Balazs Sprenc has managed to make cyanotypes – negative prints – by placing the paper directly into a Graflex Speed Graphic (4×5″) and a Russian wooden FKD (5×7″) camera.
Traditionally cyanotype prints supposed to be used to make positive prints from negatives. Once I found some pictures browsing the internet where cyanotype papers were used as paper negatives. They were exposed in the camera for hours, then the pictures were scanned and inverted (I believe that those cyanotypes were not washed, only exposed and scanned). I really liked the results and decided to give it a try too. I was also curious what happens after washing the in-camera cyanotypes. The first results were disappointing, although the pictures were exposed for 2-3 hours in bright sunlight, everything disappeared after washing the print.
After that I was experimenting with longer exposure times (6-10 hours) and chose the brightest natural subject available: the sun.
The second picture was taken with a Russian wooden camera. Starting at around 10 am the sun was shining so strong that the paper was burnt but fortunately the camera and the film holder survived the accident.
I also tried to take pictures of less bright subjects with much less success. In most of the cases I could see a picture before washing the cyanotype negative but it disappeared after the washing process or could hardly be recognized (picture #3-4).
Tips & tricks for making in-camera cyanotypes
I wouldn’t say I’m an expert of making in-camera cyanotype negative prints but I learned a few things during my experiments:
- try it only in very bright light conditions,
- use extremely long exposure times,
- use the widest aperture setting of your lens,
- look for high contrast subjects,
- scan your exposed cyanotype negative before washing because you might get only a blank picture after the washing process,
- try different papers,
- be very careful if you compose the sun’s path into your picture, it can burn your paper and you can easily damage your film holder (picture #5-6) or even your camera.
Summary of in-camera cyanotypes
In-camera cyanotype negative prints will most probably never become popular because:
- you need extremely long exposure times,
- results are quite unpredictable,
- negatives do not contain too many details,
- you can not make positive prints from cyanotype negatives (unless you scan and invert them using a computer).
Blueprint to cyanotypes – Exploring a historical alternative photographic process
by Malin Fabbri and Gary Fabbri
A well illustrated step-by-step guide to cyanotypes.
A lot more information on the process, chemicals, coating, exposure, printing, making negatives, washing and troubleshooting is available in this book.
Strongly recommended for beginners