Blue toning or cyanotype?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Bryce Parker, Jan 2, 2008.

  1. Bryce Parker

    Bryce Parker Member

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    I'm thinking of (maybe) blue toning a series of B+W prints in order to make them look like cyanotypes. Here's the deal.
    I've spent the last 6 months or so working for an aging manufacturing company and been taking pictures of the place. Also, the management was gracious enough to let me peruse the company's early photographic records, dating from 1893 to maybe 1925. These images were all printed as cyanotypes, presumably because blueprinting materials were on hand for copying technical drawings at the time.
    So to keep the new images sort of in line with the old, I'm considering using blue toning in place of true cyanotypes. I've ruled out proper cyanotypes as I don't have the tools and experience to do it and limited time (and funds).
    So is there a particular method I'd get the most "cyanotype like" results from? The short handful of prints I have blue toned in the past have ended up with nearly black shadow areas, unlike a cyanotype. Otherwise the results are similar enough that I'd accept them visually.
    What do you all think?
     
  2. David William White

    David William White Member

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    reconsider...

    Toning prints will work...but won't be cheaper than true cyanotypes. Nothing is cheaper than cyanotypes, actually.

    What did you shoot with?
     
  3. Bryce Parker

    Bryce Parker Member

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    Oh, yeah... the formats. I shot the series on 35mm and medium format (6x4.5 and 6x9).
    Cyanotypes are expensive and impractical for me because I have small negatives, no large format film to enlarge them onto, no lightbox, and no sunshine (Western Washington). Also no experience with alt processes to speak of.
    I've tried making full sized negatives with the printer (I know, this is the wrong forum) but got unacceptable results and gave the idea up.
     
  4. DarkroomExperimente

    DarkroomExperimente Member

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    toning B&W negatives blue then printing onto RA-4...now that's fun!
     
  5. David William White

    David William White Member

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    re-reconsider...

    Photographers used to make their contact sheets as cyanotypes, just for proofing. Easy and fast to do a whole roll on one sheet in one shot, just like regular contact sheets, but..um..cheaper. Bulk operation.

    I've proofed 120 film (6x6's) as cyanotypes and then scanned them in. No need for enlarged negatives or digital negatives. That just introduces a poor intermediate.

    Most of your negatives, if close to proper exposure, will cyanotype reasonably well. It's not too hard to judge when exposure is sufficient.

    For final output from your scans, send them to Walmart for 4x6's or whatever.

    This is much faster than printing each shot and toning them separately.

    I grant you that scans from mf or 35mm when scanned from direct negative contact prints won't have the detail of 4x5 or 8x10, but your photos will take on the character of the cyanotypes you are trying to match, and I'm sure some allowance will be made for your effort to produce bonafide cyanotypes.

    Dig in!
     
  6. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Wouldn't that be toning them Yellow to yellow-orange to get cyan/blue print with RA-4? But maybe you are after a yellow/orange print.

    I make up a blue toner for our students -- pretty cheap and easy. Not considered "archival" is the only problem. It is made of Ferric ammonium citrate, Oxalic acid and Potassiun ferricyanide. Nothing expensive -- pretty much what one makes cyanotypes with. The formula is from an old Kodak book of photographic formulas. I'll look it up and post it if you are interested.

    Vaughn

    PS...it is just a silmple solution -- soak the print in it, then wash until the whites clear. Definitely gets the shadows blue...no black shadows.
     
  7. DarkroomExperimente

    DarkroomExperimente Member

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    Yup..the prints came out as bright orange/red...with white highlights & black shadows...
     
  8. Bryce Parker

    Bryce Parker Member

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    Hey, that process with color printing from toned B+W negs sounds fun! Too bad I'm not set up to deal with color!
    I kinda like the negative sized cyanotype prints scanned and reprinted commercially too. Definitely hadn't thought of either possibility.
    I could get pretty similar results by scanning, altering in P-shop (I'm not a purist) and getting commercial prints made too. My local one hour place would love me, having gotten very little of my money lately...
    Was I doing something weird to end up with black shadow areas when I blue toned in the past? I used Berg toner and more or less followed their instructions. Prints were on Forte FB semi matte neutral paper developed in Dektol. So does the Berg toner maybe bleach less of the silver image than the homemade formula given?
    I'll tinker some more. Thanks for the input!
     
