Platinum/Palladium Troubleshooting and Resources
Now this image in terms of exposure, this was taken over in the Hoh Rainforest. It's a nurse log that the trees grew off of. The exposure in camera to make the negative took about two and 1/2 hours. So, I was standing out in the forest for about two and 1/2 hours doing this, and then I played Metranome for awhile, and then I explained to people what a large format camera was when they walked by. So the negative, though, was a pretty dense negative, and so one of the things, too, when we're dealing with printing alternative processing off a traditional negative. The digital negative, I know, it's six and 1/2 minutes. I've tested that, but with this negative, I don't necessarily know how long it's gonna need under there, 'cause I've built up the density of the traditional negative at a different rate. So while I also had the issue of the A and B contrast I have to sort out if I'm going the traditional method, I also have to do a test trip for time for this negative to figure out how long...
it needs to be exposed under a UV box. You can measure the density with a densitometer and start to be like, "Oh, based on what I know "of other densities and negatives, "it's probably about this long in exposure," but with the traditional negative, to get the time, you're gonna need to do a test strip. There's not a cheat shortcut around that. Even with a densitometer, it's only gonna get you in the ballpark. Okay, some other things you can, and I wanted to quickly talk about with some prints. This print, I really liked the look. We looked at this one, but you can see I have a V diagonal here, and you can see that not only that, it doesn't even extend all the way out of the frame. This is another example of a brushing technique problem. I had got the coating, I even got the little wisp that I kind of like on the edge, and then I saw in the middle, I was like, ew, the chemistry looks a little thin in that one spot, and I thought, aw, I'll just, I'll just make one little, and then it showed up, and I was like, ew, so then I can go into Photoshop, scan it, clone it, fix it, and I was like, well, that kind of defeats the purpose of making a good platinum print is to take it back to the Photoshop to fix the problem. So luckily, when that happens, there's nothing wrong with the negative. The contrast range is okay, so all I'm gonna do then, coat another piece of paper, put the same negative down, and move forward with that. This problem, and I wanted to make sure people got a look at. So, I'm printing along, and then all of a sudden you can start to see this little bubble appear, if I can get the angle on that. There, I can get an angle. You can see the leaching has happened. So, basically what's happened is the platinum has come in, it's been absorbed, everything looked great. I went through all of the washes, I put it on the drying rack three days before I have to go to a portfolio review of my work called, Metal on Metal. Platinum metal, metal stuff. They weren't as enamored with the title as I was at the review either. I go down, over half the prints look that way. I'm like, oh, hm, never seen that before, so in 15 years of doing this, I was like, ooh, boy. So I started digging through resources, start looking through books. I've got a problem to solve, I've never seen it now, turn to the online community. This paper is Arches Platine Paper, paper I've printed on thousands of images. I post online, has anybody seen this? I have little photographs. Somebody replies back, "Oh yeah, it happens all the time "on using the wrong kind of paper. "Try Arches Platine." "Okay, I did Arches Platine, and I saw that problem." "Oh, that's a mystery." So, I called Bostick and Sullivan, and I talked to Dick Sullivan, and I said this is the problem I'm having, blah, blah, blah. He's like, "Oh, you need to use Arches Platine." I said, "That's what I'm using." He said, "Well, that's weird. "That paper normally never does that," but he had seen that before, and so what happens was it was, the paper was soft enough, and in the sizing of the paper, there was a problem, and so it caused some of the leaching to happen, and so this is actually, as the print was drying, some of the chemistry was just leaching off. So he recommended that I use some of the Tween Solution, break the surface tension, and that'll help the chemistry get a deeper absorption, and then also, as it goes through the wash cycle, make sure it gets a really good agitation in the wash, so any of that chemistry comes off. So I did that, and that fixed most of it. I then got them dry, and I would lightly take the blow dryer, and I would dry the back of the paper for about 15 to 20 seconds, and then that seemed to fix the problem. I went through probably, I had 50 sheets in a kit, probably 30 of them had that problem. Never seen the problem since. So there was something in that small little batch of paper that caused the problem. Now I was able to resolve it with some effort, and that's what a lot of the kind of things you'll run into, is things that people have run into before, but you may be experiencing it in a different way. So, things like that, you don't ever have to completely freak out, think "Oh my gosh, it's the end of days. "What am I gonna do?" You