A little while ago I offered to print other people images using #altprocess techniques to help me with my skills and to get feedback in the search of improvements. Ian Hill on Twitter was one of the first to step forward.
A few images were proffered but one struck me as something I really wanted to print. After discussing source image requirements we decided that the best path was for Ian to send me his 35mm negative and for me to tackle the complete lifecycle of scanning, processing and printing. I can't thank Ian enough for having the faith and confidence to send a negative to a random stranger and trust me with it to interpret and print it.
The 35mm negative was scanned using my V700 flatbed scanner. This is generally shunned as the least "perfect" way of doing it, but I'm slowly moving myself away from the "norm" of technical perfection towards a more artistic approach of focussing on how the resulting image feels.
The negative was well exposed and developed giving a good range of tones to work with. A fair amount of spotting was needed and a simple curve got us along way to where we needed to be. Some targeted luminosity masks to pull down the "hot" wrists and to improve the local contrast in the hand creases were applied. A vignette to increase the focus on the hands and some burning in of bright pebbles in the background finished it off.
As I've mentioned before I generally start with a cyanotype as it's the simplest process and gives a good idea of how the tonal range and contrast work out. The first iteration using a digital negative printed on an Epson P700 showed the wrist were too hot. I fixed that (with the mentioned luminosity mask), reprinted the digital negative and printed a couple of cyanotypes, one of which I toned in Green Tea.
I use a pre-made Mike Ware formulation from Wet Plate Supplies and Bergger COT 320 paper from Silver Print. This combination coats easily and evenly, gives a deep blue and has a slight texture which I like. After experimenting with foam brushes, hake brushes and glass rods, I've settled on Jackson's 2" Mottler brushes for all my coatings. The consistency and ease of use fit my technique better.
Once happy I had the tones where I wanted them I tackled a Gold toned Kallitype print. This is a lot more involved than a Cyanotype and a bit more costly due to the extra chemicals and toners but I think they are worth the trouble. Having "tested" with the Cyanotype I was confident with my processes that all I need to do was print a new digital negative with the Kallitype correction and print it up. Success!
This was the result of the first print and after "living" with it for a day or so I decided there was nothing I would do differently. I love the range of tones in the background without being a single tone or solid black which frame the hands nicely. The gritty creases in the hand stand out along with the skin pores full of dirt. The slightly brighter wrists show the effect of work done to get these mucky hands. The original image and negative are doing most of the work. Hopefully my approach to printing it has enhanced it rather than imposing upon on it.
I'm so grateful of Ian for sharing his negative with me and allowing me to print it for him. I learnt a lot about my printing, but probably I mainly gained the most in confidence. That I could go from start to finish with results that both I and the other party were happy with.