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  1. #1
    Bryce Parker's Avatar
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    Blue toning or cyanotype?

    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. #2
    David William White's Avatar
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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. #3
    Bryce Parker's Avatar
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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. #4

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

  5. #5
    David William White's Avatar
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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. #6
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkroomExperimente View Post
    toning B&W negatives blue then printing onto RA-4...now that's fun!

    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.
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

  7. #7

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

  8. #8
    Bryce Parker's Avatar
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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. #9

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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. #10

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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.

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