Last year on Boxing Day I made the snap decision to record one second every day for a year. It made me think of Noah Kalina at the time.
It’s amazing to see my year in this way. It makes me happy to remember all the things I got up to; my memory is terrible and I wish I’d done this before now. I also could have used completely different clips to show a very different year. I forgot to record a lot and had to fill in the gaps as best I could but I’m impressed how well it came together.
It’s surprising how such short clips can tell such a story and throw me back into the moment. Can you imagine having one of these for every year you’d been alive? Every year of your parents’ lives?
I use the free version of 1SE on iPhone (the limitations are perfect for my purposes but I would like to remove their branding), which makes this all simple and automatic. The only difficult part is remembering to film one second every day (at least), however you can paper the gaps with images and live photos.
Seeing them at the end of a year has rejuvenated my interest and I’ve been consciously making short videos, ready for next year’s compilation.
In this blog post I will explain how to make Photographic Cyanotype Prints my way. This is a super easy process and technique, but – like many things – can take a while to master. I’ve certainly made (and continue to make) lots of mistakes. I also continue to discover little tricks and new ways of working, so I thought I’d start to share what I learn.
What you’ll need
Paper (200gsm and greater)
Brush / sponge
Sunlight / UV light
Dark cupboard / box
Other Tools and Supplies
Hydrogen Peroxide (first-aid-kit-grade for cuts)
Water-tight trays (I often use cheap seed planters)
Timer (phone or watch or whatever)
Prepare the Chemicals and Paper for Cyanotypes
Do all of this out of direct light, ideally in the darkest place you can still see to work.
Mix the cyanotype chemicals as per the instructions, whether that’s mixing liquids at 1:1 or measuring powders and adding water and so on. Keep these in very subdued lighting. I tend to mix up about 10ml total if I’m only coating 3 or 4 pieces of paper. I limit to this because I like to keep an eye on how well a batch works but also my dark drying areas are limited.
Next paint the yellow chemical mixture onto your paper. How you do this is up to you, sometimes I use tape for borders, sometimes I like it messy, sometimes I use a sponge for smooth, sometimes I use a wall paintbrush for jagged edges. You should try to keep the application even with no darker pools. I also aim to use the minimum liquid but still get complete and even coverage.
With that done, get the paper into somewhere dark and leave to dry. It will probably try to curl up, but that’s fine. Leave for minimum an hour, but longer is better so it’s properly dried. Sometimes I will be impatient and wait til it’s touch-dry but think I get better results when I leave overnight.
Create a Transparency for Photographic Cyanotype Prints
While the paper dries, it’s time to make your transparency.
With your chosen image, make it black and white (grayscale) and invert the colours. I use Photoshop, but you can do this with lots of free software including online.
Now print it onto your acetate sheet. I’ve printed on the wrong (shiny) side before and the sides are similar, but you should be printing on the side that has a bit more texture. To me, it feels slightly dusty.
Make the Exposure
Now it’s time to grab your dried cyanotype paper, acetate, glass and clips. Put the acetate on top of the paper the correct way round and clip the glass on top so it’s all held together and aligned nicely.
The exposure length will be a blog post in its own right, but give it a go. In sunlight try 8 minutes. Under UV light, maybe 30 minutes. I’d recommend trial and error and making a step test.
The print will turn a blue-brown colour and the image might disappear or look odd at the end of this stage.
Wash and Dry the Cyanotype Print
I’ve tried a few methods of both washing and drying and what follows is my current preferred method:
First I set up a tray slightly larger than the print and half-filled with water.
Then I slip the print in so it is immediately fully covered in water.
Next, I let it sit for a minute or so.
I lift and drop one end of the tray so that it waves. At this stage you should see yellow chemicals coming from the print. The game now is to move all this yellow away and leave a clean (blue and white) print (the documentation recommends 5+ minutes).
Once no more yellow, I slip into a second tray that is water with a tiny dash of hydrogen peroxide. I’m trying to use the minimum possible where I still see the blue going from slightly pastel to a deep sea blue before my eyes. This takes a few seconds, maybe 30 tops.
Lastly I like to take out, then place onto industrial-type paper towels on both sides, removing all the surface water.
