Recent activities

December 21, 2008

With lots of other things on the plate, I haven’t been in the dark room or peering into the ground glass for a while.  The one exception was to get a couple of prints ready for the latest show at KST (see other entry) and to make postcards for the 15th exchange at APUG as well as ready three prints for the 11th member print exchange.  Oh, and don’t forget the print exchange at the LPAholiday party.  Gee, I guess I did spend some time in the dark room with all that work to be done.

I’ve been very happy with the postcard exchanges at APUG (www.apug.org) although for the last several I’ve backed down from signing up for a full exchange list which has run up past 40 names.  I’m only signing up for 20 or 25 cards to keep the workload down a bit.  And the postage!  Wow, that gets pretty expensive!

The print exchange at APUG was the first one I’ve participated in.  I was a bit tardy getting my print out but it did make it and I’ve heard back from one person in my group (groups of 3 and 4 for this exchange) so I know at least one print arrived at its destination.  I’ve gotten all three of the prints from my group.  But I’ve run out of matte board and frames getting stuff ready for the KST show and just haven’t wanted to fight my way through the stores to get more.  After the 1st it should be better.  I think I’ll be signing up for this event again too.

And finally, the print exchange at the LPA holiday party was pretty good even if the attendance was a bit slimmer than last year.  I got a very nice color digital print and it is hanging on the wall now.  A architectural detail shot, very strong graphic lines.  Makes a good contrast to some of the rather soft, organic B&W stuff on the walls now.

Still, only a few new 8×10 negatives since the end of summer and nothing I’m all that excited about.  But I haven’t worked my way through printing all of them and variations in paper and tone and what-have-you.  Plus I hear the new Lodima paper is pretty good stuff.   I skipped the 2008 buy but maybe I’ll have to sign up for the next production run in 2009.  Or maybe I can convince Alex to sell me some… You hear that Alex?  Lets make a deal!  And by the way, I did get your buffalo skull into a frame, but no wire on the back yet.  Ran out of the little eye hooks because of KST!!!


Show at Kansas Secured Title

December 21, 2008

Well, I think we did quite well at the latest Lawrence Photo Alliance show at Kansas Secured Title.  This was KST’s holiday party and they invited those LPA members with work hanging at their office to attend.  I didn’t see the guest book tally but it seemed quite well attended.  Especially in this time of holiday party cut-backs.

Spoke with several of the local bankers, loan officers and others in the Real Estate business and all had good things to say about the work hanging on the walls.  Fielded several questions about how to contact the artists and availability of prints so I hope something good comes of that.


More about capturing time…

October 2, 2008

Been busy with lots of other things but I heard a statistic the other day.  Something about 80 billion photographs (obviously digital + film) made worldwide per year.

I wrote in another entry about how much time that represents.  That is to say, how much time is actually captured in the prints, the length of exposure.  I don’t think I picked such a high number of images before.  So just for the heck of it I’m going to repeat the calculation.

First I’ll assume everybody had double prints made and just call it 40 billion images.  And I’ll pick 1/100 of a second as the average exposure value.

40 billion / 100 = 400 million seconds

400 million seconds = 12.68 years!

So assume everybody had high speed film and the average exposure was 1/500 second, the final answer is still over 2.5 years.

An abuse of simple math and a poor accounting of time but the magic of large numbers makes it thought provoking.


Ansco 130 / PF 130

June 29, 2008

I’ve been meaning to try out the Ansco 130 paper developer formula for a while now. Photographer’s Formulary sells it as PF130 in a kit form. Works out about the same as buying the ingredients myself so I bought the 4 liter kit. Alex Hawley has been using it for a while and had only good things to day about the PF130 formulation.

Mixed it up the other night and tried it out today. Used Ilford MGIV paper, in this case their double weight RC postcard paper. Supposed to be the same as “regular” MGIV but this stuff is extra heavy for RC paper and pre-cut to 4″ x 6″ with the backside printed for use as a postcard. APUG does a regular postcard exchange and round 14 is coming up. Thought this would be a good time to play with the new paper developer.

PF130 mixed up easily, no problems getting the components into solution. Just use hot (>120F) distilled water and lots of elbow grease to run the stirring paddle. I’ll store the stock solution in a 1gal brown glass jug and it should last quite a long time. As stock gets used up I have smaller glass bottles or I can use the marble trick to limit the air space.

For this test I’m using it mixed down 1+1 for the tray. At first blush, this seems to be a bit higher contrast than I’m used to with Dektol / D72. However I’ve fallen into the habit of using D72 diluted down to 1+3 which does lower its contrast. I can do the same with the PF130. Maybe next session I’ll drop it down to 1+2 for a few prints. In the mean time since MGIV is a multigrade paper, it is just as easy to drop the filter grade a touch.

Also did a print from the same negative on some Arista.EDU Ultra paper (Foma) and it was definitely much too high contrast for what I’ve become used to. And again with some Kentmere Fineprint I had to drop from a grade 2 to a grade 1 and it may still be a bit too “soot and chalk”.

