My original silver nitrate bath dates from the beginning of my collodion time; 2009. I filter the bath before and after every use, every time. A proper taking care of the bath is crucial for your images. And it’s expensive enough to want to take proper care of it. Every now and then it gets so polluted by ‘radicals’ that just filtering won’t do it anymore. I put the flask in the sunlight, cover it with a sheet of toilet paper and let all the nasty things evaporate. Measure pH and density, adjust where needed and it’s good to go. However, after having used this bath for 4 years (issues started last year) it gets so contaminated that sunning won’t do the trick as well. I got these really tiny specks on my plates which I couldn’t trace back to anything else than a heavily polluted silver bath. A conversation with Jeroen confirmed that. So, it was time for some drastic measures 🙂
Boiling! Yeah! So…when you have a solution of silver nitrate of 1 litre, you add distilled water until you have 1.5 litres. Then you boil it back to its original amount, filter, measure, adjust where needed and done! As simple as that 🙂 Well, it is really that simple! Only, where to put it in when boiling? I ordered a 2 litre erlenmeyer flask. I bought a (cheap) cooking plate with too little power. Heating up the solution took more than one hour. I’m easily bored so no thank you 🙂
Next I bought an induction plate with a little bit more balls 🙂 But induction needs inox to function, so no glass. I bought a stainless steel pot and boiled it in that. Went incredibly fast but I simply do not really trust a stainless steel pot for this. So, I decided to fill up the pot with distilled water and place the erlenmeyer holding the silver nitrate solution in it, au bain marie style, so to speak. Two good things: if the glass breaks the pot will keep it from going bye-bye. And by using distilled water for cooking the solution is preserved and not mixed with nasty tap water. It worked very well, except that the erlenmeyer had too small an opening so the boiling went really slow. Next time I will use a wide-mouth erlenmeyer or just a glass beaker that can take some heating. And the baths are perfect again- and the images speck-free!
(oh for the paranoia ones…I removed the cables in the background during the boiling 🙂 )
After the failure of the Rollei kit last time (oh I didn’t mention that yet, did I?) I decided to go ahead and order the Moersch chemistry. The story of the Rollei kit first then..
I started a lith printing session as usual, by making the baths. I bought some new Rollei Vintage developer as I had too little left for one bath. I decided to mingle the old with the new chemistry in the dilution 115+115+2770 (1+1+24). The paper I used is the new Foma 131 FB. The images didn’t get a proper black. Oh well, I thought, maybe the old bit I mixed in is overaged so I made a whole new fresh batch. Nothing came on the paper…
Okay, maybe I exposed the wrong side of the paper? Doesn’t happen often but it’s possible. Again, nothing on the paper. Darn. Maybe I underexposed the paper (never worked with the new Foma 131 emulsion before). So I exposed 4 times longer. Again, nothing on the paper. And by nothing I mean absolutely nothing. Crap, maybe I accidentally mixed up part A and B the wrong way? I made a whole new fresh bath. Again, nothing on the paper. By now I got thoroughly agitated seeing that I wasted a whole lot of chemistry and expensive paper. Maybe the paper is off? I tried my old familiar Foma 131 FB paper. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. By this time I was convinced it had to be the developer as everything else worked fine before. I mailed the company I ordered it from but haven’t heard from them yet.
I was working on prints for an exhibition, I finished a series, the deadline moved towards 2013 and seeing that I wasn’t a 100% happy with the first series I decided to redo them. Well, I guess I just ran out of luck somewhere 😉 Fed up with the Rollei kit I decided it was time to take the plunge on the Moersch lith developers, which I intended to try for a while now. I ordered the Easylith (to compare a little against the Rollei kit) and ordered the SE5 as with all the additives possible it’s better refineable and controllable than the Easylith. The chemistry arrived yesterday so hope to find the time soon to use it, maybe even this year!
I ran into this page a couple of days ago where there are several recipes to make your own lith developer. As the developer is not all that cheap and the optimal time window in which you can work is rather limited (not taking into account the option of extending this period by using additives) this might be an interesting thing to do. Now that I’m used mixing my own stuff this is definitely next on my list for home-brewing 😉
This is the site I’m referring to:
This site contains a lot of interesting information so worthwhile looking around anyway.
Below the jpg version of the page:
For now I have bought another package of the Rollei Vintage developer so I can start working again tomorrow. I will also try the Easylith and SE5 kit by Moersch. But home-made will certainly be part of the collection too. You can keep the home made solution for at least half a year so that’s perfect!
Have a good evening!
As I’m in the process of trying different collodion & developer formulas I had the pleasure to have a virtual chat with Mark Osterman. I learned some great insights which will help me control the process on a more sophisticated level. I wish to share these with you.
First of all: Remember that the solvents in collodion affect:
Anyway, I’ve still got a lot to learn. Hope that my chemicals will arrive shortly and I can start experimenting some more. Simply trying out different formulas will not cut it I’m afraid seeing that the collodion, developer and silver bath used really are very related to each other, as well as the circumstances that have their own set of influences on the result, but I hope this will give me more insight into the process itself.
The discussions I’m having right now are most interesting, so it’s already been worth the trouble! Thank you all!
P.s. I sometimes wish the Matrix would be real. I’d plug myself into “knowledgable” people and suck up all there is to know! At the same time it would make knowledge pretty worthless but still…
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.