Category Archives: photographs

examples of latest photography i have been involved in

writing about photography

in a recent interview with on the onwardphoto blog, jorg colberg spoke about the importance of writing about photography.   i couldn’t agree more with what he said.  often times people who make photographs have trouble talking about them.

i am guilty too … it is HARD to write about photography, but with a little practice it gets a little easier.

i have a series of portraits i have been making since i was 19 ( more than half my life ).  the project began years before and i didn’t even know it … when i was reading studds turkel’s book “working”, a book about people talking about what they do for work …  i began my project by cold calling businesses and asking if i could photograph people who worked there.  i was a fly on the wall, sometimes, other times i would have conversations with the subject to learn about what it was they were doing, and i would photograph where they worked too.  i documented  people that worked in slaugherhouses, were gravediggers, machineshop operators, mechanics, factory workers, butchers …  people from all walks of life.  i enjoyed talking with these strangers and learning about who they were, and creating almost a story that surrounded each portrait i took.  eventually i began photographing people on the streets as i wandered their neighborhood with a camera,  or where they had a late night snack, or breakfast.  i continued with these portraits, even letting them lead me into paying jobs photographing people for magazines and newspapers, and i never stopped interviewing my subjects to learn a little bit about them.

when i worked for a eileen mcclure, she told me tricks she would do to get her subjects to loosen up a little bit.  she only had seconds to do this seeing she had appointments every 20 minutes all day long …  and she said she had it easy because she was a little old lady, and people don’t feel threatened by little old ladies.  my trick ended up being just having a conversation, and because i was no longer a guy with a camera but someone else.  over the years i think the project has taken a different shape, and really tells more about me than it does my subjects.  if i wrote about the project,  i would write about who my subjects were, and how meeting them changed how i look at portrait photography in general, but how i have learned that people are pretty much the same, whether they are rich, poor, a corporate titan, leader of a state, or someone sitting on their porch, who didn’t remember who i was or who she was a few weeks later when i returned with a print.

i couldn’t agree more with the idea that one should be able to write something, anything, about what it is they do or did with their camera.


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what did i mean by paper negative test?

i recently mentioned something about a paper negative test.

i suggested bracketing exposures and judging your negatives …

here, i have uploaded 3 images


the first

not photoshopped

cyclone #3 maybe f11

as the caption reads ..  it was taken with a cyclone #3 which i guess is around f11

light meter was set to iso 6 and it suggested  5 seconds

i count fast …  so i counted to 6.

the developer was 2 day old dektol, it is cold in my darkroom but the image appeared at around 20 sconds

so from previous experience, ( making prints in dektol ) i let it develop out fot at least 1 minute.

the negative looks ok.  there is a roundness to it because the lens has a big hot spot,

the edges are light the middle of the negative is dark.

the inversion ( #2 )

straight inversion, of a straight scan

f 11 6 seconds 15 year old polymax rc

the inverted positive looks OK

( kodak paper has writing on the back so i don’t bother contact printing kodak paper negatives )

the center of the image is light, the sides are dark, the background blown out.

this is expected.

today was an overcast day

this was about 145pm

the sky has a lot of blue light but where i was ..  was filtered a little so my meter gave me

a false reading.  for the deck where i was it was OK, the wood, the deck chairs and flower pots

seem to be OK exposed  …  if i was to multiple expose or burn in .. while making the exposure

i would under expose the sky and trees

with a little PS – love

it doesn’t look much different ..

i adjusted the woods a little bit, evened out a little bit the roundness and brightness / contrast

brightness, lightness burning in selective contrast

cyclone might have needed a few seconds fless or the woods maybe dodge out ..


next exposure will be tomorrow …

maybe i will try 6 seconds and in camera dodge out the sky

the developer might be a little easier to work with too …

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paper negatives

some people hate paper negatives.

they have trouble with them because they don’t realize how they need to be exposed and treat them like film.  they develop them like regular prints, and think that a “beefy” paper negative will print great like a “beefy negative”. photo paper is not film, it isn’t sensitive to the same light as film and its sensitivity changed.

what does this mean ?

