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Re: my first salt prints
Let me take a stab at what happened. (This is going to be sort of long, so
hang on folks)
> I'm hoping to get some suggestion of why my first salt print today was a
failure. I'll outline the method I used >which was taken from "Alternative
Photographic Processes" by Randall Webb and Martin Reed (I've noticed >Mr.
Webb's postings on this list occasionally).
First, it is not a failure, it is a learning experience. You are running on
a pretty steep curve here, so hang in there.
>5x6 inch BKF Rives was salted with 2% ammonium chloride, the paper was
dunked for about five minutes. >After drying, I applied 5 ml of the silver
nitrate solution. (50 ml of dist. h2o + 12 g of silver nitrate) + (50 ml
> dist. water + 6 g of citric acid). The citric acid is just a preservative
supposedly. I spread a ribbon of the >solution and used a rod to draw it
across the paper. I drew it back twice more.
The above chemistry sounds okay, but your salting solution is too weak and
your silver nitrate is too strong. Also, I strongly suggest that you use a
gram or two of gelatine dissolved in the salting solution to keep it from
soaking too deeply into the paper. Try this formula:
water at 70 degrees F. 280mls
Gelatin 2 grams
Let stand for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to swell. Warm and stir the
solution mix until the gelatine in completely dissolved. Do not exceed 120
degress F. You will cook the gelatine.
To the still warm solution add 6 grams of ammonium chloride, and if possible
6 grams of sodium citrate.
Apply the solution to the face of the paper with a brush or coating rod. I
do not like tray salting, just too messy for me.
Next is your sensitizer....way to strong. What you are describing is about
a 24% solution. Anything over 15% is a waste of silver nitrate. The
"rocks" you mentioned is proof of this. The solution was getting too
saturated. Try this:
4 grams of silver nirate dissolved in 30 mls of water. You can add 0.3 mls
of a 20% citric acid solution. But the interesting fact is, if you used
distilled water...you really do not need it. I have a bottle of 15% silver
nitrate solution that I made two years ago sitting on the shelf in my
darkroom and it is just fine. Any sludge that falls out can easily be
filtered or decanted off. The sludge is just silver nitrate reacting with
stuff in the water, no big deal. No matter how pure the water is, you'll get
>I brought the contact frame >into the full sun of the afternoon and in a
moment the silver nitrate turned dark
>(along with my hands!) within 5 minutes i was checking it and finding a
very dark muddy print that looks >negative not positive. I left it out for
15 more minutes and the let it rest inside while I ran some errands. I
>fixed the print in hypo for 5 minutes and the purple color turned a deep
Okay you have several thing going on here. The first is that like I said
earlier, your silver nitrate solution was too strong. As you noticed, silver
nitrate will stain anything it touches...including skin. Wear gloves or
develop better working habits. It will wear off with washing. You can't
claim your a salt printer with those first stains.
You grossly over exposed your print. Most photgraphic materials if over
exposed enough will start to reverse tones. (the famous "Black Sun" pitures
come tomind) This is just a swag (scientific wild ass guess) is that because
your salt solution was weak, it did not convert enough of the silver nitrate
to silver chloride. So in effect, you were exposing raw silver nitrate to
the sun. Do that and you will have a muddy blotchy black mess.
The purple color turning red in the fixer is fine. That is what it is
supposed to do. You need to tone the print either before or after fixing. I
prefer before, less image bleaching. A simple gold chloride/borax toner is
what I recommend. I love the plum purple that can be had with it.
Here is the formula:
water at 100 degrees F 400ml
Borax 3 grams
dissolve the borax first, then add
6 mls of a 1% gold chloride solution. Tone the print until you reach the
color you want. With this toner, you can go a couple of minutes to half an
hour. The color will run from a neatral black to purple to a slate grey.
For the sake of completness here are the processing steps:
rinse in cool running water for two minutes, or until all the milkyness is
gone. You can tell by lifting the print by one corner and watching the run
pop into the fixer for as long as you wish with constant agitation.
rinse in plain water for two minutes. Change the water a couple of times.
Fix in a plain 10% hypo (sodium thiosulfate) bath for five minutes.
Wash in running water for twenty minutes. Lay face up on drying screens.
POOF! You have a salt print.
Now, for your negative. It is too low in contrast. For a good salt print,
you need a neg that is in the 2.5 to 3.0 range. You are at about 1.4.
(DMax 1.6 - Dmin .17= 1.43). Try doubling your ASA (if using 400 speed
film, expose at 200). Then double your developer time. This is a place to
start, you may need to tweak this more. Now some films do not respond well
to this and will cap the contrast much lower than you want. Sonce you
didn't mention what film/developer combination you were using, I can't offer
Hang in there, you'll get the hang of it.
>That's where I am now. I would love some of your opinions. Some errata:
>my silver nitrate solution has >pebbles floating in the bottom after only a
week. Also my negative had a dmax >of 1.6 and dmin of .17.
> Nicolas Block
> Putney, Vermont