Van Dyke Exposure and Developing
So what I'm gonna do now is go ahead and we'll pull this paper off and we'll do a swap here. I'll just take one of them. I'll take actually two of them 'cause this one's got a water spot on it. Let me see if I can get an angle on this. (mumbles) No. Okay there's a spot right here and it's a dot, it'll show up when we actually process the image. That dot is a water droplet hit. It hit the surface while it was still wet 'cause we were prepping this morning and moving stuff around, that caused a little drop to appear so that's gonna be an artifact that's gonna appear on the print. It's one of those things that if it's in the right spot, it'll be like, whoa, that's kinda weird and cool, and you'll never recreate it again, but for the most part that's gonna be a problem in the print is where that circle is right there. So I'll go ahead and use this piece of paper first. Because it's been over there drying, I'll take my hand and just lightly rub across the top just to make sure there's no du...
st particles that have fallen onto it or any dirt that's fallen onto it. At this point I wanna go ahead and turn on the ultraviolet box, 'cause I'm gonna want that bulb to come up to temperature. These contact frames like we said yesterday you can buy them and they come in a variety of sizes and in a little bit I'm gonna have Gina bring over a larger one. They come with this piece of cardboard. This is one of the few pieces of cardboard I don't throw away and I replaced a number of times 'cause what it does is protect the glass in case something accidentally falls on it and I normally store my contact frames vertically as well. If they're not under a light box for protection, I store them vertically, sandwiched so they can't fall over but I find that when I was storing them this way, I would throw things over there not paying attention and they would hit and it would crack the glass. If you have to replace the glass and you go to a framing shop, they do sell glass now that blocks ultraviolent light to help the archivability of prints. Do not buy the ultraviolet blocking glass for your replacement contact frame. You're giggling but I have made that mistake myself, so, I was like, wow this is taking a lot longer than it used to take. Okay we're gonna take our negative we created, so this is a digital negative, it has the coding or that kinda the reddish tint I talked about yesterday in the building of the digital negative for the silver. And in this case... There's the marks here and the marks here and it was coded a little bit higher to the bottom but the deckled edges at the top. This is a preference thing, I always like my deckled edge to be at the bottom. It's a personal choice but for me, I'm more bothered by the waiting of the image to be closer to the bottom of the edge of the frame than the top, so I'll go ahead and flip it so that actually it's centered towards the top. It doesn't matter where the deckled edge is, it's a weird thing for me, like for some reason for me it's a bottom wavy thing. Going ahead and pop the frame open. Put the negative in. Now when you get these contact frames, the other thing is, the height of your work station will make a huge difference in your fatigue level throughout the day, and this thing is not, I've got huge hands, so I might hold my basketball with two fingers, so I can actually push that contact frame with one hand. Most people you're gonna need two hands to push down and you're gonna need the leverage to get the contact frame down. So when you get it, you're like, I must be doing something wrong. No it actually for most people takes two hands to get down and when these things are new, that springy tension in there is so tight that you really gotta put some torque on it to get the contact frame. The reason I bring up your working height station is if you're up here, it's really hard to get leverage, so, a good working height becomes important. Okay, that's been on for a minute, minute or two, so we've got enough consistency in the bulbs and we had it on earlier in the day to warm up. We're gonna slide that in. The time for this process under this light box is five minutes. So we're gonna go ahead and let that run for five minutes, and then Gina's gonna start to move some stuff around here to get our tray set up for processing. But while she's doing that, this is a larger contact frame, so same thing, I've got the cardboard on the front, bigger negative in there, I left a negative, so you can see this is an 11 by 17, is that right? 