Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

Santa brought me… time for Carbon Print process!

with 8 comments

A carbon print from redeveloped wet plate negative.

A carbon print from redeveloped wet plate negative.

As topshit readers of my blog know, in November I was in George Eastman House, taking a course on Carbon Print process under mentorship of Mark Osterman and Nick Brandreth. Almost two months passed and I didn’t found time to do the process at home. Finally I found some time during these holidays.

Carbon print process is considered as the king of all printing processes ever invented. It has the highest tonality dynamic range and on top of that it’s permanent. It does not require developing or fixing. Just washing away unhardened gelatin. I will not go into details, WIKI is much more reliable source than me. What I will tell you is that at GEH museum I was inspecting carbon from year 1870 and they were still spectacular. Paper yellowed, but the print itself was in perfect condition (link). What I will tell you that most people practice carbon print from a film negative or from a digital negative, but the best medium is a collodion negative. It’s a perfect match.The best way of recording light (tonality and resolution wise) with the best way to print a negative.

As I’ve said only yesterday I’ve started preparing my tissue (a temporary support sheet coated with a layer of gelatin mixed with a pigment) and you must know one thing. Materials vary a lot. Like I couldn’t get sumi ink, so I bought black ink. It says Indian ink in English and under is a german translation: Chinesische Tusche. Chinese or Indian, who knows. The density of pigment in the tissue is very important. As we were warned on the workshop that the quantities written in a manual are just starting point. You have to make tests to see how materials are working in the constellation that happens to be in a darkroom.

So that explained I didn’t had high hopes that I’ll make something good. But in fact I’ve made my best print I ever printed! I’ve done tests and made a print that was not as contrasty as I’ve judged it could be. I had only one more sensitized tissue left, so I’ve looked first negative that was needed 3 minutes of exposure, checked the second redeveloped super contrasty negative and decided that I’ll try it out with 9 minutes. The exposure and the density of the negative were perfect for the tissue I’ve prepared, so here is the result. I’m super proud on it.

Now I have a treasure of knowledge in my hands. Thanks to Miša Keskenović I’ve learn wet plate collodion positive, thanks to Mark Osterman I’ve learned also wet plate collodion negative, salt, albumen and carbon printing and Jeroen de Wijs taught me how to do dry collodion negative. So now I feel like my hands are golden. With the knowledge I can and will move mountains! Ha! Topshit does happen, I tell you!


8 Responses

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  1. This looks great Borut. It seems I will follow your steps – to learn the carbon print. Exciting, indeed.


    26 December, 2013 at 11:06

  2. Great work!
    Did you expose a plate specifically for neg printing, that you redevolped further more, or can one use a standard cga and intensify it enough for neg printing?


    26 December, 2013 at 11:32

  3. Jan, my friend, you are welcomed! I will pull out my books on Sudek and we can start planning the project!

    Sidney, I don’t know what you mean by cga, but perhaps you’ve meant to ask me if I can intensify or redevelop a normal ambrotype. No, it’s impossible. Pyro developer and even iron developer will make collodion shrink and therefore peeling will occur. You need to sub the plate with albumen for start. Exposure is different, developing is different, everything is different, but you do use the same materials, just the receipts and percentages are different.

    Borut Peterlin

    26 December, 2013 at 11:46

  4. Thanks Borut!
    Yes, I meant intensifying a regular ambrotype (clear glass ambrotype = cga).
    It would have been to easy to get that working 😉
    I will learn the collodion neg making then.
    I have been printing carbon for some years (digital negs) and I manage it pretty well.



    26 December, 2013 at 12:17

  5. Great job Borut! Inspiring!

    Robert Rollings

    26 December, 2013 at 12:57

  6. Thank you Robert. I was very unsure if I’m doing it right, but then, the beginner’s luck and voila, the best print I ever made is here! Today I’m making more tissues 🙂

    Borut Peterlin

    26 December, 2013 at 20:06

  7. Great print!! It makes me wish to learn the collodion and carbon print process!! But…I’m an old painter, got to commit most of my time to painting. But I do steal a little time to make pinhole photos.


    28 December, 2013 at 07:27

  8. Thank you Bruce. I think I found my ideal medium for printing. This carbon is so amazing. Also albumen prints I really love. Not to mention classic B&W silver gelatin printing. But at the moment I’m in love with carbon. Wait, I’ve just started 😉

    Borut Peterlin

    29 December, 2013 at 21:40

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