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 🙂

 

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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 33: Homemade

You would think that coming from someone like me, who has always been pretty crafty, that this week should be easy, but I’m feeling a little stumped.  Ever since I was little, I was always working on some kind of artsy project, or baking. scrapbooking, painting, drawing, or something, so I have a lot of homemade things.  When it comes to photographing it, however, I can only think of one thing to shoot; food.

I don’t know why, in this world of Etsy, cupcakes, and craft fairs which I have created for myself, there should be a million more things coming to my mind, but it’s what I keep going back to.  I suppose that’s one of the first homemade things I really made — cookies with my family.  Ever since my brother and I were little, we would make cookies with my dad, and Christmas cookies were always a huge deal at my grandmother’s house.  Aside from baking, my mother was always very creative, I suppose, in the kitchen, making new “experiments” for us to try for dinner.  We appreciated the effort, and some things were great, but also have learned of a saying from my grandfather which was: “That was good, but, don’t make it again”.

So while I try to think of what to photograph, I’ll leave you with a couple of my homemade crafts.  I’m sure you’ve seen my Etsy stuff before, and maybe even my cupcakes, but if not, 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!

Peek-A-Boo Sprout

I love a the little surprises you can find from nature, and I think this all started when I was little.  We always had a porch light that had an open glass/metal shade around it, and every year a bird would make a nest in the light.  My parents were thoroughly aggravated by this, but I always loved finding that little surprise in an unusual place.  Ever since then, I’ve always loved finding little things like that.  In watching the city where I grew up becoming increasingly over developed, I find it so nice to see little bits of nature and plant life popping up where it’s not supposed to, even if it was once where these things may have naturally been.  One summer there was a daffodil clinging on for dear life under a bridge for a major highway — I must have gotten beeped at a million times zoning out staring at this little flower and wondering how it got in such a peculiar place.  There’s also a school by my house which has always had a ton of ivy crawling up one of its walls.  It was cut down one year, but to my delight, it has come back in full force.

So today, as I was working on some botanical cyanotypes to use for the “nature” theme of this week, I stumbled across a little surprise.  I always go out to my balcony to develop my cyanotypes, since that’s the place in my apartment which get the best, and most direct, sunlight.  I have various plants and pots and such out there that I’m constantly peaking at to see if anything is growing.  A few months ago, I gathered all the seeds from the flowers that were planted last summer, and spread them around all the pots out there in hopes that anything would grow (I love flowers, but I definitely do not have a green thumb).  So I put my favorite seeds in the pots on the balcony ledge, hoping that they would get the most light and do the best.  The only problem is that since everyone above me also has a balcony, when it rains, or snows forever and then melts, I get a sort of waterfall effect on my balcony, splashing on to my plants and splattering mud and dirt everywhere.  It seems like with all the snow we got this year, and all the rain and storms as of recent, one of these little seeds popped out and landed in between the bricks of the balcony ledge.  So when I went outside today, there it was — a little baby sprout!  I don’t know how I missed it before, but it was a pleasant surprise today.  So I snapped a couple quick pictures of it, and there you go.  A better ode to nature than the cyanotypes which I have done before.  Though I love them (the cyanotypes, that is), I love finding these little peculiarities more.  Hopefully there are more sprouts to come; it’s been warming up, ever so slowly, and I’m desperately craving the spring and summer.  Enjoy!

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!

Cyanotypes!

The sun is shining away on this windy winter day, and you know what that means?  Cyanotypes!  I’ve been waiting for a day like this, and I’m happy to say that I’ve made good use of it.

Cyanotypes are probably some of my favorite things to do.  I don’t have the accessibility to a darkroom at the moment, as well as don’t have the space for it, so it lets me feel like I’m still doing some “film” development, kinda.  I was introduced to this process during the last photography class I took at school.  I was auditing the class, since they didn’t offer Photography III, and the professor gave me some pretty interesting projects, one of which was alternative processes.  I started off doing botanicals, and using some old book pages she had, and fell in love with it!

If you don’t know what cyanotypes are, you should look in to it!  Wikipedia does a good job of explaining it, but I’ll give you the quick and dirty on my process.  Cyanotype is a contact photographic process, which creates really lovely blue images.  To begin, you mix an equal part of two chemicals: ammonium iron citrate and potassium ferricyanide.  Yeah, cyanide.  Don’t worry though, it’s not going to kill you.  Though it is mildly toxic, I’ve never had any problems with it, and to be honest, I’m not particularly careful with it when using it — I’ve gotten it on my hands and constantly have my hands in the wash, and I’m still here!  I use a great kit from Photographers’ Formulary, where you don’t have to do any actually mixing of chemicals, and just combine “solution a” with “solution b”.  So easy.

Once you mix the chemicals, while in a darkened room treat your surface to make it photosensitive.  I personally use watercolor paper, and have had some great results.  It has great durability, and holds on to the emulsion well once you’ve completed your print.  One of my other favorite things to use are book pages, but they are much more fragile, so be careful.  You can use pretty much anything, as long as it is able to absorb the chemical solution — various papers, cloth, untreated canvases — so be creative!  Allow the treated surface to dry completely, I recommend even leaving it over night in a dark environment, and then you’re ready!  Your dried surface is going to be a light, almost lime green color when you treat it, but no worries, it will turn blue at the end!

Like I said earlier, it’s a contact printing process, so you could do either one of two things.  You can create your own negative, or for smaller prints, contact sheet style printing, or using medium format film, you can use actual negatives, and press it along with the paper between glass.  To make it simple, I just take apart a picture frame, using the back and the glass, and then secure the pieces together with paperclips or binder clips.  You want to make sure you have a good contact on your negative, otherwise you’ll end up with a fogged image, and lose a lot of your details.  I use Inkpress Media Transparency Film to create 8 1/2x 11″ negatives, and have had great results….when I follow the directions and print on the right side of the transparency!  They’re a little pricy, but super convenient in that I can just use my inkjet printer to make whatever negative I like!  Make sure you prep your image before printing as well.  Having strong contrast and clarity, as well as making a positive of your image through a photo editing program will ensure you get a good print.  The other thing you can do it treat your surface like a photogram, and place an object directly on top of your paper to create an image.  I still use glass when using objects, since I use flowers, leaves, etc., and in doing so, I’ve noticed you get a better outcome.

Exposure times will vary since, well, the weather is never the same from one day to another, and the sun’s position in the sky will move as you’re making your print.  I prefer to wait for a nice, clear sunny day, which keeps my exposure times anywhere from the 12-15 minute range.  You can gauge your exposure times by looking at your surface while in the light.  It will change from a light green, to a dark green, almost blackish tone.  Once you’ve reached your desired exposure, just rinse the print in cold running water.  I like to fully submerge my prints and gently agitate them prior to actually rising them.  The emulsion is delicate, so if you rinse too quickly, you’re going to wash your print away 😦 — so sad, I’ve totally done it.  You’ll see your print develop right before your eyes, changing from that weird dark greenish hue to an intense tone of blue with white highlights.  Rinse your print completely, so you don’t see any blue residue dripping from your paper and the water runs clear, and you’re finished!  Just lay it flat to dry and voila, you’re a cyanotype expert.

So there you have it!  I really love this process, and am thankful that I had a professor who thought outside the box and introduced me to this.  Check out my final prints below.  I made a couple of extras, so I may try my hand at toning them to change the color.  Stay tuned!