Tag: photography

New Books

Since the move I’m still adjusting to my new work space. I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with all the windows in every room. I never thought I’d miss having an interior closet of a bathroom. Speaking of, even my closet has windows! I am starting to think that my only truly light-proof solution is to work at night. I’m a natural night owl anyway but I prefer not to exacerbate my tendency to stay up until all hours. But I’m getting to the point that if I don’t start creating something soon I’ll go a little nuts.


In the meantime my solution is to buy new books. Looking at other people working helps to get my juices flowing and motivates me to figure out how to make this space work for the fiddly printing methods I enjoy.


My first purchase this year was long overdue. I finally bought the bible of alternative processes: The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes 3rd Edition by Christopher James. The new edition has a brand new, huge section on wet plate collodion. It has been a trendy technique for a few years now. Despite that, it’s a cool process. If a nice lens ever makes its way into my life I may build a camera and play with wet plate but I have also been playing with a combo technique marrying digital manipulations with alternative printing methods to give me what I like about wet plate without all the chemicals and large format camera. I’m still playing but I think I’m close to something worth continuing. Anyway, this book touches on so many techniques that there will be something in it that sets your brain on fire. Half of the methods in the book were unknown to me until I read through it. It was nice to see Mr. James mention Luis González Palma (his official website is down as of this entry but hopefully it’ll pop back up soon). It is impossible to look at his work without some sort of reaction.


If you are interested in historical and alternative processes, The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes is invaluable.



My next purchase was Salt Print by Peter Mrhar. I adore salt printing. It has such a dreamy quality even if I’m using negatives made from my digital images. Because it’s printed on water color paper you can do so many surface techniques to it. I know albumen tightens it up a bit but until we start our next flock of chickens I think I’ll stick with plain ‘ol salt printing. This book caught my eye because of the mention of orotones.

orotone(this image came from a website dedicated to orotones.)

The book has very clear directions for salt printing on glass to facilitate the creation of orotones. And I do love shiny things. We just discovered a pile of glass sheets in one of our sheds at the new house. Gotta love 100+ old houses and the weird stuff you have popping up when you poke around. The rest of the book has some valuable information about technique but I mainly bought it for printing on things other than paper and the various varnish formulas.


Photographic Possibilities by Robert Hirsch is the latest book to make it into my collection. I got it this afternoon as an early anniversary present. My husband is good at picking books for me. So far I can see that this book will be good at breaking any creative block concerning photography. I love the section on creative process and working through an idea. It also touches on numerous historical processes with well laid out chapters that include all the formulas you will need plus techniques. The book also goes into non-traditional techniques like chemigrams, hand-coloring with a variety of mediums, and transfer techniques. I need to spend more time with the book but so far it looks interesting.

Down to the Wire

I feel like I’m in school again. I’ve got a show application deadline coming up soon and I’m in the home stretch of finally having work I want to submit. Because this has all been more experimental than anything I have been afraid that I would end up with nothing worth looking at. I still have some work to do once the wax sets but so far I like what’s going on.


 Toning the prints face down in gold toner.


Drying the printed blocks.


Adding wire to the backs of the blocks.


Waxed and waiting to set so they can be polished.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the update. Hopefully I’ll have some finished products in the next couple of days so I can get them photographed.

Wax On, Wax Off

Sorry about the title. I couldn’t help myself 🙂 I’m sure I’m about the 100th person to make that joke in reference to encaustic.

I am lucky enough to know many talented people in the Austin area. Christine Terrell of adaptive reuse and Tincaustics was sweet enough to show me the basics of encaustics so I could proceed on my current project. Here are some shots from our play date.


Christine’s wax pot, heated up and ready to go.


The color palette on an electric griddle.


Raw beeswax and resin.


An example of Christine’s beautiful work.


Hard to tell but I waxed the back of the watercolor paper to make it translucent. You can see the shadows from my fingers on the left hand side.


Fresh wax over the salt print on wood.


Salt print on wood after the wax was set and lightly buffed.

I will be posting up more salt prints on wood as soon as I figure out which images will benefit from this technique. I also hope to experiment with color and texture soon.

New Orleans, New Negative

I’ve been playing with a new negative. This is one of the street performers I met while in New Orleans last year. I’m sure many people photographed him while he was there but I hope I’m one of the few using these old methods to make interesting pieces with his likeness. Meet Scarlet Ray Watt:

nola tissue 2

 The image has been printed to rice paper for a future encaustic experiment.

nola tissue

 Another view so you can see the translucency.

nola pretone

 Salt print, pre-toned, with an improperly printed negative. I forgot to reverse the image. Oops.

nola finished

 Salt print post-tone. Much nicer color in my opinion.

nola wood

 Salt print on wood. I searched and searched but couldn’t find anyone else who had tried this so I just double coated with the salt solution, one coat of the silver and processed as normal. Seems to have worked.