Finally I leave to fully dry for hours or usually overnight.
Now you have your print and it’s time to feel the joy, but more likely all the ways you could improve it will run through your head.
Once dry I always write the date, the exposure length and any other relevant information so I can replicate or adjust my process. If I don’t do this as soon as I can, I forget and curse myself. And that’s basically how to make photographic cyanotype prints!
Notes on Supplies for Photographic Cyanotype Prints
Jacquard Products make the commonplace cyanotype chemicals, at least in the UK. These are the ones I use, but I’m sure others work just as well.
My current printer is just cheap but came with months of free ink and I love it so far: HP Envy Photo 6234.
How to Make Photographic Cyanotype Prints: What’s Next?
By now you know the basics of how to make a photographic cyanotype prints, but there is a lot more we can talk about. Getting the exposure right, toning the prints into new colours, intermediate techniques etc. I’ll link them up here when I post them.
Update March 2021: I got Bridge working again and it’s still the best app for my uses, but I’ll keep this up in case it helps others.
I’ve used Adobe Bridge in my workflow for many years but I have been forced to switch. Despite trying different recent versions and trying various ‘fixes’, Bridge keeps crashing, one way or another. This has led me on a short search for alternatives to Adobe Bridge, so an invaluable part of my macOS workflow is not lost.
My main reasons for using bridge are:
Organising reference images and files
Rating and editing photoshoots as I scan and retouch
Exporting batches of images for web or other use (I’m sad to lose Dr Brown’s Services plugin – although I do still run it on a CS6 install on an older machine)
I switch between views and jump between image slideshows and thumbnails constantly. I also tend to dump images into my main Dropbox folder from any computer, then catalogue them every few days or weeks.
For post-production of photoshoots and assembling zines, this functionality has become a vital to my productivity.
After discovering several potential options, I decided to download trials for each and post my feedback. There are only two real contenders for my usage, although I also tried (and dismissed) Eagle, Pixave and Xee.
Where it doesn’t work for me is with its favourites pane. I need to be able to drag folders to this pane, drag files onto favourites to move them and re-arrange the list of favourites. It seems insignificant, but after trialling XnView for a few hours, I found it untenable without these abilities.
I believe this is going to be the app I stick with, despite the $100 (when full-price) cost.
While ACDSee PS7 solves the favourites issues XnView has, it omits some (minor) features that I would have liked.
The first is more customisability when it comes to the browser / favourites, especially the ability to remove some of these or separate into tabs or similar.
The other thing is its lack of integration with Photoshop as I am accustomed to using Bridge and Photoshop hand-in-hand. It will only add fractions of a second and I’m not going to suggest these add up to anything significant, but I can’t stand impeding my workflow. Adding steps just feels clunky and wrong.
I’m going to keep both XnView MP and ACDSee PS7 installed, for now. I’ve raised my concerns with XnView and hope that they might change the favourites functionality, making it a top app for me (and fab for free software). Until then I will be using ACDSee as it’s the closest relation to my current system.
It’s a shame that I’ve had to look for alternatives to Adobe Bridge, because I was happy with it. I would have been delighted with minimal updates as it moved to CC, but it’s been unstable since and multiples crashes can derail me for hours.
Do you have any recommendations or tips for me for alternatives to Adobe Bridge that I may have overlooked?
I’ve wanted to recreate Blade Runner replicant eyes for a few years and have finally got around to it. I half-heartedly tried a couple of times in the past, buying the wrong things and setting up wrong. It turns out it was easier than I was thinking and I had the necessary materials lying around.
Although the original inspiration is a movie, my aim was to shoot photographs on film.
I added tape loops to my Project Ideas page and it was mainly down to my fascination with William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops.
While I’ve not yet got round to this one, I did manage to grab this short clip of Basinski discussing and demonstrating the his process. It comes from Other Music, an excellent documentary about the final days of NYC’s famous record store. I highly recommend it.
The Disintegration Loops were made in response to September 11th and are a beautiful and emotion reaction that I’ve listened to many times.
I wasn’t aware of William Basinski’s method of creating the loops, but I was pleasantly surprised at the technique and simplicity of the analogue process. It has parallels with my own way of working with analogue film processes.