11 by 17 negative. And so for the bigger contact frame, bigger negative. And then, the tradeoff is on the back, I've got three compression springs, and the reason for the three is I've got a larger surface area that I need to press and hold flat so that the negative will stay in contact with the paper and not float apart and come out of focus. This one is really bent for the compression, 'cause I want the frame to hold, and you'll notice that it's what's called a double split back and the reason for that is if you have more than one side to flip open, you can check the negative. So as you check the beg, you can then check the other side and see if your print out time is correct, so that's the reason for the larger size. You can get them a little bit bigger, you'll sometimes see a 20 by 24 contact frame, but that's starting to get large enough where it's too hard to have the frame compression work and too hard for the springs to hold that. What happens after that is you usually end up with something called a vacuum frame. And a vacuum frame has a little pump on it and a big piece of glass that'll come down, and then the vacuum will pull the glass down onto the surface, and those you can get in a number of different sizes, and it just requires electricity, cost, and a lot more space than a contact frame. Okay, for the Van Dyke process, there's a number of ways you actually process out the print. It's just like a cyanotype in that it's a print out process so we'll actually be able to see what the image looks like as it comes out of the contact frame and you can check to make sure you've got enough highlight density for the image to actually properly render, but it's tray processing for the most part pretty simple, you're gonna have a water bath, then you're gonna have a fixer and you're gonna have a final water bath. And then we're gonna introduce some variability into that, but when you get the kit, the instructions in your kit, you're gonna have about three to five minutes in this initial bath. Then you go into the fixer, you'll be in there for about five minutes and then your final water bath with running water, intermittently changing water is 20 to 30 minutes. What this first bath is doing is it's clearing off the excess salts from the process to remove so that we're bound to just the silver. The fixer, which in this case is sodium thiosulfate, the sodium thiosulfate is also referred to as hypo. So the job of the fixer is to stabilize the image. So what was happening in these early development processes, images were being able to be formed onto the plates but then they weren't stable, so over time they would fade and disappear. This was happening a lot with the early daguerreotypes, and so John Herschel who also invented the cyanotype that we talked about... They were bringing the plates to him and they were talking to John about how these plates weren't stable. And he took a number of those plates, he disappeared, he put them in a sodium thiosulfate bath. That stabilized the image so that it was permanent and when they asked John what he did, he said, "I fixed it," which is why we call it fixer, 'cause it fixed the problem. So the sodium thiosulfate is a crystal form, so it comes with, it's like a wet bead, basically. So you can kinda see, it just looks almost like a really thick slushee. You're gonna use about 30 grams which is about four teaspoons, about 30 grams into a liter of water. It will dissolve basically just by agitating the tray. It will slowly dissolve itself for it to be able to work. This is a digital scale, gram scale for kitchen work. Chemical companies but I just bought (mumbles) when it was like $12, it basically will let you weigh out your chemistry, so if you're gonna get in the position of wanting to do your chemistry, then all you're gonna do is you'll just basically put a cup on it, you'll zero out the scale, you'll pour your chemistry into your cup and then you can dump it in but that's how you can get the accurate measurements. Teaspoons and tablespoons you'll see in a lot of different instructions and sets of instructions, and those work great, but if you're gonna get an inaccuracy, you're gonna eventually wanna get to where you're weighing your products. Okay we're coming up on our five minutes, so we're gonna pull the contact frame out. We're then gonna go on ahead and pull the image out. And we have a picture of Pete. Okay, so, this is our initial water bath, so I'm just gonna go ahead and the print's gonna go into here. Now the thing about a Van Dyke that's different than the cyanotype is it's gonna dry down considerably darker as the actual drying process happens, so we're gonna see it get a little darker in here, and if you like it right here, it's gonna be too dark when it dries. So you're gonna want your print to look a little bit lighter as it's going through the wash cycle so it gets that last bit of dry down. After you've done one or two prints, you'll get a sense of how much dry down you're gonna get, it's hard to say if it's at three percent, is it five percent? I hear some people say it's as much as half a stop or a stop if you're familiar with that, but as it goes through that process it's gonna go on ahead and continue to remove the salts. Then it's gonna go into the fix here. I'm gonna agitate this, can you rack up another print and let's get another exposure.
Do you want a different negative?
