Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cyanotype - The Shoot

Copyright 2013 Francois Cleroux

I have already shown some nude samples from images I had shot in the past. And, although they may be perfect to show as examples, I decided in 'creating' my images from scratch specifically for this project. Why?

First off, the images themselves, what should they be of? Should I do classic full body nudes, should I do tighter cropped body and light studies (which I like) or should I shoot something in between, perhaps with more complex frame filling compositions?

What about the format? Should I use the standard 35mm 2:3 aspect ratio, the traditional 4:5 aspect ratio or perhaps do some square (1:1) images?


Copyright 2013 Francois Cleroux

The reason this is all important is because when creating a body of work or more specifically a project or collection, it is essential that the images have a coherent feel and look to them that holds the collection together. They should look like they belong together.

This can be achieved by keeping the lighting the same (or similar), by having all your images the same aspect ratio, using the same focal length lens and so on. There are many photographic attributes and characteristics that can be used to cohesively define a collection. This will be important with my Cyanotype project.

More importantly than the above however, shooting specifically for the Cyanotype Project will give me the control that I require when creating the Cyanotypes. Cyanotypes are generally fairly high contrast with few or limited mid-tones. By creating new images specifically for this media type I can better control the mid-tones. I can do that by making sure I start off with the right lighting, shooting RAW and then keeping the mid-tones in mind when I process my digital images, create my digital negatives and then finally creating my Cyanotypes.

Copyright 2013 Francois Cleroux

On the lighting, as you can probably see from most of my nude images I tend to like rather dark high contrast nudes. By using a softer light that gives me softer transitions from light to dark, I can create larger mid-toned transitions between the light and dark areas. The overall contrast will be the same, but with slightly enhanced mid-tones.

Also, because the Cyanotypes are high contrast, any areas within an image that are very faint with just slight detail showing within a dark area will be lost in the Cyanotype process and will be turned to dark blue. Some of the faint detailed areas are important to the overall balance of some of the images and so one must make sure that these show up on the final Cyanotype image. By increasing the amount of light in those areas and properly exposing those normally faint areas, I can ensure details will be retained through the negative creation process and on to the final Cyanotype print.

As you can see from this post the Cyanotype Project truly starts pre-camera shutter release. The right lighting from the onset will translate to properly detailed Cyanotypes.

Copyright 2013 Francois Cleroux

Next time you head out on a shoot, think about what you will be using the images for and on what media types you will be printing on. Will you be printing on high contrast glossy paper or on lower contrast matte paper or on some other media type. Properly exposing and making any adjustments before you print will greatly improve the quality of your printed work.

For my first shoot I photographed two models in a studio setting using studio lighting and a traditional black backdrop. The images here are different contrast levels that I will use to explore the process with. I did want to do some High Key images but will try that on my next shoot to see what that would look like in a Cyanotype. An afterthought I'd like to explore.

For me, this process has given me some excellent digital images I can work with to continue the project. Next up, let's discuss the digital editing of the Raw files and then look at creating the Digital Negatives and the Specific Curves required for properly creating Cyanotypes.

© 2013 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - April  2013)

2 comments:

  1. I am enjoying your thoughtful approach and workflow for the cyanotype process. Thank you.
    The last paragraph of "The Shoot" indicates there's another post on digital editing fO RAW files, certain the digital negs and the Specific Curves. Where would I find that?

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    Replies
    1. As I moved shortly after that I put the rest on hold. I have been back in the darkroom since September and will be back at Cyanotypes in a month. I will post the continuing entries at that time. Thanks for your interest. Keep an eye out.

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I value thoughtful comments and suggestions. If you like or dislike this post, please let me know. If you have any ideas or suggestion, comments or corrections (I do make mistakes) please also let me know. Thanks.

- Francois Cleroux