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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Anthotype 1

A bit of an anticlimax, really. But nothing that was unexpected. My first two anthotypes came out nearly blank. Here they are:

If you watch closely, there's a vague image ! Really !

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 !

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Exposure times

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.

Blackberry & wine getting some sun

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.

A tale of two dyes, part 2

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.

Two dyes

A tale of two dyes

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.

Blackberry soup

Digital negatives/positives, attempt 1 (continued)

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.

Deformations & patterns in a laser print

Digital negatives/positives, attempt 1

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.

My image for a digital negative, sorry, positive

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.

Contact print frame, finished !

I finished my contact print frame today after simplifying it again. Here’s the final result:

A contact print frame

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:

Replace the magazine by a real subject & photo paper

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 !

Contact print frame, part 2

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.

Front facing away, glass will be put in from this side

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 !

Contact print frame, part 1

I finally managed to start working on my contact print frame. I found a large stock of glass panels of about 38x30cm, which was great news. They come from our sheds: one has a glass wall (or at least, something that aspires to look like a glass wall) but it’s all small panels set in putty. The putty is quite old so panels have started dropping out, which is not a good idea with a little kid around. So we decided to replace the whole glass construction with something else, perhaps plexiglas (acrylic glass).

Frame with my workspace in the background (outdoor stairs)

I’m building my contact print frame around one of these glass panels. The frame consists of a front frame and a container frame. To expose, I will put the glass panel + a large negative + photo paper + a backing panel into the container frame. This whole will be pushed against the front frame, which holds it as it has smaller internal dimensions.

On the photo you can see the container frame on the right. The board on the left is part of the front frame, but it’s much too wide. I will cut it along its length into two narrower pieces and screw it onto the the container frame.

The wood is quite rough so I’m using sand paper to make it smooth. It’s taking a bit more time than I expected, but it’s fun.

After the contact print frame is done, I’ll be checking out several plants in the garden to see if I can use them for dyeing paper. By exposing this to sunlight, the exposed parts should lose their colour, giving a positive image. This way of printing photos is called an anthotype.

Selecting wood

I took a look at our wood stocks today to select what I will use for my contact print frame. Because I want to spend no money, the choice is limited to what has been left by the builders who renovated our home. It’s not ideal. The frame will have a total thickness of more than 8 centimetres and will probably weigh a ton. For an A3 frame (42x30cm), the frame should be about 57×45, adding a whopping 15cm in each direction. And then I’m not adding any margin in the frame itself, which I should because the part that holds the glass will be 2cm thick, casting shadows over the sides of the photo.

Should make a nice frame !

Tomorrow I’ll be buying glass and probably a back cover in light wood. I could use a leftover plasterboard but I expect it’d be messy. It’s also hard to cut accurately. I have other leftover boards, but they’re heavy and quite thick. When I get the glass and I have exact measurements, I can start putting the pieces together.

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