Photo Notes

May 30, 2013

Print Types

I hope you’ll check out my books: Photographing Architecture and Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting. Please get copies, if you haven’t already. Of course you know that one reason for this blog is introduce the books and get you to consider one of my classes at BetterPhoto.com: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio, Getting Started in Commercial Photography

The second portfolio class was great. Please let me know if you want to be on the mailing list. Here’s some more information the next meeting is Tuesday June 18, 2013, 6:30 pm. We may be meeting at my new studio. Stay tuned for more about that! The class is a great opportunity to make a greater commitment to your work and learn more about how others see your work. Still only $20. I look forward to seeing you if you’re near Indianapolis.

I’m going to discuss the kinds of prints I’ll be using in my show at Indiana Landmarks. The opening is on June 7 at 6pm. I hope I’ll see you there! For more information check this link. Most of the images in this week’s blog are going to the show at Landmarks. Please keep in mind that images on your screen aren’t good representations of what real prints look like. The images are linked to the fine art part of my website, which you can use to buy a print. The prints available on my website are made on the Moab Entrada rag paper discussed below.

I’ll start with silver gelatin prints because in many ways they’re my favorites. These were the most common black and white prints for most of the twentieth century. The black part of the image is silver and the emulsion is made of gelatin, which is probably the reason for the name. One of the most beautiful aspects of these prints is the bright whites created by a layer of barium clay called baryta. This layer is on most prints made on a paper base, usually called fiber based paper. This layer was replaced by a titanium layer when resin coated papers were introduced. I think resin papers aren’t as beautiful because they don’t have the baryta layer.

Fiber based silver gelatin papers are still available ready to use. The prints are exposed in a darkroom with an enlarger. Processing time is over an hour; most of this is wash time. If the prints are properly handled, particularly given through washing, they will last for at more than a hundred years. There are many examples of prints that have lasted longer than a hundred years. The photographer has considerable control over the print; in addition to changing density the photographer can also change contrast tone and local density.

Cyanotypes have bright blue images on a base that is the color of the paper or other material you print on. Sir John Herschel invented the process in 1842. The light sensitive chemistry is iron based, and the final image is an iron compound. The final dye is called Prussian blue. The chemistry is mixed by hand and brush coated on the paper. Multiple coatings add to the saturation of the image, which is why I usually triple coat the paper I use for cyanotypes. Processing is just a long wash.

 

Cyanotype, Vandyke and other processes are usually referred to as alternate processes or alt process. The idea is that these are different from the more commercial photographic processed used for most photography. These processes are much more personal, for instance the paper is hand coated by the photographer. The processes are not very sensitive to light so enlargers can’t be used. Most often the original camera negative is pressed right against the hand coated paper. An alt process print is a handmade object and each print will be unique. Of course the photographer has to exercise considerable care when preparing and processing these prints in the darkroom.

The Vandyke process produces a brown toned image. The image is made of silver, but the light sensitivity is based on iron chemistry, like cyanotypes rather than silver chemistry like a silver gelatin print. This process is often referred to as Kallitype. The sensitizer contains Ferric Ammonium Citrate, Tartaric Acid and Silver Nitrate. Processing includes considerable wash time as well as a bath in sodium thiosulfate. Properly processed Vandyke images have lasted for about a hundred years.

 

From the time that George Eastman introduced the Kodak camera with the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest” there have been places to get your processing work done for you. In some cases, for instance Kodachrome processing, there was literally no way to do it yourself. In addition much processing can’t be done economically unless you do a lot of printing everyday. Certainly many people have noticed that their ink jet printers don’t work well after sitting unused for several weeks. There are several things that are important to the photographer and the viewer with all of these processes; first is how much control does the photographer have over the images. The printer that I am using allows me to manipulate the image files in Photoshop. This gives me incredible control over the final print. Another consideration is how long will the prints last. While none of these processes have been around long enough to prove durability, prints can tested using light and heat.

Fuji Type R Paper was actually used when photo labs had enlargers. The R stood for reversal. It allowed the lab to maker a print directly from a slide or a larger film positive. So you could make prints from Kodachrome or Ektachrome without making an inter negative. Labs generally used enlargers to work with this paper, so you could do dodging and burning, but there was not much other control. I am not sure if anyone is still making Type R paper. These prints had good saturation and good durability.

Moab Entrada Rag 290 Bright paper is made to high standards and designed for specialized ink jet printers. It is a rag paper and has no acid or lignin. The Epson Ultrachrome inks are used. These are pigment inks so they will last for an exceptionally long time. I find that these prints have a very long tonal scale and very fine color. These prints are made from files that have been prepared with Photoshop. Both color and black and white prints can be made on this paper.

