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

Toning and Reward Prints

A cyanotype that has been toned with the “Eggplant/Black” method
Last night I was finally able to take the time to tone a few prints from the residency. I had the necessary supplies to attain a Black tone as well as Eggplant/Black. With a small test print I tested the Black toning first, and it really just washed out the tones too much (which should have been expected since toning always reduces print density). So, then I went on to the Eggplant/Black toning process and was much happier with the results. That said, one could be tempted to call this “brown” or maybe “rust” (though I have done actual brown toning before and the results are much different in comparison). At any rate, I’m pleased with the tone shift that took place despite it’s lack of eggplanty-ness, and I think the two tones of prints work well when seen together in a group.
I also am happy to announce that the 5×7 reward prints are selected and just waiting to be mailed first thing on Monday morning. If you’ve been following along you may remember that my plans changed a little from what I had originally proposed. I had wanted to do my best rendition of an Anna Atkins style series of water plant prints. However, upon arrival to Artscape Gibraltar Point I set out looking for these plants and came up more or less empty (there were plenty of lily pads, but I just couldn’t bring myself to make 40 prints of lily pads). Later in the week I actually did stumble across some more aquatic vegetation, but at that point time was against me since it would have taken a good amount of time to dry the plants (moister and sun-printing don’t mix).
So, I changed my plans and let myself be inspired by the place. Artscape has a wonderful series of semi-cultivated flower and food gardens, and so I resolved to make prints that came directly from that place. However, the typical practice of making these type of sun prints would be to cut the plant in order to make printing as easy as possible. It just seemed a little silly to me to"preserve" an image of these plants by killing them. So I settled on making a “no plants were injured in the making of these prints” series of cyanotypes. I was able to take my sensitized paper and little portable contact printing frames made and quickly bend the branch or stem down under the glass, make the print, and then release the plant unharmed. Working this way definitely presented its own series of problems to be worked through, but I’m very happy with the results. I hope they find a good place in the homes of my backers.


Today I got to work on some rewards for my wonderful kickstarter backers. I will be sending out about 32 5×7 cyanotype prints and today I was able to print about half of them. It was rainy and windy all morning, making printing impossible, but the afternoon cleared up beautifully and I got a lot done. Originally I had been hoping to make contact prints of aquatic plants, very similar to Anna Atkins, however it just couldn’t happen. First, the only readily available plant I’ve seen are lily pads (and I really don’t want to make that many prints of only lily pads). And second, the time is just too short to get the plants dry enough to print.
So instead I formulated another plan of attack, and I’m pretty happy about the results. More details to come.

The Details

Organizing oversized negatives in the print shop

Well, I’m in the final countdown for real now. Less than a week before I’m off on a wonderful and unfortunately quick adventure in which I will produce the beginnings of a new body of work in cyanotype. I really can’t wait to be up there at Artscape Gibraltar point in Toronto, making work, enjoying the space and place, and generally making the most of  my time there. I’m  happy that my wife and son are able to join me (which was a mandatory requirement for all the residencies we looked at) and very excited to be spending some time with my friend and former classmate, Meg Hine. We’ll be sharing a studio (just like the good ‘ol days in Ballyvaughan) and working on our own projects, but hopefully there will be some collaboration either during the residency or at least definitively planned. The opportunity is fantastic, and now I’m just laying the groundwork to make the most of it.

Printing oversized negatives

Part of my prep process is shooting, printing and preparing the negatives I will use. Over the past month I’ve been collecting my images and finally in the past week I was able to finalize my selection, and get the oversized negatives printed out (36×45 inches each). In the next day or two I need to oil the negatives to make them more transparent.

I also recently received my shipment of cyanotype coated fabric. I had ordered a 3 yard by 7 yard piece which I then cut into roughly 36×45 inch pieces. I need to hang them up for a few days to remove as many of the wrinkles as possible, but other than that they are ready to go. (As a side note, I was completely inspired by the size and relative cheapness of the giant piece of sensitized fabric I ordered! It really means that it is possible for a photographer to make original work at mural scale without going broke too quickly.)

