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Cyanotype Testing

For the college I work, I've been working on cyanotype testing. Our darkroom class like all others was forced into quarantine. And guess what, it's hard to learn how to develop film and enlarge it from your dorm or apartment.

But you can learn cyanotype process and do that at home. Of course unlike me the students don't have a bunch of large format negatives to contact print. But they did find creative ways to use the process.

I had relatively little knowledge of the process until now despite my 35 or so years of conventional photographic experience. So I'm taking some time to become as expert as I can to help students if we resort to cyanotyping. Actually, even if life resumed as normal, I'd still want to continue with this process.

It's very inexpensive, easy and relatively safe. That despite half of the chemistry used to make the sensitizer having cyanide in the name (Potassium Fericyanide.)

Below are some tests using different techniques and substrates. What do you think?

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland. 8x10" contact print of Carestream X-ray film. Paper was fine art inkjet.
This print (above) was using an 8x10 negative on Carestream x-ray film. The neg is a bit dense and contrasty. The cyanotype sensitizer was brushed on a piece of "fine-art" paper intended for inkjet printers. I wasn't too happy with the way the sensitizer dried, there are little blotches.

Ella Can't Type

The above image is a cyanotype made from an 8x10" negative (Fp4 Plus) of my daughter Ella. This neg is slightly thin, and was a 10 minute exposure in direct summer sunlight in Northern California. The paper used is your typical artist watercolor paper.

The above print is a contact from a 5x7" negative (Fomapan 200).  The print was a bit dark and I tried bleaching it with Sodium Carbonate, but I went way too far and this print is now toast. Paper used was a nice resume paper with 25% cotton: Southworty Ivory Linen.

Ella with flowers
The above photo of Ella with flowers is a contact from an 8x10" negative (Ilford FP4 Plus.) The negative is dense and has a processing defect that is less obvious with the "artsy" cyanotype process. This print was exposed 30 minutes in the direct summer sun.

My Dad
Above is a 5x7" photo contact print of my dad (Fomapan 200). This is your typical cyanotype on your typical watercolor paper.

Hannah, Ella & Sterling

The above is a contact print of an old 4x5" negative of my daughter, niece and nephew (TMax 400.) The cyanotype sensitizer was applied to a vintage conventional contact printing photo paper. It appears to have solarized. One thing to note, is that half of the cyanotype sensitizer chemistry is potassium fericyanide which bleaches conventional silver based films and papers.

My Dad
Above is a mixed media print trying out an idea I had. The 5x7" negative was scanned, colorized to a complimentary orangish color. Then I printed the orange negative on a laser printer, after which I sensitized with cyanotype chemistry. The areas with lots of toner coverage appears to have acted as a resist, and the sensitizer found its way into the paper. The white contour shows a small registration error. Paper used was a nice resume paper with 25% cotton: Southworty Ivory Linen.

Ella in the Backyard
Here's a pretty conventional cyanotype contact print of an 8x10" neg (Ilford Fp4 plus.) I just went a bit overboard playing with brush strokes. Plain old watercolor paper.

Ella Splattered
The paper used was vintage Eaton's Corrasable Onion Skin Typewriter Paper. I like this paper, it looks really interesting. The coat, or splatter more like, was made by putting the cyanotype sensitizer in a spray bottle and spraying it.

Ella Splattered (backlit)
Above is the same print as before, but using the transparency scanner option showing what the image looks like backlit. The paper is so thin it doubles as a transparency material almost.

Ella between the invisible lines
Here's another weird substrate option. The above is a contact print from a 5x7" original (Fomapan 200) of my daughter yet again! This was your typical lined school paper, but in washing the lines washed away.


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