Palladium Printing

Since I’ve been just terrible at keeping up with my 2016 challenge, I though I would get myself back on track by posting another project that I did in my Alternative Photography class this semester.  I’m about to take off to Florida again, so don’t worry, I’ll have plenty of new pictures, and I’m sure that will motivate me to get back into the swing of things!

Palladium printing.  Doesn’t that just sound yummy?  I love all of these old processes, and I’m so thankful that I was able to try out so many of them.  This was a particularly interesting demonstration/project, because we actually had a guest speaker/palladium printing expert come in and spend the class with us.  Robert Kozma is an amazing photographer, and it was great to have a talk, demonstration, and time to work with him.  We had a chance to view a wide variety of his work, which was truly beautiful; it’s clear that he has an immense understanding of the medium.  His work had a richness and crispness, while maintaining a warmth that simply made me fall in love with yet another process.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a website for him, but click around on my google search here if you’re interested in browsing around through various bits of his portfolio.  It’s well worth it.

This was quite the extensive class session, and one of the only times I would say that the allotted six hours was not enough.  I know, I must be joking, right?  But with trying to teach about 20 people a new process, coat paper, let it dry, expose, develop, and then give it another try, the time pretty much flew by.  Luckily, my friend and I were one of the first ones to get started, hence, one of the few who were actually able to test things out and make more than one or two prints.  With that, I have three of the same print.  It’s something that I’m not always fond of doing, since I was surprisingly happy with the first version, but I’m glad that I did it for this process.  We made some adjustments to the mixture of all the different chemistry involved, double coated some sheets of paper, diluted some mixtures with water, and changed exposure times.  It’s quite interesting just how different your print will show up with just minor changes to these things.  I also have one single print, which was just an experiment with a piece of paper which we didn’t finish coating.  It’s a little lighter than I would like, but I’m glad I tried it out anyways.  Aside from this being an expensive material to waste, which I hate doing, it’s great to see a more drastic variation as a result of chemistry application.

The photos themselves were taken the last time I was in Florida.  My friend and I always like to try and venture out to interesting little (free) places, and we stumbled upon Lake Eola.  I wasn’t quite a fan of the idea of just going to a lake that was clearly amidst a bunch of office buildings in the middle of Orlando, but I was intrigued by the fact that there was supposedly a ton of swans at this lake.  I have to say, I was not disappointed.  There were tons of swans!  As soon as you enter the park, they’re lounging in the grass and bushes, swimming in the lake, and are not shy about being around people, or even coming up to you.  With that, I was able to get some pretty good close up photos of them, as well as the ducks and other birds at the park.  If you’re ever in the area, and want a relaxing place to hang out an enjoy the sights, I would recommend it.

So here are my prints, aka, four more reasons why I want to take this class again!  I’m in love with them all for different reasons, so you be the judge.  Which one wins out?  Enjoy!

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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!

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 🙂

 

Another Case of The Blues

Remember when I mentioned that I was going to use some photos from my black and white landscape week to print Cyanotypes?  Well, I finally have them scanned in a ready for you!

You know I love working with cyanotypes, and it was great being able to work on some more through my class.  I mean, I didn’t even have to use my own chemistry, and I got to test out some new papers, so as photo geeky as that may sound, it was super exciting.

While I just shared a few photos before, my theme for this project was “trees”.  I looked at them from different angles and tried to show some unusual details and abstractions of a subject I work with all the time.  Of course, I used the photo of my favorite tree, because, I just love that tree.  I also took a couple close up shots of some cherry blossom trees around my house.  They had some weird textures and growths on them that I thought were really interesting when viewed from a very close range.  One of these images really makes me think of this crazy movie that we watched in one of my classes, Little Otik, because, you know, art school and crazy movies go hand-in-hand.

As for the process, things were a little different, and took some getting used to.  Can I say that I’ve been spoiled by the sun?  I’m pretty confident when printing outdoors, and took that confidence with me to class that day.  Unfortunately, the light boxes are entirely different as far as developing times, and have a few other quirks.  I kind of over exposed one print to the point where you could see the outline of where the lights were in the box…I’m not gonna show you that one, but you can take my word for it 🙂  After I got the hang of it, however, it was pretty amazing.  Amazing like…I need to figure out how to build one of these myself so I can print at home on rainy days/at night, amazing.  That’s been the only sad thing about this process for me; I’m limited to sunny days, which don’t always come often during the colder months.  This is just one more thing for me to get attached to while at school.  I guess I better appreciate the things I have access do before they’re gone.  It’ll be over sooner than I think!