in a simple way of putting it is  film is panchromatic, so it is sensitive to red, green blue light.  think of it as being  sensitive to all light …and unless you are using color film, light is light.  photo paper is sensitive to blue light, and sometimes to green light.  different times of the day, different light conditions (shade, open shade, bright sunlight, cloudy day &c) different amounts of blue light are around, so even though it might seem “bright” it might not be …  this might not make much sense.  but you can do a little experiment.  if you have a “hot light”  the old fashioned ones that use tungsten bulbs make an exposure with that bulb as your light source, and then use a different light source, maybe a CF bulb that has mostly red in it …  and make the same exposure with your paper…  you might notice one negative “better” than the other.  its also the reason at least with multi contrast papers why you can use filters to adjust the contrast of the image … anyways, photo paper might be fast in one light condition and slow in another, AND different manufacturers use different light sensitive emulsions on their paper so they will have different “speeds” too.  you might see speeds listed on the box of paper, they are not the same as film speeds, but only relative to the paper.   as a point of reference, regular photo paper typically has a iso ( asa ) relative to film about 6, sometimes as high as 25 if you plan on shooting paper negatives, its best to do exposure tests .    bracket exposures, like you would for film, and take notes if that is your sort of thing.  years ago there were oodles of papers on the market, and i did paper exposures for maybe 15 different ones these days there aren’t as many so it might be a little easier.

developer  …

you should develop your paper negatives the same way you develop your prints ” to completion”  …  don’t pull the print out of the developer when “it looks right”  because you won’t get a good print, just like you won’t get a good negative.  contrast comes out first then the mid tones afterwards.  a beefy negative or a thin one … i guess it all depends on what the negative will be used for.  will you make a contact print with it ?  will you scan and invert it ?  will you make a sun print with it? if you plan on contact printing your paper negatives thin ones sometimes work best, too dense it is hard for the light to pass through and you will get a thin positive print.  if you plan on scanning and inverting, a dense negative might suite your needs ..  i guess it depends on how good your photoshop skills are.

sun prints are a bit different.  it takes a long time for the sun’s light to pass through the photo paper.  i have waxed the negative with paraffin and made it somewhat translucent and light passed through a bit easier.  i can’t help you there, you have to experiment to see what works best for your situation.



why do i like paper negatives ?

photo paper is cheap compared to film, and it is instant compared to film.  i find exposing paper negatives whether they are negatives i coated by hand with liquid or home made emulsion or in a box to be more fun … there is a sense of the unknown sometimes … with film, you pretty much know what you are going to get  … also, i would rather make a long exposure than an instant one …  while instantaneous fraction of a second exposures have their place portraits of fidgety kids, maybe pet photography, large groups where everyone seems to be moving, sports, science / nature photography there is a thing about long exposures that almost makes a scene or person come to life  …  but that is another entry for another time.

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dektol paper negatives

i am a little rusty at making paper negatives with anything but ansco 130 with the 130 i used to leave a tray out till it turned black and was still active  and use it as a 2nd bath along with a tray of fresh developer.  since  dektol doesn’t have glycin in it it doesn’t have the same long lifespan as ansco130 so when it turns black i spike it with a capful of stock solution.  i haven’t nailed the right exposures with the paper, or the right split yet but it is fun putzing around trying to start over again using a new developer with past experiences i learned from another.  sometimes they can be just transfered (i did this with 1 developer it should and does do the same thing with another) and sometimes it is just totally different … (i did this with 1 developer, and my contrast with the new developer is too much) luckily i have shelves full of paper and a few packets of dektol so i don’t think i won’t learn the the technique with the new developer.


yesterday i burned a few paper negatives and processed them in fresh dektol maybe 1:1.5

i split processed the paper in a tray of sumatranol –

harsh outside light soft inside light

split D + sumC



toning down the dektol, used caffenol c as a 2nd bath


cyclone + 10-15 year old polymax rc

split dektol and caffenol




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working with lumenized prints again

i am never quite sure what to call sun prints using regular old photo paper.  with plant materials and the same paper they are called lumen prints, with a pinhole camera stashed in a tree for 6months they are called solargraphs, long exposed in a camera they can be called retina prints  but what are contact prints called ?  they aren’t POP prints ( printing out paper ) where they are developed with water and toned+fixed.  whatever they might be called, i’m doing them again as part of a new project …

these prints are part film, part lumenized, part inverted negative and soon to be part cyanotype.
(i have to coat some paper )
this is a triple image, so please click on it so you see all three


negative, inverted positive, luminized

30 year old film, split processed coffee and ansco 130


negative, positive, lumanized print



this one is 4 images, not 3

springtime flowers

4 lumenized prints

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recent email: hey, why don’t YOU do wet plate?!

just got an email today and someone asked:  why don’t you do wet plate photography?

