Chaff n’ wheat n’ pearls n’ swine n’ mixed metaphors n’ whatnot. AKA Editing

This isn’t really that attractive a topic to many people, but I really enjoy the process of editing. It could be because I have a gathering methodology of just wandering about and snaffling up whatever takes my fancy – I take a lot of really shite photos, every so often I stumble over a good one. Editing is also a bit like that, it’s an exploration.


Ominous signpost with a crow – it’s a metaphor… Actually if you look carefully it’s a sign for the loo – must photoshop that some time.

So after a year or three I have some reason to go through a set of my files – So I’ll let you in on a little secret, I take a lot of different photos… No really, I shoot everything from Ultra large format through to micro formats, Digital, film, plastic cameras, infrared, scanners, I’d love to get my hands on a thermal camera. But in this case I’ll talk about mobile phone pics. I take a lot of these, it’s probably the camera type I use most often. I have a particular penchant for an app called Vignette – it’s a bit like having a holga in your pocket (I’m sure there’s a joke in that somewhere).


It’s not always the ideal tool, but I pretty much always have my phone handy – the helicopter was shaking water off the cherries so as they could be picked and to stop the skins from splitting. Serious business. Cellphone shots of things in the distance often don’t work.


Big things in the distance on the other hand. Havelock in the Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand – it’s acceptably pretty I guess.


Random Raptors.


And things which probably only amuse me – I love this sign Smile

Anyhow – Editing…


I’m aware that these are film…


and I was talking about cellphones…


and there’s no segue from cellphones to film, but this is where my methodology comes from. I like to see prints.


And clunk, back to cellphones – those ‘contact sheets’ on the wall go round three walls by the way & and you can see a second select on the floor where I can walk around on them and kick them about into different patterns – I need to move things and see patterns.

I also use video for the same thing – I make a video from stills and play it at five frames a second – which is just enough for me to gain an impression, but not long enough to ‘look’. It’s interesting how peoples brains work – these methods will be great for a few people, but for many more people they will not work at all, each person is different – you have to try things till something resonates.

Through these methods of selecting, and kicking things around into different patterns I make selections and suchlike – it’s a process of exploration as much as elimination – the irony is that the stand alone images which I really like seldom make it through this stage, they might be nice images, but the don’t play nice with others.

One day I’ll find a use for this image… My favorite chippie in the west end of Brisbane. (Georges).



I’ve been playing a fair bit recently with different ideas and antique processes. In large part because I’ve no access to running water in my current studio space, thus my re-visiting physautotype. It’s a nice process for me in that it doesn’t require water at all, and it’s really not terribly sensitive to light (I also have no capacity to black out my space during the day, closing the curtains and working quickly is sufficient ).


This was a bad pour, the imafe is from a lith negative I had lying about. It was very thin, it seems that physautotype likes thin negs.


This is from my digital infrared series, I finally found an output from these files that I like.


This was a test exposure, it gives you a decent idea of what the plate looks like without any special holder. There’s a lot of detail there when it’s displayed correctly.

So the next step is re-jigging my negatives to be a bit thinner, which should preserve the shadow detail.

I’ve also been playing with an idea about dageurrotypes.IMG_20160322_155900

This is as far as I’ve gotten, not so special really. But in this case I’m trying to use cheap silver plated flatware and I’m using iodophor steriliser with a wet treatment to create the sensitive plate, so even this level of success is pretty surprising.

It’s not something I expect to work out very quickly, but it is fairly cheap to do.


Physautotype… again.

So I’ve started working with physautotype again. right now I’m gettting some decent results, not quite perfect, but it’s starting to happen.


These are made with one gram of violin rosin which is crushed to powder, then heated till liquid, cooled, crushed to powder again and added to 100ml of ethanol alcohol. (I’m using purple meths, seems to work fine).

This solution is put to the glass plate with a syringe (the glass plate held level on the fingertips of the opposite hand), the solution is swished around till it covers the whole glass plate, then swished around some more before it’s poured off the corner.

After the plate is poured off and stops dripping I turn the plate by 90 degrees so the next corner is down (the plate being held vertically at this point) and I use a paper towel to mop the bottom two edges of the plate till no more solution beads at the edge (note; the edge, not the surface of the plate).

Soon after this the plate will pass from transparent to a light frosted look, when this light frost covers the whole plate (it can be sped a little by fanning or lightly blowing on the plate) the plate is put down and over the next few minutes a secondary frost will occur. If the coating is uneven or the glass wasnt clean it will be obvious.

I’m using overhead transparencies for the negative (it’s direct positive, so the negative is actually a positive), which seems to work, though I still have a little work to do there, I give it three hours under a nail polish setter and then develop using mineral turpentine fumes.

The mineral turps fumes incidentally don’t need to be concentrated, I put a small splash on some black card in a pyrex dish and that’s enough to last a few days, if you can smell it then it’s probably strong enough.

