A view of West Texas

This past summer my family and I had the chance to drive down to Texas to visit family that had recently moved there. Let me tell you, that is a significant drive. I mean, we knew it was about 30 hours going in, but that is a lot of country to drive across. But at the same time, it’s a pretty incredible drive to experience all those places and think about all those potential opportunities…

Well, enough about that, we were headed to West Texas, specifically, Alpine, Texas. It is situated about an hour North of Big Bend National Park and is home to Sul Ross University. I gotta tell you, after driving for about 8 hours west through Texas, we were not feeling much hope for the scenic possibilities of the state. Then suddenly, we hit mountains, left the oil rigs behind, and we knew we’d be in for a visual treat for the remainder of our stay.

This trip was a vacation, not a residency like several previous trips, so I definitely didn’t devote as much time to photography. But we still did a lot of exploring, even if a lot of that was not during photography-friendly lighting times. So, below are the images I came away with that I felt represented our visit well. I don’t really know if I have a plan for these yet, but I’m happy with them and I hope they find a purpose.

Chlorophyll Printing with Handlettering: an alternative photography mashup

I’m all about getting people easy access to photography and getting them quick wins in terms of making simple projects that look great. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, then you’re in the right place. The Chlorophyll Process in alternative photography is accessible to anyone that can get their hands on some greenery, and simple enough to understand, that even children can participate. I’ve also decided to pair it with a text-based project in the form of hand lettering, which might help to remove any intimidation from traditional photography rules.

A quick rundown

In it’s simplest form, the chlorophyll process is a bleaching process. A leaf is placed outside in the sun and an object (in our case, a printed word on a transparency) is placed on top. Anywhere that is exposed to the sun is bleached over time, while anywhere that was covered is not affected. The one caveat is that it does take time: at least several hours to potentially several days, depending on your geographic location and the time of year.

I’ve been wanting to try this process for a while, and I’m happy that I finally got around to it. It’s still very much an experimental process for me, and I’d probably need to make about 100 more prints before I feel completely comfortable. Still, I thought what I learned in the process could be helpful to you as your starting.

And now, the video

If you’d like to get the rest of the videos in this course, head over to my Skillshare page. Skillshare is an awesome platform that I personally have used to learn all sorts of things. They run great deals for your first 3 months of membership, during which you have access to thousands of great videos on a wide range of creative topics, including mine. If you’re at all interested in continuing to learn and grow as a creative, this platform is well worth being a part of. And who knows, maybe you’ll get inspired to teach your own class someday.
So, head over to the rest of the course, and make something awesome!


Cyanotype 102: Mixing Your Own Chemicals

Hello there, you’re probably here because you want to learn more about alternative photography and specifically cyanotype. There is a ton of great free information out there on photographic alt processes, but often it is so much it can feel overwhelming. That’s why I’ve created a series of classes aimed at getting a beginner up and running in the cyanotype medium.

As you can see, this is cyanotype 102. If you want the absolute basics, I’d recommend going to my post, Cyanotype 101. There you’ll learn the foundations of cyanotype as well as how to use pre-coated cyanotype papers to make your first cyanotypes. In this class, we’ll take things to the next level and learn how to actually mix your own paper and hand coat your own papers.

And why would you want to do that?

Well, to a certain degree it is personal preference, but many people would also say it opens up possibilities artistically. Ultimately, mixing your own chemistry and providing your own paper gives you more control over the final aesthetic, and ultimately, control is what allows you to execute your artistic vision. So if you’re interested in alternative processes at all, I’d recommend mixing your own to get the full effect of the medium.

On to the video!


If you want to continue this course, the rest of the videos are available through Skillshare. If you’ve never heard of it, Skillshare is a video course platform aimed especially at creative projects. I now have several courses available and plan to continue adding more. With every class, I offer you can post the project you were able to make as a result. I’d love to see your cyanotype work and help you improve your skills as an alternative photographer.

To continue on to the rest of the class, click here.

Advanced Cyanotype Class

I’ve just completed another Skillshare class. Cyanotype 103: printing from a digital negative is the last class in my cyanotype foundations series. Together they lay the groundwork for someone to understand how the process works and make their own prints using either pre-coated paper or mixing and coating their own chemicals. With the addition of this most recent class, they are now also prepared for either photogram style prints or actual photographic prints from printed digital negatives.

A cyanotype print from an image I took during my Catoctin residency.

One of the other other important skills introduced in this class is how to make a test print. Understanding how test prints work allow you to really refine your exposures and make it possible to have very consistent results.

