Cyanotypes XIII: American History

August 07, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Rolleiflex Automat, 120 Medium Format TLR Camera from the 1940sRolleiflex AutomatMedium Format Welcome to the 13th edition of Cyanotypes. In 2022 we made a family road trip to Virginia to see and learn more about some key places of the American history: Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, and the surrounding area. It felt right having the film cameras with me even though even those were too modern for the subject matter.

I changed things up a little bit on this trip and left my trusty 35mm Nikon FE at home. For black and white photographs it was replaced with a World War II era Rolleiflex Automat. To document the family trip in color the plastic fantastic Nikon N75 came along. Auto-focus comes handy for quick snapshots and to make sure family members are in focus even when things happen fast. And for the historical photos when time allowed the Rolleiflex was a great companion.

Another thing I usually do not do for trips like this but did on this one was bringing a mix of film. I prefer limited choices and familiar film but had some film laying around I wanted to try and did not get to it and so it went on the trip. I had the Cinestill BwXX (Double-X), Berger Pancro 400, Fomapan 400, and Fomapan 200.

Smith's Fort Cyanotype, Surry, Virginia, United States.Smith's FortCyanotype

Smith's Fort Cyanotype, Surry, Virginia, United States, An Original Hand-Made 5" x 7" Cyanotype
Chemically Printed on a Hand-Coated Textured Shizen Design Watercolor Paper

Even though I have to admit the film choice was probably completely irrelevant for today's post. The rough texture of the Shizen Design watercolor paper ends up having so much more influence over the look of the print that any black and white film would most likely end up looking similar. All of my cyanotypes so far have been from 135 or 120 film, scanned, and turned into a large negative printed on an inkjet printer. Thus the thought about the insignificance of film. When at some point I contact print some of my 4" x 5" or 5" x 7" large format negatives, the film choice will certainly matter. Cyanotypes love low contrast negatives.

Smith's Fort, Surry, Virginia, United States, Toned CyanotypeSmith's FortToned Cyanotype

Smith's Fort Cyanotype, Surry, Virginia, United States, An Original Hand-Made 5" x 7" Cyanotype
Chemically Printed on a Hand-Coated Textured Shizen Design Watercolor Paper, Toned in Wine Tannin

Today, you are looking at three pairs of cyanotype prints. The first one of each pair is the traditional blue print one gets after an ultraviolet exposure and a development in water. The second print of each pair has been dried for 24 hours to allow for a complete oxidation, then fully bleached, washed and toned in wine tannin. In both versions the imperfect vintage look is preserved, yet, each come with their own mood.

Fence at New Town, Jamestown, Virginia, United States, CyanotypeFence at New Town, JamestownCyanotype

Fence at New Town, Jamestown, Virginia, United States, An Original Hand-Made 5" x 7" Cyanotype
Chemically Printed on a Hand-Coated Textured Shizen Design Watercolor Paper

When it comes to toning, the choice of paper seems to be very important. Even though this is the 13th edition of me blogging about cyanotypes and the first one was back on August 11, 2021 - wow, almost exactly 2 years ago - I feel I am still barely scratching the surface and there is so much more to learn. I have already learned, though, that some papers stain pretty heavily during toning and both highlights and shadows take on the tones of the toner. I experienced that with black, green, and white teas. White tea seemed to be the most forgiving probably due to an overall subtle stain. The same happened with red wine and also with wine tannin. The paper all six of todays prints were printed on is a perfect match from that point of view. The shadows stain wonderfully and the highlights stay clean.

Fence at New Town, Jamestown, Virginia, United States, Toned CyanotypeFence at New Town, JamestownToned Cyanotype

Fence at New Town, Jamestown, Virginia, United States, An Original Hand-Made 5" x 7" Cyanotype
Chemically Printed on a Hand-Coated Textured Shizen Design Watercolor Paper, Toned in Wine Tannin

With the last pair we already left the main destination of our expedition and were headed back towards Buffalo, NY. There was a semi-planned stop along the way in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to supplement our knowledge of John Brown and the events of 1859.

John Brown's Fort, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, CyanotypeJohn Brown's FortCyanotype

John Brown's Fort, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, United States, An Original Hand-Made 5" x 7" Cyanotype
Chemically Printed on a Hand-Coated Textured Shizen Design Watercolor Paper

The arsenal’s engine house that served as Brown's last hold out is no longer at its original location and was actually moved four times as far as Chicago, IL, but found its way back to within a stone's throw of where it started.

John Brown Fort, Harpers Ferry, United States, Toned CyanotypeJohn Brown FortToned Cyanotype

John Brown's Fort, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, United States, An Original Hand-Made 5" x 7" Cyanotype
Chemically Printed on a Hand-Coated Textured Shizen Design Watercolor Paper, Toned in Wine Tannin

Which versions do you prefer? The blue? The brown? I'd love to hear from you so don't hesitate and drop a comment on this post.

Thanks for visiting, hope you'll be back :-)

Enjoy The Beauty That Surrounds You! #etbtsy

Previous posts in the Cyanotypes series: 1. First Cyanotype - 2. More Cyanotypes - 3. Highlands Cyanotypes - 4. How do Cyanotypes Happen? - 5. Cyanotypes V: Tweaking the Curve - 6. Cyanotypes VI: Toning - 7. Cyanotypes VII: More Toning - 8. Cyanotypes VIII: Toning Different Papers - 9. Cyanotypes IX: Horní Rozsíčky - 10. Cyanotypes X: From Black and White or Color - 11. Cyanotypes XI: Moravian Countryside - 12. Cyanotypes XII: Prague Castle - 13. Cyanotypes XIII: American History

If you like cyanotypes, you can explore the Cyanotypes Photo Gallery dedicated to my growing collection of them. Would you like to browse through traditional darkroom wet prints? Visit my Darkroom Photo Gallery and enjoy!

Bird Island Pier Cyanotype, Buffalo, New YorkBird Island PierCyanotype Chautauqua Belle Steamboat, Meeden Cyanotype, an original hand-made 5" x 7" cyanotype print from the Chautauqua Lake, New York.Chautauqua Belle SteamboatMeeden Cyanotype BUFFALO Cyanotype, Buffalo, New York.BUFFALOCyanotype


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