Let's do the same negative. So what we do is we've got the water happening here, then we're gonna go into the fix, that's the normal process: water, fix, and then the final wash. Christopher James has written a book, I'll show you in a little bit, it's about that thick, it's the complete guide to alternative processing. Sandy King who does a lot of work with Van Dyke, a lot of people have realized a citric bath or a little bit of an acidic wash actually clears the highlights a little bit more and you get a little bit more brightness and highlights. And so we're gonna do one print here with the standard washing method and then we're gonna add some citric acid to this first wash. That will then help clear the highlights a little bit more and creates a little bit more pop within the image. And we're just gonna do that to show you some of the variations you could start to make even in a very simple process like this. So this is gonna go ahead and wash for a few more minutes. The other thing you can do is in this initial washing process, and then you go ahead and put that in, Gina and I'll watch my time accordingly. Is the warmer the water, the faster it'll wash, so we talked in the cyanotype type process that room temperature water's pretty good. This process does benefit from a warmer temperature, so a 90 degree temperature water bath will actually process faster. This first bath also usually lasts for about eight to 10 prints before it needs to be cycled out and changed. The other piece that we wanna look for is we're watching where the unexposed chemistry might be. You will see some yellow residual chemistry left there if it wasn't exposed, that's how you know your water bath is no longer doing its job or removing the residual salts. So now that we've kinda been in there for about four to five minutes, we're gonna pull up and let the print drip and dry. Some of these papers hold a lot more water than other papers, so what you're really watching for, you can see we're down to just some slight drips there. I usually then change corners and change the direction of the flow of the water. And you wanna get to where almost no water's dripping off of the paper. Usually it's about 10 to 15 seconds but some images, it goes a lot longer. Okay now I'm gonna float across and come into my fix over here and then this is gonna agitate for about five minutes. The purpose of this is to stabilize the image. If you don't do this phase, what will happen is over time, your print will start to disappear because the image is not stabilized, it hasn't solidified the silver that's in there. It's a gentle agitation and when we talk about agitation, I watch people by the time they're done with their first print, there is literally no solution left in the tray, it is all over the sink, the floor, the other part. A gentle agitation is just a slight movement of the tray, and then the other thing we want is we want a randomness to the agitation because what can happen is as we move chemistry across an image, there's a memory that forms in how the paper's processed or how film is processed, so what you wanna do is just kinda gently just change your point of reference of how you're agitation, and then that's gonna cause the water to swirl in all sorts of random patterns and introduce fresh chemistry to it in a random pattern so you don't end up with these weird little lines that'll develop. There are times you're gonna get excited, you're gonna wanna work on the next thing and so you're gonna do this and you're gonna walk away and you're gonna work and you're like, "Oh, I forgot, "I forgot," you come back, and then you'll give it a really hard movement trying to catch back up. What you'll sometimes see in prints, not necessarily in a Van Dyke but in some of your processes is you'll see these kind of almost like little river lines. And that's where the chemistry has settled then onto the print and it's been able to work certain edges of the paper more than other areas, so a constant, gentle agitation movement. I really, like I said before, it's meditative. There's a quality to this that's just kinda rhythmic and these are slower process than working quickly through a digital output, so kinda get used to the process, get used to the experience. Now if we look at the top of the print here, you can see we've lost part of the edges. That's because the coating wasn't quite big enough for the actual size of the negative. So I have to look at that and decide, is it really bothersome, do I not like that, do I want the completed image, because maybe I do kinda like that effect. I have some images where I actually don't finish the image so it kinda feels like the photograph's emerging out of the paper, it's kind of a weird framing effect, and you just have to make a decision on what you're gonna wanna do with that. What happens after it comes out of the fix is in a normal chemistry process when we're dealing with fix, we can put it in something called a hypoclear. Or a permawash, and what that bath does is