So with the quirks of getting used to new things, these aren’t quite the best cyanotypes I have ever made.  I’m still pleased with them though.  It was great having a chance to do this process again, and also great to get out and visit my favorite tree 🙂  Maybe I’ll give them another go over the summer, but for now, enjoy!

Week 9: Shadows

I’ve been racking my brain on what to do for this week’s theme, when I realized, I already have something which I just recently completed.

When thinking of shadows, one most likely thinks of the shadow that something casts.  You’re able to see interesting distortions to the original form, and the ground or object that the shadow is cast on can also create some interesting visual details.  One of my favorite things to do, however, has to do with the blockage of light, and the “shadow” which is cast from that.

When making cyanotypes, I’m always working with what shadow an object or negative will cast to leave some interesting mark on my paper.  It’s not a shadow in the sense of Peter Pan, or sitting under a shady tree, but the image which results is due to the shadow which is cast.  So when my “Alternative Processes” professor said that we needed to create negatives for out first project, I approached it in a similar way.  He told us to make “paper negatives”, where we layered different objects (like paper or tape) to make different densities and values once we develop our prints.  Hmmm…no thanks.  I’m not a fan of what kind of geometric and abstract forms that will create.  So I decided to find some objects, which ended up being feathers and plants from around the house, and and a few doodles.

I’ve never worked with feathers before, so I was hopeful to achieve some interesting and intricate details from those.  I’ve also never drawn on any of my negatives, but, since along with the paper and tape, he mentioned drawing on our negatives with different tools, I thought I would humor the idea and give it a try.

So there they are!  I love how they turned out, and I’m glad I decided to scan them, because the colors and contrast are great.  I have to say, this is nearing two months old, and I’m shocked to see how much color is left in these leaves.  Anyways, I started pretty much in this order.  I thought, “well, I’ll just do what I’ve always done.  I like that!”.  Since I’ve worked with photograms in the past, and have been wanting to get back in the darkroom to do more, I wanted to get back to the arrangements which I really liked; simple objects and compositions which let the light start to show through, creating interesting shadows and values.  Then I thought I would do a little drawing, to make sure I stayed in line with the assignment.  I didn’t know what to do, so I took my transparency sheet with the fern on it, and just began doodling.  I’m never confident in my drawing capabilities, but the more I did, the more I liked it.

With the easy ones done, and one complicated doodle, I had to think of some other ideas.  I did, after all, need a total of six negatives for the assignment, and I was only half way done.  There were a couple rejects, which I took to class and never ended up developing.  The winner, however, was the single feather.  I loved the shape of it, and knew all the little details would show through, but I didn’t want to have a whole bunch of really simple, single, objects.  So against my normal practice, I tried to draw a realistic yet simplified representation of the feather in a mirrored drawing.  I’m so glad I did, because that one (and its counterpart) ended up being my favorite.  With that, I had to organize my thoughts for the final critique, and decided to work in three sets of diptychs.  I did another mirrored object/drawing combination, and another complicated doodle.  I even messed with my simple objects, and ended up with the three sets you see above.

Off to the dark room I went, and I couldn’t have been happier.  MICA has a great darkroom, yet I hadn’t had the chance to get in there, or the introduction of how their set up works.  It felt great getting back in there and working with all the chemicals and enlargers again.  I love the smell.  I know, a little weird maybe, but I love it.

After a few practice exposures, everything was going well, and I’m really happy with the results I got.  I knew how the objects would react from previous projects, but wasn’t sure how the drawings would turn out.  I was just using a fine point sharpie on a transparency sheet, but it worked really well!  I thought for sure the light would shine through pretty easily, but the sharpie made a surprisingly strong barrier.  So with the darkroom bug biting me again, here are my “shadow” images.  Can’t wait to work with this some more, and I’m happy to say this class has had me in the darkroom for some other projects already.  Enjoy!