Coating papers with cyanotype chemicals

I’ve also been working on getting prepared for all the rewards related to my kickstarter campaign I’ll be working on while in residence. I recently cut and coated all the 5×7 notecards I’ll be making prints on (they’re all drying in my bathroom right now). I’m very excited for all my plans, including the rewards.

And just a reminder, I do plan on posting several times on this blog during the residency, so please follow along to get a feel for my experience.

And as a final note, I’m wondering what my wife, Meg and I should read/listen to/discus on the way up and back. Any suggestions?

Kickstarter Thanks: Round 3

It’s been another incredible week for my Kickstarter campaign. We are now officially at 172% funding with $1,035 raised and still another 7 days to go! Thank you so much. I never would have imagined all your support and now I’m actually hopeful that I’ll meet my second stretch goal of $1,200.

In this third “thank you” post I’d like to especially thank the following backers:

  • Sara Reid
  • Steven Landau
  • Marlys Schneider
  • Mandy Wax
  • Jim Diercks

Thank you all so much, your support means the world to me and makes this project more than just a dream. And thank you also to my earlier backers, I’m getting excited not only for the journey, but for the great things I’ll be creating for you while there.

As always, if you’ve got any friends you think would be interested in jumping on in support, send ‘em to my page,

Residency Final Installation

A few of the students checking out their work during installation.

The “My Dream, My Future” project is now officially complete. Earlier today I went into the school and installed the photo quilt in the main hallway of the school. The teachers I worked with, some of the students that were available during that period, as well as two of the organizers from the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts were all there, ooo-ing and aaahh-ing at the finished piece and picking out their favorites of the squares. I’m proud of what the students and I were able to accomplish together, and I look forward to doing another project in the future.

“My Dream, My Future” – ready for installation

“My Dream, My Future”
Gesso Transfers on Canvas, Marker, Embroidery floss; 9’x5.5’, 2014
Each square made by an individual 3rd-8th grader and assembled by Ben Panter

Despite my lack of expertise with a sewing machine and having never actually made a quilt before, I was able to construct this finished product from all the individual tiles made by 3rd through 8th graders. I am ecstatic over the final result. At the start of the process I was nervous about how it might turn out and how to control all the variables involved (elementary students… enough said). So I decided to focus on two things to put all my other decision making in perspective. First, I wanted to let the students explore with processes they otherwise may never experience, which I did with gesso image transfers and embroidery. Second, I wanted to give the students as much creative control as possible. After all, when this project is over and all that’s left of it is this quilt hanging on the wall, they don’t want it to be a reminder of me, it needs to be all about the students and their dreams, including all their quirks and beautiful irregularities. That meant a lot of letting go on my part, but at the end of the day it now completely resembles them. Looking at the finished piece I think it offers a wonderfully insightful glimpse into a child’s mind. They are so easily shaped by the environment and surrounding culture, and yet there is no limit to the potential of dreams .

Soon I will be installing the finished piece in the main hallway of the school where it will stay for the foreseeable future, however there is a chance that it will be displayed as a part of another arts event that is coming up. I’ll be sure to spread the word if that is the case.

Dreaming Big

I’m neck deep in quilting together the project from my residency in Camden (a combination of new technique and less-than-ideal materials are making for some slow work) Together, the images are looking really good, and I’m proud of how the final product is shaping up, as should all the students. But I also like the individual squares by themselves.  I pulled some of my favorites aside after the students had transferred their images but before they drew or sewed on them. At this stage they were still much more “photo-centric"and the play  between the student acting out a dream with the cloudy, distressed technique make for some beautiful moments. I thoroughly enjoy looking at these.

I hope you enjoyed them. I’m looking forward to the big reveal of the finished product hanging in the school.