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!

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 🙂


Week 12: Seasonal

So I’m pulling another theme from my alternate list this week, because, ya know, I wanna 🙂  You know I love the chance to talk about all things spring and summer, and since the alternate list has this week’s theme as “seasonal”, I’m all about it!

Going to Florida always gets me a little out of whack weather wise, but I’m happy to report that things have warmed up around here.  We may be looking at a cold front for the rest of the month, allegedly, but I’ll take a cooler spring over two feet of snow any day.  Even with the chillier than normal temperatures, it’s been warm enough for the world to blossom, and I’ve been happy to enjoy it and capture some springy moments.

First, let me start with a little ode to the cherry blossoms…

They’re always some of my favorites.  I wish they would last a little longer, but with the first windy day, they’re gone.  I’m happy to have had a sunny day off where I got to wander around a little and snap some photos.  It was actually one of those windy days while I was photographing these, so it was a little difficult to capture a clear image.  Luckily, I did, and I was also lucky enough to snap a few of the baby bumble bees which were fluttering around the blossoms and fighting the wind.  Poor little things — they would be there one second, happily bouncing from flower to flower, and then woosh!  A huge gust of wind would come, and they’d be gone.  They’re tough though — they made it back 🙂

As for some of the other flavors of spring, you always get the same first visitors; daffodils, hyacinths, and the cute little “weed” flowers, you know, from the weeds that grow in the grass….not that…I’m not talking about that!  But while I was on vacation a couple weeks ago, and at the Bok Tower Gardens, I took advantage of the garden part of that visit, and took pictures of the gorgeous things they had in bloom there. It was really a fun place to see, and you should check it out if you’re in the area.  According to their website, something is always in bloom, and I wouldn’t doubt it; the weather there is perfect for year-round blooms.  While I was there, I’m pretty sure I was fortunate enough to make it during one of their peak bloom season, and among other things, was able to enjoy their Japanese Magnolias, Camellias, and Nun’s Orchids.  It was a beautiful walk, and smelled amazing!  Even as we were a few minutes away and driving up to the gardens, you could smells the flowers.  So while I’m dreaming of warmer weather on this chilly spring night, enjoy these photos of the little promises that warmer weather is right around the corner!


Week 24: Shades of Grey

Lovely!  This week I have a blank canvas, so to speak.  I have enjoyed working through nearly half of this 52 week challenge, but what has been an unexpected challenge is how blocked I would be when working with specific themes.  I suppose it’s good, and the purpose of this whole thing — not only do I have to constantly get out and shoot, but I also have to think out side of my own box.  I’ve enjoyed some of the themes more than others, but beyond that, I have enjoyed working in ways I would have never thought of on my own.

Now, back to the good old stuff…

Working in shades of grey has me thinking of one thing — black and white photography!  I mean, what else could it be?  Ok, it could be a lot of things, and just as I’m typing it, I’m thinking of tons of ways to capture this theme without taking it so literally.  But the one thing I’ve missed about working with film are the beautiful tones of the blacks, whites, and greys developing in the darkroom.  And the smell?  Yum, weird, I know, but I love it.  Ok, so there are a lot of things I miss, but I digress… Even though I would love to, I can’t do a film project for this theme.  Being out of school has been fun, and weird, but it’s also left me without the resource of a dark room.  So for this week, my digital files will just have to imagine they’re film, and my computer will become its own imaginary little darkroom.

I suppose this theme is coming at the opportune time… I am in a rather “grey” period of life….like a dark slate, thunderstorm, type of grey.  So while I’ll be working in the spirit of the darkroom, I’m probably not going to produce any more of my happy little nature photographs again in the near future.  And with that, I’m off to think, and to reminisce.  Here’s another film project from a past class of mine.  It was the first “story telling” type project that I worked with, and out of all the different ideas that I had, this was my favorite.  I liked that it told a story in so many different ways, without actually saying anything direct.  It allows you to look at it and interpret it as your own story, and to me, it has many meanings, which is in a strange way kind of cathartic.  Changing of seasons, passing of time, a year going by, life passing you by, standing still, running in circles, travel — just a few of the meanings this has to me, and, just a few of the things I’ve meditated on while looking at these photos.  So enjoy, and feel free to leave me a note of what you think!