Outgoing Mail

Last night I decided to bite the bullet, and get to work.

About a month ago, I received a somewhat unusual looking envelope from MICA, amongst their very regular communications, which I have to say, I do appreciate.  “Odyssey”, it was labeled, with its bright colors and excitement.  Some transfer student information was enclosed.  I slightly shrugged it off, and almost didn’t open it; I’ve been somewhat reluctant to look at all the wonderful things this school offers while being so unsure of if I’ll be able to attend.  You know, don’t want to get my hopes entirely up — I’m a planner, and this plan isn’t coming together.  Regardless, I’m also a curious one, so of course, I was bound to open the letter within seconds.

“Call for entries — 2015 MICA Postcard Project”.  Really?  I haven’t even enrolled in classes, and we’re already being given projects.  Of course it’s optional, but all very surprising at frist glance.  In the letter was a set of instructions, a fancy little magnet adorned in the same exciting colors as the envelope, and a blank postcard.  Subconsciously, I’ve already decided I was going to do this project.  I mean, you just handed me a blank piece of paper with a stamp on it — I’m easily intrigued.  In reading on, the project consists of decorating the postcard however we choose, and selecting from one of four topics: spirit animal, Dadaists collage (it’s just a urinal!! ugh, hate it!), meme yourselfie (I’m questioning my age amongst these incoming students), and vacation postcard.  Yes!  Vacation! Love it!

So even in my doubt, I start thinking of ideas.  It’s a good thing when my mind starts racing creatively.  I’m pretty set on the type of media, cyanotype, and am just working out what my subject will be.  When I think of vacation, nothing else, or better, comes to mind than the beach.  “But how will this translate to cyanotype”, I think to myself.  While all the tones of blues are lovely, when I think of the beach, I think of vibrant colors, sunrises, and sunsets.  I put it on the back-burner for a while.  Along with the simple submission of your work for an optional “welcome project”,  everything submitted will be exhibited in one of MICA’s galleries, scanned, and posted on a blog promoting the exhibit.  A conundrum for someone who may not even be there; a situation I don’t want to set myself up for.

So a few weeks go by, I go on vacation, I write a few blog posts, and I struggle to work things out for school.  You’ve seen it, and if you haven’t, scroll down 🙂  Among all of those things, I did my Sunrise/Sunset post, where I discovered a little hidden gem.  As usual, when beginning a new weekly project, I show you guys a few pictures of things which I have already shot that fits the description.  I really enjoy this little system which I have worked out; it allows me to revisit some old favorites, as well as work with some images that I really haven’t worked on at all.  In looking for some sunrise/sunset pictures that I haven’t shared in the past, I stumbled across some of the black and white film work that I did during my first semester at school.  I seriously haven’t been able to stop thinking of that one simple picture of the ocean ever since.  I can’t wait until I have access to a darkroom again, because that’s the first photo that I’m working on.  With that, I realized that cyanotype would absolutely work with beach photographs (how could I have ever doubted it?!).  And once I got back from vacation with some new images, I had all I needed.

Still, I waited to the last minute, well, almost.  I haven’t quite figured things out yet, and still have a gap in regards to tuition being due for the semester.  In my mind, however, I’m going.  It’s decided.  So with time ticking on this project, since it has to make it to the school by the 3rd, I decided to get working on things.

First, and definitely the hardest part, was selecting the image.  Like I’ve mentioned, the colors and details of the sunrises and sunsets are my favorites.  So objectively, I looked at the images I had to pick one which I thought had some good variations in contrast, as well as some sharp details which would translate over well to a cyanotype, and this was the winning photo!

Second, was converting the image to black and white and inverting it.  I’m always tempted to print the “negative” version of the image when I’m working on it, and almost did so on accident today.  I don’t know why, but in my mind when I see the black and white version of an image that I’m working on I automatically think that I’m finished.  I’m pretty sure all of my cyanotype files have the black and white negative file to go alone with the positive file that I actually use.  Luckily for me, and my wallet, because those photo transparency sheets are expensive, I’ve only made that mistake one time.  Still, even if I do print one out, I’ll be sure to use it.  The negatives make such ghastly, interesting images.  You can see one of my “happy accidents” here.

