Introduction to Alternative Processing in Photography

 

Lesson Info

Platinum/Palladium Coating Chemistry and Safety

The process we're using for the platinum and palladium printing at this point is what's called the NA2 Method. The NA2 is this chemistry right here and right here. So, those bottles will look the same. This is a 5% solution and this is a 20% solution, and in the workings of platinum and palladium printing, we use a number of different chemicals to create the contrast. There's a ferric oxylate, and it's called solution number one and then a ferric oxylate solution number two. This is number two. It has a contrast control agent. And we would mix solution number one and solution number two together when we were working with traditional negatives. And then you add the platinum and palladium afterwards, but that number one ferric oxylate and then number two ferric oxylate, the ratio of one to two was how you dealt with the contrast that was set within your negatives. So if you had a flat negative, you would adjust the contrast one way. If you had a really contrast negative, you would adjust...

the chemistry the other way. And that way, if you shot a negative, and you needed the contrast boost, you could get to it from a chemical solution. There were some issues and some problems people were running into about how grain was showing up, how the tonal scale was being impacted, so there were a number of little issues that came up with that traditional method. And we were looking for kind of a magic solution. So, when Richard Sullivan developed the NA2 Method, everyone called it the magic bullet. We thought that it was like the holy grail of platinum printing, and it solved a lot of the issues we were actually seeing, introduced some issues for some other printers with certain papers, but overall it's a really nice solution for that printing process. What's really great about that NA2 method is it works really really well with digital negatives. So the contrast scale it holds, and the way it impacts contrast and deals with contrast, is a beautiful pairing with the digital negative world. So much so that actually it's called a digital negative kit when you buy the NA2 method. It works with traditional or non-traditional, which is why it comes in a 20% solution and then in a lower concentrate solution is depending on what you're printing with, you may or may not need a higher-contrast effect of that NA2 solution. The thing about the NA2 solution is it has a component of platinum into it, so you do not use it if you're using platinum to print with. So if you were making a straight platinum print, you would not use the NA2 to control contrast, you would be using the ferric oxylate number one or the ferric oxylate number two. So this would be your printing combination. You do not need to use this if you're using palladium. You can, but you don't have to. So, in my traditional analog negative printing, I used the ferric oxylate number one, the ferric oxylate number two, and then a platinum and palladium combination to get the look of my platinum prints. I did that with digital negatives for a number of years. So in the traditional digital negative space, I started because I really understood how the ferric oxylate number one and the ferric oxylate number two created contrast, and I was learning how to control contrast in the digital negative space because I started my digital negative work in the platinum space. Because I had a negative that got destroyed in the traditional world that I was creating a digital version of, that's why I started here. So I started with that space. So if you're coming out of the platinum printing world or you've done it before, and you're comfortable using the oxylate number one and oxylate number two you can definitely use that as your methodology going forward. What I would recommend is that you use an equal number of drops as the number one and the number two. That gives you a very you know, neutral, it's a very middle-contrast negative, which is ultimately what we're trying to create with the digital negative. So I would go ahead and recommend as a starting point, if you're gonna stay with the traditional chemistry you go that route. But for the rest of us, we're going to be using the chemistry that comes with our kit, which is the ferric oxylate number one solution, our NA2 solution at 5%, and then we're going to be using the palladium solution as our third part of the sensitizer. The combination of those three chemistries together make our sensitizing coating solution. Just like with the Van Dyke and the cyanotype, the number of drops required is dictated by the size of your print. So if you're doing a four by five print, it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 total drops. If you're doin' an eight by ten, it's somewhere in the neighborhood, for most people, 30 drops, 26-35 drops, kind of depends on your brush, how aggressive you are, the paper you're using, 'cause some are more absorbent, but it's basically the same size I have in the bonus material, there's a little chart for the number of drops you need. If you get the kit from Bostwick and Sullivan, they have a drop recommendation in there. The one thing that you're going to see, though, is that NA2 solution is what's controlling and boosting and reducing contrast in the image. So the modification of contrast is controlled by these chemicals, so you'll see in the instructions like you're gonna use six drops, six drops, four drops, and then, eight drops, eight drops, four drops, ten drops, ten drops, four or five drops. And it's because that contrast is being impacted by that, but the range of the contrast of that NA is subtle enough that the drop count isn't going to be as highly impacted by the looks of 12 drops to 14 drops unless you had a pipette to specifically measure out a very specific amount, the drop count's gonna be weird. So when you look at the drop count, you're like wait a minute, 12 drops and 16 drops has the same number of drops of the NA2. Why is that? It's just the specific measurement there is not enough. For us, all you need to do is pick one because you're going to be calibrating your curve to your chemistry. So if you pick your ratio's going to be ten, ten, and four, great that means that if you're doing a smaller print, you're gonna do five, five, and two because that's gonna be your ratio for your curve calibration. So you're gonna pick a number, and you're gonna stick with it. I've calibrated to the ratio of ten, ten, four. So, ten drops of ferric oxylate number one, ten drops of the palladium solution number three, and four drops of the NA2. I've been working with some people, and they preferred a different drop count. All we had to do then was change the calibration curves so that the drop count was preferred for them, and they just like the aesthetic look of that drop count. So, lots of little bit more variables in here and how you're controlling things, and this is why it's one of the last processes we're looking at. It is because of all of those variables that you've gotta maintain some level of control. The exposure time works just the same, so in the light box, we're gonna be in there. But platinum usually takes longer to expose than a lot of the other processes, except for salt. Salt processing is really long. So our cyanotype time was about three and a half minutes. The Vandyke process was about five minutes. The exposure time on a platinum print is about six and a half minutes, so its time is a little bit longer. And that's just to allow for those tonal values to develop. A platinum print has a long scale of exposure, so it'll hold a lot of tonal range, but it doesn't have a really steep contrast angle. So, a lot of tones but subtle tones. And that's one of the hallmarks and beauties of a platinum print is the range of tones and the subtlety by which the tones are able to shift. The other piece about the platinum print is that the platinum will be able to absorb deep into the paper, and so there's almost a dimensionality quality to the platinum print that's a little bit different than the other alt processing prints, and it's because the sensitizing solution pulls a little bit farther into the paper I think than the other solutions. So you end up with this rich, subtle dimensionality, and it's hard to describe until you look at a platinum print, and once you see it, you're like, wow there's just a depth to the image that is unlike anything else I've seen, and it's different than a silver gelatin print, different than an inkjet print. And it's because there is truly a physical depth to the print that's been created by the process. Okay, so that's kind of our high-level overview. Like I said, we're gonna go through a couple of different ways of printing. We're gonna talk about all the different chemical components as we actually create the negative. We'll talk about the developers. We'll look at two different developers, 'cause they create different looks. So we'll be talkin' about those. The one thing that we will not see, and I'm just gonna prep you. And I'll repeat this again. The wash cycle for a platinum print is long. It takes a while. It would normally go through three, it goes through three washes of a washing agent, plus a rinse. And each one of those washing cycles is five minutes. So, this process is longer to expose and longer to wash as well. So you're looking at a minimum of about 20 minutes, 25 minutes of washing cycles, developing, rinsing, and washing to get to the final wash, which is still another 20 minutes. So you're talking 40 minutes to an hour to get a completely archivally-processed platinum print. We're not gonna show you the entire washing cycle. We're gonna show you how to mix up the wash. We're gonna talk about it and all of that, but I just wanna make sure that you know that it's multiple washing trays. And I'm just gonna emphasize that three times, I'm hoping to the point of you being annoyed at how many times I say that, you'll be committed to understanding that, but I just wanna let you know that you will not see all of that up here for the process just because of how long it takes.

