Category Archives: film development technique

this includes using coffee based developers, roasting coffee for developers, hand processing film

from yesterday

reversed image ( positive print ) with liquid emulsion

delmar box camera, liquid light on black photo paper processed in secret reversal chemistry

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reversed ( positive ) silver gelatin images

im working on a project again ( i started a long while ago but life got in the way )
of making silver gelatin tintypes.  i have the rockland colloid kit and i am excited to use it again.
the first times i tried it, it really didn’t work well, but this time it seems to be doing what it is supposed to do.  my first
images were on a piece of metal and a sheet of RC paper.  unfortunately the emulsion isn’t dry yet, and it seems to take longer
than i had hoped!       the metal one is tiny, and i think i am going to strip it down again, recoat it, and make another image
the RC print worked great, BUT it’s tacky and not ready to scan.  the trick is a thin coat  …  which isn’t as easy as it seems
metal plates ( and paper ) are cold, so the emulsion cools down fast and begins to set as soon as the heated emulsion touches it
so heating pads are important …  i’m not good yet, but someday  …

there are some great silver gelatin tintypests on FLICKR …  and they give me hope !

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7×11 portriats

made a handful of 7×11 portraits and i can feel for those photographers
who had slow materials and kids that couldn’t sit still.  it was still fun …

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7×11 / 11×14 camera work

it has been a long time since i took portraits or make any negatives using a 11×14 camera.
i traded a few prints years ago for a century 8 camera on a semi centenial no 2 stand. i fixed the bellows
(they are cardboard) and fiddled with the camera and stand to get it in working order. well, almost in working order … it didn’t come with a 11×14 back, so i made one, and the ground glass,
and for a long while i was taking portraits with it. i later bought a 7×11 back and a handful of film holders for the camera and took a fair amount with them too. the negatives i made weren’t on film, but paper negatives. so the exposures were long.
its been a while but i am going to start shooting with it again.


here’s a link to the camera ..

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camera rubbings

last xmas i received a folding camera as a present.    i made a series of rubbings and then cyanotypes from them.
a lot of folks make cyanotypes and the photograph is the end of the end of the process.
i bleached and painted and crayoned and had a little more fun.

x4 folder

hand worked folder, back inside, front


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main street old earnshaw drugs

hand colored black and white

odeum theater

hand colored black and whtie

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more waxed paper negatives

over the past few months i have been using paper negatives instead of film, and making photograms
when i make cyanotypes.  in other words, instead of using a film negative and making a contact print
or just putting objects on the paper to record their shape and or shadow, i have used paper, and charcoal
and made rubbings.  the first photographic negatives were paper negatives, and they were usually waxed
before they were printed as a positive / salt print.  while i have the materials to make salt prints
( paper sized in salt water, smeared with silver nitrate and exposed to UV and BLUE light to make a photograph )
i am making cyanotypes.  an IRON not SILVER  photographic process that uses 2 chemical compounds
which when mixed together are sensitive to light.  then the paper is washed in regular old tap water,
iron rinses out and the print is deep blue in color.  most of the time i bleach the  blue, so the image isn’t so  … blue
and i paint or use crayons to color the images by hand.
rather than making rubbings of things i have close by  …  parts of doorframes, tables, cameras, floor tiles &c
i chose to take an image or two that was taken with a digital camera.  i reversed it to turn it to a negative, and had it printed onto xerox paper.
i waxed the paper and used it as a negative  …

these are a few of the prints i came up with ,,,


waxed, painted bleached








the point

bleached cyanotype, waxed negative








bleached, waxed negative








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another rubbing print

getting the hang of making rubbings and converting them to cyanotype negatives ..

people who do rubbings, make it look so easy.  i watched some lady on youtube making a rubbing
of a delicate leaf or something like a feather ..  34 seconds later it was on the paper, perfectly rendered.
i can barely do a piece of iron, i can’t imagine how i would do something that may be intricate.



rubbed onto paper, waxed with parafin on the stove then put out in the sun to print