gotta go back through and think about what are all the things that could cause that problem to happen and kind of work your way backwards. The way I started to figure out what it was is I started to think about when I painted with water colors, and I got too much water on them, and the water color would kind of bleed out. It kind of looked like that. That's how I explained it to people. That gave me enough to start to think about, oh, maybe there's too much chemistry left, and it's being residualed out in the wash, and so I was able to resolve and fix that. This particular image, I'll turn it the other way, this particular image, you can see from a coating standpoint that it's got a really deep, and then there's this kind of finer line right there that's not quite as deep. So this particular image was worked with with a coating rod, and it's a double coating. So I was working to try to pull in some of these highlight details a little bit more, so I wanted some (mumbles) chemistry, and that is where I didn't go back far enough and get the second level of chemistry coating there. It's not enough that for me it became a distraction, so in this print, it's now a classroom work print, but it would hold up in work, and I still would have shown a piece like this. In here though, you can see some little, there's a little white dot right there, there's kind of a white dot there that may or may not be part of a rock, and silver gelatin printing, one of the things that happens is you get dust on your negatives when you're enlarging, and then you get little white spots on your print. You pray that they're little white spots, 'cause if you have a scratch in the negative, you can end up with a little black spot. So, you pray for the little white spots, so then you can come in and then you can actually do what's called spot toning. So you can come in, and you basically have these little brushes that are all the colors of your images. Then you just touch the dot with the tip of the paintbrush or the tip of the pen, 'cause they sell spotting pens now, and you just lightly touch them and the dot will go away. So basically, you take your pen and you would come in, and you'll just cover that little dot. So in this case, the tone of that and the tone of platinum often times matches a pencil. So when you get a little mark like that, a lot of times you can come in, and you can just do a little spot with the pencil. It's not gonna wear off, and as long as nobody hits that with an eraser, it won't disappear. You can also buy spotting pencils and spotting pens, and those will let you come in and correct the issue there. All right, any questions about those two kind of weird errors?
I did have a question that came in about, do you ever use encaustics or other protective coating. So you showed us the lavender beeswax. Are there any other things out there that people... I see a smile on Gena's face.
Oh man, that is such a great, a loaded, huge question. Yes, the answer to that is, yes, in a huge way, actually. Right now, the mixed media realm in photography is exploding in terms of what's possible, what people are experimenting, what they're playing with, and encaustic wax is one of peoples favorites. So, I mean, I joke, I have a friend and he's a very gifted artist, and because he's an artist, his brain's wired a little odd, like a lot of us are, and he takes a photograph, he then prints it on the same overhead transparency, but it's a full colored photograph, that he then adheres onto gold leaf. So it's the gold leaf photograph that he then cuts, that he then lays over with a second negative that he then encaustic waxes on the top. His biggest concern right now is that people aren't gonna think he's a good photographer, and I'm like, you wouldn't even know that was a photograph under there, and you were able to photograph. So he's taken photography classes to be a better photographer, but he lays encaustic wax over that. So there's a number of ways we can use wax, metal, different materials. You can take the Kozo Japanese Paper, takes a wax surface really, really well and creates and holds some work. I've seen people take platinum works (mumbles) type, adhere it onto a, glue it onto a wood board, and then do the wax work on top of that, so it has almost a painterly quality with the encaustic wax work. So you can do a lot of things like that. You do a lot of interesting.
I like to play a lot. I've done both the panel work and the Kozo paper. Just to clarify, Kozo paper is kind of a blanket term, and there are different kinds, and each one takes wax differently. We came, I was working with a student, and we came across one that took the wax, but you couldn't tell it had been waxed. It didn't look like wax paper, but it added this luminance to them that was, and then when we hung them, instead of putting them in a frame, we hung them with double headed nails. It has a top head, and then it has a lip, so it doesn't go all the way in the wall. So it hung about an inch from the wall, so there was light bouncing through it, and when you walk past them, they floated. So cool. But yeah, the interpretations in that way can be endless, and it doesn't just need to be the photograph, although that's kind of cool too. You can add different elements to it as well.
