Van Dyke

Well, it looks like I’ve taken too deep of a breath while relaxing after this semester, and have fallen off the grid a little with my blog.  Sorry!  So to make up for it a little, I thought I would share some of my favorite photographs from my alternative processes class this semester.

I have to say, if I haven’t already, this was my favorite class I took this semester, possibly my favorite that I will take while at MICA.  Just having the resources to learn about different processes, and then not having to buy the chemicals and try to deal with them in my less than acceptable home set up was pretty amazing.  I’m considering auditing this class again because I loved it so much, but we’ll see — the rest of my “MICA career” seems like it’s going to be a little crazy.

One of the things we learned about was the Van Dyke process.  I’ve experimented with a similar process in the past, Kallitype, which I came to learn is basically the same process, with just a slight difference in chemistry.  At least I had a little heads up with what I was going to be working with, which was good.  This chemistry is nothing to mess with — I messed up before, luckily just a little, but my hands were stained brown in little spots for about a week.  Come to find out, it can last much longer than that, so I got off easy.

Since I was stuck on the nature theme for this class, I thought about some old photos that I’ve shown you guys before, that I did during a still life exercise for my Digital I class last semester.  I’ve been in love with these photos since then, and I was happy to try them out in a different process.  I feel like when I do alternative process printing, I have a different aesthetic that I go for.  I like the more “oddities” and “antique” looking subjects.  Nature always works, too, but I’m really happy when I can combine the two, and I feel like these photos got it.  Maybe that’s why I like them so much.

Aside from these being my favorites, this process also worked like a charm in the class.  I had a little trouble with the cyanotype processing, which was disappointing, and palladium (which I’ll show you soon!) was a really time consuming process, which took a little of the fun out of it.  With the light boxes in class, these worked quick, and turned out great.  I used Arches Cover paper, and really enjoy the result I got from it.  There is a bit of a waiting process, if you’re thinking of trying this out and don’t like waiting.  Per suggestions made by my professor, it’s best to double coat your paper, waiting at least a day or two between coats, and then waiting an additional few days before printing.  This allows the paper to really absorb the chemistry, and will provide you with a wide range of tones once you get to printing.  So I coated during one class, had a class mate do the second coat a few days later, and printed the following week.  I’m not patient, but if that was the key to these, I guess I’ll just have to get used to waiting when I try this again.

So here they are!  Let me know what you think.  I’m in love with them, and can’t wait to do some more.  Maybe I can sneak in over the summer and do some printing?  I may just have to find out if that’s a possibility.  Enjoy!

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Week 16: Portrait – Movement

Ah, finally, I can breathe.  Did you miss me?  Just as I thought I was going to be able to stay on top of things, finals struck with an iron fist, and things got crazy.  I’m happy to say, however, that I survived, and I’m happy with all of the finals I completed.  Now, I’m just anxiously awaiting my grades…for what seems like an eternity.  But I’m free!

Even with falling behind, I’m happy to say that again, I’ve wound up making something for class that completely fits in with this challenge.  Is that cheating?  I’m gonna go with no 🙂

So for my Alternative Photography class, I’ve been making work that’s about nature the whole semester (don’t worry, I’ll share it with you soon).  As a final project, I really wanted to print larger than the typical 8 1/2″ x 11″ negatives that we’ve been printing, but I knew I had to do something great to make a single print final worthy.  So instead of just taking some photos of flowers or birds, or whatever I’ve been working with, I decided to photograph “mother nature”.  I like how inspired I’ve been feeling these last few weeks.  Cheesy sounding, I know, but it’s been great letting the ideas flow.  So I had this picture in my mind of how I wanted to photograph “her”, and off I went.

Another perk experienced for these finals — I had tons of models!  It was amazing.  Between the three classes, I had eight, one of which, Brittany, I used for this project.  We went to my favorite little stream that I’ve used on a few other occasions, and dressed in white, with curly hair, and the sun setting, it was everything I wanted….almost.

We started shooting, and something just wasn’t quite right.  We tried different angles, and played with the light, but it just wasn’t what I was thinking.  The rocks were killing our feet this time, so we decided that we should just pack up — I had enough to work with, although it wasn’t perfect.  For some reason, she stayed in the water while I got out, and when I turned around to see why she was still standing in the same place, it was perfect – -the sun was setting nearly directly behind her, the air was glowing in that yellow light, and I knew that was it!  So she splashed in the water, again, as she had been before, and after a few composites of splashes, I had this: exactly what I was thinking.

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I would have loved to be finished at this point, to be honest, but I had a lot more work to do.  At least I’m excited about this process, regardless of how busy and crazy finals are.  Originally, I wanted to do a duo-tone, combining cyanotype with Van Dyke, but, nothing is ever easy with me! After a couple of test prints at school, I couldn’t get the first step, cyanotype, to work, so I decided to take everything home, and do it the old fashioned way; with sunlight.

Did I mention the other struggle of printing this image?  Large.  When dealing with 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets of transparencies, that means you’re going to have to piece a bunch together to get a big image.  In this case, I ended up working with 9 negatives to create this one image, lined up, side by side, over and over again, trying to make this as seamless as possible. Luckily, with the help of my boss at the framing shop, I was able to get a large piece of glass and foam core to make things a little easier, but it was still a difficult task.  So on the one sunny day we had last week, outside I ran, trying as quickly as I could to get this complicated negative all lined up.

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baking in the sunshine 🙂

A successful batch of three prints done and on to the next phase.  Since my original idea of duo-tone wasn’t possible at home, I decided to go with another method; toning.  After seeing the prints, I really didn’t want to tone them, because some of the blues and highlights turned out so great, but I thought I should since that’s what I told my professor I was doing.   I’ve done some work with tea toning in the past, but he suggested trying coffee, so I thought what better time to try something new.  After having tried both now, I have to say, I should have stuck with something I tried before, because this coffee method took forever.  However, it did give me the look that I was going for, well, for the most part.  In case you’re wondering how it all works, honestly, there’s a million different methods and toners you can use.  In this case, I went with instant coffee in warm/hot-ish water.  After a pre-soak, I left the print in the coffee bath for about an hour.  After it wasn’t reaching the tone I wanted, I decided to bleach the print, using actual bleach diluted in water.  This isn’t the preferred method of bleaching, because it eats through the paper if you leave it for too long, but it’s what I had, and it works if you keep an eye on it.  So after that was lightened,  I put the print in another coffee bath for about an hour, and there you have it.

I love the strange color that I got from this whole coffee/bleaching process, but I’m also glad that I left a few of the prints alone.  Here’s both of them, so you can tell me, which do you prefer?  I’m still undecided.  Enjoy 🙂