Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cyanotype – The Negative

So the process for creating Cyanotypes all starts with the Negative. Well, OK, perhaps with the photo shoot to get a negative. I will do a post on that when I do my next shoot for this project.  One could of course shoot film and have readymade negatives. For this project however I’m looking at creating 16x20 images and unfortunately I do not have a 16x20 View camera at my disposal. So, I’ll be shooting digital images and creating Digital Negatives. No, not creating Adobe .DNG files, and not the Digital Negative term coined by the father of Camera RAW files Thomas Knoll representing the RAW data itself but rather printing old style Negative transparencies on Acetate film using my Epson 3880 printer.

The concept of creating a Digital Negative itself is fairly simple; however doing it well is a little more complex. You could simply create a negative image in Photoshop and print it or use your printer driver software to print a negative image if you printer driver can do that, but both these processes would be wrong, or at least would not result in an optimum Cyanotype print with the best possible tones.

Original Image



Besides printing a negative image we have a few other things to tend to. First the image also needs to be reversed. That is, it needs to be flipped on the Horizontal plane. The Negative image will be placed emulsion side of the negative to the emulsion side of the paper and then contact printed. This process reverses the image so this needs to be corrected to make sure words read properly and that right hands remain right hands.

Secondly, more importantly and definitely a little more technically challenging is that the tones need to properly be converted, or mapped, to produce a good tonal curve specifically for the Cyanotype process. Your perfect image with great Whites, Blacks and Mid-Tones will not convert perfectly during the Negative Conversion and even if they did, they would be a perfect Negative conversion for printing on standard paper, not on the greatly reduced tonal range of Cyanotype papers.


Negative Image, Reversed


I will cover the process I used in detail on my next post “Cyanotype – Curves”. However, some excellent information can be found on the Internet and in some books. Careful with the books however. Although some purport to help you with the Digital Negative and even with Alternative Printing Processes, very few help you with creating curves specifically for the Cyanotype Process.

For my first test I used an image that somewhat represented my project and then did a simple Negative Conversion and only eyeballed the curves to create what I thought would be a better negative based on my days in the darkroom. I then reversed the Negative image (flipped on the Horizontal) and printed my Acetate Negative. Again, I will cover in detail my printing process but for now note that I used the Epson’s B&W settings to get optimum blacks in my Negative.


Fake Digital Cyanotype, Colors and Density not right but an accurate representation of the details.


The Negative was printed on what is considered to be the best Transparency Film available for creating Digital Negatives, Pictorico Premium OHP Transparency Film. Note that this overhead transparency film is clean. For creating Digital Negatives for traditional B&W prints and some other alternate processes, White (as opposed to clear) Transparency film is recommended; the Pictorico Hi-Gloss OHP White Film. For testing and to keep costs down I first purchased 8.5x11 inch sheets. I also purchased Sun Art pre-made Cyanotype paper in 5x7 sheets.

Using my printed Negative I laid it overtop (emulsion side down) of the pre-coated paper. Over top of that I laid a sheet of Contact Glass to press the negative and paper together. This was all done in my office, no darkroom required. I place this setup outside on a sunny day for five minutes creating other test exposures of 3 minutes and 10 minutes.


Scanned Cyanotype, Some detail is lost, colors fairly good. If you enlarge the image you can see some of the diagonal banding from the paper.


The paper was then developed in a shallow tray of water with running water trickling into the tray. Apparently water temperature can make some differences and so can the addition of other substances to help darken the final image. I tried some tests using Lemon Juice. The results were great considering I didn’t use proper curves for the negatives, the quality of the coated Sun Art paper is less than great, the test exposures were not refined and proper developing techniques were not used.

On the pre-coated Sun Art paper my comment is based on both the cheap very thin paper that is used and on the banding effect that is either caused by their coating process or perhaps by the paper itself. Not sure which. But, used as kids’ projects by moms or teachers these would be very cool and very affordable.

Next post - Cyanotype - The Shoot


© 2013 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.02 - March 2013)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Self Assesment

The post below is an older article from May 2008 that I wrote when I was blogging on another site before I moved here in late 2008. I came across it yesterday before I headed out to teach the last class of the 6 week "Introduction to Digital Photography" course. In our last session we cover composition and try to teach what makes a good photo. This article is very appropriate. I thought I had posted it here on this site before but a student pointed out they could not find it.