i had to think for a little while, not long and my answer was: because i really don’t need to.


i was as a broke college student in the 1980s.  i took photography classes through the end of their numbered courses ( i think “photo 5” was the last one ) so i did 2 directed studies my last 2 semester ( last year ) of college.  in these self-designed classes i made an emulsion from scratch buying ingredients from chemical suppliers and i taught myself how to make, coat and develop dry plates.

there were photography books, mostly art history ones, some “how to identify a process” books, things like “keepers of the light” but no internet, no close knit community to ask questions and learn from, and no  one i knew had any idea or ideas of what i was supposed to do … i had a 1904 photography annual picked up at a book store that i used to thumb through from time to time.  it had recipes in it for developers fixers, old ads for cameras and supplies as well as recipes for emulsions … i bought small quantities of the materials i needed and pots from a 2nd hand store  and  mixed the few items together.  i had taken chemistry classes in high school so i was careful and didn’t blind myself … i cooked up an emulsion and it worked OK i guess, but it was expensive and time consuming (and something i had to do in the middle of the night when my room mates were asleep ).  that was when i learned about liquid light ( made by rockland colloid ).  it is emulsion in a bottle, and it ended up being what i used instead of my home brewed emulsion … and the man who answered the phone there was extremely helpful person  (he STILL answers the phone and he STILL is extremely helpful!)

i read about historical processes and binding agents used to stick things to glass  … and i bought a variety of things to experiment with.  i used collodion, varnish, albumen, cement and glues ..  none of them worked, or worked the way i wanted them to work.  i eventually realized the emulsion was gelatin based so i bought some unflavored knox gelatin and it worked great.  i coated plates not by free pouring but with a paint brush (foam) and got a thin coat which sometimes worked best.  i coated large and small pieces of glass, mostly window glass i found on the street on “trash day”  sometimes an image on each side and eventually made contact prints of the images  eventually i got bored with the whole making prints on glass thing, and drifted away from it but over the years i have  kept doing it in one way or another.  now it is 26 years later and i am still making dry plates and probably by the end of the year i will give up store bought ready-made emulsions and photo paper+film.  i suppose i could switch over to wet plate making.  there is less hassle ..  just plates collodion, a silver bath, developer and fixer.  its a simple process compared to dry plates.

but i don’t mind making dry plates, they are fun, and i don’t  have to process the plate immediately and feel rushed.

so, i don’t do wet plate, because  …  i’m having enough fun as it is ..


these days it is not like 1987, you don’t have to do everything in isolation because now,

there is a website dedicated to making emulsions from scratch.  its called “the light farm”

there are great people there who are helpful, and know their “stuff”

i don’t really remember what emulsion i made in the middle of the night, september 1987, but i know which one i am going to make next ..its a sea water emulsion and it should be a lot of fun ..

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back, waaay back

if you have been reading my blog you probably know i have been making chemical free photographs for a few years.  you probably know i have designed and sold a handful of cameras that make chemical free photographs and you probably have seen handfuls of scans of these images.  some are made on photo paper with a piece of film or object ontop of the paper, like either a contact print or a photogram ( or rayogram )

others have been made using a camera with the lens open for anywhere from 25 or 30minutes to a few hours.  i’ve used paper i’ve coated myself with liquid emulsion glass i’ve coated and even metal plates …  today i rummaged through my pile of film and film holders and i loaded a sheet of vericolor III into one of my self made cameras and exposed it for around an hour, maybe more, maybe less.  the film was originally a pretty high iso (asa) film compared to paper.  its iso 160 ( around there ) where paper is anywhere from iso 3 or 6 to maybe around 25  depending on the light.

i figured it wouldn’t need a ton of light to get a good exposure.  i set the camera up and got a nice full contrast scene, some lights, some darks and some inbetween tones … i took the film out of the camera and scanned it


long exposed film


after i removed the tone in photoshop the image had a beautiful soft copper tone to it.

inverted, desaturated contrast-tweaked and a little brownish tone added


i have a lot of color film i can’t get processed so this will be a great way for me to use up my film.

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recent events

found some coated plates in a box!
5x7s ready to expose, can’t wait  🙂

my only problem is, should i make cameraless images, or glass negatives, or ambrotypes ?

i hate having to make such fun decisions 🙂

i’ll get things prepared, and maybe do all of these things.  my hand made old fashioned tintype developer seems to still be active
so who knows, maybe it’ll do the trick !

i’ll post the results if they happen.

