The Vandyke Brown Print

I became aware of the vandyke brown print process while browsing Wynn White’s Photography website in 2004.  The process was developed by Sir John Herschel in 1842 and is an iron-silver photographic process, the argentotype.  Today, vandyke prints are made on iron-silver photographic paper using a film negative.  Besides the rich browns this process produces,  prints can be made on any of number papers available to print-makers and watercolor painters.  The reader may guess, the process is named for the rich browns the Flemish painter Van Dyke used in his work.

What attracted me to White’s photographs was the rich brown tones rendered by the process.  In my naiveness about  the the digital process, I decided I would experiment developing a digital vandyke process.  This proved harder to accomplish than I initial thought.  The browns in my first image had a magenta cast.  By experimenting with tritone coloring,   The brows became darker and the magenta cast was not as pronounced but  I could never achieve the rich browns of the wet-print process and placed the idea aside.

Looking East from Federal Hill, Baltimore, MD - 2005 Camera Sony F828

I left the vandyke process and concentrated on developing better B&W digital images until January 2010.  Little did I know, I would visit vandyke again.

I caught I glimpse of  a railroad urban landscape while driving home after lunch with Mudgey at Hull Street Blues.  The next day, a Saturday, I arose early and decide to brave the bitter cold to walk to the location I saw the previous day.  The tripod malfunctioned on location.  Between dodging the yard engine and resisting the need to put my gloves back on, I squeezed off a few shots then walked home.  Before entering the house, I sealed the camera in a plastic bag to avoid condensation on and in the camera then prepared a splendid hot breakfast while the camera reached ambient conditions.  Processing  in PhotoShop followed my usually work-flow for converting RAW files to B&W.  As I worked with the image, I liked the image developing  on the screen.  Serendipitously, I added a brown color fill layer to the work-flow.  The result surprised me.  The additional layer produced the rich browns I attempted to achieve 5 years early.  The image was taken on Key Highway East near Domino Sugar looking south southwest.

Looking south from Key Highway East, Camera Sony Alfa 700

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    • Michael Bruckdorfer
    • February 2nd, 2010

    I can ony say you reach a level that is good as any.
    The people I show your work to all say wonderful …he needs to be published. Your value range of tone is like a painting of shapes …just squint your eyes & you are looking at perfect balance of forms the eye can move in & out of. The public waits for you ….let them view your work first hand.

    Keep the images comming…

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