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  1. #1
    500+ Posts Ned.Lewis's Avatar
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    Lightbulb First salt prints

    One of the reasons I built a big foamcore camera was to have a go at salt prints and also a kind of homemade POP. Yesterday and today I made my first salt prints and it is really fun. Not too much to say yet, I've only made 4 but all four came out. I started as simply as possible-- just salt and silver nitrate.

    The first one looks neat but there is some fog. I sensitized 2 sheets and the second sheet sat overnight while the first one was exposing. It developed roughly the same amount of fog unexposed. The fogging was not visible after 3 hours of drying, but appeared slowly over the next 12 hours. I still like the way the prints look, but the fog is too much.

    1st: ~12 hours under a single blb uv fluorescent bulb.
    2nd: 2 hours indirect sunlight... my daughter wanted me to stop it because it looked really nice, but it was a bit underexposed.

    Last night and today I did everything the same but added 5% citric acid to the silver nitrate. That seems to have eliminated the fog:

    3rd: 14 hours under the BLB... looks like it could have even used a little more, but it's nice and the highlights are bright white.
    4th: outside for 3 hours facing the sun, with the first 2 in direct sunlight, but late afternoon. The sun set while it was out there. It looks just about perfect, maybe a little overexposed... the sky just has some tone in it and the highlights are not pure white. I love the way details in the highlights look in these.. there is a kind of delicacy that is very nice.

    I've done a couple homemade POP too but I'll save that for another thread.

    All in all I'm really pleased and can't wait to make more of them. It is very fun and there is a certain kind of extra fun to see an image appear on a paper that you coated yourself. It almost seems too simple to work, but up comes this beautiful lilac colored image. I wish there was a way to save the delicate violet color before it hits the fixer! My daughter wants to scan the image as it is, not fix it, and store it in a box in the dark sort of like we do with solargraphs. She has a point. #2 looked truly delicate and lovely prior to fixing.

    These are all made from 8x10 paper negatives shot in the homemade camera. Adorama VC paper with no preflashing and no filter and developed in fresh dektol... basically skipping all the steps we do to control contrast. I'm also exposing them just a bit more than usual, so there is a little more tone in the shadows and the highlights are very dense.

    I brushed on the salt solution, let it dry, then brushed on the silver nitrate solution and let it dry again. I'm looking forward to playing with different salts and additives to see what colors are possible.

    I'm having too much fun making the prints and shooting new negatives to spend much time on the internet these past few days, but I'll get around to scanning some eventually.

    I do have one question. I want to go all the way and make calotypes too. I seem to be getting a consistent coating by brushing on the salt and brushing on the silver nitrate. Is there any reason I can't make my calotypes the same way, brushing on the potassium iodide solution then the sensitizer? Everything I've read talks about floating the paper in the potassium iodide but I can't see why brushing it on won't work just like it does for these salt prints. Maybe there's something I'm missing but it seems to me it would be simpler.

    Happy New Year to everyone. 2014 is going to be a good year!
    Last edited by Ned.Lewis; 01-02-2014 at 02:51 AM.
    Some photos: Ipernity
    ( pinholes and solargraphs mixed in among the rest)

  2. #2
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    Great post. Looking forward to seeing some scans. Jim

  3. #3
    500+ Posts Ned.Lewis's Avatar
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    Crane Creek Salt Print by Ned, at ipernity

    Here is a print I made yesterday. This one has problems with brush marks, but I liked the color and nice clear background and highlights. The highlights are almost pure bright white, scan makes them seem more grey. This picture is 5.3 x 9 inches.

    Details:
    Adorama VC RC negative exposed in foamcore box camera, 8s ~f/64. No filters or pre-flashing.
    Developed 3min in fresh room temp dektol, about 1:3. Normal stop, fix, wash.

