Tag Archives: caffenol

recent LUMEN prints from glass plates ( The Dream )

sometimes i put a piece of glass or something out in the sun, on a sheet of photo paper

i did this yesterday with some glass plates i exposed and treated last week ….


The Dream


while i lay still at night
on my back with my eyes closed
i dreamed …
i rode through the air on my horse
through the trees and the darkness to the light
there were faces there to greet me
people talked
and pointed
there was a sailor in a cap
watching as the people turned to leaves and blew away
i eventually woke
and wondered where i was.

( click on image to see the whole thing, the thumb nail is clipped )


lumen contact print from glass negative

sometimes i look at clouds, other times i look at prints

Posted in alternative process photography, images on glass and metal, images on hand coated paper, liquid emulsion, photographs, technique and style Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

coating plates … how to

i haven’t’ coated plates with hand made emulsion yet, that will happen soon enough …

but i have been coating plates on and off since the mid 1980s …

there are a few different ways to do this, some are easier than others

the first steps are all the same.

you have to wash the plate to make it chemically clean.  you can see if your glass sheet if clean by running water on it
if the water doesn’t “hang”  you are probably OK …  i wash my plates with a scrub brush ( plastic ) and washing soda.  i have a wood drying rack that i put them on so they drip dry.  i also just have them lean against the wall of the darkroom sink.

once they are dry you can coat them with a sub / or binding agent.  glass doesn’t really have anything for the emulsion to anchor to so an intermediary layer of something works.  depending on what sort of emulsion you are using you use a different binding agent …
i only use silver gelatin emulsions now, so my subbing layer would be  …  clear unflavored gelatin.  you can get hard bloom photography grade gelatin, its the same stuff used in the emulsion  …  or you can use cheap store bought knox gelatin.  i have only used knox  …  and it really never let me down.

i add a packet to warm water and let it dissolve.  then i pour it on the plate and put it someplace flat to set-up.  some folks put hardener in their sub layer, i have never done that.

anther binding agent could be clear poly urethane.  i have never used it  ( min wax ) but some do and they have had successes …  others suggest that it might yellow over time.  i’ve never used that so i really can’t comment.

i do know what DOESN’T work …

albumen doesn’t work
collodion ( either photographer’s collodion or pharmacy “flexible” ) doesn’t work
rubber cement doesn’t work either

as i write this, i realize i only used the albumen and collodion when they were not fully dry.
i have never tried to use them when they were dry, and knowing that there are collodion+gelatin emulsions that exist
i haven’t heard of a albumen gelatin emulsion though …

so i guess the jury’s out still on albumen and collodion …

once there is a sub layer there are a few different ways to coat the plate.
FIRST  …  you have to warm your emulsion and turn it into liquid.  i used to heat up a whole bottle and pour it off
but since then i have learned to squeeze out some emulsion into a warming container and have a small amount liquify.  heating and jelling
emulsion ( from what i understand ) can lead to a fogged emulsion.  once you have it in liquid form  …

one way is by total submersion into a tray of emulsion.  i haven’t done this, but from what i understand you can put some sort of covering on the back of the plate ( tape or something similar )  and dunk the plate in the emulsion, pour off the excess from a corner and put the plate someplace flat to even-out and set up.

another way is using a paint brush.  i like using japanese brushes to coat paper but they tend to leave brush strokes.  brush strokes on glass plates can be nice if enlarged on or shot through a camera, depending on the look you want …  i also like using cheap foam brushes.

this next way i was never able to do until this year, i always had trouble down the line and it never worked, but i have been reformed.

folks who write on http://www.thelightfarm.com and http://www.apug.org and mark osterman at the george eastman house have opened my eyes to another, easy and practical way to coat plates.  you need to have a warmish plate so i use a heating pad if my darkroom ambient temperature is coldish  …  and you need a cold level surface.  i use a pizza stone that cold from the freezer.
i have a small glass bottle i pour from, and another container to pour off / drain into.  i hold the plate level, and pour a large puddle of warm liquid emulsion onto it … and i tilt the plate to get all 4 corners ( like one would do if coating a wet plate ) …  and i use my finger to make sure
the whole plate is covered before draining it off into the second container.  after the plate is drained, i put it on the cold pizza stone to set the gelatin.  if the plate needs a second coat i pour on a second coat.  i usually coat maybe 4-10 plates at once, so by the time i am done with the last one, the first one can get its second layer.

i leave the plates flat and level to dry and after a day or so they are ready to expose.

