Calotype project

Discussion in 'Paper Negatives' started by Simon Howers, Feb 18, 2017.

  1. Simon Howers

    Simon Howers Subscriber

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    1) Busy making a prototype paper neg holder for my quarter plate camera. Using a commercial tin darkslide for the prototype.
    The focal plane is some 6mm above the rear flange on the camera so I've currently got some 2.5mm to play with. I can either stretch the neg bare across the window in the holder or I can install a 2mm glass plate to create a sandwich. I understand that the glass option was how this was originally done, with the neg between the glass and a backplate.

    Any views or suggestions?

    2) Nowadays, does anybody use Gallic Acid in any part of the process? There seems to be a body of thought that it can be used at the end of development to enhance the blacks.
     

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  2. Jerevan

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    Hello Simon,

    not to steer you away from asking questions here on APUG, but I think the Calotype Society is really the place for getting answers, good ideas (and excellent calotypes): https://www.flickr.com/groups/1384661@N22/
     
  3. TheToadMen

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  4. TheToadMen

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  5. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    Forum member NedL has done a lot with calotypes and if I recall right has experimented with gallic acid.
    I'm sure he'll spot this thread and weigh in anyway, but You could try searching for posts by him on calotypes.
     
  6. TheToadMen

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    Try a search in this forum for topic: "gallic" and posted by member "NedL".
    This will show several (relevant) results too.
     
  7. NedL

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    My friends here at APUG make me :smile:

    Hi Simon,

    Are you going to use commercial photo paper in your camera? In that case we usually call them "paper negatives", and use normal paper developing like for making a print under an enlarger. If you search for "paper negatives" on APUG you'll find there are various ways to help control the contrast ( pre-flashing, using a yellow filter with VC paper, using more dilute developer, etc.. ). But you can get started without all of that. No gallic acid and you don't need to sandwich the paper between two sheets of glass. It is important for the paper to be flat, just like in any film holder, but I haven't heard of anyone using an extra sheet of glass for that purpose... the rails that hold the paper in place should work well for small paper negatives like you are making. A piece of tape will probably solve any flatness problem, but I doubt you will need it. It becomes harder to keep the paper flat with big holders like 8x10 or 11x14, just like for film.

    We sometimes reserve the term "calotype" for paper negatives that you make yourself with potassium iodide and silver nitrate ( +/- other things ). I think if you were planning to do this, you'd already know the answer to your question, which is why I guessed you are making commercial paper negatives. Gallic acid is used to develop calotypes. Talbot's earliest calotypes were a kind called "pre-silvered", and he used a small amount of gallic acid during the first step in making them too -- which caused trouble and was left out by later calotypists.

    Two main kinds of calotypes are wet and dry. Wet calotypes are used while the paper is still wet and go bad if they dry out. By putting them between two sheets of glass, you can gain a few hours to use and process them, and also contain the mess from getting all over the inside of the holders and camera. Most dry calotypes can be used up to a day or two after they are made, and were not usually sandwiched between glass. As a practical matter, some people build holders using the glass sandwich because they can be used for both kinds of calotypes.

    Have fun!
     
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    Simon Howers

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    Hi Ned
    Plan is to make the 'dry' type (silver iodide) on cotton based paper and develop using the chemical used by Fox Talbot.
    I have plenty of 2mm glass so I'm going to start with the glass sandwich type holder.
    I'm starting quarter plate and already shoot whole plate so I can move up later.
    I've just discovered how expensive gallic acid is here in the UK! (£73/100g)
    I already salt print.
    I'll post up any results (good or bad) for your review.

    Thanks for your reply

    Simon
     
  9. TheToadMen

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    Make sure it is not UV-light blocking glass.
     
  10. NedL

    NedL Subscriber

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    Hi Simon,

    Sorry I misunderstood! The glass "sandwich" type holder would be useful if you ever decide to make wet calotypes, so it seems like a reasonable choice to me.

    £73/100g does seem expensive to me, about 3x higher than here. Gallic acid can be a little difficult to get into solution. It doesn't need to be saturated: a 0.7 or 0.8% solution will work fine. I usually make it in hot water in a plastic cup, stir for a few minutes until dissolved, and then put the cup into a larger one with ice water to cool back down to room temperature. A more convenient option is to make ~20% solution in ethanol and use that as a stock solution, but I haven't tried that yet.

    I don't know what formula you will be using, but I use one where the sensitizer contains about 6% acetic acid. Even though that is only a little stronger than vinegar, it always irritated my throat. I purchased an acid gas and organic vapor respirator ( which specifically listed acetic acid ) and now I can't even smell it. The one I found was the 3M 60923 and it was available in the painting section of a local hardware store. That might be something to look into if you plan to make quite a few calotypes. My only other advice is that paper is critical and some papers will not work without acidification.

    Good luck and have fun!
     
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    Simon Howers

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    Hi Ned
    Things are just expensive here!
    Thanks for the tips. I am just awaiting some bookbinders tape to finish off the neg holder, then I shall start making up the sensitised paper.
    I have some Southworth 100% cotton 80gsm paper to try out.
    I generally use 2% oxalic acid to treat paper I'm using for iron-based processes - would this be OK for Calotype or should I user acetic?

    Best wishes

    Simon
     
  12. NedL

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    I've used acetic acid and sulfamic acid for acidifying paper ( at about 2% ), and I know that others have used citric acid. Not sure about oxalic acid, but I think it would probably be fine, especially if you wash in DH20 afterwards.
     