In addition to wax, I've seen a lot of increase of botanicals. I've seen people now, actually, coating leaves and actual objects found in the world with different processes, and creating those as objects. I cannot remember her name, but she did a series of leaves, and she did the work, and then it was an installation where she coated the leaves. The leaves went back into nature that had photos of nature on the leaves. They were then put back into nature, and then that ultimately ended up being the final photograph. So there's some really creative elements that are happening in that space.
As a side note to the leaves, you can actually put a negative on a leaf and leave it out in the sun, and it will make a photograph.
The sun can do amazing things. But yeah, so I think it is a, if you have that is similar to the mistakes adults make, if you ever have the thought, is this possible, the odds are yes, it is possible. It may not be way you think it happens, but somebody and somebody is willing to experiment and help and figure that out, and the great part about the alternative community is everybody comes from a little bit different interest. So in the reference material, on of the people I talk about is an individual named Mike Ware, and we joke that Mike Ware is today's Sir John Herschel. So, John Herschel built fixer, he built cyanotypes, he built some of the first glass plates. Like all this stuff, when you read about history of photography, John Herschel's at that forefront. Mike Ware is kind of like that today. He's built new cyanotypes and all these different components and things, but he's an engineer, chemist, science guy that he comes from that perspective some. So, he solved it from a science standpoint, where an artist solves it from an artistic vision standpoint, and somebody else might be in the middle of the two. So the problems are easily solved by the community of people who are involved in alternative processing, which to me is one of the things, because art is a communal event. We may create art as an individual, but then we share it to the community to transmit what we're trying to say, and to me the alt community is really good about that, like "Oh, you're trying to solve this problem. "Well, I know this about this, and I know this about this," and then somebody else is like, "Well, if you combine those two, you need to do this," and then that sometimes gives you the answers. So yeah, there's always a great opportunity for that.
Daniel, I have a question about this print, because I've seen examples of it, but I've never done it. Could you dry this print, do another coat over top of it and expose it again?
Awesome. Or do the platinum print first.
I don't know if that true, but yes, yes. Yeah, no. (laughing) It's to the point of yes, you can, and it would cause, again, an additional shift. It would actually create a little bit deeper black and change the contrast again.
That was my thought, yeah.
But you could create that. The other one that from an experimentation standpoint, if started to play with this is in that world of blending, Adobe released the dehaze filter in lightroom and in camera raw, which removes fog or basically adds fog, and so I've had an interest in using this printing process and dehaze the image that the platinum's created with to create a sense of atmosphere and would it create a more natural sense of atmosphere. So that's actually how I've been starting to play with that, as in technology, and I don't know how it will come out, and we'll see how it goes, and I'm pretty sure Adobe did not imagine their dehaze filter being used for me to create platinum prints that had a sense of hazy atmosphere. We briefly looked at this setup the other day, just as a way of printing, but this is example of two negatives, and if you look here, you can see the notches, and that hole there tells you that that's actual film. So these are two four by five images, and when I started, what I was experimenting with here was I was trying to figure out how to coat the platinum and work with the platinum, and what I wanted to build was in-camera diptics or in print diptics. So I didn't wanna have two images separately printed and then framed together, I wanted to try to get them on the same piece of paper, and so, what I've got here is, these require two different exposure times, so that's pretty easy. I coat the paper, and then I just basically, this one needed seven minutes, this one needed five minutes, so this just gets covered for that time period, and (mumbles) this, but they also needed separate contrast. So in the traditional world, I figured out what the two were, and then I basically coated this side, coated this side, and this part in the middle is where that coating overlapped it, and because there was nothing required there to be exposed, it didn't matter how much chemistry built up there, but two different sets of this one, two and three types of chemistry being included there. Now, that presented a little bit of a struggle in terms of making sure that I was getting the coating, making sure they were both even, and then you can see here, I missed, and this one, this is my test print. I missed the angle of the registration of that, so I don't have a straight line that comes across, and then it sinks down with all the diagonals, so that's why I didn't make the cut, and then I don't know what happened out here, other than I got real excited, I thought it was working, and I like, whew, poo. So I made that little spike mark there, but this is another one of like, I wanted to try something. I wasn't sure what to do with it, so