I did a quick read through and changed a few things. Hope it helps out.

If you stumble upon this post you can link to the original article here:

Are Your Pictures any Good?

Francois Cleroux
 

Are Your Pictures Any Good?

How do you know if your pictures are any good? There are many types of pictures and they can be good for different reasons and they can also be bad for many reasons. You cant ask your mom, because no matter what, she'll say they are excellent. And besides, what does she really know about photography? In this series I will describe different types of photos and how you can analyze them yourself.

What qualities make a photo exceptional?

Composition

Sometimes even more important than subject will be the composition of the image. Composition is always crucial but it will be different based on you subject matter, the lens used, the point of view used and the lighting. Learn all you can about composition. A badly laid out image never looks good.

Subject Matter

There are various types of subject matter. The subject matter is one of the keys to creating spectacular photos. With all the Subject Types there are rare occasions where a photo will be exceptional within that Subject type. An example would be a good photo of a very cute little kid, or, if you took a photo of your house and you happen to live in a Castle high above the Cliffs, then perhaps these "Personal Subjects" could make a good photo.

Personal Subjects

Personal Subjects are the typical kids, Aunt and Uncle, and the House kind of photos that mean absolutely nothing to the viewer unless they have a personal interest in the photo. These photos are tied for the worst kinds of photos to show others. Many snapshots on holidays fit into this category as they are meant as a "snapshot" in time or what we call a "record shot" for personal memory only.

Boring Subjects

These are the totally non-interesting photos that generally bore everyone. Again, there are exceptions but a brick wall, a normal field, a typical snapshot of a bird stuck in the middle of a photo, a typical sunset or mountain. All of us have seen all these photos numerous times. Some are better than others, but unless there is something else to the photo, we usually just give them a casual glance. If you have what you think is a good photo of a sunset, ask yourself; "Is this the best sunset I have ever seen?" and also "Is this a great photo of the best sunset ever?" It will be very rare when you honestly answer yes to both those questions.

Interesting Subjects

Basic Interesting Subject can be a typical boring subject with a little extra pizzazz. How about a sunset photo with incredible cloud formations, or great water reflections, or perhaps a backlit subject, or a mountain scene where all the wild blooms are out?

Rare Subjects

The other type of Interesting Subject is a photo of something we do not see too often, something rare. Perhaps, you have seen that Mountain with the Wild Blooms, but this one is better than the ones you have seen. More blooms, actually all blooms! A good Macro of a tiny creature that you never see details of because they are so small, or perhaps a scene or animal that you never see in everyday life as it is from another country. Locally we have an abundance of Heron photos. Here, Tiger photos are exciting! These are the photos where many people would gladly pay $5.00 for a poster or print to hang on a wall or would grab from the Internet to use as Desktop Wallpaper.

Exceptional Subjects

Exceptional Subjects are rare and hard to come by, such as scenes in life that can be once in a lifetime scenes. Rare and Strange Animals, or Animals that we love in a perfect setting, an Eagle as it is just about to pounce on a Rabbit for food. These are magnificent scenes that we rarely see or for many, scenes that we never see even once in a life time.

Artistic Subjects

Artistic subjects are those that are usually scene through different eyes, like the eyes of artists. Often, close-ups on life, flowers and other objects can be very artistic. Scenes that take on great shapes or patterns that intrigue the viewer. Or themed photos that have a color theme. In the way of how interesting these are varies greatly from dull and boring and on rare occasions, can be exceptional.

Emotional Subjects

These are the photos that tug at the heart. The Fawn being licked by its mother moments after it was born, or some cute kittens, or perhaps a scene that captures Hunger, or a Clear Cut that shows the devastation of a forest. These types of emotional subjects are usually well received by many viewers. These are rarely dull and often if well done can make for exceptional photos.

The Perfect Subject

Finally there are what I call the Add-ons to the photos. What if you have that Fawn being licked by its mother but there is a beautiful early morning Fog with Dew and exceptional lighting? It could be the exact same photo as I described in the "Emotional Subjects" but this one has the extra elements to make it perfect.