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Trichromes with film

so far i have posted a handful of trichromes i have made but using digital technology

…  that is making b/w images using a digital camera ( not film ) and assembling them
in photoshop.  none of them have been using film which would just be a few added steps
exposing / processing and scanning .

the results are pretty much the same as with a digital camera, except you get the signature of the lens.
so, instead of my nice sharp nikon glass, i get soft german glass from my ancient 1930s rolliecord.

and instead of an instant image, you get a film made image processed in coffee and print developer  .
grain, tonality film base, stuff people love to try to emulate with a variety of digital programs, instead of
just breaking down and exposing the film in the first place ( something that i think is kind of funny)>


trichrome fun


schmutz on kitchen window is my main filter ( except for the RGB ) that is

thrichrome fun



espresso maker

trichrome fun



in addition to the 3 views 3 negatives approach i have fiddled around with just taking 1 negative scan
and making 3 duplicate files each with 2 color channels removed for the most part …
and i assemble the 3 black and white images in PS again to make a tri chrome
i did this and posted it on and someone mentioned that i was sort of just toning the
image using the color channels, which i had never thought of like that before …

narragansett bay

trichrome fun





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another batch of tri chromes

making trichrome color images is a bit addictive

it is so easy and fun with a digital camera, it almost makes you feel guilty how much effort
is spent when film or plates are used.  and it makes you feel even more guilty and in awe of
people who spent a long long time mastering this process with color paper, or making dye transfer or gum prints.

i have film i exposed ( haven’t processed it yet, shame on me ! ) which will be almost as easy as using a digital camera
instead of files that are immediate, i’ll have film that i expose with the colored filters.
that’s about as difficult as i will let this game get, i won’t be making contact prints onto color paper,
or matrix sheets &c, i’ll just scan the negatives, get files to merge in photoshop which will take barely longer than it takes to scan the
files with a scanner.

the last few uploads were made in bright sunlight, or kitchen light ( bulb )
i took some portraits but since my subject wasn’t nailed+taped to the chair and the expression glued on their face
and it takes 3 separate exposures, well, my results were a bit sub-par …  i have some ideas how to fix that …

these uploads are soft afternoon overcast light. iron chair, wooden stiles hanging plant+box





Also posted in film development technique, Misc., technique and style Tagged , , |

tri color again, this time coffee

can’t not take photographs of my favorite drink








all gone

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a few more tri color images, kind of addictive

went to the lighting supply guy today

east coast lighting, nice folks !


i got some gels to match the swatchbook numbers i had
and took a few more b/w images with my digital camera

i tried a few color ones as well, converted to greyscale but they didn’t work …


just a little fun before i start using film

cup of pencils


with coffee


Also posted in film development technique, Misc., technique and style Tagged , , , |

limited success with home brew tintype developer

for a few weeks now i have been experimenting with various reversal developers to make

silver gelatin tintypes.  i abandoned my old stock of liquid emulsion for an unopened bottle

of liquid light i had bought maybe six years ago and never used.  i did a test coat on white paper exposed it in a camera as a paper negative and it looked great, so i figured i wouldn’t have much trouble coating metal and paper as tests as tintypes.  i followed the instructions on the rockland colloid site and coated thin, but my imges were barely visible.  im thining i’ll coat thick again.  i seemed to have the best of luck with thick coated plates since the emulsion wasn’t ag+ ,,,

i don’t have plates to post becausr, they are’t post worthy. …

i don’t plan on giving up my quest to make thest tintypes with less than wet plate danger

i have had my fun wi collodion over the years.  first as a college student, then afterwards, and while i don’t mind using it, i would rather use a less sensitive, material, and not have to cart my darkroom around with me,

i do know of collodion dry plates and could probably make them but id rather keep things simple and not deal with collodion …


more to follow  …..



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recent images












Also posted in alternative process photography, film development technique, technique and style Tagged , , , , , |

the plates were still wet

the plates were sill wet, so i made some sumatranol 130 into a reversal developer / monobath
and made some photograms.  they are still hanging too ( all rc paper ) and ill scan some tomorrow …

the recipe i got from the cyclopeida was just an extremely weak developer.

it wasn’t anything fancy, just a weak, washing soda ( sodium carbonate ) rick developer and without much of a developing agent
not sure how it was supposed to develop anything seeing it wouldn’t really turn a sheet of paper black in room light,

more to follow as the adventure continues ..

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