Van Dyke

Vandyke – Thinkering

I guess this post is more of a sum-up of my own thoughts for future reference than they may be useful to anyone else..but anyway, eat it!

I’ve printed some images over the past two weekends, trying to improve my coating skills and to figure out if and how I am to use it for the Serendipity project.

Coating skills have improved, I coat using a cotton pad dipped in emulsion, and swiping it over the paper from top to bottom, left to right, while turning the paper four times so that I essentially create a four-layer coating.

It’s pretty even, although I have to try to be a bit more consistent in applying as you can tell by the look of the image attached to this post. What I do find a bit ‘stressing’ is the way I attach the negative to the paper before placing it into the contact printing frame. The tape I use sucks. Apart from it leaving a nasty residue on the negative itself when removing it afterwards, is that it shows on the coated area. So have to use different tape and perhaps attach it somewhere else. Bigger border around the image so it doesn’t interfere with the coated area on the paper, something like that. If anyone has a proper method for this, feel free to chime in 🙂

Also, I don’t like the messy borders. It’s fun, but it’s distracting from the image itself. So I’m thinking of making a sort of cut-out mat which I place on the paper before coating so I can create a slick and even border. If anyone has a brilliant idea there, shoot! I’ll look into it myself but the wheel has already been invented…like a trillion times 🙂


iPhone image of the print, no proper scan, too lazy 🙂

And..on the developing part; I now develop using a single water bath before fixing. I’ve let myself get away with that until now for ‘testing’ purposes but it’s time to stop playing around and do it the right way. Archival printing has been my way of working with regular baryta papers (fix, rinse, hypo, rinse a shitload more, selenium / gold toning, rinse and so on) and want these prints to last as long as they possibly can too. I read some interesting stuff on the website of Sandy King so will be going more into that way of working next time. Have everything I need for it anyway so no more excuses, ha!

So, new steps summed up (makes it easier for me next time):

  • Sensitiser, expose image la-die-da-that
  • Development using a two-bath method, with slightly acidified water (teaspoon of citric acid to 3.8L of water), two minutes each.
  • Toning: gold thiourea toner (of which I bought several bottles of Tetenal back in the days) for 5 minutes, discard after each use (f*ck though, that makes it expensive).
  • 5% Sodium Thiosulfate fixing bath ( for some reason I now use a 3% dilution). A two-bath fixing method is recommended for the best archival quality, two minutes in each bath.
  • Clearing bath; I still have some Kodak Hypo Clearing somewhere, but you can easily make it yourself by adding 10g sodium sulfite to 1000ml water and stir until completely dissolved. Mix before usage and discard after usage. Two minutes.
  • Final wash: 5-10 minutes when clearing bath is used, 20 minutes without.

So, it’ll get a bit more serious than before, which is good. I have some ideas in mind with the negatives shot in France this year, that I want to contact print using Vandyke.

Darkroom No. 8 is a Fact!

Yes, ladies &’s THAT time again 🙂 I seem to have grown quite fond of building them, so gotta keep up the pace!

I moved again, to a nicer place, and had to set up the darkroom, also again. I planned for it to be on the attic, only the wet table turned out to be too large to get it up the frikkin’ stairs. Remodelling the place to make it go up that stairs is not (yet) an option so decided to take a different approach.

I split up the sections a bit. The wet table and enlarger ended up in a room with the central heating system and washing machine. Already had connections for water and drainage so it took me and my dad a bit of work to fix the piping (cool to do with my dad!) but did a good job.

The living room is part working space, part dining and stuff, the heart of it being a large table measuring 125 x 250 cm. And across the room a large white board of 100 x 200 cm (yes, size does matter at times :p ). And then there’s a walk-in closet room for my clothing and across storage for chemistry bottles, other glassware and this and that (of which there’s a lot).


Works pretty well so far! Not sure if I’m going to keep the enlarger in the place it’s at now, doesn’t get much use these days with the contact printing and can make better use of the space it’s filling up now.

Photos suck, sorry ’bout that. For lack of spirit I made them using my iPhone.

I already used it, better said, I really had a deadline to make. I joined a photo group a while back, and we’re applying for a group exhibition and had to prep an example image of the concept. I will get deeper into the conceptual bit further down the lane somewhere, so don’t ask yet please..