I created a piece there for that. This image I've got in about seven different sizes, and just the reason I wanted to bring this one up and show it, was this image is printed at the next size up. So this is almost 11 by, it ends up being 12 by 14 is the size of the negative. So you can start to scale up and make a bigger and bigger image. I've seen platinum prints in the 20 by 24, 30 by 40 range, and it just required huge contact frames to do that and some money, 'cause you're gonna be coating a big piece of paper, and if you thought coating this size was tough, imagine coating even bigger, but changing the size is a really kind of nice thing with the platinum print, as well, 'cause just like printing bigger with the traditional negative, it can get larger and larger, and this is one of the aspects I really like and what drew me somewhat to the digital negative, 'cause as a four by five, if I'm contact printing and making a platinum print, that's the size of my print. I have a four by five negative, and there's nothing wrong with that. I love the intimacy created by a smaller negative. If I put that up on the wall, I actually force you to stand closer to the image, so I have you build a much more intimate relationship with the photograph, just on the subject of viewing distance, but for some of my photographs, I wanted to be able to make them bigger than they were, 'cause I imagined them as bigger prints. So one of the things that the digital process is allowed, is for me to expand out the size of the platinum print and make that to be bigger, and again, just like we looked at that one with the buffalo, and it had the little missing mark, I got a corner up here that's not quite finished. That doesn't bother me in the least bit. That's a part of the signature of that, and here, I've got another one of those dots, so I could just come in and just a little hit of a pencil, I can take those out or a toning piece, and the greater part of a pencil is if you're too dark, you can't erase the platinum. So as long as you don't damage the fibers of the paper and erase gently, you can come in and fix that, but I can just come in and lightly remove those dots and fix that. Right here, I doubt you can see it on camera, but right here is the actual pencil mark for the edge of that negative, and now it's gone. So you can easily come in and erase the pencil marks. There's a pencil mark right up in there. Make that go away. So the pencil marks will just drift off. This is another one that I love the image, I love the negative. I stood there for another hour making that one, and I got this effect. Don't know how that happened. I keep this one, because I think that's cool, and one of these days, I'm gonna figure out what I did there, 'cause it feels to me almost like a Jackson Pollock, wack, but I didn't do that, but I love that little bit of detail there, and from an artistic standpoint, an artistic signature of the alt process, I think that's a nice little piece to put in there. This one, you can see I've got, actually, a really tight border around the edge. So I've lost all the brush marks, so this is a different aesthetic choice. So to do that, when we talked about building the digital negative, we had that background layer was white or black, and if you turn that off, you could print more ink. If you print ink all the way around the edge of your negative, it won't process and develop the ink. It will block up the light enough that that will disappear, or you can use, this is the rubylith, which is what covers the lights to make the studio red. This blocks up a 100% of the ultraviolet light. So I can use the rubylith, and I can come in, and I can cut a mask out and lay it over the top of the negative, and that will work that way. So I actually, at home, because I print a lot of 10, 10 by 6.66667 is the size I print out, I have several of these rubylith masks cut at that size. They just hang in the dark room, and if I want the marks to go away, they can go away. Like I said, there's some people from an aesthetic choice, they prefer no black border at all or no blue border at all. Other people like just a little bit of that black framing almost, like it creates a little frame around the image, and then some people actually prefer the brush strokes. In general, I like the brush strokes, 'cause for me that's the intent of the artist, like I've said, and then we'll talk about this more in a bit, but then I've signed the front of the print in the lower right hand corner and that it was a numbered edition, that would be over here in the lower left corner. So I'm signing in recto on this one on the front versus the back. Gena just handed me one of her test prints. You can see here, this is the edge of the negative right there, and so this has the black frame around the edge. It was printed in the printer, and then the chemistry is leached out on this side, because the negative actually stopped there, so this is where the negative is actually making a very nice, clean edge on there, and this is just not quite coated far enough, which is what caused that piece there. Okay, the other, one other piece I wanted to briefly mention about the platinum as a structure is this particular negative is also one of the reasons that I really like platinum printing. There's a delicacy and a quality to the tones that exist in the platinum print, and I mentioned how they kinda just disappear and fade into the paper, and then that highlight stays on top. So this photograph is taken down at Mount Rainier in late December, so we basically had to hike down with my eight by 10 camera in