  9. DarkroomExperimente

    DarkroomExperimente Member

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    Bryce...just take the toned negatives to a lab...I got 2 or 3 free prints when the guys at a camera store saw the results...the manager picked a couple negatives and told his technician to print them just for fun

    those negs may have been hand colored instead of toned...I forget the details
     
  10. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    Nah. Sounds fishy to me. Two problems I see. Neither cyanotypes nor blue toned prints are archival. RA-4 prints would look like, well, RA-4 prints even if you can get close to a color match. I think the best thing is to make the prints of low contrast on a good fiber based paper. Tone them with selenium or sepia toner if you want a warm or aged look. You don't want that high contrast, edgy look that's so easy to get with modern materials. In the end you'll have a collection of prints that will look good and complement the already existing archive of prints. Properly processed, they will last a long time and provide a record for the future.
     
  11. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    If you are suggesting chromogenic prints here, I can't imagine they will look anything like cyanotypes even if the scanned original prints were contact prints using cyanotype.

    If a digital step is to be involved, I suggest the OP visit hybridphoto.com and investigate how to make proper digital negatives that will match the scale of the cyanotype emulsion. There are a lot of friendly people over there willing to offer good advice. Check out posts made by user mkochsch on using HSL arrays in particular. (OTOH, a film scan could also be taken into Photoshop, desaturated and then colorized blue and printed out via inkjet to a rough paper to mimic the cyanotype process better than a slick surfaced RC chromogenic print.)

    If it is important to match the older cyanotypes, I say give them give them real cyanotype prints.
     
  12. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Cyanotypes may not be archival, but I have one that's still very blue after more than 120 years! From the buildings in the picture the negative must have been exposed before 1870, so I assume the print was made not too many years later.

    Different papers behave differently in different toners. Ilford MG IV RC hardly reacts to anything, and Bergger Art Contact reacts extremely quickly and goes violently blue within seconds - in old weak toner that doesn't affect other papers at all.

    Somewhere between those two extremes you should be able to find a paper that gives nice, controllable tones.
     
  13. Akki14

    Akki14 Member

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    Cyanotypes are only not archival if they've not been washed properly so the excess unreacted chemicals come out (eg no more yellow in the highlights). Cyanotypes are also unusual in that they like acidic enviroments so "archival" papers with buffers and stuff are actually bad for cyanotypes and will make them fade/bleach. I think blue-toned silver gelatin prints are NOT archival because the iron in them reacts with the silver which causes it to degrade... at least that's my understanding.

    I've found cyanotypes extremely easy to work with and if you're in the US, you don't realise just how lucky you are to have cheap large format lith film available from places like freestylephoto. I'm seriously considering importing some 8x10 lith film from them because even though it'd cost me 60orso UKpounds (the shipping and VAT and duty approximate), that's still cheaper than lith film here (for a hundred sheets) and not much more than cheap fomapan panchromatic film which is what I'm currently using for enlarged negatives for 35mm to 4x5inch film. The chemicals I bought back in April last year are still going, it cost me maybe 13ukpounds for them. I've found loads of different cheap papers that work happily with cyanotype so you don't have to go with the expensive arches aquaelle or cranes papers. Ortholith film is the way to go if you're scared of working in complete darkness and can get the film at a reasonable price because then it's no different than working with paper from what I've heard... you even use paper developer to get pictorial contrast.

    Oh yeah and the light box? Don't bother building your own if you're doing about 8x10 size, just get a facial tanner, those things can be had for less money than buying the bulbs.
     
  14. kevs

    kevs Member

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  15. Gary Holliday

    Gary Holliday Member

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    I reckon this link will provide a closer cyanotype look. It's on the Moersch site, unfortunately there's no direct link:

    http://www.fineartprinting.de/index_e.php

    Click on the gallery and then look for MT7 Eisenblautoner

    Also click on Tutorial as there are some cyanotype images of a rather fine looking model.