As an artist or photographer you must decide which subject your photo falls under. You must decide if the subject matter is worth showing the world. Should that photo with that subject be put into a Portfolio or posted onto a Web Site such as MyShutterSpace.com or a Club site? Usually, Personal Subjects and Boring Subjects should never be posted on-line or included in a Portfolio. Would you want that photo on your wall even if you were not related in any way to the subject matter?

Interesting Subjects, Artistic Subjects and Emotional Subjects are always good to post on-line and these are the typical photos shown by Enthusiastic Amateur Photographers. These are also the photos that other artists and photographers can comment on to help you take better photos.

A very good Professional Photographer or Artist will combine, Exceptional Subjects with Artistic Subjects and Emotional Subjects to create that perfect photo and will work hard at capturing those extra Add-ons in every scene to achieve that Perfect Subject matter.

How can you tell where your photo fits in "Subject" matter wise? Simple, Study! Look at Photography Books, look at the top Photos on MyShutterSpace.com or Photo.net, look at other people's photos and see which ones get a lot of good comments. Do your photos have similar subject matter? Over time you will learn what is a good subject and what isn't. And, unless you are taking "Personal" photos, ask yourself, "Is this a good and interesting subject?" before you take the photo. If it isn't, is there anything you can do by moving, changing the angle or by other means to make it interesting? Perhaps shooting at a different time of the day when the lighting will be better? If not, why are you taking the picture?

I started the "Are Your Pictures Any Good?" article discussing Subject Matter and Artistic Matter. Here I continue the article by looking at Technical Quality. For you images to fit into that "Good" category, it must meet a minimum level of quality.


Technical Quality

The great thing about judging "technical" quality is that it is not a subjective thing like artistic merit. Quality is easy to look for and easy to test for as well. A poor quality photo of the best subject or of the most artistic thing in the world will be nothing more than a poor quality photo.

The other nice part about quality is that as the photographer with a DSLR and even most Point and Shoot cameras, is that you have all the tools and capabilities to control all the aspects of creating a quality image. All that is required is a little knowledge and on some occasions, a little patience and/or luck.

Exposure

Exposure is the first key to achieving a high quality photo. The correct exposure will control what your final image looks like. (I.e. Exposure as in is the image too light or too dark.)

The correct exposure will also control other aspects of quality in your image. Burnt out Highlights or washed out Shadows, Detail, Color and even focus. It is because of these reasons that the correct exposure is so critical. Make sure that the exposure is correct. If you have areas in your photos that are all washed out (all white) or shadowed (all black) that should contain a little detail, it has probably been over exposed (too much light) or under exposed (too little light).

Although these problems can usually be fixed in Photo Editing Software like Photoshop, it is always best to get proper exposure in camera. This over and under exposure will also greatly affect the total amount of detail in your image. Too much light will burn out and BLUR the white areas loosing detail. The same occurs if you under expose your image. Incorrect exposure will also affect the color and tone of your image. If you want proper and accurate colors, make sure the exposure is correct.

Examples of these over or under exposed images abound on the internet and are easy to spot. Are your photos guilty of this?

Color

Color is usually off because of exposure problems mentioned above. However, some camera sensors can also cause off colors. Poor exposure can cause snow to look gray and can cause other color shifts.

White Balance (learn what it is) can greatly affect your colors. A Bright Red Shirt will look different when photographed in the sun, in the shade, with flash, by a lamp or under fluorescent lights. If you properly white balance you camera before the picture is taken, the Bright Red Shirt should always look the same in any situation.

Poorly adjusted monitors also cause problems. Make sure your monitor is adjusted or "calibrated" properly to display colors accurately. Software like the Xrite ColorChecker Passport and hardware tools like the Datacolor Spyder4Pro and the Xrite ColorMunki Display1 are available for this purpose.

More common than most people think, color blindness is also a cause of many photos not being adjusted properly. If you think (or know) you have color blindness, ask others if the colors look natural.

Lastly and a more current problem is bad color caused by over saturation. When users find this new tool in their Photo Editing Software, they tend to usually over do it. If your photo color is a little dull, by all means fix it up a bit but please do not over do it by making your images look like scenes in CSI Miami or overly colored scenes in Hawaii Five-O.

