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I just put my second batch of anthotype attempts up for exposure. There will be 4 variations:
- blackberry, regular positive
- blackberry, retouched positive
- wine reduction, regular positive
- wine reduction, retouched positive
The “positives” are now printed on regular paper. I’m hoping the white area will let through sufficient UV. Otherwise, I’ll have to revert to those crappy transparencies. For the “retouched positives”, I darkened the black areas by hand with a retouching pen (basically an extremely thin brush) and Pelican black ink. These are a bit experimental because the laser printer toner seems to repel the water based Pelican ink, so the result is a bit blobby in places. We’ll see.
I double-coated all “photo paper” this time for better contrast, except for the wine reduction with a regular positive because I ran out of wine reduction. There’s more in the freezer but that’s for the next attempts.
The wine reduction anthotypes can be seen in the photo. The blackberry ones are still drying. I may have to add another coating because there’s a few spots due to drying. They’ll be put up for exposure as soon as they’re ready and dry.
I finally got my scanner working thanks to an overstock of power supplies at my day job, one of which happened to be exactly the type for my scanner. Here are a few scans:
First scan: to show how crappy the laser printer is when printing on transparencies. The heat completely ruined the darker areas. Also, I put a black rectangle on the left to indicate how little contrast the print has: the two people should be about as dark.
Second scan: the blackberry anthotype. Very little to see on this print. It’s clear that the exposure wasn’t long enough because even the parts outside of the negative are still quite dark.
Third scan: the wine reduction anthotype. A bit more visible. Higher contrast negatives (particularly darker blacks) and a longer exposure should help.
A friend of mine gave me the hint to stick a negative + dyed paper to our roof window, which is oriented south. I can easily leave it there for a much longer time, there are no trees or buildings blocking the view and it’s safe from rain. Great tip ! Thanks, Dirk !
A bit of an anticlimax, really. But nothing that was unexpected. My first two anthotypes came out nearly blank. Here they are:
Blackberry is on the left, wine reduction on the right. As you can see, there’s not too much to see. There is hardly anything discernible in the blackberry image and in the wine image, you can only barely make out the lantern and the windows. Good ! Encouraging, actually. So what did we learn ?
- We need more exposure than about 4 cloudy days with just a few hours of sunshine. Probably an array of UV lights would help, particularly with the days shortening.
- High contrast seems to work well, so we have to select an image that consists of nearly only black and white areas.
Next attempt, I’ll pick a very high contrast image. Also up next: elderberry, redcurrant and coffee dyes !
I decided not to add a second coating to my dyed paper for the simple reason that the sun was out. So I quickly put everything together in my contact print frame and put it in a nice sunny spot.
The one on the left is the red wine reduction, the one on the right is the blackberry dye. I left it there for about two hours. Taking the frame back inside, I had a little accident and about everything blackberry related dropped out. The red wine negative and paper stayed in place. This gave me the perfect opportunity to get an exclusive preview and yes, there was something going on already. The exposed parts were bleached a little bit compared to where the dark parts of the positive transparency blocked the light. Very subtle, but definitely something happening. Because it was still so subtle, I decided to just mount the negative and paper more or less like they were and ignore the accident. The sun hasn’t been out since then, but I think about 3 good sunny days should be enough for the exposure.
Here’s a photo of my two dyes. Blackberry on the left (freshly brushed onto the paper), red wine reduction on the right (slightly dried into the paper already). The blackberry is slightly gritty and I’m curious what the effect will be after printing the anthotype.
They’re now drying, which will probably take more than a night. I might decide to add another coating if I don’t think it’s dark enough when I see them in daylight tomorrow.
I started work on the dyes that I’m planning to use for my first anthotypes. After a longish visit to the garden, I came back with a few hundred grams of blackberries. I’ve put them on a simmer for an hour or so. The second attempt is a red wine reduction. Both are cooling in the kitchen now. Tomorrow, they’re going onto a paper and into my contact print frame with a crappy laser printer negative.
I just made a photo that shows how my laser printer deforms the photo when printing on transparencies. One thing I hadn’t noticed yet is that it also prints with clearly visible patterns. You can see both in the following close-up. Notice the pattern on the left side and the blacks completely messed up on the right side.
I’ve been looking around a couple of shops for laser transparencies to make digital negatives (or positives for anthotypes) with my cheapo Samsung ML-2010 laser printer (a toner costs as much as a new printer !). One shop sold boxes of 20 for €20, which I found a bit expensive. Another had a box of 100 for €18,50, so I spent the cash immediately. The brand is 5staroffice, which seems to be a brand of a group called Spicers. Not that it’s worth remembering, though. The first couple of tries on regular printer paper actually worked out better than expected: fairly smooth transitions, fairly deep blacks. Nothing to write home about, but not as bad as I would expect from a laser. And remember, all this negative has to do is to stop the light for a few days.
With the laser transparencies, though, it didn’t work out at all. The top of the print looks great, with subtle greys and the lantern in a nice deep black. But the bottom looks like hell. It seems like the transparent can only take so much toner in one area: it completely deforms, breaking up the textures and ripping white lines through it, perpendicular to the paper direction (so parallel with the roll that is heated up for printing). When I put the printer on “light” toner usage, it works quite a bit better but the photo is much too light to be of any use. I wish I could scan one to show it here, but in my most recent move, the power supply of my scanner got lost.
I think I’m going to try a negative with lots of white, but strong lines next time.
I finished my contact print frame today after simplifying it again. Here’s the final result:
I decided to keep the frame itself in the state that it was in after the previous blog post. On the long sides, the glass is supported by a wooden ridge of about 2cm. This is enough so I didn’t need to add more wood on the front to also support the glass along the short edges. Here’s a close-up of how it is intended to be used:
The principle is of course very simple. Light hits the frame, passes through the glass, is filtered by the subject and hits the photo paper. Because light changes stuff, the parts where the light can pass through the subject are exposed and something happens. The other parts stay unexposed. The subject can be a negative (if the photo paper is negative paper, i.e. the exposed parts become dark) or it can be a positive photo itself (if the exposed parts become lighter).
I have to admit that at 4kg, it’s not a very elegant frame, but it cost me nothing and it was a fun little project. The next step is to choose a kind of plant, to extract the juices and to soak paper into it. I’ll expose that with a positive, because plants discolour by exposure. Because the exposure time is at least a few days, don’t hold your breath for a result !
I had a short bit of free time, so I continued work on the contact print frame. I’ve mounted two sides against which the glass will rest. To do that, I took the wooden board (shown in the photo in the previous post on the left), sawed it into three pieces in its length and mounted two on the frame I had already made. Here you can see the result. The outside of the piece of the wooden board is identical to the outside of the frame, but the inside is more narrow because the glass will rest against it.
Next time, it’s the final work to get the frame itself ready. Then there’s the back plate (that will be pushed against the photo paper + negative and against the glass) and some metalwork to provide that push.
Short note about the budget: spent so far: €0. The glass plate, the wood and the screws are all recuperated from somewhere. Also, in my first post I mentioned the frame would be over 8cm thick. Correction: it will be 51x35x6cm and it will accomodate just over an A4 page. It will still weigh a ton compared to commercial solutions !