These are experimental. I’ve been taking old negatives and digital files and using those to come up with techniques I may want to pursue in the future.  I took this photo with a Holga. I have another shot I took with my digital that I like better so that one may get a more careful treatment. I’ll be learning some basic encaustic techniques soon so hopefully I’ll have some interesting things to show you in the next post or two.

Historical Inspiration

Hey all, I thought today I would share some of my favorite websites and images that have inspired my recent experiments with historical photography process. First up is My Daguerreotype Boyfriend. This site makes me smile. It is a Tumblr feed of historical pictures of pretty men. The ones of a young Teddy Roosevelt are fascinating. They aren’t all daguerreotypes but the feed is fun enough that a little variety in processes isn’t hurting anything.


This is my favorite daguerreotype boyfriend. I call dibs!

Second, this self-portrait of American photography pioneer Robert Cornelius has inspired many late nights of googling old processes. There is something about his stare and cocksure pose that keeps me coming back. This is definitely the first selfie and one of the first photos taken of a human.


 Oh, Robert, no wonder you are all over Pinterest and a daguerreotype boyfriend, too.

Any picture of a studio, mobile darkroom, or lab set-up interests me. I love looking at old equipment and seeing how the first photographers worked. Roger Fenton was one of the first war-time photographers and traveled through dangerous places to get his shots using his mobile wagon darkroom.


I can imagine a few of the modern wet plate collodion artists being jealous of this set-up.

I also spend a lot of time on the Alternative Photography website. They have all sorts of information for any process you can think of. There are so many of the members writing articles sharing their own work and experiments. It’s a good way to see what is out there.

Check these sites out and read up on modern photography’s predecessors. Old ways are still

Salt Print Attempt #1

Last night was exciting! Well, it was exciting to me.

I tried salt printing for the first time with the kit from Bostick & Sullivan. I also used the gold toning kit though so far it looks like the prints need longer toning times. It was an interesting few hours. For starters, I have no idea what each stage of this process is supposed to look like. This is completely foreign territory for me. At least I’ve done cyanotypes on and off over the last 10 years or so. Tonight I was going off of written descriptions of what to look for and just winging it using various internet sites. I think I got lucky as far as which curve to use and how to print the digital negative for this process. I’m knocking on wood and kissing my muse’s butt right now.

I used two different digital negative printing methods and tried both out last night. One looked nice. The other was a miserable failure. I had a feeling the second one would not work but I had no idea what would happen with the first.

First, my failure:


It’s still wet but you can see the overly high contrast, lack of detail, and the muddy highlights.

I was following some advice on a random website that suggested using colored ink to block light and allow the highlights to develop slower. I followed his directions but the results were less than stellar. I had my doubts as I was working on that so I also decided to do a mix of advice off of several websites and tried to create as dense of a negative as I could while preserving as much tonality as possible.


I still need to learn more about the process but I’m pleased with this attempt.

My other attempt was much better. I’m not sure if I could have pulled more detail into this negative or not. I’ve seen some detailed prints online and in books. I need to research the process more and see how far I can push it. This kit is nice but once I get this down and get fairly predictable results I may move on to mixing my own formulas to see what happens.

Just for the sake of, I put together a file so I could see the original image with the cyanotype and salt print. The variety of the different processes is interesting and I feel confident enough in proceeding with these alternative processes. Now to figure out a project to turn into a series …


Cyanotypes (and the beginning of more contact printing)

{Warning: Long Post}

Cyanotypes can be a very satisfying process to work with. When I was in college I took an alternative photography class and cyanotypes were one of my favorite processes. We also learned  gum oils, Van Dykes, a dry plate method for doing tintypes, and a few more processes I’m sure I don’t remember anymore. For anyone just starting out with contact printing (specifically, printing out an image on paper vs. developing an image in a dark room) I recommend cyanotypes. They are one of the easiest, cheapest methods to try. You only need the sun, some paper, and the chemicals. You don’t need a dark room. But you do need to be aware of UV exposure if you aren’t going to expose the paper immediately.

I liked the idea of having a fairly consistent workflow so I decided to build a UV light box. There are several websites and books out there to get you started. Try to find someone familiar with electrical work (if you are not) before you start so the wiring will be done safely and correctly. Also, keep in mind that too much UV exposure can be harmful so when looking at plans keep that in mind. Some people build their boxes with the bulbs facing up. I chose to build mine to be fully enclosed. Sourcing bulbs cheaply can be difficult. Hopefully this website is still in business in the future and still has decent prices (Top Bulb). I used F20T12 BL (black light) bulbs (not BLB). I purchased the sockets and ballasts separately so that I had more control over the spacing of the bulbs. Yes, I should have documented the build but I didn’t. Have patience and plan well. A few google sessions should result in a good understanding of what you need.