Focus

Exposure and Color can both be difficult to perfect and in some cases can also be subjective. A photo may even look better if under exposed to give the overall image a darken tone or mood. But focus is focus and it cannot be cheated. An out of focus image can be spotted a mile away. Out of focus images look bad and make the photographer look bad and un-professional. How can photographers take out of focus images and then post them on a web site and then ask other users to comment on the image thinking it's good and worthy of comments? It's bad. It's out of focus. Don't post it.

Learn how to take "Sharp" in focus images. It's not difficult. Have your eyes checked out. Adjust the Dioptric Adjustment on your view finder if it's available or purchase the appropriate Dioptric adapter. Do NOT use the LCD Screen to check focus unless your camera allows you to zoom into the LCD display image to confirm the focus is sharp. Automatic exposure is not always accurate, try manual focus and take your time to make sure it's sharp.

Blur

Some images that look out of focus are caused by blur or "camera shake" and may not actually be out of focus.

Again, learn to hold the camera steady. Learn to gently "release" the shutter as opposed to "pressing the button" without moving the whole camera. If you need to, and "everyone" needs to, use a tripod. I use a tripod for the majority of my photos. A tripod is a photographer's best friend. Get one, use it.

Learn what your shutter speed settings are used for on your camera. Sometimes a simple shutter speed adjustment will create better sharper images.

Do not use High ISO settings. The high level of grain created by using High ISO settings can exaggerate the effects of blur and out of focus images. Also, something most photographers don't know or understand, using higher ISOs reduce the Dynamic Range capture capabilities of your sensor. This will in turn reduce perceptive focus.

If it's blurry and looks out of focus because of it, it's a bad photo and you should not post it or show it. Some photos may intentionally be blurred to show or indicate motion or for artistic reasons, but it is usually easy to tell when its just blurry.

Tack Sharp Images

Read the article I have posted called "Start to Finish Tack Sharp?" for hints, tips and tricks on how to take "Tack" Sharp Images.

Noise, Grain and Pixels

Noise, which can look a little like grain can be caused by using High ISO settings or by improperly exposing your image. Noise though is colored and may not look good. Don't confuse Digital Noise for Grain.

If the subject you want a photo of is but a small portion of your full image, don't bother cropping it out and blowing it up. It won't look good. There probably will not be enough pixels in the final image to make a large print. Lack of Pixels (which is why we buy cameras with a lot of pixels) can cause enlargements to look grainy, pixelated with digital artifacts and will usually be blurry.
A rule of thumb is to NOT crop your image more that 10% of the Pixels and that would be for a 10 Mega Pixel camera. Caution here. Turning a 4x6 Image into a 2x3 Image and blowing it back up to 4x6 is actually 75% crop, not a 50% crop. If you need help understanding this please check it out on the web.

So, if you can't fill your whole frame with your subject, zoom in. And if you can't zoom in any more, then move in. Yes, use your legs and walk closer to your subject, obviously only if you can physically move in closer. Most photographers have become very lazy because of zoom lenses. Use your feet and take a few steps forward! It's free and it gives you way better results than only using 1/4 of your sensors pixels! Since you paid big bucks for it, why not use your whole sensor!

Final Note

It is very easy to see if a photo is technically and artistically OK. It takes about a full second. A bad photo on the other hand can be spotted in about 1/100 of a second. It looks bad. You know yourself if the photo is bad, why post it or show it and ask for advice? You can go through your own checklist before you post it:

1) Is it properly exposed? If it's not bad and slightly off, others may comment on it. Learn from that. If the exposure is way off, don't post it.
2) How is the color?
3) Is it out of focus?
4) Is it Blurry?
5) How is the grain?

Checking to see if it's out of focus or if it's blurry is easy. Print your photo on an 8 x 10 sheet of cheap photo paper. Now check the focus and the blur. It will be easy to tell. Once you learn the basics on how to take a technically good photo, then you can concentrate on how to take great photos or artistic photos.

What separates the good photographers from the bad photographers on most sites and in most clubs is the technical quality of the images. Most good photographers only post and show technically good photos. Most of these same photographers have taken bad out of focus and badly exposed photos (as I have) they just choose to not to show them.

As a viewer when you see 5 good photos from a photographer, you will be inclined to think that the are a good photographer. The same five photos mixed in with ten bad photos will make you think that the photographer is not very good. Watch what you post and show! It's akin to dressing properly when you go to a job interview. It makes the first and biggest impression.

So, learn to be the first line critique of your images. Be hard on yourself and your photography will improve very quickly.

