[Alt-photo] Alt-photo-process-list Digest, Vol 189, Issue 4

Dan Estabrook daniel at danestabrook.com
Wed Jan 10 14:45:08 UTC 2018

Hi Jason,

Your method is correct, but, as everyone says, Calotype is so sensitive that small things can make a huge difference.

First of all, paper is a big deal. You may have seen on here all the discussions with Salt Printing and buffered papers—well, Calotype is worse. You need a thin paper for printing, so acidifying is extra difficult (tho it works), and you need good wet strength for all that washing. Definitely try Canson Marker Pro; it will work consistently well for you. (Feel free to try other things once you have it down.)
https://www.dickblick.com/products/canson-pro-layout-marker-paper/ <https://www.dickblick.com/products/canson-pro-layout-marker-paper/>

Next, as Brittonie mentioned, brushes are a problem, too. Basically, you need a brand-new brush for every step (except the initial pre-silvering.) For that reason, use a cotton-ball buckle brush, or do what I do—a new large cotton ball pinched in my (gloved) fingers. That means one for sensitizing, one for developing, and a new one for any other steps (see below.) Contamination can happen easily.

Last (for now), the safelight must indeed be very low, as you guessed. Red is safer than amber.

As for developers and things, I do use the full 1:1 of ANS & Gallic Acid, and wait for the image to come up strong. (It should happen pretty quickly.) Once it’s all there, dip a NEW cotton ball in distilled water and wash the surface lightly but well. I then usually do another step of straight Gallic Acid for a minute or so—it deepens your blacks and keeps them from lightening up in the fix. Wash well in tap before you go into the fix.

Feel free to ask more. I’ve taught a whole lot of Calotypists over the years, tho I don’t know how many people stick with the absurdities and frustrations… Still one of my all-time favorites.


> Message: 2
> Date: Tue, 9 Jan 2018 15:13:05 -0900
> From: "J. Jason Lazarus" <lazarus at obscura-works.com>
> To: alt-photo-process-list at lists.altphotolist.org
> Subject: [Alt-photo] Troubles with Calotypes, James' "Contemporary"
> 	Method
> Message-ID: <D701093A-811B-417B-B66A-20391B841892 at obscura-works.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain;	charset=us-ascii
> All -
> I recently decided to start challenging myself by learning some new processes. I've been lurking in the shadows of this group for some time and have quite a bit of experience printing Cyanotypes, Albumen, Van Dyke, etc... so my new challenge is the Calotype process. 
> I'm using the 3rd edition of James' book as a resource for printing and I'm using the "contemporary" version of the process outlined in his book, but I'm not getting results. I've had suggestions elsewhere that have urged me to attempt the Pelegry Calotype method rather than the basic one outlined in James' book, but I'd rather not give up so easily. I'm convinced I'm overlooking something, but after several attempts, I'm seeking out advice from the hive mind here.
> Consistently, no image forms on my paper when developed. The paper develops and slowly turns dark brown, but no actual image develops. I'd immediately blame overexposure, but I've developed non-sensitized iodized calotype paper and had similar things happen in the developer, albeit with lighter browns, but still, it acts as if this non-sensitized iodized paper is exposed. Worried that it's overexposure from the safe lights, I've reduced my safelight usage to absolute minimum and reduced the number used to a single one, approximately 10 feet away from the paper. My only thoughts are that I'm either doing something completely wrong or maybe I'm misreading something.
> So.. although provided in much finer detail in James' book, this is what I'm doing:
> Created a 8% Silver Nitrate solution. Applied it to the paper (I've attempted both Rives BFK and Canson Sketch) with a new brush.
> Created a 5.5% solution of Potassium Iodide to submerge the paper in. Submerged paper while still showing a sheen from the Silver Nitrate for 2 minutes.
> Washed the iodized paper for 2 hours, switching out tap water every 30-45 minutes and shuffling the paper, too.  Line dried the paper afterwards.
> Coated the paper with an Aceto-Nitrate solution (11.4g Silver Nitrate in 100ml distilled w/ 19.4ml of glacial acetic added) - 4 drops to every 4ml of distilled.
> Exposed (while damp but not wet) for both 2 & 4 minutes w/ a 4x5 camera at an aperture of 9.  An exposure of f/5.6 at 1 minute was suggested in the book in well-lit outdoors. It is -15F outside, so I'm shooting through my bay window. 
> Developed in a 1:1 solution of Aceto-Nitrate and saturated Gallic Acid (approximately 0.5% - its cold in my darkroom).
> The paper slowly turns brown and then, within 4-5 minutes, is a rich dark brown.  Because it shows literally no image information, I haven't continued with the washing or fixing. 
> So... where am I messing up? I'd greatly appreciate any help I could get with this process. Has anyone had success with James' contemporary version? Its been suggested that I should switch to Alan Green's Primitive Photography book. Thoughts?
> Thanks to all.
> J. Jason Lazarus
> Term Instructor, Photography
> University of Alaska Fairbanks
> www.obscura-works.com
> ******************************************************

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