I also recommend Jill Enfield’s Guide to Photographic Alternative Processes. It has a good overview of different processes along with recipes if you want to mix your own chemicals so you have more control over your results. There are so many books out there and many of them have good information. I tend to research and read a lot before I start a new project so I always recommend checking out as many information sources as you can. Bostick & Sullivan sells a cyanotype kit that will get you started and yields good results. You can also get a kit from Photographers’ Formulary but I haven’t used it. They do sell bulk chemicals though for when you want to try your own mixing. Another fun website is Rockland Colloid. They have a tintype dry plate kit among other things.


Light box in the building stage.


Light box being wired. I used 10 bulbs in my box.

My light box took several weekends to build mainly due to needing to re-cut a few pieces and waiting on my father-in-law to visit so I could talk him into helping me wire it up. Once the box was done, Dan Burkholder’s book was a life saver. I do shoot both digitally and on film but the biggest film I shoot is 120. Contact printing means that the print will be the same size as the negative so you either need to shoot on larger film or learn to make digital negatives. Burkholder recommends the higher-end Epson printers and that is what he gives instructions for in his book. You can use other brands and you can even get away with using dye-based inks but after playing around on my own I found it easier to bite the bullet and get a nice Epson.


 First test run.


 Step charts utilizing various curves found around the web and other sources.

With a working light box and a few curves to play with I started printing out my negatives and trying them on various papers with various exposures. With some papers it makes a difference what side you use, so when you cut the paper down, mark the back with a pencil. I also write the name of the paper and the exposure time so that I can remember later. I started playing with Lana Aquarelle, Fabriano, Arches Platine, Rives BFK, and Arches Hot Press. Arches HP was the clear winner, but I’m glad I have a variety because I want to play with other processes and each process reacts differently to each paper.

Once your paper is cut down, it’s time to add the sensitizer. When adding the sensitizer to the paper it is safe to be in a room with a 40W bulb while coating, drying, and rinsing. Fluorescents can emit a small amount of UV and cloud your prints. Some people also use yellow bug lights or amber safe lights.  There are a few ways to coat the paper. You can use a glass coating rod or various brushes. I prefer using a hake brush. Once the paper is dry (you can use a hairdryer on a cool setting to speed things up) sandwich the negative and the paper between two heavy, uncoated pieces of glass and secure with clips. You can also use a contact frame. They are expensive to buy new, but I found some smaller ones at a reasonable price on ebay.  Set the whole contraption either in the sun or into your UV box and wait. In bright sun the print will develop in a few minutes. Look for the shadow areas to go blue then start to reverse. You may or may not see the shadows start to solarize and get a shimmer. Keep track of the time so you can adjust as needed. Once they are exposed, rinse the paper until all the yellow has washed from the paper. I’ve seen recommended rinse times from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. Use whatever is recommended for your kit or recipe. Make sure you agitate the print and keep the water flowing. I have extremely hard water in my house so I start with a 3 minute rinse of distilled water and a dash of vinegar. I then rinse as usual and then do a final rinse in water and a dash of hydrogen peroxide to bring out the blues faster. You can also tone cyanotypes to alter the color but I haven’t played with that yet.


 Different papers and exposure times.


Trying to print from a scan of an old photo. These are different curves. None are very satisfactory. It leaves me wondering if making a digital negative from a photograph (vs scan) of an old print would be easier or not.


 The fogging at the top is from overcoating. Some recommend to do a light coat with distilled water and letting it dry until just damp before applying the cyanotype solution to aid in an even coat.

It is good to remember that you don’t need negatives, light boxes, or fancy printers to do cyanotypes. You can also do sun prints. They are equally as satisfying and all you need is the sun and interesting things to put onto your paper. Feathers create unique patterns and certain plant material can be pleasantly translucent.


 My stepkids had fun making sun prints.

I hope this post was semi-informative and made a few people want to go out and try this fun process. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without the help of Anthony Maddaloni. He makes this look so easy. Well, it isn’t hard, but I do over-think things. He is great about making me just do instead of plan to death.


 My favorite image to date even though it could use some tweaking. A Paris hospital lit up for Nuit Blanche. Made on my back porch with a digital negative and printed in the sun on Fabriano paper.

After I get my cyanotypes to where I want them I’m going to start on salt prints and dry plate tintypes. I may venture into albumen printing only because we have an overflow of fresh backyard eggs. Look for more blog posts then those experiments start up.