Test Print at 1 minute intervals

Next on my list of classes is how to make and use paper negatives with cyanotype and also a little bit of a deeper dive into how to really perfect your digital negative so that your final print is as good as it can be.

So, if you haven’t checked out my classes yet, now is a great time. If you sign up through one of my links you get 2 months access to the entire library of classes for FREE! Go learn a new skill.

Check it out

Back at the Helm

Well, I’m waist deep in teaching once again. This semester I’m only teaching 3 courses (the last few I’ve had 5 or 6) so I’m really hoping to spend some time on some other projects. But all in all, it’s good to be back in the classroom, both physical and digital. I’ve also just completed transitioning a physical course over to an online platform. The class is History of Photography, which I’ve taught in person before, but this process of converting it to purely digital gave me the chance to re-evaluate all the content and exercises. I’m especially happy that through reworking it, I’ve been able to add a little bit of actual photography in. It would seem a little sad to spend a whole semester talking about photography without any of them actually snapping a shutter. Since a large portion of the class is spent in the early history, I’m focusing on very early processes of Anthotype, Chlorophyll Prints, and Cyanotype. Those three process are perfect introductions to the principles of light sensitive photography, which most of my students have never experienced (should I feel old?).

I do plan on investing a little more time in teaching my Skillshare classes this semester. They’ve gotten off to a slow, but steady pace, and I’m encourage enough to add to my selection of classes. Right now I’m planning my next 4 classes which will be on cyanotype and anthotype.

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And last, a side project which you may not be aware of. For the past many years I’ve dabbled in board game design. I’ve prototyped a few of my designs and played them with family, but I’ve never put in the required time to finish them off. You may remember that  a couple years ago I made a card game called Park Trails. Anyway, over the past few years I’ve continued to dabble and even fill a notebook with ideas and designs, but now I’m starting to take next steps: prototyping, play testing, designing and printing. I’m not sure exactly where this will lead, but I love the process and I’m looking forward to the journey. If you want to follow along, you can find me on Instagram @circlecanoe

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Delivered to You

As with most things in life, finishing up my Catoctin ebook took a little longer than expected. But now, I am happy to say that it is available through the Amazon Kindle store! I’m always amazed at how these books turn out. It has been such a helpful project for me to process my experiences over the years. Oh, and if you have Kindle unlimited, it’s yours for free, so check it out!

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And for those of you who have been following me for a while and are on my email list, I’ll be sending you a free copy of this ebook soon. How do you get on this list, you may ask? Just head to benpanter.com and subscribe to the monthly newsletter by putting in your email. It’s as simple as that.

So that took longer than planned, but the good news is that in the process, I was able to get my print store up and running. I have prints of my final 12 images from Catoctin available to purchase at several sizes, from 8×12 to 24×36 inches.

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Getting this store set up was an adventure in frustration all on its own. I had only recently started using Crated.com as my print store after my last residency. I go to log in to upload my Catoctin images and find out they have since shut down with very little warning! So I searched and searched and searched some more for another high quality print fulfillment service and online store…. and after many hours of finding dead ends I arrived at my current solution. I won’t say there aren’t quirks to it, but I think it will serve me well for the foreseeable future.

I’ve also been able to move over my Acadia Residency images to this new platform, so they are available for purchase as well. And soon, hopefully I will have Rocky Mountain, Toronto and Ireland images available as well. That is my fall goal. In the mean time, check out all the prints that are available. I’m really proud of them.

And of course, if you’re interested in seeing my work but don’t want to buy a print right now, just head over to my website and see my most recent work from Catoctin. Hopefully it will be enough to inspire a trip of your own to that park.

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Catoctin Ebook on the way

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been able to spend a little more time seriously compiling an ebook from all my Catoctin residency images. It is a pretty slow process for me, because I’m very interested in making reading it an insightful experience, not just a photo album. There is much more to it than just selecting the images (and that process alone takes a lot of debate and second-guessing).

This time around I pulled together all the images that I could potentially include and came up with 3 main categories for them to fit into. In this case, I found it was most straight-forward to divide them by primary subject matter: forest, stone and stream. Next I separate the images into those categories and begin to order them, specifically looking for good pairings of images that would make for an interesting spread. At this time I also experiment with different layouts of images on each page so that it feels balanced and leaves enough space.

Next on the agenda is final edits of images. All the photos have been processed so far, but most have not received that last little bit of attention that puts them over the top. So one by one I go through with fresh eyes and ask myself what could be improved or enhanced.