Once that’s done, it’s off to the print making.  I’m always a little nervous when it gets to this part.  I’ve just finished working on an image which I liked at first, and then liked again as a black and white photo.  Then, in one easy step I’ve inverted the image, and I’m not sure about it all over again.  Will the details come through?  Will I have enough contrast?  This doesn’t look right!  I have to remind myself to trust the process, and the fact that I’ve done this several times, and ended up with good results.  This time, however, I only have one shot.  The pressure is on!  Though I have been pretty lucky in my recent cyanotype/photo transparency combinations, I did have some pretty bad results while just starting out.  I couldn’t help but worry when using a different type of paper, and only having one chance, that I would mess up.  It doesn’t help that the instruction letter also stated in all caps “we are not able to send another postcard, so what happens if you make a mistake?”… Essentially?  Fix it and deal with it.  I didn’t like the sound of that.  I’m very much a perfectionist when it comes to presenting someone with a final print.  A sub-par or doctored up image just wasn’t going to cut it.

Luckily for me, all my worries were put to rest.  Aside from the added panic that some passing clouds caused, I’m really happy with the way this print turned out, and I think I may have just found my new favorite thing to do.  Like it’s black and white counterpart, as well as my image from a few weeks ago, this style gives my beach photographs new life.  I’ve been making postcards and greeting cards for my Etsy shop for some time now, but have stuck to contact printing with botanicals.  They’ve been reasonably popular, but I think this will become a quick new favorite in the shop!

I love the dreaminess of this print, how soft the waves and sand looks, while still being able to make out clear details in both the water and sky.  So, appropriately, I’ve named it “Summer Dreaming”.  As I set my little postcard project out to be picked up in the morning, because yes, the final part of the project was that they prefered for it to actually be mailed, I had to admire it a little more.  It really charmed me, as well as the crunchiness of our old, chipping mailbox.  But seriously, who wouldn’t love to find something like that in their mailbox?  Too cute, in my opinion.  Hopefully it makes it there in one piece, and without all the emulsion rubbed off.  Wish it luck!

Would You Like a Spot of Tea?

I’ve enjoyed experimenting with cyanotypes for about the past year, and I thought I would give a new technique a try.  I recently did some kallitypes, and though I love the finished result, with my tiny apartment and somewhat limited resources, I wanted to try some things that would give me a similar look, but with less chemistry.  So I began researching, and found tons of things about toned cyanotypes, and decided to give it a try.  As you can probably tell from my previous cyanotype post, I kind of had this in mind when making my last prints, and decided to make a few extra.

I started with the two above prints, and put them in a solution of mostly water, and a little bleach.  Bleach was probably the least suggested bleaching agent that I read about, since many said it would eat away at the fibers of the paper, but it’s what I had handy.  I would say my mix was about 95% water, and about 5% bleach, which in retrospect was a little light on the bleach.  However, I’d rather babysit my prints and add a little more bleach later than destroy them.

So after a long time babysitting, and adding more bleach, I finally got the prints to a tone which I was satisfied with; just a little bit of the blue left from the original cyanotype, and mostly yellow left for the rest of the emulsion.  Though it took a while, the plus side was that the quality/durability of the watercolor paper that I used didn’t suffer as a result.  After my researching, I found that different types of tea would have different effects on the bleached emulsion.  I decided to go with a mixture of mostly black tea (about 5 bags), and a little green tea (about 4 bags).  The black tea was said to make the prints take on a tone of brown/black, while the green tea was to add a tone of violet, so I thought the two would make an interesting mix.  After boiling some water and steeping the tea, I added my newly bleached prints to the warm bath.

So again with the babysitting, which I think I may have overdone a little this time.  I wanted to keep some of the highlights closer to white, but they pretty much took on the tea tone.  The emulsion, however, took on a great tone of a dark brown/black, with a little bit of the cyan, or perhaps the violet from the green tea, peeking through.  I’m happy with the results for my first go round, but I’m going to make some more prints and try it again.  Maybe no bleaching/less bleaching, or maybe another soaking bath to change it to a different tone.  Guess you’ll just have to wait and see!  Let me know what you think of the two final results!