it's a light bath that basically just helps remove any of the residual chemistry that's there, and it will shorten the final wash time and also ensure that that fixer's out of the print. So we're not gonna do a hypoclear here today and basically just means a longer wash cycle for this print, but if you're a person who has access to hypoclear or you wanna buy hypoclear, you can actually get that and it will shorten up your wash cycle. That's not an opportunity or a possibility. One of the kinda key things I think to decide if you can do that is gonna determine how much space you have. You start adding in a bunch more trays into the process, a bunch more things in the process, you may end up with some weird stacking organization pieces and you don't wanna introduce the hypoclear back into your fix, you wanna make sure they're far enough apart because that's job is to stop this chemical's ability, so to avoid that cross contamination. So, now we go on ahead and go through the fix like that, and then, it will come out, same thing as before, it's gonna go through a drain drip cycle, and then Gina if you can just set that there, I'll grab the next tray, we can just drop this in for the wash. All right. Okay, we've got our next... Image here. Same image. And what we're gonna do is put a little sodium citrate into the bath. So we don't need a lot. We just need to change the acidity value of the water. So we're just gonna throw a little sodium citrate in there. We'll agitate that just for a couple seconds just so it dissolves. What this is just gonna do is help clear the highlights. Now it's gonna be hard to see under the lights we're using, but it's just gonna give a little bit more, a little less residual tone's gonna sit in the highlight, it'll help clear out any of the residual information that was left there. So we have that. That'll go just into that wash just like before, and it's gonna get a few minutes in that wash. Now the other thing we can do with a Van Dyke that's pretty cool is we can introduce a toning factor component just like we did with cyanotypes. So we can come in and tone those and they tone to kind of a blue 'cause it's a gold toner. Have you put the toner in there yet?
Yes, it's mixed.
Okay. So this toner is the two components you get, the gold chloride and the ammonium thiocyanate. These two pieces mix together to create your gold toner and this can be staved and replenished like the other one can with the cyanotype, so you're gonna use those two chemicals together into a liter of water. So we're gonna go through that same kind of agitation process here. And if we look at this one, we can see the same thing, we didn't get fully coated but we have more of the hat, so in this case, this coating looks a little bit better, I would probably take this print over the prior one, 'cause we just have a little bit more of the hat above that clip. The toning process, you can see the way we have the tray set up. Some toning processes require you to have the print dry, and then you come back and you do the toning process again. One of the cool parts about a Van Dyke is you can tone in the sequence of your process, so once this comes out of the initial wash, it's then gonna go into the toner. So we're actually gonna tone it before we put it into the fixer. This is really kind of a nice part of this process because it saves you from having to come back into the dark room later, resetting up all the trays and redoing the process. Most toners will require a fixer again, so you'd fix the image, then you'd have to come back and fix it again after the toning, so it's really nice that we only have that at one step in the process. So it's hard, I don't know if you can see it on the camera but we start to see just a little bit more punch into his beard, and that punch is just where the highlights have cleared out in those higher levels, and you can see a little bit more contrast down there in the bandana, so that's what that citric acid has done, it's just given us a little bit of a more aggressiveness there. Certain papers don't create as deep a level of d-max, which is the blacks, when we talk about papers, one of the things we think about is the d-max, we want a really deep, rich black. So when we're thinking about that deep, rich black, one of the things particularly with the Van Dyke process is we can help certain papers get there, d-max by introducing a slight acidic bath to wash the paper before we actually coat it. So you can use a citric acid bath, about a one to five percent citric bath. Sandy King's done a ton of research on the different papers and the need to have that work done, so you get that information up on his website. There's a hair floating around in my water. I'm not gonna say whose, I'll blame my dog. So, what happens is if that paper gets a little bit of a citric acid introduced to it, you basically put it in a water bath like this with the citric acid, then you're gonna hang it to dry and it doesn't have to be completely dry, it just needs to be