Thank you for the explanation.
So, I take it the only reason for choosing albumen would be a slight increase in sharpness and a glossier surface. Otherwise, they're both the same as far as exposure, processing, contrast, color, toning properties, permanency, etc. are concerned. Is this correct?
Are they more susceptible to fogging than vandyke? Unlike vandyke, where the photosensitive compound is an iron(III) salt, here it's silver chloride, which is used in "normal" photo papers and is sensitive to visible light. I've never had fog on vandyke under incandescent white light. Will I have any problem with salt prints? Should I work under red light?
The glossier surface of albumen also gives deeper shadows--I wouldn't call them "blacks" exactly.
Over time all albumen prints develop tiny surface cracks from the swelling and contraction of the albumen layer, but there are lots of prints from the albumen era still around.
Last edited by David A. Goldfarb; 03-08-2011 at 02:09 AM. Click to view previous post history.
On the blacks versus browns of albumen and salts...go with the previous suggestion and get the Chris James book and within you will find ways to take albumen and salt prints to different levels.
For sharpness, paper selection plays a huge roll (outside of your negative) and you have to experiment. All of my salt prints come up a bit soft, I've never been able to get a truly sharp print...probably me (something I'm doing that I havent figured out yet). There are basic suggestions and one of the cheaper massed produced papers on the market is one of the highest recommended:
Ruscombe: very very expensive - never used it
Strathmore 500 (smooth late or hot press - double) very inexpensive and recommended by lots of folks - I've never used it
cranes - like it
arches - like it
Zerkall book paper - really like it
Bostick and Sullivan mass produced - like it
We bought a bunch of paper from lots of different companies and then we just make prints to see what we like and how the paper reacts.
Look for smooth or hot plate watercolor papers, decreases the bubble formation a bit on the paper. The tone of the paper will change the print so again play around.
Depending on which Ruscombe paper you are referring to, the Platinotype is very nice but is more difficult to coat than (for example) Arches. I expect that that is a difference in surface gelatin. It does give very rich, sharp van dykes / argyrotypes, though. (I don't do salt).
Originally Posted by 77seriesiii
Albumen would be practically identical, I suspect.
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How do you guys spread the silver nitrate solution? I have a hunch that the method I use with the vandyke sensitizer won't work with salt prints. I pour all the sensitizer in the middle of the paper, then spread it around with the brush. But I think that if I did this with salted paper then the silver nitrate would instantly react with the sodium chloride, diluting the solution instantly, so that the silver nitrate coating would get weaker and weaker with every brush stroke. I think the resulting silver chloride layer in the paper would be uneven and I'd get a streaky image. Am I right?
If the proper paper is utilized, sharpness is not a problem. I find it best to work with 100% cotton, 100% rag or 100% linen papers. The papers I use are 22-28 lb stationery. They are delicate but care in handling prevents tears. These papers are still heavier than the papers common during the salted paper era. I also insure that the printing frame makes very positive contact which requires additional padding on the backs of most contact frames. Older ones do not have this problem. To preserve silver nitrate I use a Magic Brush and take care not to go to the edge of the paper.
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there are a few ways to spread the solution. One is to float the paper, brush it and lastly use a puddle pusher. If you use a brush try to not use one with a metal feral, the silver will react. IF you use one w/ a metal feral use clear nail polish to coat the feral (inside if possible) and that will help. Japanese hake brushes work well but pull out all the hairs and then use glue or the nail polish on the base to keep the hairs in the handle.
float the paper is the most even coating; however it wastes lots of silver. do a search on albumen printing and take a look for some youtube videos, easier to see it. I think Bostick and sullivan have a good video. Essentially you make a boat of the paper, emulsion side down/bottom. I turn up the edges roughly .5 to 1 inch all around and i pinch the corners. Holding two corners (cade corner) I kind of roll bend the paper to form a 'U'. I place the bottom of the 'U' in the solution, lower one corner and then lower the other. If you are doing albumen, get toothpicks or pins to pop the bubbles. For salt, silver and albumen (using a clear glass pan) look up under the paper and make sure no bubbles (biggish ones) bwtn the paper and solution, you have to get rid of those otherwise no solution will attach to the paper. I have three acrylic pans for this process, one for salt solution, one for silver and one for albumen.
puddle pusher is a variant of the brush but faster. I have tried pushing albumen around with it...I've heard its possible but as a beginner I would not recommend it, unless you have mad puddle pusher skills. For silver and salt mixutres it works well.
Something that has made it easier is ironing the paper after the salt or albumen dries. The paper will curl like made, sometimes using film weights on the hanging edge helps. really depends on the paper used.
The lowest weight paper we have used is 40lbs, Jim N. you are using 20ishlbs...WOW! The clarity of the 40# paper was gorgeous but man o man was it tender. I can only imagine what a 20# paper would be like. Beginners, in my opinion, do not use anything under 100#, learn the process then go to the lighter papers if desired.
What? Float the paper on the silver nitrate solution? No way! I'm not that rich. At 6 euros per gram I'd go bankrupt in no time.
Anyway, I think I've answered my own question. I did some calculations, and it seems that there's an excess of silver nitrate. If my math is correct, the ratio of silver nitrate to sodium chloride is approximately 2.5 times higher than the stoichiometric ratio (considering the standard recipe, with 2% sodium chloride and 12% silver nitrate). The excess of nitrate should keep the solution from getting weaker during the brushing stage. Theoretically, at least.
In the meantime I've answered another one of my own questions, namely the one about light sensitivity and fog. I was worried that silver chloride, being used in "normal" papers, might be sensitive to visible light to a greater extent than other alternative processes. But in "normal" papers the increased sensitivity is not due to silver chloride alone, but mostly to the composition of the gelatin and to the ripening process. OK, so I guess I shouldn't worry about fog.
I think I'll give it a try during the next week-end.
Last edited by Vlad Soare; 03-17-2011 at 03:36 AM. Click to view previous post history.
What?! You dont want to waste silver on a glorious, beautiful OMG frustrating, dont get silver on the back float option? Craziness! I dont like floating on SN (silver maintenance, waste, etc., but for an even print it cant b beat - I save it for special images).
You mentioned fog. Things that cause fogging in a silver nitrate print: florescent bulbs, certain LEDs, halogen bulbs...wait for it...sunlight. Taking into account you probably arent spreading silver around in sunlight or outside, check your lights. We use 40-60w incandescent bulbs (getting harder to find so I bought a bunch) and it has worked out well. I did a test using a 100w but you have to work fast, so its not worth it. The amount of UV that a household lights put out is really too small to 'develop' a SN print; however, it will start the process earlier than you desired.
too much SN will affect the print and the bad thing, at least what we have noticed, the SN % affects different papers differently. So many variables. Oh dont forget humidity or too much heat used during the drying process. too much heat during drying will sour the silver and the resulting image will be bad. Too little humidity and the albumen or starch used will flake/crack.