    Salt print:
    Morton table salt 2% in distilled water brushed on to Canson "universal sketch". Dried a few days.
    Sensitized with 1ml of silver nitrate 12%, citric acid 6%. Dried 3 hours.
    Contact print: 1 hour in open shade facing north, then about 1/2 hour facing sun ( 4PM winter day ).
    I left to walk the dog and brought it in after sunset.

    2 washes in water w/ pinch of salt, 10 minutes total.
    fixed: 1/2t hypo in about 4oz water, 2 baths 3 minutes each. ( 1st from day before, 2nd freshly mixed )
    brief wash in RO water.
    3 minutes in 1% sodium sulfite
    wash ~ 1.5 hours in several changes of RO water.
    dry flat on glass overnight.

    I've been getting a mottled grey in the highlights... not much but it makes the prints less bright. I was very surprised to see that it started to appear after the sodium sulfite bath when I started to wash the print in our well water ( which goes through a calcite filter and a potassium chloride softener ). With my normal darkroom prints that water is fine for washing, and I thought by this point in the process there would be nothing left in the salt print to react. As soon as I noticed that, the rest of the wash was in RO water. I'll find out later if that is the solution, but in this print it is nearly invisible... more like a hint that it was going to happen.
    Last edited by Ned.Lewis; 01-05-2014 at 01:16 PM. Reason: added details
    Some photos: Ipernity
    ( pinholes and solargraphs mixed in among the rest)

  4. #4
    Very nice results, I like the tones in the print. This is yet another alternative process that I've not explored, but I hope to enjoy more of your results vicariously.

    Regarding drying the print on glass, I wonder if this would work with silver gelarin FB paper, to significantly reduce curling? I'll have to make a test print to see.

    ~Joe
    "There was just that moment and now there's this moment and in between there is nothing. Photography, in a way, is the negation of chronology."-Geoff Dyer, "The Ongoing Moment"
    My Writing Blog: Joe Van Cleave's Blog
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  5. #5
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    Great start Ned. Your getting very nice dmax. Many salt print I have seen are very weak in the shadows but look almost like pencil drawings. Regarding brush marks that may be the way the paper is absorbing the coating. Have you tried rod coating that paper? We have wells too but no filters. I use a lot of distilled water - ugggh. Jim

  6. #6
    500+ Posts Ned.Lewis's Avatar
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    Hi Joe, I actually started using the glass just recently for single weight FB paper I've been working with. It still curls around the edges but it makes a big difference. The FB paper I'm using is 8.5x11 and when I made an 8x10 contact print and dried it on the glass, it left the middle 8x10 almost flat.... worth a try!

    Hi Jim,

    This scan exaggerates the dmax a little, and also makes the highlights look duller than they really are. The print in hand is maybe one or 1.5 wedge steps lower than it looks on my monitor. But you are right, it's pretty good. The first few were flatter. I've got 8 prints now and I compared them carefully today... the ones that were finished with 20 or 30 minutes in direct sun all have better dmax and better separation in the shadows. It reminds me of giving a normal VC print a little blast through the high contrast filter to lock in the darks.

    So far my experience is different from what I've read, which is that contrast is improved by exposing in the shade. My impression is that the highlight contrast builds up during the "shade" exposure and the shadows and darks get some density and contrast boost from the direct sunshine. I guess I'll learn if that turns out to be true
    Some photos: Ipernity
    ( pinholes and solargraphs mixed in among the rest)

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ned.Lewis View Post

    So far my experience is different from what I've read, which is that contrast is improved by exposing in the shade. My impression is that the highlight contrast builds up during the "shade" exposure and the shadows and darks get some density and contrast boost from the direct sunshine. I guess I'll learn if that turns out to be true
    I too have read about self masking or reciprocity with POP papers but not sure I understand it. I guess it is basically the same thing with film. But with film it involves a time factor, ie. too long or too short an exposure. I don't know how that relates to POP paper. Jim
    Last edited by Jim.Steel; 01-06-2014 at 11:41 PM. Reason: sp

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