They will be portraits shot digitally (most likely and hopefully using the Monochrome…), making digital negatives of these files and printing them using Van Dyke. Exposure time of the paper was 17 minutes using an UV-light source. I will share the testing with you:


Anyway, that is as it stands a bit for now. More to come soon, and by that I mean not the build of darkroom No. 9, pinky promise 🙂

Van Dyke 2017

5 years…..5 YEARS it has been since I last made a Van Dyke…oef…Glad I kept a blog so that I could look at the notes again 🙂

Recently I joined a photo group called “F68” to broaden my horizon and to get back into my own photography more. It’s a foundation that was established in Limburg, the Netherlands,  in 1968 and it’s an autonomous photographers collective. I’m very happy to be a part of this group.

For a potential upcoming exhibition we are working on a theme regarding (mass) consumption. I will elaborate more on this later on but I came up with a concept using images made digitally, printing large format negatives and contact-printing them using Van Dyke.

I once got myself the Epson R2880 to print these negatives but has been left on a shelf for so long now I think it’s more dead than alive. However, at work I have a wonderful Epson Stylus Pro 7890 & 9800 at my disposal and a salesman who mentioned they could get me Omnijet Clear Film on roll (!). I received a 43cm wide roll for testing and so far it’s great!

Original black-and-white file

Original black-and-white file

I turned a file from my Fuji camera into a black and white, inverted it into a negative, adjusted the print settings and printed it on this Omnijet transparent film using the 7890. Yesterday I fixed the chemistry, bought some new paper, Hahnemuhle Bamboo Mixed Media (for the concept I was looking for a durable renewable paper), and had a go at Van Dyke again…oh boy was that fun 🙂

The printer settings I’m about to post I took of this website. For more info look there.

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 08.57.17.png


Image in printing frame with UV light on it




After exposure, before washing & fixing


Final rinse

Paper used: Hahnemuhle Fineart Bamboo Mixed Media
Single coated paper 36 x 48 cm
Exposure time: 25 minutes
Wash: 2 minutes
Fix: 5 minutes dilution 3% Sodium Thio-sulphate
Final rinse: 20 minutes

Unfortunately I forgot that the drying darkens the image quite a bit so the end result is too darkish, and I have to do more practice with coating the paper (you see strokes) but wauw, where have I been all these years ?! Anyway, good to be back  and more to follow soon 🙂


Smokey Van Dyke

I have been trying to make a proper usable curve now but haven’t succeeded yet. This had to do with a couple of things, firstly my inconsistent coating. I found a single coating to give too little density on the paper but a double coat (while letting the paper dry in between) to give unevenness, looking really messy. So, I got back to single coating but more properly. This works as the last two coats looked really good (to me at least).

Secondly I have not yet determined proper exposure time of the paper. This will be my next step before attempting another go at the grayscale chart for the curve. Have to get things right from the start!

Anyway, I had one photo in mind which I made 3 years ago on 120 color film 6×6 (can’t recall the exact one right now, probably Kodak Portra 160VC) and thought it would be great for this process. I scanned the negative, turned it into a black-and-white and printed it without and with a curve which didn’t seem to my liking. The curve caused some solarization to occur so I’ll have to work on that.

The one without a curve is flawed in a way that the light tones in the hand for example appear blown out. This also happens on the forehead. But since I am kind of proud I would like to share it 😉 A modified version with a proper curve will follow a couple of posts down the road and I will compare it side-by-side when it does.

Paper used: Fabriano Artistico LS
Single coated paper 24×30 cm
Exposure time: 8:30 minutes

Making a proper scan of a van dyke print also seems like a challenge. The real print looks nicer.

Anyway, it’s nice to be working out a new workflow with this, naming the files, the negatives and the prints and making it seem coherent so you can actually learn from the three when combining the data.. It is strange however to be sitting behind a laptop in my darkroom, feels a bit awkward and skewed even. Always happy when I can get back to the ‘analogue’ way of working 😉

More to follow soon!

Van Dyke and Facial Tan

Seeing that the amount of sun doesn’t hold up to the amount of rain we have in the Netherlands I scanned the internet for a facial tanner yesterday morning. Didn’t take too long, apparently a lot of people buy them only to get rid of them some time later on, but the same day I ended up with a nice second hand facial tanner from Eurosolar. The thing that made me go with this one (as there are a LOT of ‘pre-loved’ ones online) is that is has 12 lights instead of the usual 4, making it quite a bit wider than most tanners.

