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  1. #1
    Justin Cormack's Avatar
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    Albumen - questions after first print

    I finally made my first albumen print today (despite the rain - the sun came close enough to coming out that exposure time was just over half an hour). Also my first POP. I made a few salt prints last autumn before the printing times got too long with the winter coming in.

    I was using Victorian glass whole plate negatives. Still need to work on my own negs - most of them dont have the range for these processes yet. And it is nice to print them again how they once were printed.

    Overall I was very happy with POP (Centennial). Lovely tonality, very responsive in gold toner (before fix) - I ended up letting it tone quite a lot (rich brown) but will have to try the in between tones. (the print I underexposed and tried to tone after fix as an experiment didnt respond much). Only note was that without gold toning it fades a lot in hypo - when I was doing salt prints in dilute rapid fixer they didnt fade much at all. With toning about what I expected - if anything I overexposed a tiny bit expecting more.

    Albumen was not quite as good, although I was very happy for a first try. It was just much less glossy than I expected, and had some of the image-on-the-surface effect that I had with salt prints on some papers (although less so). I will have to check which paper I was using but I think it was Arches, anyway a HOT watercolour paper, as light weight as it is easy to get (ie about 200gsm). Before sensitising it had a light glossy sheen, but nothing like the albumen prints I have seen. I am not sure if this is due to 1. the paper (I have the B&S sample pack to try coating now) 2. the albumen dissolving in processing - is ageing/hardening/cooking/alcohol/multicoating recommended 3. the sizing of the paper under the albumen 4. smoothness of the paper 5. the small amount of water I dissoved the ammonium chloride in before adding to the egg white, which apprently reduces glossiness. Or something else... any tips appreciated.

  2. #2
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    For a smooth look, you want a plate finish paper like Strathmore 500 single-ply plate. This is very much like the paper that was used historically. Traditional albumen prints are almost all on very thin paper and mounted to a thicker cardstock. I buy mine from Jerry's Artarama, in case you can't find a source in the UK.

    The albumen does need to be hardened. I make the albumenized paper in large batches so it ages before I use it, but I also steam it so that it is pliable before sensitizing, and this cooks the albumen as well. You could try multiple coats. The effectiveness of this might depend on the paper you are using.

    Some historic prints were calendered for extra gloss. I haven't managed to find someone with a calendering press to try this out.
    Last edited by David A. Goldfarb; 06-26-2007 at 03:14 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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  3. #3

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    albumen

    Hi Justin, it took me many attempts to get some decent Albumen prints. I 'accidentally' allowed some coated sheets to age (for over a year) and this seemed to help a lot. So nowadays when I coat, I tend to coat a huge batch. I also painted the albumen solution on by hand, twice, brushing downwards & then across. Two coats. I've heard that any more than two coats risks cracking. I have had better results by hand brushing silver nitrate too, meticulously. Some people will use a glass rod or floating the paper in the solution but these methods failed me.
    I wasn't aware that it is best to use thin paper stock, I'll try it. I've had excellent results with Arches Platine.
    I have some good recommendations for various books, if you want I can PM you the details.

  4. #4

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    albumen

    ps: what is 'calendering'?

  5. #5
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    A calender press has two smooth rollers, one moving at a slower speed and one at a higher speed, and the print is fed through the rollers with the emulsion side facing the faster roller, so that it buffs the surface and improves the gloss.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
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  6. #6
    Jim Noel's Avatar
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    David has given some very good advice.
    Strathmore 500 plate finish, single ply is the only paper I have found which produces a decent gloss. I have tried some 20-24 lb papers, primarily hot pressed stationery, with some success. The gloss is there, but not like the plate finished paper.

    I have seen no improvement in gloss with double coating. I do age and harden the albumen prior to printing.
    [FONT=Comic Sans MS]Films NOT Dead - Just getting fixed![/FONT]

  7. #7
    RobertP's Avatar
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    I take it that the albumen is aged before it is sensitized? What is meant by "hardening" ? Does it harden during aging or is it put in a dry mount press and heated?

  8. #8
    RobertP's Avatar
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    I have a book somewhere, "The Albumen & Salted Paper Book" by, James M. Reilly. " The History and Practice of Photographic Printing 1840-1895" I'll have to find it. I just did a tour of the National Archives in College Park, Md. and then on to the Eastman House in Rochester. We had private viewings in both places and some of the albumen prints just blew me away.

  9. #9
    RobertP's Avatar
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    I found it and it has answered all my questions. The book says there are three possible approaches to hardening the albumen. The easiest is to store the paper in a loft for about 6 months and a natural slow curing process hardens the albumen. The second is to subject the paper to steam which cooks the albumen and renders it insoluble. The third and easiest (IMO) way to harden is by briefly immersing the sheet in a 70 percent solution of isopropyl alcohol. Ok now back to the beginning of the book and I'll start from there.
    Last edited by RobertP; 06-26-2007 at 04:56 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  10. #10
    RobertP's Avatar
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    I'll have to read further but I think the main reason for double coating was so the coating would be more even across the paper. They would coat then hang it.. then turn it 180 degrees to hang for the second coat.

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