Ok, I'm considering doing some platinum/palladium prints, just thought I'd ask for some suggestions before doing it.
As a background, I have experience with cyanotypes, a tiny bit with van dykes, and have the basic equipment for it (contact frame, brush/coating rod, paper, etc). I've got 4x5 and 8x10 negs with enough contrast for pt/pd, and produce most of my negs that way (for dual use, Azo being my primary objective for now). I have experience mixing my own B&W chemicals, and have worked long enough in a lab to know the hazards and proper handling of chemicals (to some extent, anyways). My contact print frame doesn't have a split back (but I don't really worry about it with cyanotypes), and I use the sun for exposure (no plan on buying/making a UV setup).
Given that, any suggestions on how to start? Specifically, is it a good idea to buy a pre-packaged kit with the necessary chemicals, or is it easy enough to buy them separatly and mix the soup myself the first time through? Also, should I go for a POP or DOP process to start off (considering my non-split back frame)? POP sounds a little easier, but is it harder to control contrast, etc? Any favorite/necessary/recommended books?
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Ok, I will give you my impressions as a new guy to this. I ordered both the DOP and POP kits from B&S. I found the DOP much easier to use than the Ziatype kit. Controlling the humidity for printing was a big problem for me, but then it might not be for you. I found contrast easier to control with ziatype but with DOP is not all that hard either. Specially if you use the restraining in developer technique and Sodium platinate as a contrast agent. I have printed negatives with a DR of 0.7 and 0.4 like this and they came out very good.
If your printing frame has no split back then POP will be a little bit of a hassle, another reason I did not like ziatype. I use a vacumm frame and it was difficult for me to judge the exposure and keep the print in register with the negative.
If you order the kit from B&S ask Melody to send you potassium oxalate developer instead of the ammonium citrate, I think you will be much more pleased with the results. PO gives very nice warm and rich tones that I found were more pleasing than the neutral tones from ammonium citrate. Again you might think differentely so remember this is free advice.
I am sure Carl and Clay will be better to respond to this question. If you decide to stick with this, then buying and mixing your own will be better and little bit less expensive (not much though).
Books, there is already a thread on that but here goes again, "platinum & palladium printing" by Dick Arentz, "the new platinum print" by Carl Weese and Dick Sullivan, "comming into focus" edited by John Barnier. I found these 3 were all I needed to get good info.
We are lucky we have Carl and Clay visitng this forum as between the both of them we can probably get any answers we might have.
Good luck and let us know how you like it.
The choice between DOP and POP is something you'll have to decide - do yourself a favor and give each a try. POP (Ziatype) has a greater range of colour possibilities but does need careful control of humidity. DOP may 'feel' easier because the chemistry required is pretty basic (ie. no exotic oxalates or metals like Zia) but in the end neither is more difficult than the other. I use to mix from 'scatch' but found there was really no difference in price between buying the 'raw' chemistry and buying the 'mix' from B&S. Which ever process you decide to try first I'm sure you'll have a great time!
For what it's worth (and maybe not much), I find Azo grade 2 to be very contrasty. Although it's a graded paper, perhaps it is in part a function of my VC coldlight head. In any case, I use Z VI developer (my standard) at twice the dilution (i.e. 1:6 rather than 1:3) to get "normal" results.
I've never tried Azo grade 1, but if the grade 2 is so constrasty, perhaps the grade 1 would be more like what I think of as "normal contrast".
brennerp, try azo with amidol developer. It will softer than #1 enlarging paper.
art is about managing compromise
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Also, brennerp, use a 300 watt incandescent bulb with Azo. A lot of the contrast is being contributed by your cold light head.
P.S. There is no Azo grade 1 anymore, but according to Michael Smith it was so flat as to be useless anyway. A water bath with grade 2 in amidol softens it up nicely.