when i process plates i use a coffee based developer and a strong developer.  i pretty much only use ansco 130, and use a 1:2 dilution to kickstart the development, and i put it in the coffee developer to finish.  i don’t rush it, and i agitate the tray  or with a gloved hand agitate the plate by rock it in the developer.  i don’t  use a stop bath but a water bath ( cold ) …  and while i never use hardener for any other process because it tends to be difficult to wash the emulsion and paper free of chemistry, i have a hardener fixer bath.

cold temperatures, an alkaline developer and a hardener in the fixer keep or help keep the emulsion from lifting off the plate.  in years gone by i would get perfect images on the emulsion, but they would lift off the plate, and wash off.  since i started using a cold stone, cold chemistry, alkaline developers and hardener i haven’t had this happen yet…

maybe  …  just a little bit, but not anywhere as badly as it could be.

5×7 and 8×10 glass plates on the horizon !

Posted in alternative process photography, film development technique, images on glass and metal, liquid emulsion, photographs, technique and style Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

dry plates … in color

color images made from dry plate negatives


hand colored image from hand coated dry plate


conimicut point

colorized dry plate

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hand colored work, from dry plates

i am kind of stuck in hybrid mode these days

part of me is stuck in about 1890 and the other part in 2013 ..

recently i have been hand coating metal and glass plates with liquid emulsion
some were exposed and developed in a special developer to convert the negative image to a positive
( tintypes and ambrotypes ) with wet plate images this is done with collodion spiked with certain salts
which then bind with silver nitrate and are developed …this sort of thing was invented in the late 1850s early 1860s …

what i am doing was invented 20 years later.  instead of the silver nitrate ( and salts ) being suspended in a slowly drying
celluloid ( collodion ) that needs to be processed into a photographic image right away when still “wet”, i am using the silver-stuff
that has been suspended in clear gelatin.  they are called DRY plates …  it is the same silver gelatin liquid that i coat on paper ..
the same emulsion you can make yourself if you want  ( it really is easy enough for a college student to do ..  i did as a 20 years old at least )
and it is really easy to purchase from a store in a bottle  ( liquid light, black cat, se-1 &c ) …
in around 1900 someone discovered a way to invert the image to make a positive …  street photographers capitalized on this making instant portraits and post cards  ( developing tank under + attached to the camera ) …  and you can still do this today with the rockland colloid tintype kit

that is what i am using at least because the recipe for the developer is an unknown …

some plates are tintypes i made, some ambrotypes

and some are hand colored ( using photoshop )



Posted in alternative process photography, film development technique, images on glass and metal, liquid emulsion, photographs, technique and style Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

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 …

Posted in film development technique, photographs, using vintage equipment Also tagged , , , , , |


main street old earnshaw drugs

hand colored black and white

odeum theater

hand colored black and whtie

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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 apug.org, 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 flickr.com 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:  http://www.caffenol-cookbook.com/


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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Agfa Shur Shot

i was given an agfa shur shot camera years ago and didn’t use it much.  it is a box camera from the 1930s, a basic camera.

it isn’t the most well made camera, kind of made of cardboard and wood and it seems like it is going to break every time you change the film
because you have to pull out the wind knob but it seems to work OK just the same.

the other day i walked a few miles from my mechanic’s place, almost home, it was about 3 miles in all.  i took random photographs on discontinued kodak 120 ( plus x ) film.  sometimes i pressed the shutter and it fired at maybe 1/50th of a second, other times i put it on “time” and counted to maybe four or five.  when i got home and found the time ( maybe a week or two later ) i processed all the film in my usual film developer.  i use about 2L of perkolated sumatra coffee, and a few healthy pours of washing soda and vitamin C.  i also added some black, used and diminished ansco 130 paper developer dilute 1:10.  i wound the film on the metal reels, put it all in stainless steel tanks,
and poured in the developer to do its magic.  i left the room for about 1/2 hour and played a few games of solitaire ( canfield is my favorite )
and eventually i lost, and went to wash and fix the film.  it hung to dry from a string on the ceiling, and the next day when i found the time, i scanned the negatives, inverted them and began wondering what to do with these random frames from my walk.



sub station

sub station in color

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i am involved with a project with a few other photographers in rhode island …  the providence grid project. it was thought of by a photographer named paul shelasky. together withwarren eve, erik gould and me, we are photographing providence and its outskirts 1 square mile at a time. paul emails us a piece of map and we photograph what is there, or what isn’t there, people, place, things.