All in all, it seems like a good paper developer and it does punch the contrast a bit. If its useful life is as long as I’ve read then I can definitely get used to PF130’s slightly higher contrast and learn to control it.

Hobo Duckies

Pinhole Graphlex w/ 6×7 back and Foma 100 @ 50 souped in Pyrocat-HD

(Time to figure out how to clean the inside surface of the scanner glass!)


More gum dichromate

June 21, 2008

I’ve read in more than one place that gum printing is both the simplest printing method to use and the most difficult to master. I would agree with both assessments. Pretty simple ingredients to start with but it can be very challenging to get a working image. I’m at single color, single pass printing and trying to get a handle on exposure and pigment mixing.  And I will likely be here for a while.

To that end I’ve got another batch of prints to play with. This time I’m using a bit nicer paper, some Weston Diploma Parchment. Pretty good stuff and I can tear down the sheets into four pieces each large enough for a 4×5 negative. Makes a good practice size.

Lessons learned :

1) It is easier to apply the gum and dichromate with a foam brush but a foam brush will raise the grain of the paper. Doesn’t matter how light the touch, it just seem to happen with the WPD.

2) Hake brushes shed hair. Cheap brush, expensive brush, they both shed. The good Joto brush less so but it still means watching for hairs stuck in the gum.

3) It doesn’t seem to take much UV at all to start the gum hardening. Prep’d a few sheets about 11am this morning and I thought it was dim enough in the basement to work out of the dark room. Seems not so. Had a dickens of a time getting those to clear, even rubbing the wet print it wouldn’t release the pigment. However sheets prep’d in the darkroom with just the red safelight (need to get a 40W yellow bug bulb) did much better.

4) Gum prints much faster than I expected. Got reasonable exposure in 2 minutes of noon day sun. Didn’t worry about the contrast issue, just used direct sun. It did produce a bit of a contrasty print. And I am seeing just a little bit of a POP image in the print as I remove it from the contact printing frame. During the first session I did not see any fugitive image.

5) Sizing the WPD with gesso works better than unsized paper. Pigment sinks too deep it seems and doesn’t like to release. I need to size some paper with gelatin and glyoxol and experiment with that too.

6) Clearing the print is taking quite a long time. Could be pigment choice, could be gum has hardened too much, could be water pH, could be unsized or not the right sizing of the paper… Lots and lots of variables here. Slowly getting a handle on them one at a time.

Here is a shot at un-sized paper and the hake brush. Much better paper finish (not “fuzzy”) but really didn’t like to clear at all so the print is a bit muddy and low contrast. 1:1 gum and potassium dichromate with lamp black as the watercolor paint. This sheet was also coated outside the darkroom in what I thought was low light but must be just a little too much sun coming in even at 11am and on the west side of the basement.

Wabunsee County School House

Also I wonder if maybe I shouldn’t add a little bit more pigment.

Next is a bit better result with gesso sized paper and using a foam brush. The scan doesn’t show the paper surface but it is a bit on the fuzzy side. Same 1:1 gum and potassium dichromate. Also this time

Pillsbury Crossing Tree

More pigment this time (maybe 1 1/4″ worm this time instead of 1″ or a bit less the first time).

So key things to walk away with are:

You can’t coat the paper in too dim of a light.

Clearing the images takes a lot of patience.

Foam brushes are easy to use but with the WPD paper I don’t like the finished look.


Gum dichromate – watcha’ know, it worked!

June 14, 2008

OK, so the long term goal has been to get more comfortable using my 4×5 and 8×10 cameras to make LF negatives suitable for alternative process printing. To that end, the first half of this year has been learning how to work with my 8×10 and Pyrocat-HD as a developer. So far, so good.

On the alt-process front, I started with cyanotype because it is cheap and quite forgiving. I’ve also played with salt-printing. More of that to come now that I have a better handle on the negative making process. And I’ve started work on improvements to the darkroom to make things a little easier. Working in a converted bathroom can be a bit challenging sometimes.

But for some time now I’ve been reading up on gum dichromate (sometimes called bichromate, usually in the older literature but the accepted modern chemical name is dichromate so I’ll try to stick with that). I’ve been lurking on the alt-process list and reading just about everything I can get my hands on. First let me thank the gum printing regulars over at the alt-list. Always a good read and so far every question I’ve had pre-printing session I’ve found an answer in the list archives. http://www.usask.ca/lists/alt-photo-process/

Second let me also say “damn you all” to the same people for making this sound so appealing. Argh! There goes my last 7 1/2 minutes of free time! Oh well. 🙂

So, while waiting for my single color kit to arrive from Photographer’s Formulary (www.photoformulary.com by the way) I decided to look in my current supply of chemistry. Why get the kit by the way when it is pretty easy to get all the chemicals individually? Well, after a quick check on cost, turns out the single color kit is pretty economical. But back to my chemistry supply, turns out I have a 1g packet of potassium dichromate that I had bought thinking I might use a weak solution for contrast control in cyanotype and salt-printing.