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what the heck is a photograph, really ..

from time to time i get asked what is a photograph.

i sometimes know how to answer, i know what i was told, and taught.   i know what i know, i think.

sometimes i have to throw everything i was taught out the window and thing about the word:  photograph/

photo  graph

light  drawing

it really seems pretty easy to figure out.  i guess it is a drawing made with light.

can it be done with a digital camera or does it need something else  ?

it can be done with anything as far as * I * am concerned  ..  even cheap construction paper !


today i made a photograph with a scrap of xerox paper.  its the cheap stuff  …  nothing fancy.
i made a rubbing with a pencil and then rubbed wax on it to make it sort of see through.
i took this waxed paper rubbing and contact printed it onto a piece of velum paper coated wtih
cyanotype chemistry  …  stuck it in a printing frame, and in the sun for about an hour.


i took the print all greenish and milky and rinsed it in water.  the print was now
blue and white …  so i took a solution of sodium carbonate, the same sodium carbonate
i use for caffenol, and i brushed it on the print to lighten the tones and bleach the blues to white …
and  then paint the picture until it looked like this


blue and green

rubbed cyanotype


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the caffenol cookbook

six, almost seven years ago i was given a recipe for caffenol c film developer by a friend whitey.  i met whitey over on, one of the 3 or so photo places i hang around.  whitey is an artist and teacher and a friend of a friend who i went to college with.  he is the person who started me down a path that at first wasn’t sure where it was going to lead me, and now i couldn’t see myself doing anything else.  he emailed me the recipe for caffenol c  and the recipe went like this:

Caffenol C

8 oz. water
4 slightly rounded tsp. instant coffee
2 tsp. washing soda (buy it at Shaws as well)
1000 mg Vitamin C (1/4 tsp powder)

like a good science student, i got a spoon and the right ingredients and a beaker to mix them in, and i processed a roll of film.  after the first development i got tired of mixing 8oz at a time and started to make 1L at a time and just eyeballing the measurements.  i processed my film in an old leaky unicolor processor and it worked well, until it didn’t.  for whatever reason a few rolls came out completely blank with nothing on them, and i swore off the coffee developer.  i went back to ansco 130 for my films, and sprint film developer too.  i eventually got bored and began to use the coffee again, and this time i added a little bit of ansco 130 in it to see what would happen.  it turned out to be the best film developer i could imagine.  time went by and i started to wonder what would happen if i used coffee beans instead of instant coffee.  i hunted down some green beans a local roaster had and wasn’t using.  i did a test roast and process and he was as happy to sell me the beans as i was to use them.  there is another post in this blog that details my coffee roasting and processing …

over the years i have run into people who were also coffee enthusiasts.  some invited me to where i met up with other like minded, people.  it is a diverse crowd over there, experimenters, scientists and people who really enjoy having fun with a camera and film.  i also met up with a someone who asked me if i would be interested in joining into a group and making a book all about caffenol.  knowing my style isn’t for everyone … i like imperfection, i like not measuring, i like adding a little bit of print developer into my strange brew, i wasn’t sure if i should join in or not.   well, it has been a long time in the making and it is finally done.

the caffenol cookbook and bible is here:


HUGE thanks to bo for putting this together, it is an honor to be associated with such a great and diverse group of coffee fanatics.

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tiles and lumen prints

i have been making lumen prints for a while now they are created by putting things onto a piece of photo paper and leaving it in the sun.  the sun makes a photogram or prints a negative or both.
i have made these lumen prints with cameras as well, leaving the camera open for an extended period of time, sometimes 3/4 an hour, sometimes 6 or 7 hours.   sometimes i even use cameras i made by hand, the largest camera i have made was 12×16″, i have sold a few too.

recently i started to coat plates with photo emulsion again.  i did this years ago as a student, but i made darkroom or in camera exposures to be
developed out using developer, and traditional darkroom chemistry.

two of them looked like this:


from glass plate

lumen plate








lumen plate

exposed in a cyclone #5









a few days ago i decided to use some water color paper/ velum i have coated with a few layers of photo emulsion.  like with the plates
the emulsion was old, expired and given to me by a friend  ( thanks winger ! )   i put a clipping from the

flowering forsythia bush on the paper
and left it in the sun for an hour, or hour and a half.  i scanned what i could of the image and inverted it in photoshop and the image looked like this:




1-1.5 hour exposure








i replicated it a few times and made some tiles:



photoshop duplicated








most of the images you find here are available on imagekind printed on paper, or canvas.