Then leave it somewhere that it can air and get some sun, and it’s fixed. hold in front of a black surface and the image will show up nicely.

More later…


A book I made as a test;

The cover looks a wee bit greener in real life.

Some of my photographic subjects (vandyke pics) piled to the side
Some cyanotypes – which are a headache to mount

Another. – Yup, the blue ones are taxidermied.

Vandykes of wee plastic animals.

Tempera print of a fishing lure.

And a gum print of a model tiger.

I made that as a test to see how people reacted to a particular set of ideas – and discovered that I’m on the right track, but with a few caveats – for one, people devalue regular binding, even hand made – probably because they can pick up something that looks (superficially – but who can see past that these days?) similar for a few dollars from a discount store.

Also how much hand can be visible, and what the aesthetics should look like – As a result I’ll go more towards something like this;

The spine looks like;

This was also a test, just using some ply I pulled out of a skip bin (dumpster) and some heavy glossy card stock I hadn’t found a use for yet – bound with linen thread.

The covers are ok, need a bit of sanding and some sort of treatment Shellac or wax/oil – the thread needs to be much thicker – perhaps embroidery thread, and I’ll probably move to using Hahnemuhle bamboo for the paper stock as it’s cheap, decent quality, and is conceptually in line with the recycled covers – final piece prolly won’t have ply covers, but we shall see..

I might be making some sketch books like this – prolly with laser etched covers. I feel a squirrel rampant coming on.

Linocut printing – the bodgy way.

This isn’t a post about how to print linocut, it’s how I do it.

I’ll post some stuff about cutting linocuts in the next while, therefore it’ll be further up the page, makes sense no?

I design my stuff by hand generally, not cos it’s better or worse, but cos it makes me happy to make stuff with my hands, this following pic is one of the techniques that I haven’t seen anybody else using for some reason, it’s quite viable though, it’s using a dry erase marker and Q-Tips (they call them cotton buds here), on acetate (oht sheets).

I use white board markers a lot personally, i think they’re neat, and they’re easier and cheaper to use and clean up than permanent markers (handy for making notes on windows too).here the frame is drawn in on the other side of the sheet with a vivid (permanent marker) and then I’ve just drawn and re-drawn till I have something I like – white board marker draws black, Q-Tip draws white.

I do sorta plan stuff sometimes, here’s the page from a sketchbook where i was thinking about the images.

It doesn’t look much like the above does it, not that that matters, cos I transferred the design by hand anyhow, so it changed again when I cut it. That was really an aside, but i had the photos handy, I’ll go over design again when i ramble about cutting lino, to come.

Now assuming we have a cut lino block, I’ve been using stuff that’s not mounted on a block, I’ll be switching to type high some time soon for reasons of convenience when registering (got to make the dies and tools first).

Now, inking – again, I’ll actually make a whole post on this topic, so I won’t go into it here, that might sound odd, but the inking is probably the single most important part of getting a good print, which I don’t have here as I was being all slapdash about it.

This is kinda funny cos it’s so bad, I was proofing at the time, the ink isn’t rolled out properly, and the print is weak, but this is enough for me to see what to do as I’m cutting a block – the cutting tool is the red thing to the upper left, I use a draw blade in it, either that or a No15 surgical scalpel, at this point I’m using oil based ink for proofing (I used water based for the final prints), the oil stays liquid longer, thus meaning that I don’t have to clean the block and wait to keep cutting – this is a very messy process for me, but then, I was raised by wolves, so what can you expect.

The roller is a cheap hard one, which is ideal for this medium, the ink only stays on the raised parts, a soft roller it goes over the edges. At this point I’m actually printing into a sketchbook bar a few tests (as above). You can see something of the iteration of a design here;

oily ink smudges, worn out black nail polish, and terrible handwriting, raised by wolves, remember? This design didn’t really work so well, and I’m stll only semi-happy with it. So anyhow – getting a print onto paper – what this post is supposedly about, cos it’s not about anything to date;

The board thingee that I’ve taped my bit of paper for layout to is actually a bookbinding tool, it’s just a really convenient size and shape for this task. It’s a bookbinding press for binding perfect (glue) bound books – the bottom bar lines stuff up, and the side bar clamps the book to be bound in place, anyhow I digress.

On the paper I’ve drawn the outline of the sheet of paper and then taped a piece of lino in so that it’s edge lines up with the fold in the paper (convenient measurement, no?) –  The lino provides the height to line stuff up accurately, when it’s lined up I press the paper down onto the inked lino block you can see there, and pop a wooden block lined with felt on top;

Like so – the bottom side is lined with the felt – then;

I stomp on it, bounce up and down, move my foot about, and generally carry on like a muppet till I’m quite assured that it’s the ink has stuck nicely to the paper – if proofing this tends to be enough, otherwise I use a burnisher.

