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Tag: c is for

Staying blue

two types of cyanotype images on paper - one pale, washed out blue, the other a vibrant cyan blue

feeling a little blue

A bit of backyard science

A few weeks ago I was experimenting with a different sort of cyanotype – a digital image of an underground tunnel, printed on a clear transparency. I had captured the slow steps of someone moving through the low, dark space. I’d hoped to use it in a group ‘thing’. Unfortunately, it failed terribly. That is to say, the chemicals failed.

I’m used to photos not successfully translating to cyanotype, but this image seemed to have the right stuff. After waiting through a week of rain and sunless sky, I was at last able to set up. I painted my paper, watched for a longish moment of late-winter sunlight and exposed the cyanotype in the usual way. A raindrop or two got caught with the sun, but as it’s a ghostly and indistinct image, I figured it would be okay. It looked beautiful. I rinsed the paper and let the chemicals wash away… and with horror watched the lovely blue image wash away too. I had managed to produce a damp, wrinkled, blank piece of paper.

A couple of weeks later, when the sun reappeared, I tried again in the somewhat futile hope that I’d mixed the solutions incorrectly. But, no. That image washed away, even after a 40 minute exposure – longer than needed in Australia at that time of year. There was no more than a hint of an image.

It turns out that the unmixed liquid cyanotype solutions have an end shelf-life. The best information I could find was ‘it should last a few months’. I did my googling, as any good internet citizen would, but couldn’t spot anything more definitive.

In case you’re one of the few who want to know, I’d kept the two solutions in separate bottles in a dark cupboard for about six months. One week they were working pretty well. A few weeks later, not so much. Obviously, I’ve had to discard the solutions. New chemicals have been ordered and I await their blue-toned arrival.

Next time I prepare the solutions, I’ll put a date on the bottles and track what happens. I’ll do one test strip a month, and keep a record of the date and changing sunlight. I’m sure can get a better idea than ‘a few months’. Data, baby. That’s what I want. Data. Failure is okay, so long as you learn from it and try again.

And that, my friends, is my little bit of backyard science. Science in the sun. Cool, huh?

The gap in my bookshelf

a row of books on a bookshelfA tribute to Colleen McCullough

Last week saw the passing of a well-known Australian author, Colleen McCullough. Colleen was a neuroscientist, a researcher, and was responsible for one of the most popular Australian novels – The Thorn Birds.

The Thorn Birds was published in 1977. I can’t say for sure when I first read the book, but I know it was decades ago. It feels like the book has been in my life, one way or another, for a very long time.

The gap on my shelf is where that book should be.

I don’t know where it went. I have a lot of books and most of my books are double-stacked in the shelves. I’ve moved house a few times. I’m always willing to loan out my books, especially the old favourites.

I know how it looked. It was old, worn and tattered. As an author trying to earn a living from the sales of her books, I’m sure she would have preferred me to buy a new one. As a book-lover, that’s too bad. The old and tattered darlings always have a special place in your heart.

The book had been loved by my half of my family. It’s possible it’s with one of them now.

I can remember it and its story. I remember its shape and how it felt. I can also remember the moment I realised that authors could come from here.

I grew up reading all sorts of things and most of it was from the UK, the US and Europe.

I’d previously read Colin Thiele – you can see one of his books on my shelf. It isn’t Storm Boy. I long ago loaned that to someone who was passionate to read it. I think they still have it. That’s okay. So long as it’s loved.

But as much as I loved Storm Boy, I didn’t ever think about Colin Thiele the author. Not until much later.

Colleen McCullough – the author, the mind behind the fiction, the woman that wrote the words – was in my thoughts from the very last word in the book.

I doubt I can ever fully describe how I felt at that moment.

It took me years to realise I could write. I’ve always told stories. Always written them for myself. I know, without a doubt, that she was a solid step on my stony pathway to writing. It’s a pathway that never ends. Not while you’re still breathing.

And now that the world has lost such a fine mind, a novelist, a scientist, a local, and a woman with a way with words, I can only stare numbly at the gap in my bookshelf.

It wasn’t until she was gone, that I noticed what I was missing.

It is a void that can’t be filled.

Vale, Collen McCullough. And, thank you.

Morguefile – perhaps not quite what you think

This is the first brief article in the ‘pint-size’ post series, where I’ll be trying to keep it snappy.

Have you heard of the term ‘morgue file’ before?  If you have you’ve probably worked at a newspaper Cut to the chase:
an image resource, free for use in creative projects.
or in an archives department.  Or possibly even a morgue.  Don’t laugh. I’ve done that, so who is to say that you haven’t?

Originally, a morgue file meant a folder that held all the old notes, articles and other paraphernalia that criminal investigators and reporters kept.

In this case, however, I’m talking about all the source files of a creative project, digital or otherwise.  Let me introduce:

The morguefile contains photographs freely contributed by many artists to be used in creative projects …

What a wonderful notion – and resource.  And a quite different idea to the creative commons images available on Flickr.  Not heard of that?  Ah, well that’s one for the ideas box and a story for another day.  As is the reason I find so very, very useful.

The point is that if you are not wanting to maintain the original image, but radically – or slightly – alter it for your own design or educational needs, then this is the place for you.  On all of the images I’ve made use of so far, the license has been:

You are allowed to copy, distribute, transmit the work and to adapt the work. Attribution is not required. You are prohibited from using this work in a stand alone manner.

screenshot of the morgue file website

Morguefile: where photo reference lives, original by Alivmann

How can you not love that?  Not only are you encouraged to modify the image, but you are prohibited from using it stand alone.  Attribution is a nicety – and one I have done in this article, as I have only slightly modified the original.  When I’ve used an image and hugely distorted it from the original, I’ve left it unattributed. I’m sure the original author is grateful to me for that.

Go on.  What are you waiting for?  Open up the morgue file and get a little creative.

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