mostly dry, so just a dampness to it. And then you can coat it and then the paper has to fully dry before you would use it anyway, but that little subtleness of the citric acid helps create a deeper black in certain papers. The lanaquarelle paper will do that. BFK paper will do that. Platinum paper will do that. Revere platinum will do that. So the toning, we're in the toner now, and this is, what we're looking for is it's gonna start to change subtly, components of the shadows and the highlights and it's gonna introduce a component of blue into the image. And so it doesn't change the image to be like a really deep blue, like some people think, oh, I can make a cyanotype like blue in the Van Dyke print. It's really more like a subtle introduction of a tonal shift in shadow and highlight towards a coolness so what you end up with is more almost like a split tone of a warm, cold relationship. The longer it's in the toner, the more of an effect it will have, so usually I tone three to five minutes and I'm kinda watching for how it's affecting the print. As you do this more and more, you'll start to figure out, oh I need about three minutes for me, about five minutes for mine, we'll just kinda end up with a time that works for you from a process standpoint, and just like with the agitation, it's a gentle agitation of kind of constant movement of that toner. And you wanna do this one face up, so that way you can actually see what's happening. Certain times you'll want the process paper to be face down so you can help leak some of the chemicals down to the bottom of the tray, but when you're toning, you always wanna tone face up so you can actually watch the reaction, because if for some reason you decided, oh my gosh, right here, it looks perfect and it's done, I could pull it out right now and arrest the toning process. So you're not bound by like, oh, I decided everything was three minutes so it has to be three minutes. So we go on ahead and continue the tone process. One of the other things you'll occasionally see as you start to tone and start to use your toner is you'll start to see what looks like a little bit of a color drag coming across the print, and that's just some of the salts are starting to come off and they've been toned, they've been released into the toner. So you'll see that sometime and it's nothing to worry about, as long as you're agitating, that's not gonna re-adhere itself to the paper. So we go on ahead and we complete the toning piece here. We'll let this tone for another minute or two. The other piece that will happen to you, particularly around toning and I find toning to be really sensitive to certain papers. So certain papers are much more responsive to toning than other ones. I think the Arches does a nice job toning. I think the BFK does a good job tonight. Gina, do you have a favorite toning paper?
I've only really worked with the toner on the Arches Platine.
Yeah the Arches Platine is a great all around paper. It accepts toning well, it works with all the processes, so if you're gonna start, that's a nice, easy one to work with. There are certain papers though, you'll put them in the toner and you'll literally sit here for 20 minutes. And you'll be like nothing's happening, other ones you'll see in a couple of minutes. So you're not doing anything wrong or nothing's happening it's just that type of paper is a little more sensitive to the toner. Your toner will also expire over time, so as you run 10, 15 prints through the toner, you'll need to at some point replenish. So I'll let this go for one more minute and then we'll go ahead and move it. What you can kinda see is there's some changes in the beard structure, in that highlight in the nose, you're starting to get a little bit of coolness that's coming into that. And I know you're looking like, how can you tell that under a red light? You spend enough time under a red light, you start to learn what the colors are. At this point, this print's stable enough that I could take a quick peek so one of the things I oftentimes have is I have a little flashlight, and I can quickly just run the flashlight a little bit and give you a look at what the print's looking like. That can help as you're learning how to tone. Question?
Is stable before the fixer?
The fixer's gonna, yeah, it's stable at this point, 'cause it's a print-out process. The reason we run it through the fixer is when it hits the fixer, it stabilize for long term, and that was the problem that Herschel fixed for everybody, was they could get to this point, and then they'd come back a week later, a month later, two months later, and the print would have been faded. So the fixing at this point is the final stabilizer for the longevity of the print. Okay so we'll go on ahead and we'll pull this out and we'll drop this into the fix and then we'll turn on the studio lights so we can actually look at this print. So we'll drop that, we'll just go into the fix here. All right and let's, if we could flip the lights, that would be great.
