Help a newbie -- Van Dyke / paper coating
I made my first Van Dyke print last night using an enlarged negative on transparency film. It actually looks decent, considering it was my first try. I basically followed the procedure from Wynn White's article on unblinkingeye.com. I have a few questions that I hope someone can help me with.
(1) I had a hard time coating the paper (Stonehenge Rising) evenly using the glass-rod method. I distributed the sensitizer (about 1 ml to start, for a 6x9" sensitized area) along the rod and then pulled it down the paper, as described by White. What I found was that the sensitizer would come down the paper in irregular "stripes" -- as if the rod wasn't spreading the sensitizer in some places. Is this a problem with my coating rod -- not straight enough? (I made it myself from glass tubing, but I have a few others as well.)
I found that I had to go over the area more than once (in orthogonal directions -- up/down and left/right) to get even coating.
(2) I noticed, when clearing the prints in very dilute citric acid (as described by White), that after four or five changes of water some areas of the print would appear to "bleach". Has anyone ever seen this? I managed to avoid this with my last print by using much less citric acid (a vanishingly small amount) in the rinse and limiting myself to three changes of water.
(3) I like the look of my first VDB. One thing I wasn't expecting was the degree of dry-down density changes -- my print got considerably darker when it was fully dry. I'll have to take that into account next time.
(4) For those who are interested -- I tried to do this "on the cheap", with limited success (on the "cheap" part). My light source was a 13W compact spiral fluorescent BLB in a hardware store-type "reflector" work light fixture. The negative was printed on Staples overhead film using a Van Dyke curve I found on alternativephotography.com. I used two thick (1 cm) glass plates to hold everything together. The paper was Stonehenge Rising, but today I bought some Fabriano Artistico and Cranes Platine (expensive!) to try out, in the hopes that they may coat more evenly.
Even though I use a brush to coat my papers, I think I can help. It probably isn't the rod, but the paper. Different papers have different absorbtion charachteristics depending on temperature, humidity, etc. Also, 1ml is also very little, and I don't care what they say about coating rods vs brushes, that is still not very much sensitizer. Again, this is probably the paper sucking up half of the sensitizer when you put it down, and not having much to go around. Multiple applications is not suprising either. Paper absorbtion characteristics again.
Originally Posted by Jordan
This happens with any alt process. Even cyanotype. However, this could also be due to underexposure. Be sure of your exposure times.
Originally Posted by Jordan
I don't think you are alone in your cheapness. I use the sun, 1 sheet of plexiglass, and transperancy film. Good luck and great first start.
Originally Posted by Jordan
"But what is strength without a double share of wisdom." --John Milton
"Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn't really matter." --Unknown missionary
A good paper to start with is Cranes' Kid Finish stationery. Give that one a try.
Sounds like you could use a bit more sensitizing solution. And a bit more speed when coating. Get the first swipe down the paper quickly and then back up and down at about half the initial rate.
Also, I tape the paper to a sheet of plate glass to coat in order to get the surface as flat as possible when coating with a rod. Tape the paper at each of the 4 corners and spread the paper taut as you do so. Use drafting or masking tape.
Have used Rising Stonehenge paper with VDB and it IS a good paper for the process, IMO. It sounds like the issue is one of volume and using the coating rod. Look at the Bostick & Sullivan's website for good information on using a coating rod. Would suggest using water to practice with on some scrap paper. I use between 12-14 drops for a 5x7 negative. Others should be able to give input on the light source, I use a UV box with 12 - 24inch tubes. Post exposure, mine get get a wash in plain running water, then toned, then hypo, then washed again. There will be some bleaching if the print is left in the hypo or toner too long, also you have to find you exposure/development to determine the time for the look you want - yes dry down is very dramatic....but less so if you tone with gold, plt or pld.
Thanks for your help, everyone. My choice of Stonehenge Rising was inspired by Wynn White's article, where he specifically mentions this is as a good paper for VDB. I've read the instructions on the Bostick and Sullivan website. I do tape my paper to a sheet of plexiglass (which itself lies on newspaper) before coating.
I experimented with using different amounts of sensitizer, and also by adding one or two drops of wetting agent (based on Triton X-100, not Tween). After reading all of your responses, I'm beginning to think that the issue is that my coating rod is not perfectly straight. (My glassworking skills aren't that spectacular.) I'm going to try again with a different coating rod.
All that said, I'm pleased with my first print. (I may scan and post it tonight if I have the chance.) The tones are nice, though the contrast in the midtones is flat. I suspect I can adjust this most easily by tweaking the curve on my digital neg.
By the way, I took out "Coming Into Focus" from the local library yesterday. Looks like a great book!
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