 © 2013 Francois Cleroux

(Version 2.00 - March 2013)
Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shoot in the Rain with the Right Rain Gear (Update)

I live in Tsawwassen British Columbia Canada which is in the Vancouver area. Vancouver is a bit of a rain capitol and although we get much less rain in Tsawwassen than does Vancouver, we still get our fair share. For the photographer rain poses many issues the least of which is potential water damage to camera gear.

Over the many years I have tried many different rain covers and other protective devices to keep rain at bay including the trusty large garbage bag. To this day I still carry a large clear bag in my camera pack in case of foul weather or to protect my camera from ocean or waterfall spray.

Although a large plastic bag works to protect your gear, it does have its drawbacks. Generally bags are not clear and so seeing your camera and settings may be impossible. If you do have a clear bag, it is usually not optically very clear but rather just translucent.

Even if you manage to find a good quality 'clear' bag, it tends to wear out and tear after some time. If it happens to tear during a shoot it may spoil your shoot completely. Duct tape repairs do not work well on wet bags in the rain and you wouldn't want to risk water damaging your gear.

Another issue with bags is the flimsiness of the bag. It tends to lay on top of and can even stick to your gear as condensation builds up inside the bag. On very windy days the home made plastic bag contraptions are next to impossible to use.


OpTechRainCover
Image from OpTech USA

Like I mentioned I have tried other devices including the OpTech Rainsleeve. The 'Rainsleeve' is not much more than a plastic bag with a drawstring at one end. The bag in general does not appear to be designed for a DSLR camera as I could barley fit my 50D with Battery grip into it. Once inside the bag there was no room left for even one of my hands. The drawstring is another issue with this product as it does not work well on a lens hood that is bevelled such as those on wide angle lenses. A disappointing product.

RainCover
My Canon 40D.

I purchased another contraption from eBay called "Digital Camera Rain Dust Cover" that sells for about $15.00 U.S. This product is a contraption. It does come nicely packed into two separate pouches. One for the two piece armature that needs to be snapped together and then attached to your cameras Hot Shoe (Danger Will Robinson). The second pouch stores the plastic cover. The cover is better thicker proper plastic that will not wear like the OpTech plastic bag material.

The cover attaches using Velcro tabs and the armature is telescopic and can adjust its length to work with various size lenses. It should accommodate a lens up to 200mm. All in all it does work but it is rather hokey. I do not like the fact that it attaches to the Hot Shoe but for the price it works. There is even ample room for both my hands as pictured in the above photo. I am not sure I would want to assemple this and attach it to a camera on a stormy day.

As I needed to find a better solution I kept looking and saw that Tenba sold a rain cover, the RC-18 Rain Cover. This product looked promising at first. The material was heavy duty but not 'clear'. Doing my homework I checked out reviews of this product on Amazon and on other sites and based on mostly bad reviews I chose not to buy it.

KataBag
My Canon 40D with Standard 24-105mm Lens.

While checking out the Tenba reviews I stumbled upon the Kata E-702 Rain Cover. Based on the good reviews I went to my local photo shop and checked it out. It appeared to be very well made and well designed so I purchased it and ordered the optional E-704 Lens Sleeves. These optional sleeves are not required for most standard lenses and the main cover should accommodate most 200mm lens.

After bringing it home I tried it out on my Canon 50D with Battery Grip and my standard 24-105mm Lens. Attaching the back to the camera was simple. The Draw Bungy String pulls tight around the neck of the lens as opposed to the hood and a heavy semi rigid material wraps around the hood and Velcro's into place. The bottom has two separate zipper that closes the main opening tight or tight against your tripod.

KataE702Rear
Kata Image.

Using the Kata E-702 Elements Cover is simple by means of the two large arm/hand openings that also protect your hands from bad weather. These hand sleeves also have Draw Bungy Strings so that you can make them snug. The bag also works well when used vertically. Once you have your hands inside there is plenty of room for both your hands to get at all your cameras knobs, dials and buttons. You can also see all the camera because of the well integrated plastic window. Even with the Battery Grip on the camera there is still plenty of room for both hands.

The Kata E-704 Lens Extension Kit is a lens cover extension kit that comes with two separate long lens sleeves and a separate hand sleeve. One is designed for lenses up to 350mm and the other for lenses up to 650mm. You can attach then hand sleeve to any part of the lens sleeves so that you can have direct access to the focusing rings on any lens.