Last night I took it downstairs to see if it would do any good. It sure did! Exposure time now reduced to about 18 minutes instead of the almost 40 minutes of before. I’ll refine this setup later on to also shorten the distance between the lights and the contact print and shorten exposure times even further.

I set it up on two supports, lights facing down and put a small board at the bottom which holds the paper and the negative on top, then covered by a clear glass plate to hold it flat. This is a real basic setup which will undergo a few changes in the future but it does its job. The light from this tanning machine is really annoying for your eyes so I wear sun glasses with UV-protection to cover them a little.

The first image I tried was the one I printed the first time, the 4×5″ collodion negative of the train. This time, and here I learnt a very important lesson, I faced the emulsion layer down so it touched the emulsion layer on the paper (make sure your paper is REALLY dry before you end up ruining your precious negative!). This resulted in a much sharper image as you can see on the scan below.

Paper used: Fabriano Artistico GG
Single coated paper 13×18 cm
Exposure time: 17 minutes

The next I wanted to try was an 8×10″ normal Fomapan negative I made like 2 years ago right before I dived into wet plate collodion photography and never bothered to work with those sheets again. This was a test photo I made back then to get to know the camera so nothing special but as it has a much higher density, a nice gradation and is of bigger size than 4×5″ I felt an irresistible urge to try it 😉

I cut a 24×30 cm sheet of other paper that I also bought and wanted to try, namely Fabriano Artistico GF and coated it a single time, right before using it. The tricky part about my character is that I can be pretty impatience and want to see result. So I used a hair dryer to speed up the drying but decided too soon it was okay to use. I set up the exposure while the paper was actually still a bit moist. This resulted in weird stains and an uneven density in the print. Lesson learned!
Now that I’ve tried it a couple of times it’s time to refine my approach so the next session I will double coat the papers the evening before the printing day and allow it to dry properly.

Paper used: Fabriano Artistico LS
Single coated paper 24×30 cm
Exposure time: 19 minutes

It’s a matter of trial and error but I really enjoy this. I will definitely try and print this negative again as I love the soft delicate feel of this process. It’s almost creamy. My senses are tickled and I really don’t know where to begin; scan negatives with my newly acquired scanner, the Epson V700 (in order to try and),  learn how to make proper digital negatives, refine my collodion negative-making which is also in the planning as I received my Pyro-chem for the developer.
And then there’s salt printing I want to try, albumen printing, somewhere in between I’d like to finish my book; Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevski (oh, what a wonderful writer!), hang out with friends, and sleep somewhere too…anyway…I’m not likely to be bored anytime soon 😉

Bon weekend chers amis!

My First Van Dyke!

As mentioned in the former post I made my first Van Dyke print today! As I described the formulas used in the former post as well I’ll keep this one short of info, only the necessary stuff.

Paper used: Artistico GG
Single coated paper 13×18 cm
Original: Wet plate collodion negative 4×5″
Exposure time: 36 seconds
Weather: Very cloudy
Fixer: Sodium Thiosulfate 4%

This is how the sheet looks when just exposed to the light with the negative on top:

This is how the sheet looks when it’s been exposed for 28 minutes:

In case you’re wondering about the different backgrounds behind the box that was holding the image…at first I had the box placed on a mat in my darkroom in the door opening. When it stopped raining I placed it on the bricks outside to give it a bit more exposure to light.

And this is the end result after 36 minutes of exposure time, developed, fixed, rinsed and dried:

This paper is way too textured for a proper result using this kind and size of negative.  I lost a lot of sharpness and a lot of detail. This paper will be cool for the big digital negatives with landscapes I guess but not for this. Next time I will try the fine-grained one to see how it compares.

I still have a lot to learn but am really excited to have gotten a pretty decent image for my first try and will continue to experiment with this for sure! Double coating will be part of the next test, as well as the hypo clear in step and the toning part. It would be nice to keep this images for a long time! I’ll keep an eye on this print to see how long it’ll last without these two steps.

Van Dyke – Working Formulas

Today I made my first Van Dyke print! Before posting this image I’ll write down the formulas and methods I used to pull this off.

I used the method described in the book of Richard Farber “Historic Photographic Processes”. The sentences between “…”  are exact quotes from that book.

The sensitizer consists of the following:

Solution 1
35 ml Water
10 gr Ferric Ammonium Citrate
Stir well until dissolved.