  13. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    Compared to the easy and relatively inexpensive availability of so many things in the US as against the UK, this is perfectly true ... however, SIlverprint (who are quoting you that absurd price, I think) is not the only supplier of photochemicals out there, and they have become much more expensive for raw chemicals over the past couple of years.

    One can find things significantly cheaper even within the UK, though some odd hard-to-source bits and bobs can be got from eBay sellers in Eastern Europe and Turkey (not gallic acid at the moment though, I just checked :wink:)

    e.g. http://www.wetplatesupplies.com/gallic-acid.html
    I've bought stuff from WPS and they are quick, helpful, friendly and very competitive for all sorts of chemicals.

    You might also try http://www.johnbrewerphotography.com/otheritems.html although I have no personal experience of him.

    Of course, you can attempt to extract gallic acid from oak galls (there's a clue in the name) - if you have a ready supply of them - by a process of fermentation and treating the resulting must with acid. I think Ned has a couple of references for 19th Century papers on how to do that (?).
     
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  15. NedL

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    :smile: Actually, I'm certain that one of the references I've used for calotypes has a section near the end on preparation of the various needed chemicals. I can't recall which one off the top of my head. Here's a start, from 'The Photographic Journal of America, V 53, from 1916' ( the article was actually about pyrogallic acid ):
    and
    British Journal of Photography from 1883 suggests that the fermentation method takes several weeks.

    Pdeeh's posts here have almost enticed me into trying this on several occasions...
    Hmmm....
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2017
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    Simon Howers

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    And there was me calling it 3.4.5 Tridroxybenzoic acid ! What always concerns me is who thought of fermenting oak galls in the first place and why? Camera back is now finished. Nearly ready to make first batch of test negs. Just off to buy distilled water to make up silver nitrate solution and some cotton wool for brushes.
     
  17. pdeeh

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    Well, perhaps one of those accidents like Roquefort :wink: ?

    Iron gall ink was used in the mediæval period by scribes (and a bit more recently too). In essence, one crushes oak galls and puts them in a jar to ferment naturally for a few weeks, then add Iron sulfate to make a pigment.

    I've made it , and as a sideline checked to see if the must (before adding the iron) would develop film - which it did. I started a thread about it ages ago: http://www.apug.org/forum/index.php?threads/developing-film-in-fermented-oak-gall-solution.121267

    (In which I now realise I gave the references I thought Ned had supplied :D)

    That thread also contains a discussion about calotypes and calotype development (you'll have to sift out all the posts about malware and website nonsense)
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2017
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    Simon Howers

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    Thanks for all the info. I've collected material from a variety of sources as well as FT's writings. Quite a variation in both chemistry and techniques are apparent including some material which can best be described as "old wives tales". Once the light improves here somewhat ( currently very gloomy ) I'll start making test exposures.
     
  19. w.out

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    So... if I understand correctly, you're making calotype paper, putting it in a camera, and taking photos with it? 'Cause I've been looking all over the place for anyone doing this and came up with nothing 'til here.

    A whole lot of Google results seem to suggest that calotype printing comes only from contact printing - a fine chicken-egg absurdity there...
     
  20. Jerevan

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    As for the chicken stuff: as far as I know, it is a contact printing process. The calotype negative goes on top of a salt print paper for example. Exposure times in an enlarger would be rather long, I suppose.

    The link given above to the Flickr group gives you night time reading for a few weeks, I'd say ... :smile:
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
  21. NedL

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    Yes, and yes sometimes the term "calotype" was applied to the whole process including the print. These days we usually distinguish the calotype negative from the salt or albumen print positive. As Jerevan mentioned, there is a lot to read in the discussion section of the Calotype Society at Flickr.
     
  22. w.out

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    Referring to calotype as just a contact process always begs the question: what mysterious process did Talbot use to take his photos and produce these paper negatives? :wink:

    Given this, i've skimmed the Flickr calotype group previously and not seen any clear info on camera usage/making negatives, but I haven't looked deeply. I'll reinvestigate.
    Cheers.
     
  23. NedL

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    Ah! I misunderstood why you were thinking there is a chicken-egg problem! You are correct, there is not much information about camera making or early cameras in the calotype group discussions.

    Talbot did use a camera to expose calotype paper negatives. One of his earliest cameras was called a "mousetrap" camera. If you search for "mousetrap" and "talbot", I'm sure you will find some information. A few years ago, apug member colray, also from Australia, made a replica of Talbot's mousetrap camera. I can't remember if he posted details about it here on APUG or only at f295.org. The f295 forums are still online and searchable with google, so you might be able to find some of his posts about it.

    Edit: here's a link.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2017
  24. pdeeh

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    Unfortunately the links in that thread at f295 are dead (in the case of the flickr one), or you can't view attachments to posts without logging into f295 ... which is quite chickeny-eggy in itself :D

    Might be worth looking at the talbot archive and generally excellent http://foxtalbot.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/ perhaps
     
  25. NedL

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    Which is a shame. One of the links shows the finished camera and 2 resulting photos. Without contacting Colin, I see no way to make them accessible.
     
  26. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    hmm now if I was an amoral nefarious character, and could log in to f295, I'd probably just right-click on those pictures and save them so I could repost them elsewhere.
    But that would be against all ethical guidelines (and probably legal ones) for copyright protection.
    As would screenshotting my browsing of said images.