Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I have been very buy recently with life, travel and family visits but as things slow down and we take a planned hiatus from travel I have been finding the time to work on several projects. I am starting a class tonight which focuses on goal setting and marketing my art work. To prepare for this I have been scanning my Orchid series which are 16" x 20" color photograms that I made in the darkroom last year. It is quite a feat since my scanner is 8.5" x 11"! My first goal is to find a venue for this work. I am also working two business proposals one for a commercial photography business and the other a non-profit community design center. There is a lot of research involved in both of these endeavors and both would require a lot of hard work to pull off, so ultimately I will have to choose one path to pursue. For now though, I want to see how viable each option is in this location and in this economy. I am excited to delve into these ideas and to see what comes of my inquiries. I am sure I will meet all sorts of interesting people along the way.

The Polaroid project is on hold for a little while as the film is expensive and we are trying to cut down on spending. I will however post the remainder of the tutorial one of these days!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Polaroid Transfer and Emulsion Lift Tutorial Part 2

The Polaroid Emulsion Lift Process
To prepare for an emulsion lift, a Polaroid print must be created 24 hours before the lift is to be made so as to allow the emulsion time to harden. To begin the process the chosen slide should be placed in the viewer on the Instant Slide Printer and the machine turned on.
Align chosen slide

The area of the slide lit up by the viewer will be the area that prints. There is a slider tab to the right of the viewer which shifts the slide position. Once the slide is aligned properly, insert it into the slot above the viewer. The image exposure can be adjusted by the slider to the right of the viewer. Normal exposure is indicated by the line 3rd from the bottom. Exposure will vary from image to image and depends on aesthetic preferences. I have found that for emulsion lifts I often prefer a print that is a little darker than the original; in this case the exposure setting should be moved down one notch from the normal setting.
Slide is placed in slot, exposure is set and ready light is on

It is now time to expose the film: check to set that the ready light is on, then press the print button which triggers a flash exposure. Now the film must be pulled out; the number tab gets pulled first and then the tab with arrows must be pulled out in a straight and steady motion. It is with this second pull that the film goes through the rollers which break the chemistry pouch and spread the chemistry across the print.
First pull number tab straight out, then carefully and steadily pull
arrow tab straight out without pausing

At room temperature the development time is 60 seconds. Using a stop watch to keep track of the time, pull the film apart after 60 seconds.
The negative can be discarded and the positive print put aside to dry until the next day. After 24 hours have passed the emulsion has hardened enough to withstand high temperature water. Place water in a kettle and bring it to a boil.

Me in electric kettle...Hi!

While the water is warming, the white borders around the print should be cut off unless these borders are desired in the final print. Pour the hot water into a tray and soak the Polaroid print in it for 2-4 minutes or until the emulsion begins to separate from the paper backing.

Emulsion lifting away from backing

Using a spatula or similar tool, move the Polaroid to a tray of warm water and carefully remove the emulsion from the paper. If clear gelatin adheres to the emulsion use your fingers to carefully remove it. Transfer the emulsion to a clean tray of water. Unfold and orient the emulsion, then slip a piece of watercolor or printmaking paper underneath the emulsion and lift it out. The emulsion can be played with using fingers or q-tips. If the emulsion get too distorted, place the paper back in the water and reconfigure. Once the image looks good place the watercolor paper on some blotting paper. Take a wet brayer and lightly roll over the image to remove air bubbles and adhere the emulsion to the paper. If the emulsion sticks to the brayer (usually b/c it is dry), just remove it in the water and start again! Let the print sit on the blotting paper until it is dry. Once the image is thoroughly dry it can be sprayed with a UV resistant print guard.
Emulsion lifts are a great way to get started with Polaroid transfers as they are considerably easier and the results far more consistent than with the image transfer process. However, the lovely muted colors and the soft watercolor feel of the image transfers tempt most Polaroid users to try and to attempt to master this process as well. In part 3 I will provide full instructions for the more finicky Polaroid Image Transfer process.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Creation and Motivation

I recently joined a camera club here in Orlando and I attended my first competition last. It seems like a really interesting group with diverse talents and knowledge. I am planning to use the competitions as motivation to shoot new things and ideas each month: this month's theme was colored glass. The only colored glass I own is a red hummingbird feeder, a housewarming gift from Ian's mother, so that was my starting point. I submitted one of my first images to the competition since as always I waited too long to get started.

