Experiments in Cyanotypes

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Visiting Bottega Antonio Manta in Montevarchi, Italy was, for me, a defining experience. Antonio and his small team hand-crafts Platino/Palladio prints for some of the leading photographers and museums. I instantly fell in love with the idea of hand-crafted images. In a way it is taking back photography to its roots, where every practitioner can manifest his or her own personal style. As soon as I was back in Doha, I started researching about hand-printed images.

I spent the weekend creating a Cyanotype image and the result is posted here. I did a few more runs using different papers but the first image seems to be the best yet! There are too many variables to control – mainly sunlight intensity,  exposure times and emulsion thickness.

I am now planning to build a UV contact print frame and continue the experiments under a more controlled environment.

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Florence Diaries. Day-2.

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Today morning I decided to take the short train trip to the nearby town of Arezzo, where Benigni had shot some of the landmark scenes for his film ‘Life is Beautiful’. It is a lovely little town.

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Italy is pigeon country. There are pigeons everywhere and nobody seems to be bothered. The pigeons don’t create a rukus here.

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The summer heat was a little better today but even then nothing like some tree cover for the high noon.

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Back to Santa Maria Novella and I paid a visit to a bakery we had been last time, a few years ago. Bought a bag of cantucci, a double-baked hard biscuit full of almonds. A must-try if you are visiting Italy.

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Also paid a visit to the spanking new Museo Novecento, the museum for modern art in Florence. Italy is still very much in love with the Renaissance and as a result modern art seems to have taken a back seat (at least through the eyes of the museums). There is a fantastic collection in Milan, right next to the Duomo, which displays a few Picasos. Other than that there is not much of a representation in Italy. The Museo Novecento tries to correct that mistake, at least for artists from Tuscany. The museum displays two pieces by Morandi, my favorite Italian modern artist. He has got a spartan minimalist approach. The two pieces differ by 10 years in age and the evolution of Morandi’s style is clear to see. Painting almost similar still life objects (cups and vessels) he has abandoned a meticulous shading style to a more modern broad-based style with limited tones. Despite the reduction in tones, his objects don’t seem to have lost any depth. In fact they appear to have more depth with well defined edges. Very subtle artist who needs all the attention to appreciate. These two pieces made my visit worthwhile for the day. And there are more from other artists.

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Sunset at the banks of the Arno, with a whole melodrama on the streets. A Chinese couple had flown all the way to Florence to shoot their wedding album. They could have chosen a more colorful month with a bit of fog for the wedding.

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There are no evenings without street performances in European cities.

First roll through my Zeiss Ikon ZM

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I ran a roll of expired Fuji Superia Reala 100 film through my Zeiss Ikon rangefinder. I shot using both my Zeiss Biogon 35/2 and the Leica Elmar-M 50/2.8. In a word, film still has a lot of life left in it.

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I was waiting for the signal to turn green and this old gentleman crossed the road paying no attention to the midday sun.

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One of my favorite coffee bar in Qatar, located right within the Nissan showroom on Salwa road. They make some great espresso. If you are in the market to pickup the retro-chic ‘Francis Francis’ espresso machine, they have one!

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I found this bush right next to the road. I have done another version of the same bush using my Fuji X-E1.

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Chained wheelbarrows, Doha, May 2013

This is my favorite so far of all my film shots. The smooth transition of the tones makes me coming back to this image.

There are a few things I understood.

1. I need to change the lab I use to process my films. Too many artifacts in the film, and very inconsistent.

2. I need a better scanner. The scans are not sharp enough. They look so much better on the negatives!!

The last image convinces me that film still reigns supreme (at least over the affordable digital kind).