All of us are like, woo, and everybody else at home's like, "Oh, what's going on?" Okay, so here you can see there's a little bit of coolness into that beard, can we grab the other print? And in the nose and highlight, there's a little bit in the eye and there's gonna be kind of a little bit of deepness to the shadows, so I like to tone because I love that little hint of coolness. We'll let that sit, I wanna break my rule, and I'm gonna have that not move so we can actually get it without the riblets going across. Gina's gonna bring back the other print, now they're gonna look pretty similar. But you can see how much I end up with a difference in the quality of the highlights in particular. We've cleared it in that citric bath, so it removed a bunch more of that brown pulled out. And, the highlight got a little more contrast, and then we added in the blue off of this print. So that's why I like the citric acid in there. And for years, I didn't use that, I just used a water bath and then when I learned you could make that bath a little more acidic. The one thing to check is the quality of, oh here you can see now. That weird growth on his face. That's the water droplet that hit. So one of the things to check is the Ph of your water. So if you've already got acidic water, if you're coming off well water or your city's water has a higher Ph level, you'll wanna check that 'cause you don't wanna over acidify your water. The other one that, cyanotypes are particular sensitive to, Van Dykes are sensitive too as well is the level of chlorine in the water. So if you have some chlorine, that's another thing to watch for in which case you might wanna use bottled water or distilled water from mixing up your fix, just like that. Question.
Yeah, thank you for bringing that update now, 'cause that question had come in from SFX at home. Whereabout, well water, city water, where would you find out what the, how do you test that? How do you know in practice?
So you can get a Ph testing kit, and they're little strips of paper. Bostick and Sullivan actually sells a kit, and you can get a kit at Home Depot or Lowe's or plumbing supply stores will oftentimes have them. And it has little Ph pieces of paper and then you'll dip them into the water and the strip will change to a certain color, then there's a chart you can compare it to and it'll give you ballpark of how acidic the water is or Ph balance the water is. Most city water and pleasant drinking well water is pretty close to Ph neutral. I can't remember if it goes, we prefer water a little basic or a little acidic from a taste standpoint and I can't remember which is which. Usually they try to make the water pretty neutral. The other thing to watch for if you're on well water is the particulate that comes up and how hard the water is. If you're in a city with hard water, you can end up with hard water stains and deposits and so rinsing oftentimes distilled water like when I'm doing film, we have hard water leave spots behind so I always try to rinse in distilled water.
And from Lost in the Valley, while we're on the topic, Lost in the Valley has a lot of iron in the water up in the Adirondacks, could that be disastrous, iron in the water?
I don't think that would necessarily be disastrous. But it would be definitely something I would keep my eye on on how it reacted, but it shouldn't make a huge, huge difference. My knee jerk reaction not being a chemist is most of these processes are involved with iron anyway. That might actually be kinda cool. How come your prints are so much richer than everybody else's? Oh I have a lot more iron in my water. But I have no scientific proof of that. Okay so the way this has gone through its fix for about four minutes, five minutes. So it would be in a state now of ready to be dried out, so I've got another print we're gonna change up a little bit with. I'm gonna go ahead and we're gonna do an exposure, yep, we'll need another five minutes. You've got which negative in?
No I wanna do the country, the landscape one.
I handed her a pile of negatives to print. We're switching so I wanna pull, just one second. If this stays in the fix longer, you're gonna be okay, but eventually if you're in the fix too long, you will start to bleach out the print as well. Got a question.
So if you don't use the fix, how long does it take for the image to start to degrade?
I've read that it's over the course of a few months. I've never done it to see how long it would take. This is kinda what I've read but I would imagine it would be based on how much ultraviolet light it would get exposed to and the storage conditions would make a big difference on that.
Could you use that as a creative process to make your image a little weathered?
Yeah, absolutely, there's also a, I saw on art exhibit a few years ago and it was for silver gelatin but they didn't basically fix it in the silver gelatin, so that'll fade over a couple of days, and the art exhibit was, if you were there at the opening, they flipped everything open and the image was there and literally over the course of the two hours of the art opening, you could start to see the image dissolve and fade away, and so the lack of permanence became part of that art exhibit and the discussion the artist was having was, these images were in relation to memory, and how does memory fade, how truthful is memory, does it last? So he was using the photographic medium which is oftentimes used for the idea that photography adds a permanence to that, so it was a play on that. But you could absolutely use that as a component. The other piece that would be interesting that I've never experimented with would be to see how much longer does it work if it's toned, if it's not toned, and those different components like that.