In a world where most photos are captured digitally it’s good to remember the beauty of print and all of the creative options alternative processes have to offer. The history of printing photos introduces techniques and tools that can improve your eye in the field and open up doors to new perspectives. Fine artist and educator Daniel Gregory gives the steps needed to get you started in exploring the many formats out there. You’ll learn:

  • An overview of what alternative processing is and the many formats out there
  • How to create a digital negative
  • How to setup and test your curve
  • How to print a Cyanotype
  • How to create a Van Dyke Print
  • Chemistry, Safety and Developing techniques
  • Platinum and Palladium Printing processes

In this introductory course, you’ll be given the key elements to get you started in expanding your creativity and exploring alternative photographic processes.

Lessons

Class Introduction
Overview of the Alternative Process
Overview of the Digital Negative Process
Working with Black and White Digital: What You Need
Working With Black and White Digital Images: Color Settings
Working with Black and White Digital Images Lightroom
Working With Black and White Digital Images Photoshop
Working With Black and White Digital Images 3rd Party Plug-ins
Avoiding Key Artifacts
Creating the Step Wedge for Curve Corrections
Organizing Your Adobe® Photoshop® Files and Curves
Setting Up the Printer
Lab Safety and Workspace Set-Up
Setting the Maximum Black Time
Getting the Initial Curve Test Numbers
Correcting the Curve
Printing the Curve
Sharing Curves
Caring for the Digital Negative
Intro to Cyanotypes and Safety
Paper and Brush Types
Coating Process and Cyanotype Chemistry
Making the Cyanotype Print
Washing the Cyanotype Print
Creating Cyanotypes Photograms
Toning Cyanotypes and Cleaning Up the Darkroom
Introduction to Van Dyke Printing
Setting Up the Van Dyke Workstation
Van Dyke Paper and Coating
Van Dyke Exposure and Developing
Van Dyke Troubleshooting and Resources
Van Dyke: Split Toning
Van Dyke: Wash Cycle and Drying
Van Dyke: Clean Up Process
Introduction to Platinum / Palladium Printing
Platinum/Palladium Coating Chemistry and Safety
Platinum/Palladium Paper and Coating Options
Platinum/Palladium Exposure and Development
Platinum/Palladium: Equipment and Supplies
Ink Jet Negative Coating and Exposure
Platinum/Palladium Chemistry Options
Ink Jet Negative Development
Platinum/Palladium Waxing Images
Platinum/Palladium Troubleshooting and Resources
Sharing Your Work Digitally
Archivability
Matting and Framing Options
Editions and Signing Options
Alternative Processes: Further Exploration
 
 
 
 

Reviews

  • For a long time, I have read, studied and tried alternative processing, mainly Platinum/Palladium printing. I want to create longest lasting prints and may be share the info at Creative Live. But this presentation saved me many a hours. A few minutes into the lecture, I purchased the class and as the class progressed, I was extremely glad. Thank you Creative Live, thank you Daniel Gregory.
  • Excellent class on Alt Process and fantastic bonus materials included with purchase!!! I have extensive digital printing and darkroom experience but haven't done much alt-process to date. This is perfect timing for me as I have several personal projects that I would like to re-visit using some of these techniques. Thank you Daniel!!!
  • So good to hear the info. I am glad to have more input into this, my favorite process! Bought this one and will gain a LOT from this!