I have looked at other options including the "Hydrophobia 300 - 600", the "FotoSharp Camera Rain Cover", the AquaTech Sports Shield" and the "Lightware Rain Cover" and I think that for the money, for the usability and comfort of use, the Kata System is the best.

Although it is a little larger to store than a garbage bag, I feel much more comfortable knowing my expensive gear is better protected than a 25 cent bag. Using this cover in the rain has been great and overall I give this product a 5 out of 5 rating.

Pricing on the Kata system is not cheap but then again you are wanting to properly protect expensive equipment. Properly taken care of the Kata Rain Cover should last many years.

Street prices have dropped recently and the E-702 sells on Amazon.com (as of January 23rd, 2009) for only $38.67. The two links below will send you to Amazon.com and the third link will send you to Kata.

Rating -  5 Out Of 5  - Highly Recommended.
Buy - Kata E-702 Large Digital SLR Camera Raincover
Buy -
Kata E-704 Lens Extension Kit
Kata Home Page -
www.kata-bags.com

2013.03.13 Update - Thanks for the update. Yes, at this time the E-702 at Amazon is now $59.90 (as of March 2013) and the E-704 is $63.46. Note that I have purchased two knock offs for testing and I have found a problem with the Kata unit which is why I have looked at other units. I have found that over time the clear plastic used by Kata as a window gets milky. Not sure if the plastic is actually milky or if its just minor abbrasion on the plastic. My Kata bag has alway been handled with care and always in a protective bag when not in use. I have sent a letter to Kata and will report back. I will also be updating this post when I have more answers and when I have reviewed the two other units.

See the original post here along with some reader's comments.

© 2013 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.11 - March 2013)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cyanotype - The Project

I did a lot of soul searching in my classes with Russel and Wendy Kwan trying to decide what photographic direction to go in, I finally decided to do a project on Long Exposure Landscapes but not your typical Michael Levine long exposures everyone is doing now.

Specifically, they will be different in subject matter and in the way they will be photographed and they will be printed as hand-made Silver Salt prints. Not a simple process but one I want to challenge myself with. They will also…. oh, wait, it’s a secret. A cool secret at that, and one that has me very excited. Later, when the project is closer to completion, I will share this secret with you.

One of my fake Digital Cyanotypes.

Why Silver Salt Prints? Silver Salt printing is a process that was used in the early 19th century and has the same timeless qualities that I love in photography and one I want to bring to my landscape images.

My first challenge was to figure out how to create the Silver Salt prints. Something I had no idea about when I first had the idea but having been schooled in the darkroom and having a great understanding of photographic processes, I was able to make a fairly educated guess at the work that would be involved.

I then did some studying on the subject which led me to read and learn about many other old world processes including the Cyanotype. While investigating the Cyanotype I decided I liked the look of the blue print but also it’s toned variants that can be made Pink, Red, Brown, almost Black and various other colors. As much as I liked the Blue color, I liked what the Cyanotype process did to the images themselves. It reduces details in the highlights and shadows, and contrast gets enhanced because of the reduction in tonal range. The slightly grainy effect also reduces sharpness a little but good sharp lines can still rendered. The images tend to be somewhat darker with a softness about them.

This process I decided would look great with some of the nudes I have been shooting and could bring out their classic beauty while reducing their personal nature. The final results of the monochromatic images would reduce the overall brashness of a typical nude. Cyanotype prints also seem to take on a feeling of nostalgic beauty that can be viewed without the modern interference and harshness that is present in most digital images.

The basic process of Cyanotypes involves mixing an emulsion from chemicals and then coating paper with the emulsion before exposing the image under a UV light source or the Sun. This process is very similar to the Salt Print process but much simpler in that it doesn’t require a darkroom and is safer and cheaper. This would be a good start to lead into creating Salt Prints for my Landscape project.

A new project is born. Deciding that I liked the look of the nudes with the Cyanotype process and that the Cyanotypes were a perfect lead-in to the Silver Salt prints, I decided to create a series of Classic Nudes printed as 16x20 handmade Cyanotype prints.