Finally, I get to the writing. Each category has a page of writing dedicated to it, explaining why those photos or that subject drew me, or maybe just sharing a story about some related experience. The intent is to give a bit of a window into how I think about the images to come. Also, depending on the image, I may add some specific details on individual pages.

Then of course come proof-reading and some final tweaks before it’s ready to make public.

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But in all honesty, I like the process. I wish I could devote more time to it than I am able to with life, work and family,  but the process itself is very beneficial to me. It helps me really think about the photos I took and what my experience was really about. It also allows me to spend a lot of time with my images which allows me to narrow down the ones I will fully develop and print.

So, I would say I’m about half way done right now, but I hope to be able to devote a little more time to it over the next week or so, so I feel like I’m about 2 weeks from completing it. And soon after I’ll be able to finish my prints and make them available through my Crated site.

Below are just a few screen shots of some spreads in process. I look forward to letting you see the full book.

I can teach you how to do Cyanotype in my Skillshare class!

I’ve recently begun teaching classes through Skillshare.com. If you’ve never heard of it, Skillshare is a video course platform aimed especially at creative projects. I’ve got several different series of classes planned, but the first I plan to develop fully is all about Cyanotype. In the series I’ll take someone from being an absolute beginner using pre-coated sun printing paper up through advanced techniques of large scale prints, creating digital negatives, toning finished prints, printing on multiple materials and mixing your own chemicals.

Cyanotype is my favorite alternative process because it has a very low bar of entry in terms of required materials (you expose it in the sun and develop it in regular tap water), it is very forgiving, and it can be used to create a very wide range of looks.


Skillshare does require a membership, but if you click on my referral link, you get 2 months for free. That means you can watch every class I’ve uploaded (2 right now and more soon to come) as well as over 10,000 other skillshare videos for free for the first 2 months. There are a huge range of topics, including art, design, craft, photography and beyond, for all skill levels.

One cool feature on every Skillshare class is that you are encouraged to upload your finished results for each project. So for my class, you can upload your finished cyanotype prints so I and the rest of my students can see your work and comment, give feedback and answer any questions you have. I’m really looking forward to what you make!



The Littlest Views of Catoctin

As I get a little more space after the residency I’ve been reflecting on my highs and lows, and what from the experience I will carry with me the most. One of those things I’ve found a little surprising. It isn’t the park itself, or my own photographic exploits. Rather, it is my 5 year old’s photography in the park. I knew that he would want to participate in photographing the park with me, so we brought an old smartphone specifically for that purpose.

At the beginning of the week he pretty much just took pictures of things I was taking pictures of. But by the end of the trip, he was finding photo opportunities on his own and it seems like he really was loving it. What a joy to watch. That’s not to say it didn’t grow tiresome at times, especially reviewing the photos afterwards. Like many of today’s smartphone photographers, where one photo would do, he took 30 or so. However, he really became proud of the photos he was taking.

And it wasn’t just random point and shoot. I guess through watching my process, after finding a suitable subject he would approach it from several angles, raising and lowering his camera until he got the framing just the way he wanted it. I think that process was especially neat to witness for me, because it is sometimes hard to attribute the same kind of talent or intent to a photograph as it is to a drawing. But through my observation of his methods, I have a much greater appreciation for the execution of his expression.

I look forward to letting him loose with a camera more often.

Below are some of his best photos. I did do a small amount of basic editing on these, the same that I would do to any digital photo that I planned to show, but the actual taking of the photo was all Jed. He chose the subjects and how he wanted to take the picture. Pretty impressive, right?


The Journey’s End – Saying Goodbye to Catoctin

And we’re back home! Another adventure is in the books and it is time to get back to our semi-normal lives. It has once again been an incredible experience of being able to slowly explore everything Catoctin Mountain Park has to offer. This time more that any other residency has literally been at a child’s pace the entire time, meaning we spent a lot of time contemplating the little wonders along each path. Hopefully my photos were imbued with some of that sense.

The last couple days of our stay were a little on the rainy side, so we had to pick and choose our outing around storms, but we still managed to get in a lot of fishing and photography. Below are some spots we encountered just a few hours before driving home. I was especially happy to find an unsuspecting fly fisherman trying his luck along the stream since that is what it has been especially reserved for.

And so now I enter editing mode, looking through all the shots I captured. Of course I’ll be looking for the stand out images I can turn into prints, but I’ll also be searching for a narrative thread around which I can begin to create a book about this park and my experience.