I am showing a 20X50 inch print of this image! It looks great.

Fuji Crystal Archive Matte paper is a color photographic paper designed to be used with digital enlargers. Prints are made from files that have been prepared with Photoshop. This kind of paper is usually used to make color prints. I often use it to make mono-chrome images with a warm tone. Prints made with this product are expected to last more than twenty years.

Please check out my classes at BetterPhoto.com:

An Introduction to Photographic Lighting,

Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio,

Getting Started in Commercial Photography

Thanks, John

 

 

May 6, 2013

Working in Black and White

I hope you’ll check out my books: Photographing Architecture and Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting. Please get copies, if you haven’t already. Of course you know that one reason for this blog is introduce the books and get you to consider one of my classes at BetterPhoto.com: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio, Getting Started in Commercial Photography

The first portfolio class went really well. Please let me know if you want to be on the mailing list. Here’s some more information the next meeting is Tuesday May 21, 2013, 6:30 pm room 407 at the Indianapolis Central Library. This is a great opportunity to make a greater commitment to your work and learn more about how others see your work. Still only $20. I look forward to seeing you if you’re near Indianapolis.

I started out with a Kodak Retina and a roll of Plus-X. The first film developer I used was D-76 and I printed with Dektol. I guess you could say that I have my roots in black and white. If you’ve looked at my work you can see that I still see a lot of shots in black and white. I’ve mentioned, in these notes, that I’m doing some work with my 8X10 film camera. I wanted to talk about how I’m working with those images in digital. It doesn’t really matter whether you start with a digital image or a film image; these techniques make better final images. I start with a low contrast scan of my negative. If I were shooting film, for traditional silver gelatin printing, I would want a negative that I could interpret in the darkroom and that is a low contrast negative. Of course my new negatives aren’t really low contrast, because they need high density so I can print them using the Vandyke technique. Even though these techniques aren’t  really new I think it’s important to work with them from time to time.

If I’m starting with a color image, usually from my digital camera, I’ll look at the red, green and blue channels. The differences can be really huge. When I shoot with black and white film I use color filters to get the kind of control. The important thing to keep in mind is that you can make choices about what parts of the picture you want to make black & white. In addition to the red, green and blue channels you can mix the channels together.

I know there are a lot of programs for working with your images, but I use Photoshop for just about everything. It’s big, it’s complex and it offers wonderful control over your image. I mention this because I’m going to show the changes I make to an image in Photoshop.

Scans always have some dust and perhaps the negative has some defects, so I’ll fix those right away. I like to do this at the beginning because I’m working on a gray-scale image rather than a color image so the fixes are quicker, especially with a big file. In this case the file is over 100 megs, because the original negative is 4X10 inches. I want to get the biggest scan I can. Negatives are delicate so it’s best to make a digital copy as soon as possible. I make a flat, long scale, scan to capture as much information as possible. I shoot digital images in RAW for the same reason: to have a copy that can be interpreted as many ways as possible. I’ll save this image, so I can return to it.

I’ll create a new copy of the image, and the first thing I’ll do is open up Levels. I’ll position the sliders at the edges of the histogram. I may move the center slider to adjust the middle of the curve. This isn’t as controlled as using curves, but it makes the image look better quickly. Next I convert the file to RGB using mode. When I printed with an enlarger on silver gelatin black & white paper I used warm toned paper much of the time. Even when I used a neutral toned paper I usually developed in Selectol to warm the paper up a little. I can change the pallet, warmer, cooler or whatever once I have an RGB file. Now I open up curves. I like to depress the bottom left of the curve and raise up the upper right, usually I don’t make big changes here.  This makes the middle tones of the shot a little more contrasty and makes the highlight ands shadows look a little more like a silver gelatin print. Next I’ll add color, while still in curves, by choosing the red curve. For most images I’ll raise the bottom of the curve about 7 units. Then I’ll go to the blue curve and remove about 8 units from the middle of the curve. You can add as much color as you would like this way.

I wanted to lighten the boots, so I used the dodging tool. On the original I also did some sharpening, but that doesn’t really show up on this small file.

I wanted to discuss another thing I like to do in curves. If you take the bottom left of the curve up to the top of the graph you file will be all white. If you pull the center of the curve back down, usually around 1/4 from the bottom of the graph, interesting things will happen.  If you didn’t add any color to your shot it will look a little like a solarisation (also referred to as the Sabatier Effect) an old darkroom technique. However if you did the toning you’ll get a sort of dual tone solarisation, which is really fun. You can see how well it worked here. I usually refer to this as a u-shaped curve.


Please check out my classes at BetterPhoto.com:
An Introduction to Photographic Lighting,
Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio,

Getting Started in Commercial Photography
Thanks, John

 

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