cyabotype

Fun with Flowers

Lately I've been lacking inspiration for a new concept, so I decided to do what I always do in that situation; flick through one of my many photography books. In this case, my inspiration came from a book called, funnily enough, "The Photography Book". 

As I was going through, one shot stood out as one that seemed achievable to do at home, it was "Oriental Poppy" by Karl Blossfeldt. Also being passionate about design, this image, taken c.1920, intrigued me; it appeared reminiscent of the Art Nouveau movement of the time the image was taken. I really like the fine detail that the monochrome brings out, creating a seemingly minimalist composition that draws the eye to the tip of the poppy. 

© Karl Blossfeldt c.1920

After doing some research into Blossfeldt, I found out that he shot most of his images using a home made camera that magnifies its subject up to thirty times. Perhaps it was this idea of being able to take such beautiful photographs from something you could put together at home that motivated me to create my response to his work.

I soon found a flower which I thought would make a good subject to photograph, I then had to decide which medium to photograph it with, would it be medium format? This would give me the best image quality, but I had no film for it at the moment and it would restrict me to square format. Perhaps 35mm film then? This could work, I had film with me, but then I would have to get it developed and make prints - too slow. Digital it was then.

Using my Nikon D800 with a 24-70 f/2.8 lens on a tripod, I set my subject up, mounted to a lighting stand and placed it against a pale blue wall where I could get lots of natural light - I wanted to recreate the look Blossfeldt achieved, which seemed to be shot in a daylight studio. - and I began shooting.

I experimented with different focal lengths combined with different aperture values, in order to achieve my most favoured shot. After around half an hour of shooting, I packed up my gear and downloaded my images to photoshop.

From here, I slightly tweaked the contrast and clarity levels, converted the shot to monochrome and added a slight vignette.

© Oliver Spier 2015

© Oliver Spier 2015

Okay, so I've managed what I set out to do, I have created a shot reminiscent to Blossfeldt. But I still wasn't satisfied. The whole process felt too automated, I wanted to do something hands on. So I inverted my finished shots, flipped them horizontally and printed them onto some acetate at a 10x8 size; it was time to make a cyanotype.

I sensitised some A4 art paper with a solution of potassium ferrycyanide and ferric ammonium citrate, placed the digital negative on top sandwiched between two planes of glass and exposed each image under a UV lamp for around twenty minutes before washing them in a water bath and hanging them out to dry on the washing line.

© Oliver Spier 2015

© Oliver Spier 2015

Overall, I am very happy with the outcome of this first shoot, I think that by making a cyanotype, I have also created an archival product that I can enjoy, as opposed to something that would just sit on my hard drive and be forgotten.