Image submitted: Good starting point but needs some work

I am still in the process of trying to get what I want from this image. I tried one where I took two different frames and merged them in Photoshop. I like the color in this image, but it feels a little too photoshopped for me.

Two frames merged in Photoshop

Then, I shot a set of double exposed images where I would use a blue light in one frame and a white light in the other. This resulted in a lot of color shifts in the shadows. Ian thought there was something still missing in these shots and that I should add some light to the birdhouse. I had done this with previous shots but was having trouble with too much spill light drowning out the desired shadows...so I guess I need to rethink the lighting a bit.

Double exposed image

Other ideas for changes include a new location/background for the projection, working to get a deeper blue cast to the light and playing around with the composition to get rid of the dead space in the upper right. Any thoughts or opinions?

FYI: I will post the second part of the tutorial tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Polaroid Transfer and Emulsion Lift Tutorial Part 1

Shooting Slides and Choosing a Process
Here it is, the long awaited (at least by Jessica) explanation of exactly what it is I was doing to create the daily Polaroids I had been posting a few months back and hope to start posting again soon. The first step is to shoot 35mm slides of the images to be made into Polaroid transfers and emulsion lifts.

My Canon AT-1 and 400 Sensia slide film

One thing to keep in mind when shooting slides for this purpose is that the format of the Polaroid film is different from that of the slide film. Thus, there will be cropping of the image in the conversion process. For this reason it is important to leave a little space on the sides of the image when shooting landscape style or the top and bottom of the image when shooting portrait style. For example, below is the original slide image on the left with darkened areas on the top and bottom representing the part of the image which will be cropped in the process. Next to it on the right is the emulsion lift made from that slide.

Once the slides are in hand, one must decide between two different processes: the transfer process or the emulsion lift process. This is an aesthetic decision, as each process creates a different look. Below is the same image created as an emulsion lift on the left and a transfer on the right. An emulsion lift retains much of the color and clarity of the original image and the emulsion can be moved and warped to create wrinkles and waves as seen in the sky below. A transfer results in a warmer and more muted color palette than the original and it often has a soft painterly quality. Once the aesthetic choice is made, the slide printer can be loaded with film and the corresponding process begins.

Loading the Polaroid Film
There are several Polaroid slide printing machines available, but for this tutorial I will describe the process using the Vivitar Instant Slide Printer.
Vivitar Instant Slide Printer

The best film for doing transfers and emulsion lifts using this machine is Polaroid 669.
Polaroid 669 Film

The rollers must be cleaned before loading the film. This can be done with lint free tissue and water if there is dried chemistry.
Clean rollers

The film should be handled from the side and placed into the machine with the window facing down toward the lens.
Window with black paper protecting the film

The white tabs should fit into a recessed area below the hinge for closing the hatch.
White tabs

Once the film has been loaded properly, the hatch can be closed.
Closing the hatch

The black paper can now be pulled out so that the film is ready to be exposed to light. There are 10 shots in this pack of film and the hatch should not be opened again until the last image has been pulled through the rollers.
Pull out the black paper

With this pack of film both emulsion lifts and transfers can be made. Before exposing each shot determine which process you want to use, then follow the appropriate set of instructions. I will provide detailed instructions for each process in Parts 2 & 3 of the tutorial.

Jumping Back In

It is so easy to fall out of step with a routine, and so difficult to jump back in. I had some serious momentum going with the Polaroid project before I fell ill but starting again has been a challenge. For one, the film has gone bad. But more than that, I had developed a system for making the transfers which I, in all my wisdom, did not write down. So, I am relearning the process as I go. I had started writing a tutorial of the Polaroid Transfer process a while back and it seems now would be the perfect time to finish, as I need a tutorial myself. So, this week I will give you my tutorial in three parts.

Rooftops in Bogota (expired film)