Hand Coated Photography

Sedro Wolley Barn, Van Dyke Print
Sedro Wolley Barn, Van Dyke Print

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to take a workshop on some historical photo processes at pcnw.

You can check out a few of my scans on flickr.

We covered both Cyanotypes and Van Dyke.

For both of these processes you apply the chemicals necessary for photosensitivity by hand on paper.

I already like making photo prints by hand, and I think this lends even more to that process. As a 'modern' photographer, I hate to admit that I like even the visible brush marks, but I really do!


Sedro Wolley Barn, Cyanotype Print
Sedro Wolley Barn, Cyanotype Print

The cyanotype process is especially interesting to me. This was originally used for reproducing drawings, and is how blueprints got their names (they were cyanotypes).

There are also some incredible early images by Anna Atkins published in 1843 using cyanotypes for images of seaweed and algae.

Yes, the chemicals are toxic, but seemingly less-so than almost any other photo process?

The 'developer' is just plain water...

You don't even really need a darkroom for this process, just no UV light. And to develop, you can use the sun (though it may be unpredictable).

Exposures take a long time (20 minutes), but, that's par for the course here.

Once you coat the images, it's pretty smooth sailing.

Van Dyke

I honestly like the look of this process more than cyanotypes... But, it feels a little heavier. It requires a real fix, and thus an archival wash... It's more like making a silver print.

Future work

Even though I think my cyanotypes weren't especially successful, I feel like it is a process I really enjoyed and would like to explore more. The strong blues don't work everywhere (although you can modify the tone a bit with other bleaching/toning processes.)

Look for more here or on my photo site on that subject :).