The project in its infancy still needs to have a few things hammered out. What will the nudes be? One woman? Several women? All classic beauties or women of varied body types, shapes and sizes? Will the images themselves be studies of light, shape and form of parts or whole bodies? Will they be made more personal by including faces?

Now I also have the technical issues to deal with. Will the Cyanotype prints be classic Prussian blue or toned? What paper should I use and how do I create the perfect Digital Negative for these Cyanotype prints? I have already been working on the Digital Negatives and have been developing Photoshop curves.

I have named the project mostly because I keep notes in a record book and I will also be blogging about the project and so I will need a reference name. Later, as the project comes along and gets more refined, I may decide to change the name to something that is more reflective of the project itself, but, for now it’s called Embodying Femininity.

Once I have mastered the Cyanotypes, whether my Cyanotype project is finished or not, I will start the Silver Salt Landscapes project.

Next Post - Cyanotype - The Negative

© 2013 Francois Cleroux
(Version 1.01 - March 2013)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Cyanotype - History

So before we get into my Cyanotype Project, we'll cover a little history.

The English scientist, astronomer and botanist, Sir John Herschel discovered the Cyanotype in 1842 as a means of ‘copying’ his notes. In the early days the paper was coated with iron salts and then used in contact printing. The paper was then washed in water and resulted in a white image on a deep blue background. The cyanotype was the first simple and practical non-silver iron process discovered a mere three years after the “official” announcement of the discovery of photography. The cyanotype provided permanent images in an elegant assortment of blue values.

Sir John Herschel

Along with the Cyanotype the precursors of the modern day blueprint process and variations such as the chrysotype (gold print) and the platinum process on the basis of the light sensitivity of platinum salts, Herschel managed to fix pictures using hyposulphite of soda in 1839, which is the still used today and better known as ‘hypo’. Herschel also gave us the words photography, negative, positive and snapshot. Apart from his great contribution to photography he originated the use of the Julian day system in astronomy; he named seven moons of Saturn and four moons of Uranus and investigated colour blindness and the chemical power of ultraviolet rays.

A Sir John Herschel Image

It was Anna Atkins who brought the Cyanotype to photography. In 1843 she began publishing folios of her photogenic drawings and in 1850, she began to publish more comprehensive collections of her work, completing a three volume anthology in 1853 called "Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions". These books contained 424 handmade Cyanotypes images. These were the very first published works to utilize a photographic system for scientific investigation and illustration.

Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions

Atkins placed specimens directly onto coated paper, allowing the action of light to create a silhouette effect, a process called a photogram. Apart from her other works, she also created images of feathers and ferns. By using this photogram process, Anna Atkins is regarded as the first female photographer. Anna also experimented with the Calotype process.

Photogram by Anna Atkins

A photogram is a photographic image made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive material such as photographic paper and then exposing it to light. The usual result is a negative shadow image that shows variations in tone that depends upon the transparency of the objects used.

"Louise" - Henry Peter Bosse

Another, relatively unknown early Cyanotype artist was Henry Peter Bosse. Henry was a prescient photographer in that he foresaw and adhered to aesthetic values which have come to define the work of German photo-journalists around the world. Straight forward composition and a concern for the efforts of man characterize Bosse's photographic point-of-view, as it would come to be the basis of foto-reportage. Bosse took great care when making his presentation albums. He foresaw the need for color: the intense moody blues of his refined cyanotypes reflect this concern. His cyanotypes were exposed with large glass plates and printed on the finest French cyanotype paper, each sheet off-white measuring 14.5" x 17.2" and bearing the watermark Johannot et Cie. Annonay, aloe's satin. The albums are leather bound. Beyond technique, in his appreciation for railroad bridges and structural steel, Bosse stood at the forefront of German appreciation for photographic look books concerned with the hand of man, modern architecture and urban design.

"Wagen" - Henry Peter Bosse

The Cyanotype process became popular with pictorialists, for whom a commercial paper called ferro-prussiate was marketed. The cyanotype process has remained virtually unchanged since its invention but a few variations have been developed, one of which is the New Cyanotype II developed by Mike Ware.

Today, there appears to be resurgence in not only the Cyanotype process, but also many of its historic brethren processes. Simple easy to use Pre-coated papers under the names "Sun Art" and "Super SunPrint" are available from Amazon.com and other sources and both Liquid and Dry Chemical Kits including the New Cyanotype II kits are available from various sources including Amazon.com and Photographers Formulary.