Old Albums & Mysteries

After my maternal grandmother passed away last year I was given an old album. No one in my family could identify any of the people in it so if I didn’t take it the whole thing would have been tossed. It is in terrible shape. It’s torn, moldy, and falling apart. Despite all that I’m fascinated by it. It seems to be a special album just for cabinet cards and carte de visite, though there are a few tintypes and other formats scattered throughout.

insideInside, front cover inscribed with my great great grandmother’s name and address

I am still hopeful I can figure out who some of these people are. I started removing the cards and looking  for logos and studio names. When I googled a few only one name showed up. Louis Rice’s name appeared on a website that helps identify old photos for Fayette County, Texas. My family is mostly from Victoria County, Texas and there isn’t a similar website for that (yet?) so I thought I’d put up a blog post and see if anyone had more information.

coupleI’d like to get confirmation on the identity of these two folks.
It would be wonderful to find out that this was
Louis Gaugler & Anna Mueller Gaugler.
All I know is that the original images have
“Corpus Christi” written on the back but these
larger prints were made and colored later.

The rest of the images I’m posting show various cards with a wide range of photographers working in the area. Most are from Victoria but I’ve included any that I found with studio/photographer names, with the exception of an obvious family group stamped with a Connecticut studio. Right now I’m trying to focus on the photographers working in the Victoria, Texas area. Click on the picture groups to see them a bit larger if you’d like.
















My Not So New Fascination

{Scroll to the bottom of the post for links to resources not linked in the text}

I can safely say that I have been fascinated by the tintype (or ferrotype) process since I first saw the famous Billy the Kid image. Not sure why, but learning that the image was a mirror image intrigued me. I later learned that tintype images appeared backwards because they were actually negatives, but the black background on the metal (or glass if it was an ambrotype) caused the negative to appear as a positive. When I had the chance to take an alternative photography class in college I jumped on it. We didn’t do any true wetplate techniques but it was still quite a fun class and I learned a lot.


In school, we used a kit from Rockland Colloid to do tintypes. The emulsion came pre-mixed in a tube and it was applied to the plate and allowed to dry before exposing it. Technically, this was a dry plate technique and most of us used a UV light box in conjunction with digital negatives to make contact prints, but it was possible to fit the plates into cameras and expose that way. Doing this sort of tintype doesn’t seem to create the same effect as a wetplate tintype. The effect is still interesting but it isn’t as “dreamy.” I do have a few ideas on altering lenses, altering negatives, and changing what I use as a plate in order to achieve a similar effect without the dangerous chemicals and the need for a portable darkroom, but I still want to try the original process at least once.


Since graduating many years ago I have wholeheartedly embraced the resurgence of film photography. Digital has its purpose but I find a warmth and intimacy in film that I don’t find with digital. I started dabbling in making cyanotypes again and have been following the sudden trend in exploring even older techniques. I started seeing blog posts for tintype portraits in San Francisco and was lucky enough to visit and have one taken at Photobooth. They were so sweet and let me watch the entire process from start to finish. Unfortunately, the store will be closing March 2014 so anyone in the SF area should book an appointment asap if they are interested.

A few months ago a pop up tintype photobooth appeared in Austin called Lumiere. I plan on checking them out soon and also plan on pestering them for lessons. I’ve found a few workshops scattered across the country, and while I don’t mind traveling, this process is expensive enough. In anticipation of finding a class I purchased an old Brownie box camera. I’ve heard from numerous sources that the Brownie #3 is easy to modify to use with tintypes. Applying a varnish to the inside protects the camera from the wet emulsion and can be wiped down between plates.


In the meantime, I’m finally building my own UV exposure box using this site as inspiration. I’ve already ordered a timer and the bulbs will be here soon. I will say that if you decide to also use this site to build one you will probably have to source the bulbs and ballasts from somewhere other than where he suggested. Those links didn’t work for me so I had to look elsewhere.

As far as other useful links go:

The book that got me moving forward on all this again: Jill Enfield’s Guide to Photographic Alternative Processes: Popular Historical and Contemporary Techniques


Making Digital Negatives and this site, too.

Alternative Photography Processes

A google search of wetplate collodion. Careful, some NSFW images can show up. It is art after all {smile}. I didn’t want to post other people’s images here without permission if they weren’t related to specific links, but you should look at the google link so you can see how magical wetplate images can be.

I’m hoping to post my future experiments and experiences with alternative processes here in the future, so keep checking back.

More Flowers with TtV

I recently built another contraption with a new twin lens reflex camera in order to do TtV photography. My first attempt was with a Kodak Duaflex II camera but I went back to ebay to find a plain old Duaflex. It seems to work better. I also attached a lens hood to the front of the contraption to help with the lens flare problem. I’m still getting a small blue vignette on the right side of the image but I think I will be able to adjust the new contraption to solve that. It is interesting sometimes but I’d rather add that later in Photoshop if I want it rather than be a slave to it.

The flowers were all recently aquired during my gardening bug. I have been barrerd from going to any more gardeing stores until after we rebuild the fence in our backyard. I had been using redoing the backyard as an excuse to buy more plants… to have them ready to go when we can finally plant things back there. For now, my front porch is colorful.