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i have been spending more time at chepiwanoxet island these days.
years ago it was an island, but when the gaulidette airplane factory was
there, they trucked in dirt and linked it to the cove. no one knows
what chepiwanoxet means. i have an old dictionary of new england place names
and their english translations and it refers to chepiwanoxet island as “devil’s island”.
a few years ago i spoke with a elder of the narragansetts and when i mentioned that name
he got very upset. he said if i wanted a clue to the island name’s meaning
go in the morning or evening, and look to the north, south, east and west,
and maybe i would learn from experiencing.

the other day i was there with my box camera, i walked and listened, i walked and looked.
these views are what i felt and saw when i was there. the bay was quiet,
and silently lapped the shoreline. the wind blew through the weeds and tall grass.
i saw potowomut ( land of fire ), and cowesset ( place of the small pines )
and everything was still.

i also have a copy of the dictionary roger williams created
so he could learn the narragansett language.
if offers some clues too, but spellings are different.
chépewess means a northern storme of war,
chepassotam mean dead sachim
and chepasquaw means dead woman …

maybe if it was the place of a fierce battle, or where many people may have died
or a place where one could be touched by the spirit world.
it seemed quiet and offered a place of reflection when i was there.

i plan on going back sometimes soon, maybe my camera will help me
learn the true meaning …


the sea was quiet and wind was whispering
the birds didn’t see me as they sunned
i walked the shoreline, scattered with the
remnants of staples and airplanes
and looked across to the other side

looking north south east and west

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cyanotypes and sun prints

i have been kind of busy the past few weeks and haven’t had a chance to update my blog.  since my last post i have added about 60 or 80 images to my selling page on ( my gallery is ) .  i’ve been selling work there for a few months now, and i am donating 100% of the proceeds to disaster relief efforts in japan.  i was spending too much time infront of my computer screen …  one thing lead to another and i have been seeing a chiropractor for a few weeks.  she has fixed  me up good, so you don’t need to worry.

while i have been “recovering”  i have been spending a lot of time making sun prints.  i have been using bottled liquid emulsion, as well as cyanotype materials.  the liquid emulsion prints have been like “lumin prints” but i don’t fix them, and i don’t leave them in the sun for hours, maybe an hour tops …  the cyanotypes take about 15-20mins …  i wash them blue, and soon after i bleach them back.  they sometimes have a yellowish hue, sometimes a blueish and a greenish hue.  THEN  …  i work on these images with crayons, and water color paints.














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paper, coffee glass and the sun

it is a long story but i will try to make it short  …

we returned from the mountains a few days ago, and i went into the darkroom soon after we got home.  i coated some paper with photo emulsion,
nothing i made myself, i haven’t done that since i was a university student,  it was emulsion from a bottle.  i coated 6 sheets of drawing paper some with emulsion that a scientist gave me, and some with some emulsion i had been saving, half used stored on a shelf for about 15 years.  i rummaged through my paper safe for a piece of glass and i coated it with some of the 15 year old emulsion as well.

i filled a 5 quart container with hot water from the tap, and got a plastic beaker and filled that too.  into the beaker the bottle went, and into the hot water the beaker went.  i got the paper ready and looked at the glass.  the glass was coated about 15 years ago, but i never did anything with it, so it just aged in the darkness of the paper safe waiting to be used.  the scientist’s emulsion was liquid by now, or part liquid, so i poured some out on the paper, and dragged a glass rod over it, one way and then back again.   the paper dried on the line.  i did this 2 more times and then did the same thing with the 15year old bottle.  while the papers hung to dry, i poured some of the emulsion into a wide jar that used to have cheese.  it was runny cheese so i thought it would be perfect to put runny emulsion in, so i did.
i got the hake brush and coated the plate with the emulsion.  two or three times until there was nothing left in the jar, and then i used the blow dryer and heated the glass.  it was dark outside so i could leave without worry the light outside would fog my paper or glass.

