collodion expression with any image.
I'd rather concentrate here on 'technicalities' and possibilities and leave the decision, if it's right to use collodion this way, to you...

I didn't make too many tests, just wanted to check how it goes and works. I have a very limited sources of transparencies (rather don't use them) and I randomly chose an image for printing on transparency, giving it one-off try. I've made an enlargement of 6x6 digitally printed B&W transparency and it's also working.
With neither of the image I got the quality that I'm getting from the camera and taking into account some loss of the quality caused by the enlargement, I guess it would be difficult.
However, I think that a little bit more experiments with different densities and contrasts of the transparencies would allow to achieve quite nice and interesting prints.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Van Dyke Brown printing

VanDyke printing was on my list of the 19th century ‘techniques to try’ for a long time.  While working with cyanotypes, collodion and other techniques I had most of the chemicals needed for VDB handy and the only new ingredient I had to buy was a tartaric acid (easly accessible, for example, on ebay).

VanDyke Brown process is based on iron (iron ferrous citrate) and  is one of the POP techniques, similarly like cyanotype, platinum or palladium. VanDykes have a wide tonality range compared with pl/pd prints, when printed with the right negative, but the process is cheaper and less complicated.  
As Sarah van Keuren explains in her book 'A non silver manual', Van Dykes (along with pl/pd) have self-masking characteristics - shadow areas turn reddish brown during the exposure, acting as a filter. It allows for longer exposure of hightlights without losing details in the shadows. (It doesn't happen with cyanotype)
Kallitypes (similar process, but using ferrous oxalate) and Van Dykes are often called 'the poor man's platinum prints'.

VDB Receipt:

Ferric ammonium citrate 9g
distilled water 33ml

tartaric acid 1.5g
distilled water 33ml

silver nitrate 3.8g
distilled water 33ml

/mix 3 parts together/

I processed my van dykes in water with an addition of a pinch of citric acid (5 min bath) plus ca 2min in running water, and fixed with 3% hypo fixer. Washed for 30 min after all.

I experimented a bit with different negatives, single and double coating and papers. 
The main issue stays, of course, a proper negative. In my first tries I realised it’s not easy to get a good print from original B&W negative (I think it’s easier with cyanotype) and decided to stick to digitally printed transparencies for a moment. From the papers, I had, I like the results with Fabriano Artistico the most. Double coating makes the browns stronger, but  for some  reason I prefer single coating prints. (I'm also having problems with second coating streaks visible) Didn't use any contrasting agent so far.

Scanning doesn't really make them a justice as it exagerates the structure of the paper,(I'm struggling with this for a while - not sure how to scan papers like that), but here are the first prints that I'm quite happy with:

Fabriano Artistico, 400W halogen lamp, 30min exposure (one coating) 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Collodion meets Holga

Finally I've tried it. I didn't transform my holga at all as I still want to use it with film. I just stick my aluminium plate inside the camera body with an electrical tape, along two edges, to prevent it from moving. Working with such a small plate is challenging, but it's a good fun. Wondering if it will be feasible with 35mm?
Exposure times not that bad:

Holga 120 GN
Optical lens 60mm
6x6 tintype, 40s exposure:

6x6 tintype,1min 15s (low light conditions, a bit overdeveloped) :