Next Post - Cyanotype - The Project


© 2013 Francois Cleroux
(Version 1.01 - March 2013)
Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Delta Photo Inspirations

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The Delta Photo Inspirations (DPI) Show is a multi-day Photo Competition with a great Friday evening soirĂ©e of food, photos and awards followed by a full Saturday of Classes, Workshops, Venders Displays, more food all capped off with a great Keynote Speaker. This year’s keynote speaker is Christopher Morris.

I would highly recommend you attend this great event and perhaps I’ll see you in class. Check out all the information on the Photo Competition with Cash Prizes, the Entry Deadline and register for the workshops. There are some great award winning instructors there.

I will be doing a workshop entitled Photographic Success. Here the info on the class:

"What kind of photographer are you? Time to set goals for photographic success! Join Francois for this thought provoking seminar as you address key questions and obstacles that may be standing in the way of your photographic growth. Francois will not only challenge your thinking and photographic behavior, but will also talk about strategies and available resources to take your work to the next level, whatever kind of photographer you are."
 
Get all the information at www.DeltaPhotoInspirations.com 
 
Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Better but not so Blue!

So many of you know by now that I was sick from prior to Christmas and spent three separate evenings in the hospital and then a full 8 days in the hospital with surgery and a few weeks recovering because of a bad infection. My ailment caused me to feel sick for many months prior to Christmas and very tired lacking any sort of energy to the point where I thought perhaps I had depression since I had been feeling bad for so long.

Click Image to Enlarge

Then getting very sick I was admitted to the hospital and had emergency surgery. Turns out I had a very bad infection and problems with my Gall bladder including it being full of stones.

Now, several weeks later, not 100% recovered yet but I already feel 200% better! Looking back I see and understand why I haven’t posted many blogs but did post one negative blog which is unlike me to do. I even teach Social Media and always say, NEVER be negative, NEVER attack which I did. I apologise for my last blog transgression. Not making excuses but obviously it was my state of mind from being sick. I also realized during that time I had neither energy nor even the wish to head out and do some photography. Obviously I wasn’t quite right.

But now that I am better both physically and mentally I’m all pumped and eager to shoot more. I have been taking the Wendy and Russel Kwan classes “Chasing Light Stranger” that have helped me tremendously with my photography art soul searching and it has inspired and focused me. I am now more driven than ever. I have several new projects on the go. The first I will share with you is to do a set of Landscapes (won’t give out all the details here yet) that will eventually be printed on handmade Silver Salt prints. A lofty goal.

In order to achieve that goal I have embarked on a simpler easier project that will help me with the Silver Salt prints using some similar techniques but in many ways much easier and cheaper. I am now doing a series of hand done Cyanotype prints of nudes. The nudes will mostly be lighting and shapes and form of parts only. The Cyanotypes are Analog Chemical based prints like the real Cyanotypes of old.

The process however involves making Digital Negatives and learning how to create the tone curves to bring out the best possible tonal range in a medium that lacks good tonal capabilities. I have already experimented with some images including a full nude to see what kind of details I can achieve. I am pleased with the results I have already achieved.

The process also includes coating my own papers with my own formulations. This will be critical when I get to create the Silver Salt prints but for now I am gaining some great experience coating paper and testing papers and such.

My next blog posts will include some samples of the work. I created some digital versions of the Cyanotypes but they do not look at all like the originals. I will scan some of the originals to see if they look more like the real thing. I will also experiment with Photoshop to see if I can create more lifelike replicas. The image above is a digital full body nude but it has lost a lot of the detail. The tones are not right and the process, or rather iPad app I used also reduces sharpness? Not sure why that is as the original analog Cyanotype retains great detail including great resolution in the long hair. I have posted the image so that some of you that do not know what a Cyanotype image looks like, could see or get the feel for it.

In my next few posts I will give better details of the project but also of the process in hopes of encouraging you to perhaps try it out on your own. Note that the process only requires a Dim-room as opposed to a dedicated Darkroom to create the coated papers and so it is easy to do in your kitchen or bathroom. The developing only requires the sun and running water. How easy.

Stay Tuned!

Next Post - Cyanotype - History


© 2013 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.02 - March 2013)
Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.