Solution 2
35 ml Water
1,5 gr Tartaric Acid
Stir well until dissolved

Solution 3
35 ml Water
4 gr Silver Nitrate
Stir well until dissolved

Add solution 2 to solution 1. Stir well. Add solution 3 and stir well.”

This is the solution used to coat the paper with. Keep it in a cool and dark place as it’s sensitive to light. This amount is said to make around 100 4×5″ prints. When kept in a fridge it should keep for about a year.

The paper is being coated under a safelight which you apply on the paper using a brush or a rod. I used one of these:

Make sure you mark your brush well and use it ONLY for this purpose to prevent contamination!

Today I only coated the paper once but it is said that a double coat gives for more rich blacks. Will try that next time. After I coated the paper I left it to dry in my dark darkroom to the air. As I don’t have a contact frame (yet) I used an empty Ilford b+w paper box where I placed the dry coated paper in, placed the negative on top, closed it and brought it out to the light. There I opened the box and the exposure started. The weather was not all on my side as the exposure time went all the way 36 minutes while the literature mentioned times from 5-8 minutes, of course depending on amount of light and density of the negative used.

After the exposure time I put the lid back on the box, took it inside the darkroom and placed the sheet in a tray of gentle running tap water under a safelight. They mention it should be in this tray for about 1-2 minutes or until you see the milkiness go away. I couldn’t see the latter so I just kept it in there for 2 minutes. I then placed the sheet in a tray with a Sodium Thiosulfate fixer of a 4% strength. The recommended time is 5-8 minutes of fixing, I left it in for about 7 minutes before putting it to the final rinsing bath.

Because the fixer gets exhausted pretty fast it’s recommended using a two-bath fixing system.
“Fix the print for 3-4 minutes with regular agitation in each fixing bath. After 5 to 8 prints have been fixed, exchange the second bath for the first, discard the first and add a new second bath. Since most of the work is done by the first bath, the second remains fairly fresh to remove any remaining silver compounds.”
I only used a single fixing bath as I didn’t have that many coated papers to try and seeing that the weather wasn’t going to be my friend that day, I’m glad I saved some of that fixer 😉

The two steps I have left out this first time is the hypo clearing bath and the toning bath. After the fixing bath rinse the print a little and put it in a hypo clearing bath. You can use the Kodak Hypo Clearing bath or make a solution of 1% Sodium Sulfite (cheaper and just as effective). Keep the print in there for 3 minutes with continuous agitation. Then you have to wash the print for half an hour. Leave the print to dry, air-dried or blow dried with gentle heat.

And then there’s the toning part. Unlike other POP-processes the Van Dyke is best toned after fixing to keep it from staining. The toners I want to use in the future are gold toning and selenium, the ones I already use for other processes. Toning leads to a deeper color and improves permanence of the image.

Anyway, I’m having fun and this WILL be continued! 🙂

Fabriano Artistico – Van Dyke

One of the processes I’ve been meaning to dive into is Van Dyke printing. I would like to make more collodion negatives and find different ways of printing them. This week I finally got around ordering the chemistry and yesterday I bought 3 different papers to begin with. It’s all 200 grams Fabriano Artistic0 but with a different grain / surface. One is very smooth (LS), one is a little rougher (GF) and one is really rough (GG). I don’t know which one will work better. It will all depend on the photo and the result one has in mind. I also want to try albumen printing, ordered that chemistry as well, and since this type of paper seems to be quite versatile I decided to go with that (gum printing is also still on the menu). Luckily I can buy this and other papers at our local artist store so if I want something else I can get it in no time.

I enhanced the contrast of the image to emphasize the structure of the paper.

“The VDB (Van Dyke Brown) process produces an image due to the reaction / reduction of ferric (iron) salt to a ferrous state during exposure to UV light. The Van Dyke process employs a sensitizer formula consisting of ferric ammonium citrate, tartaric acid, and silver nitrate and is wash-developed in distilled and fresh water. The Van Dyke print is then either toned in one of several toning options, for color or archival reasons, or immediately fixed in a 3% sodium thiosulfate bath and washed for permanence. ”
Source: the Book of Alternative Photographic Processes; second edition by Christopher James.

This is a short description of the process. I cited out of a book (a book which is really really handy to have at hand) to be able to give accurate information at this point. I’ll expand the information later on as I start experimenting with this.