my last square was near india point park, including north main street. the bridge is no longer there and i took a series of images and this is what i got.

they are scans for now, but hopefully, like the other sets of series i have recently done, they will end up as prints.

providence from north main street, no bridge

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occupasusatuxet cove ( paswonquitte )

behind where i live is the cove
the real name for it is occupasusatuxet cove ( paswonquitte )
which means  -small cove on tidewater –
it is an inlet on narragansett bay.
low tide it is a mudflat, high tide …
salt marsh and thatch
some say you can see the ribs of boats run aground
i didn’t see much low or high tide ..
i walked through the thick briars and followed the stream where the large turtles climb up.
the grass was thick and wet
and the water was high

this is from a developing series
multiple images using a 4×5 box camera
( and eventually other things )
printed and presented together.
this groups is both tmx and tmy processed in coffee, in a tray .. all 16 views.

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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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5th batch, made the coffee, drank the coffee then processed the film in it.

if you ever go to apug.org, you have read this already.

a few nights ago it was cold, batch 5 was cooked up and roasted to a not light, and not dark color.
it slept overnight in a glass jar, i think it once was a jelly jar, it was there so i used it.
i grabbed my mortar and pestle and threw a few beans in, then a few more and i began to crush them.
i realized from my first batch, that the fewer the beans the easier it is to crush them
so i took my time and threw a few beans at a time and pulverized them so they were probably a fine grind
if i were to judge by a burr grinder.
the powder was dumped out into a small tray and i added a few more beans.
they cracked and jumped out sometimes, they were hard and brittle.
i had been “trained” for many years to believe robusta beans were not very good
i was told they smelled bad when they were roasted, and the caffeine was harsh and jittery.

i looked at the beans as they powdered up and they didn’t look too bad.
they didn’t smell bad when they roasted either, but still i had to wonder how they were going to taste.

i was told by my bean-guy, a local master coffee roaster and all around guru they were from sumatra
and the people who were drinking it 4 or 5 years ago, well they never complained.
so at least these old, stale dry brittle beans had something going for them, besides working great as a film developer

i looked for my jezvah and threw a few teaspoons in.
i used to always drink turkish/greek/armenian/near eastern coffee and i love the process.

the stove was on and the powder hissed as it dried out a little bit on the.
i added the water, and waited.
i stirred a little
i waited some more.

slowly the bubbles formed and it rose the first time
i removed it from the heat and thought, 2 more times ..

the second time …

and the third time came and went as the other two.

i took the jezvah off the burner and let it sit while i sought a small cup and its saucer.
i poured it in and it smelled delicious.
i put a half teaspoon of sugar in it and stirred.

some people add as much sugar as coffee when they cook it.
i usually drink my coffee black but i was living it up so why not …

first i smelled it as it steamed.
floral, sweet earthy

i closed my eyes and took my first sip.

it was as delicious as it smelled.

when i was done, i photographed the jezvah, and turned the cup upside down to read it.
i turned it 3times and popped it from the plate.
thumbprint on the bottom and i looked
and looked and this is what i saw …

hills and mountains
birds flying over head
and the sun.

i put my jacket on an with the strength of 10 men, i shoveled some more of the driveway.
the birds flew overhead
as i moved mountains in the sun.

later, i spooled my film and it too drank from the same roast.
this is what it told me.













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5th batch, inside

tonight i decided to roast the beans on the stove, window open in a wok.
it was cold and snowy outside, so i opened the window and put the fan on.
the beans are old, so a lot of the moisture has left them, and as i roasted them,
i noticed some roasting faster than others.  i roasted-on …

first crack, second crack …

they are brown, dark brown,not black and carbonized.
when i have some film to process i will see how it works.

Posted in alternative process photography, film development technique, Misc., photographs, technique and style Also tagged , , |

4th batch

4th batch of coffee roasted

i am still using a hot plate and a pie tin, but i am thinking of buying a cast iron skillet or a wok to make my life a little easier.  the batch was roasted dark and carbonized.  i ground it up and brewed 12cups in the perk, and after a day or so i added the other ingredients for the developer.  it was cold when i mixed it so i had to make a water jacket to raise its temperature.  i filled a plastic bin with water and while i put the film on the metal reels, the coffee slowly got to usable temperature.

i poured water in the cylinders to wash off the backing on the film.  and after a few minutes poured the inky water out and the coffee in.  after 25-30 minutes i fixed the film and washed it, and hung it to dry.

i used kodak plus x and fuji across 100


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