Ok, so it’s a plastic imitation bone paper folding tool, but it’s the intent than counts, plus this is actually easier to use than any other burnisher I can afford (I found it in the street).

After that I remove the paper from the block and i have a print – sadly all I have to show for my troubles here is one of the test prints;

this is one place that being somewhat dyslexic is actually a boon, I can read and write at backwards (mirrored) a considerable fraction of the speed that I can write and read normally, thus writing stuff mirrored is no big deal to me.

Rolling out the ink, inking the block, pressing it to the paper (burnishing), and the removal of the paper from the block are the central skills here, burnishing probably being the easiest and least important (it’s terribly important, but if you don’t get how to remove the paper you’ll never get a good print – there are machines for pressing, not for rolling out ink or removing the finished print).

Slightly better print, but still pretty crap really – I decided on my last project to let the quality go and let the faults in iteration be part of the work, doesn’t look so good when i’m trying to explain why, oh well.

Making a light tent.

A light tent essentially spreads light out so that it is soft and diffused thus eliminating shadows and making it easier to see detail, this can be taken to quite extreme levels as you probably see in studio shots of products, or it can be a fairly basic effect (like most of my camera shots).

Clear, easily interpreted photographs are pretty necessary (or at least a very good idea) if one wants to sell small objects online (like in auctions), A good photo makes an enormous difference when selling items – Blah blah blah. Anybody who’s studied photography at all has heard all of this stuff before. Here’s how to make one with a cardboard box and some sheets.

Take one cardboard box and paint the inside with white paint and then let dry. I’ve just painted the corners as I’m going to cut out the panels where the diffuser screens will go.

Cut out panels on both sides (also top and other sides if you want more options). I added the side diffuser panels before taking the next photo, but it’s pretty easy to see whats happening.

Attach white sheets, tracing paper, translucent fabric, or as I’m using, frosted mylar over the cut out panels, this will be your diffuser, which will spread the light out evenly – you may need to brace the edges. In the next image you can see how the diffuser creates soft light inside the box, after this I just added the top panel of diffuser (not needed generally), and set up the lights.

I’m using strobes (flashes) in the next images but the same lighting effect can be achieved with a couple of matched bedside lamps, the reason I’m using flashes is cos they’re much more powerful, I had them handy, but also just cos I can and it’s neat to geek out.

(Yes, the one on the right is sticky taped in place, in fact the flash rig is made from a couple of old mouse cords and some hotshoes pulled off plastic cameras, all soldered and duct taped together by yours truly, works a treat).

In the above show you can probably (just) make out the sheet of card inside the light box (it’s properly a light tent). This is called a cyclorama (well a big one in a studio is, this version I’m using is more properly called a bit of card, but I digress), it’s function is to give a seamless featureless background, this can be white, black, or any other colour you wish for. Light works better for photographing dark objects, and vice versa.

In the above shot you can see how the cyc works in the background, the lights here haven’t been fully worked out, the get them better balanced I’d move the left hand light closer and lower whilst retaining the position of the right hand one, and maybe moving the camera itself an inch or two to the right. Moving the lights closer or further away obviously adjusts the light intensity and moving them around in relation to the object being photographed will adjust where the highlights and shadows are placed. Without any diffuser the shadows will pretty much do as they do in the next frame.

Blown out highlights and wierd shadows al over the shop, but with the diffusers they are much more controllable and softer, as in the following image which unlike the rest of the images here has been digitally edited slightly for clarity – just auto levels, it doesn’t need much when you get the lights right.

You can use a bunch of other techniques here to reflect or soak up light, a white object will bounce light (as will tinfoil or anything else that’s shiny), and a black surface will soak up light – A coloured sheet will bounce coloured light. Moving one light twice as far away will reduce the light intensity to one quarter from that side (inverse square law), thus the effects of light or shadow can be manipulated considerably within the constraints of the light box.

All in all not too shabby really, considering that the whole thing cost me maybe 50 cents in paint – all other materials scavenged or dumpster diven.

Sidenote; In the shot with the bedside lamp above the light is very strongly orange, this is quite avoidable, and not an issue if you wish to use lamps for lighting instead of flashes – all you need to do is to set the white balance on your camera to custom and take a white balance reading from a white surface (sheet of paper) within the light box.

However the thing that will be an issue is the need for a tripod – in realistic terms to get hand holdable shutter speeds with hot (continuous) light sources you’d need something like 500-1000W of light on either side, which gets uncomfortably hot really fast and isn’t entirely safe in a confined space (fire risk). With a more normal lamp at 50-60W you may need a shutter speed of a second or more, hence my saying that a tripod is necessary. it’s also a good idea to use the self timer to avoid jolting the camera as it operates.