Math time! For gum dichromate you need a dichromate, usually aluminum or potassium. In both cases, you usually use (but not always) a saturated solution. For potassium dichromate, that is about 13% at room temperature. So, I have 1 gram of chemical, how much water to make a saturated solution? 0.13 = 1 / x and so x = 8ml. OK, I rounded things a bit but close enough. 8ml of solution is more than enough to make several 4×5 prints and play around.

Next problem is paper sizing. Three simple solutions to this. First, don’t bother, just use the factory sizing. OK for single coat, may be a problem for multiple coating. I’ve been warned! Second, use gelatin. A single coat gum can probably get away with unhardened gelatin sizing but the use of a hardening agent would be better. I don’t have any formaldehyde, formalin or glyoxal. However the PF kit comes with glyoxal so I’ll try that later. And finally, doing a lot of reading I’ve come across the suggestion to use gesso diluted 1+3 or 1+4. Gesso is cheap and easy to find. Hobby Lobby even happens to have a 50% sale on art supplies right now. So gesso it is for a first look at sizing.

Gum arabic is the colloid for this “emulsion”. So I’ll need a little of that. And of course that too is 50% off at Hobby Lobby so I picked up a small bottle of the Windsor & Newton branded stuff.

Two more issues, pigment and paper. Everybody says to use high quality pigment. Easy, again Hobby Lobby is including the Windsor & Newton pigments in he 50% off sale. Small tube of Davey’s Grey. I think the PF kit comes with lamp black. Another reason for choosing Davey’s Grey is some anecdotal evidence I found that it clears quickly. Good choice for experimenting!

Last is paper. I have some nice Weston Diploma Parchment but I want to save that until I have a better grip on technique. In the past with cyanotype and salt prints I’ve had good luck with some of the $4 generic pads from Hobby Lobby. So once again I’ll just try that.

Oh, and a couple of new foam brushes and some vinyl gloves for mixing. Already have those.

1) Pre-shrink the paper. Discussion on the alt-list about this and strong argument made to not bothering with the hot water + 1 hour method. Just soak the paper for a while. It can start as hot water but just soak and shuffle. So I soak and shuffle. Then hang to dry.

2) Mix up potassium dichromate solution. Done! Store in glass bottle. I have lots of little ones with dropper-stoppers. Done!

3) Size some paper. OK, since I’ve only got one color to play with and for a first test I was going to do a single coat print, I can size a few sheets of un-shrunk paper while the other stuff dries. Gesso mixed 1+3 with distilled water. Soupy stuff! Paint on evenly with clean foam brush and dry. Done.

4) Did I mention I was just wanting to experiment? So that means pull out a sheet of paper, and just coat it. No shrink, no size. Just 1:1 gum and dichromate. Then into a little plastic shot glass I place about 1″ worm of Davey’s Grey and mix in the gum and dichromate.

5) Coat paper. Another clean sponge brush. Just like the literature says, coat evenly, quickly and don’t worry too much as it tends to even out a bit as it dries. Yes, it does even out a bit as it dried but it was still splotchy. Cheap paper + unpolished technique = splotchy coating, remember that.

I let the coated paper dry for a while and then made the sandwich in the printing frame and exposed for about 15 minutes over the UV blubs. Unlike cyanotype and salt-printing you don’t get a POP image to judge, at least I didn’t with the Davey’s Grey mix. Just flying blind here but the time felt right.

Float the paper in clean water face up for a minute or so. Som’ bitch I see the image starting to form up as pigment floats off. Carefully move the print to a second tray of clean water and let it soak face down. I would check it about every 5 minutes over the course of an hour. Also during that time I coated two more sheets, one sized but unshrunk and a third shrunk but unsized. And based on what I was seeing after about 30 mintues of developing in the first print, backed off the exposure to about 6 minutes. Probably too little exposure (guilty of changing multiple variables).

All in all, a long evening but very productive! This is great! Start a new section in the lab notebook and start recording results so I can get some predictable results!

After all this rambling, here is a scan from my first sheet. I cropped it a bit and a slight adjustment post scan so that it matched on my monitor. As always, YMMV! Maybe a bit over developed as you can see how pigment has floated away from medium high tones, exposing brush strokes. Oh well, what is most important to me is that it WORKED! Ha!

Anchor Pully

No silver was harmed in the making of this print… 😉


Pillsbury Crossing

June 3, 2008

Proof prints from LPA Pillsbury Crossing outing.

4×5 ERA100 @ 80, Pyrocat-HD 2:2:100, 10minutes (N+1), Jobbo CPP2

Pillsbury Crossing \"Waterfall\" 

Hiked out into the water to do this one.  I would have liked a shot of both “sides” of the falls as it has an “L” shape.  But there was a large, dead pine tree that had fallen in front.  Something is killing the pines around eastern Kansas.  This one had been cut down from the slope behind the falls.  Very annoying.  Water was nice and cool though.


4×5 ERA 100 @ 80, Pyrocat-HD 2:2:100, 8 mintes (N) Jobbo CPP2

(Tree is on the wrong side of the No Trespassing sign.)