Week 17: Bookworm

It’s been a crazy week!  With the semester winding down and final projects wrapping up, I’m so thankful for the relaxing weekend I’ve hand, and that I got a chance to sneak in this shoot at the last minute.  It’s really hard to believe just how fast the last 2 1/2 years have gone by, how much has changed, that I’ll be graduating with my associate’s degree from PGCC this spring, and will most likely be jumping right in to another 2-3 years of school to get my bachelor’s, with a minor…and maybe a master’s.  I could really use a chance to zone out and become what the theme for this week is: bookworm.  Side note, here’s an interesting fact: did you know that “bookworm” doesn’t only refer to one who loves reading, but an actual book-eating-worm (well, bug) as well? I always assumed it was just an expression, nothing more, but I guess I was wrong.  It’s a little unsettling, but nice, in a weird way, as well.  If you don’t know by now, I loved the old and abandoned, and these insects certainly give an interesting look to the books the inhabit.  Here, just look at the google results for “bookworm damage” (because if you just type in “bookworm”, you’ll get games and all kinds of stuff, even though the randomness of the internet takes over this search term as well, the first couple pictures will give you the idea).  I am, however, a little wary of the old books that I have lying around for cyanotype projects, and would hate for them to be destroyed by these bugs.  Guess I should perform some examinations for safe measures.  In regards to what I was saying about becoming a bookworm, dont’ worry, I don’t want to become a bug and eat books, just want a chance to relax and unwind.

So when thinking of this week’s project, I tried to portray the feeling I have when I’m completely divulged in a good book.  For me, as well as for many others, I’m sure, I feel as if I’m taken away to this imaginary fantasy land.  Whatever is going on around me is almost not there, and I have such vivid imagery from the words that I’m reading that it’s like almost watching a movie conjured up in my mind.  I picture the places, the characters, and their voices.  So I wanted to convey that type of mood, of being completely relaxed, and in a dream-like state.  So thanks to my favorite little “model”, and her quickly sprouting back yard, I think we were able to achieve just that.  So relax, enjoy, and think of the next good book that you’ll dive in to.  I have mine in mind, but that will have to wait until my two final projects are completed.  Only one more week!

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!

Week 16: Nature

The birds are singing, the bees buzzing.  Flowers are blooming, and trees are budding.  It’s finally warming up outside!  And when better than now to have an assignment about nature?  That’s what I’ll be working on this week(end) — I’m a little late!  Nature is something that I don’t usually try to approach differently as a photography subject.  I love getting out there, enjoying whatever scenery is around me, and just trying to capture the beauty of nature.  Weather it’s a landscape/seascape, wildlife (which is more often than not, birds), or botanical — I love it.  I’m glad this week gives me a chance to get out there and do a little more of this type of photo.  Maybe I’ll make my “something different” getting out to a new location, since I have a few favorites that I like to frequent.  So while I think of somewhere to new explore, check out a few of my recent “nature” photographs from my most recent visit to the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge.  It was a few weeks ago, so it was still a little chilly out.  Luckily for me, the birds were just starting to come around, and I found a few other interesting things to snap a picture of!

Around the City

So as mentioned in last week’s post, the “business” task of the 52 week challenge was to complete a “personal shoot”.  Basically, that’s a free-pass, do-whatever-you-want type shoot!  So with spring finally in bloom, which was the theme of my “fresh start” shoot, I wanted to get out and see a little more of spring, particularly, the infamous cherry blossoms in DC.  Infamous, you may ask?  Simply put, yes.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautiful, and it’s great to be down by the water of the Tidal Basin, see the monuments, and enjoy the petals of the cherry blossoms fluttering around in the wind while in peak bloom.  The problem is, everyone else has that same mentality, making that part of DC a parking lot for a good week during April every year (ah!  It’s April — felt weird saying that!  Summer is around the corner!).