snow. Not ever gonna happen again. But the fog was rolling in and out, and you can see there's just this tiny bit of the trees back in there, and when I got the negative back, I knew this was gonna be printed in platinum, because I wanted the delicacy of that tone separation, and I wanted a process that helped hold some of the atmospheric quality that I could remember when I took the photograph. So I could remember this haziness, and this kind of things floating in and out, and when I printed it as a silver gelatin print, it felt like it was too sharp. It had too much of a richness to it. It lacked what I experienced as almost a throwback experience in time. So, recognizing that one of the benefits of a historical process is I could remember this being something, and processing it into the platinum allowed it to become something else other than just the silver gelatin print. So that was one of the reasons that this one was ultimately selected for that. Okay so, a couple other things that you're gonna run into potentially from a problem standpoint, we talked about that, the edges bleeding, things like that, little problems. The other problems you will likely run into will be from a chemistry organization standpoint. So one of the things that can happen is particulate will start to develop in some of your chemistries, so anything that involved in swirling, shaking is highly unnecessary, and when warranted, 'cause what you're doing is disturbing anything that may have settled out. That will create those little black pieces. So the chemistry gets treated with some level of kind of respect in that regard. The other piece that is temperature wise, you don't wanna have them get super hot, and they don't need to stay in the refrigerator or anything like that, but kind of to stay at a room temperature, and then they're in the brown bottles to avoid exposure to ultraviolet light, but I don't leave mine out, so I do put them in a cabinet just to avoid any kind of exposure from a chemistry standpoint for that. So that's kind of the piece for that. Other than that, we'll talk about archive storage and things like that in the next session, but the prints are super durable. Once they're in this state, you can touch them and stuff. The biggest problems you'll get is people's fingers are dirty, and they'll start to show up outside on the edges. So usually what I create is two sets of prints, and so I have a set of prints that people are allowed to touch, and then I have a set of prints that live in a box that are actually for showing in archive ability, but in terms of prints, people are always like, "Oh, can I touch it?" I actually like people to touch the alt processing prints, because the paper is a part of that process. So they can actually touch the paper, experience the paper, and if it has some texture, I kind of like that. I had some work in a gallery one time, and I went round and round with the gallery, because they wanted glass in front of them, and I didn't want glass in front of them, and they were like, "Somebody's gonna touch them." I'm like, "I know," and they were like, "No, that's bad, they'll get dirty." I'm like, "Then we'll put an artist proof up there, "and then they can touch them, "and then if somebody buys it, "they can have one of the numbered additions." We went back and forth, back and forth. Because the gallery owns the gallery, so they were under glass and nobody got to touch them, but for me, that's a part of that process. So, if that is something as you start to play with alt process that you get enamored with the papers and things like that, don't be afraid to let people touch your prints. Just make sure you have a good second copy. How I determine the good copy from the bad copies is I kind of go through, like I said. Bad copy. Big gooey problem. And then I'm just literally looking at edges, like do I like the edges? If I like the edges, it stays in the good pile. In this case, like this one, I'm not a big fan of the little extra line there. It's an aesthetic choice. Somebody else could be like, "Oh, that's amazing, let's keep that," but for me that little piece wouldn't make the cut, so I would let that bypass that way. So that's kind of our pieces for the platinum printing. So I did want to just reiterate what's actually in that kit from Bostick and Sullivan rated to the platinum printing is there are six sheets of the Arches Platine paper, which is a beautiful paper for that. There's a Revere Platinum paper, which is also a beautiful paper for platinum. Those two papers, in particular, work really, really well for platinum. The other papers will work okay, but those two papers in particular work great. You're gonna get the ferric oxalate number one. I feel like I'm on an infomercial. Ferric oxalate number one, you're gonna get the palladium, and you'll get the Na2, and then you'll also get a synthetic brush. So the synthetic brush will have an orange handle. It's called a sterling brush. That's the piece you're gonna use for coating the platinum palladium. An amazing, amazing, wonderful, wonderful process, and for me, the first time I actually processed it, and actually looked at the print, I was completely hooked on the experience, but so you'll have what you need to get started there to make the prints, and then I've given you the platinum curve as well. So even if you just want to start it out of the gate and say I've got a negative, I wanna see what it looks like in platinum, you could print just my standard platinum curve off an Epsom printer, and you'd be okay for that. So that would get you all set up to work for that.