a few days before i made some photograms.  i used some outdated ( it really never is outdated ) azo paper, and materials i fashioned into small things and put it on the paper, and then a light.  i put the papers in coffee developer, and watched the paper go from white to dark in about 4 minutes.  they washed and dried overnight.

a day or two later i looked for something to print one of the photograms on, and i rummaged through the paper safe and found a piece of paper i had coated with emulsion maybe 15 years before, i had forgotten about it.  the emulsion gets better with age so i printed the image onto it and it looked great.  i took the newly made and dried paper and put it into the paper safe, i figured i wouldn’t forget it was there.  and i took the glass and put it into an envelope and a box.  i looked for a camera it would work with, but since the glass was about 4×6 it wasn’t going to be easy, i don’t have 4×6 cameras, only 4×5 …  so i used a camera i made last fall.  it is a 4×5 camera with a glass lens and hand made paper holders.  i set the camera up, and focused.  i took the glass out in the daylight and loaded it into the paper holder and left the camera open for 4 hours.

i took the glass out and  brought it to the scanner to see what the camera had recorded.  these sorts of images are singular.  they can’t be fixed or developed, or they will vanish or turn black, and they can’t be printed because the intense light will turn them grey and dark, so

i scan them.


















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more work from the graflex 3A

at the beginning of this year i bought a graflex 3A.  i wasn’t quite sure what i was going to do with it …

the shutter was old and finicky, and while i had been in touch with a graflex guru to rehabilitate the camera, i opted not to use the shutter at all.  the camera originally took 122A roll film that was more than 3″ in width, and included a special backing to write notes on the edge of the negative ( it is an “autographic” camera ).  some people convert these cameras to use 120 format film, which is about 2.5″ wide but without a working shutter i opted to use the camera only for shooting paper negatives.  i have been working with paper instead of film for years with large format cameras (4×5, 5×7, 8×10, 11×14).  the format of this camera is 3.25×5.5 ”
and i love the long rectangular format so this was going to be fun.

at first i put single sheets of 5×7 paper in the camera, it made a beautiful exposure centered on the 5×7 paper, and this would work well if i didn’t need to make more than one exposure at a time, or i had a way to exchange exposed paper for unexposed paper.   i scavenged a second film spool from another 3A camera i have, and i experimented to find the best way to make long rolls of paper.  first i rolled fiber paper.  i had a lot of wasted paper, and the emulsion tends to crack when cold or bent, so i soon  realized this wasn’t the best choice.  i found a box of old 8×10 resin coated paper and cut pieces in half.  they were perfect for the spools.  i took tape and connected 4 sheets of sliced paper end to end and then wound the paper onto a spool.  i taped the end  and left the paper for another day.  leaving it wound up gave a “memory” to the paper so it wouldn’t readily unwind itself in the camera.

i eventually put the spool of paper in the camera and taped the end to the receiving spool and closed the back.  there was no backing paper with numbers on it to remind me where to stop winding, so i just winged-it.  2.5 full revolutions seemed to be OK.  made a lens cap out of tape and cardboard and put it on the front of the lens and was ready to make some exposures.  the system worked well, and i have shot 2 rolls of paper so far.

after the paper is done, i go back to the darkroom and turn on the red light.  i unwind the paper from the receiving spool and put each sheet in a warm water bath to relax the curl.  then i put them one at a time in a 3.5 gallon container filled with used coffee developer i have run film through.  the coffee developer works great with paper negatives.  it is low contrast and slow.  the images appear at around 2 minutes and finish developing at about 4 minutes.

the images scan well, and print beautifully as contact prints.

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