So my good friend and fellow photographer, Curtkennedy (check out his Instagram, follow him, he’s great!), braved the city under the guise that since it was a week day, peak bloom had hit a few days prior, and the cherry blossom festival was over, that the traffic would be gone too.  We were unpleasantly surprised.  Apparently, we weren’t the only ones with the idea of “weekdays will be less crowded”, as there was tons of people and nowhere to park!  So, to make the effort of driving right to the cherry blossoms and not getting out of the car worth it, we did a couple of drive by shoots, and I’m happy with what I got.  There’s really only so much you can shoot of the same trees before all of your photos start looking redundant.  There was a specific shot or two that I wanted to get, but was unable to from the car.  I’ll just have to wait until another, less crowded, trip to DC to give it another go 🙂

Not bad for not leaving the car, if I may say so myself!  Luckily for me, my friend isn’t as much of a homebody as I am, and knows his way around DC pretty well.  He started talking about places he’s enjoyed shooting and would like to shoot in the future, when we discovered we shared a love for the abandoned/graffiti stuff.  Yay!  So off we went to this little skate park to check out some cool graffiti art.  The skate park was actually located next to a cute little playground, and wasn’t abandoned, per sey, but the fact that it was under an overpass, and is the odd ball in the neighborhood, it had that same look.  All the graffiti helped too, of course.  So good thing we didn’t give up on DC for the day.

Love the colors and vibrancy of this type of art.  This definitely has me thinking that I need to get out more and do a little more exploring.  I’ve lived 15 mins away from DC for pretty much my whole life, and never get around to checking it out!  A shame, I know, but this is some good motivation!

Springing in to a Fresh Start

April showers bring May flowers!

Well, we may have been missing out on an abundance of April showers, but we’re getting a sneak preview of what the May flowers are going to be!  Thankfully, it appears that winter has taken its last bitter breath, and we are finally in the midst of spring.  A new season, a new beginning, and a fresh start for lots of little flowers, plants, and creatures.  Oh yes…creatures.  Luckily, the only “creatures” I encountered this week were the pleasant ones; tons of chirping birds, my normal encounters with my roommates (aka – the ladybug infestation), and tons of little bees buzzing around as I was out and about today.  I’m glad I decided to keep it simple this week.  We had great weather, and it was nice enjoying the outdoors and taking some photos of the flowers and budding blossoms.  Though I didn’t get to explore much of the outdoors, snapping these flower photos inspired me to (hopefully) get out to the cherry blossoms which are in “peak bloom” in D.C.  Seems like even though I’m so close by, I’m always missing them.  I might have to make the effort and get out there this week, particularly since the business task for this week is a “personal shoot”, meaning to basically just shoot whatever you want, and I’ve been wanting to do this for years!  Enjoy the pics, and perhaps this won’t be the last you’re seeing of the spring blossoms:)

Springtime is the land awakening.  The March winds are the morning yawn.

-Lewis Grizzard

Is It Spring Yet?

Well, technically, it will be tomorrow.

Really, this weather couldn’t be more appropriate for describing my feelings in waiting for warmer weather.  One day it’s beautiful and Spring is right on the horizon, and the next, it’s snowing….like how Friday is supposedly going to be.  Just yesterday it was 60 degrees!  I’m on a roller-coaster ride with as many peeks and valleys as highs and lows in the forecast.  It was wonderful going outside with just a t-shirt and jeans, but it looks like Mother Nature will have me bundling up a few more times before she truly lets it warm up.

In anticipation of Spring, I did a little project for my color theory class based on the changing of the seasons and nature.  Though the objective was to take pairings of images to show simultaneous contrast, to my surprise, some of the individual images turned out pretty well.  I was just snapping away quickly, trying to get what feels like the 100th project on the subject completed so we can move on in the class.  So because I’m so sick of the subject, I’m not posting the pairs, rather, the better of the pairing.  So enjoy this springy surprise, and hopefully these flowers will be blooming soon, as opposed to me going to the grocery store to buy them 🙂