Surf-Rider II – Cyanotype with Hydrogen Peroxide experiment

This is my second cyanotype using a digital negative and the second in a series of surfing photographs, Surf-Rider II. Which is all good for my learning curve for this interesting alternative photographic printing process. While using watercolors to augment my first of this series, Surf-Rider I, it was obvious to me that in this cyanotype that I had lost much if not all of the sky detail. One little thing that I have learned about cyanotypes is that the print will darker areas over time (about 24 hours) as the cyanotype chemicals oxidize, but that if you spray some Hydrogen Peroxide (3% concentration available from the drug store) on the print during the initial washing-fix, it really accelerates the oxidation process, almost instantaneously. And this chemical also increases the contrast as well, probably similar to moving up one paper grade (or more) if you were in a wet-darkroom making analog prints.

So my nerdy experiment is a science question; if the H. Peroxide does this to the print doing the initial wash-out, can I come back to a dried print a couple of days latter and add the H. Peroxide to the print to increase contrast? Especially since I can select a very small area to wet and add the H. Peroxide?

Short answer: No. Or at least I could not receive any changes to the print before and after the H. Peroxide treatment. Dang.

Btw, my first attempt to add back the sky was to increase the sky exposure by an extra minute to a base 12 minute exposure on a sunny day, essentially an attempt to ‘burn-in’ the sky. Regretfully a one minute extras exposure (my guesstimate) was not correct. I suspect that printing a cyanotype probably has an interesting log-exponential exposure curve, much like night photography with film and I probably needed to double that extra burn-in value. Of course, another and maybe better fix would be to create a new digital negative that had increased the tonal value for the sky, but I was interested in investigating other fixes and learn more about the cyanotype printing process. I still may do the later with a new digital negative for this image yet…

So my take away is that I will need to made a tonal value judgement during the wash-out cyanotype development as to whether to add a H. Peroxide treatment. The big issue for me is that it will probably be very difficult to make spot additions since the wet print will wick the H. Peroxide in places I may not want to effect, essentially a chemical control issue. Nevertheless, this intrigues my nerdy science side as a technical problem that I would like to solve. So more research is in oder!

Surf-Rider II, 8 x 10″ cyanotype image floated on a 11 x 14″ sheet of 100lb hot press watercolor rag. I still need to consider what edition size to make these in, nevertheless, each of these will be a very unique print. Let me know if you are interested and we can work out a deal.

Cheers & make every day an Earth Day



 The Flow of Light Brushes the Shadow, an artist book from Singular Images Press, Fall 2022 release, $60.00 (CA sales tax for those residing in the USA) plus shipping expenses. Message me or singularimagespress@gmail for shipping details and PayPal invoice.

Note: The Artist Special Edition (book + extra print) is Sold Out

Book workshop:

Southeast Center for Photography (SEC4P): Creative PhotoBook workshop, (Sold Out) a virtual event on Zoom; February 25, 26 & March 4 & 5th 2023; from 10am – 1 pm, EST (3 hour session each day, with a week between the weekend sessions to work your book-dummy). 


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