Calotypes, finally!

My first calotype, a form of paper negative made on a translucent vellum. The exposure time was 2 minutes in bright afternoon sun at f/6.8.

After watching several workshops make calotypes – one of the earliest forms of photography – I finally got a chance to make that step back in time myself.

This is a scan of my first calotype (negative) which I have flipped and inverted in Photoshop. Eventually I’ll try to make a print straight from the vellum paper negative itself.

The process is a little slower and more tedious than some, and with vellum dripping wet with silver nitrate, a whole lot sloppier than most. First you have to iodize the vellum and let it dry. Then sensitize with silver nitrate and load into a (very silvery) plate holder.

My exposures at 4pm on a sunny day were around 2 to 2.5 minutes at f/6.8 (wide open on that particular lens), so it’s not really geared toward sports photography. I did manage to sit remarkably still, though, especially considering I was sitting upright without any back or neck support, right?

Then the sheet gets to sit in what turned out to be very murky developer for 15 minutes or so, some fixer, and finally a good long water wash.


The second one was a little less successful – the contamination in the developing tray that turned an inky black almost instantly at least masks the guesswork compositional issues.

dawson_calotype_02_b_1 dawson_calotype_02_b

So now I have some paper negatives ready to print in some other historically-accurate process like salted paper! Just like Mr. William Henry Fox Talbot himself…sorta…with some French and B. Hamilton influence.

Next on the photographic bucket list: daguerreotypes!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Dad

    Never knew you to sit still that long.

  2. ruth

    Seems like a lot of chemistry. Interesting.

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