Monday, May 18, 2009

Sepia Who?

Okay ~ there can still be found, those of us who started our photographic journey in a dark room. Hey there are even some who have taken a detour from the digital “light” room to find out what was so all fired mesmerizing about stumbling around in the dark with volatile chemicals in the first place!

Don’t get me wrong, digital is both fun and amazing, but it’s still nice to know where some things began, every now and then. So in the name of History…here is a brief note on where it began.

Sepia is derived from the Greek word for cuttlefish! And this is important because of this particular fish’s sac that produced a dark brown/red fluid that was used for ink by both the Romans and Greeks. An interesting aside ~ the fish that gave the world this wonderful liquid was found in what is now known as the English Channel.

Now don’t worry ~ I won’t go on about Alhazen; a great authority on optics in the Middle Ages (1000AD), and his invention of the Camera Obscura (that’s the pinhole camera you played around with, in fifth grade science). But rather ~ fast forward to the early eighteen hundreds and the discovery of practical photography. And right here and now I’d like to give a great big shout out to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; for its help with all the pesky details! 1837 ~ Louis Daguerre created the daguerreotype and that was the first image that was “fixed” and did not fade. It also needed a lot less than thirty minutes of light exposure!

And fading led us to the need for “toning” and the use of chemical toners to “fix” images, and that was where a very old product found yet another, more modern use.

In the old world of film cameras “Toning” is a process carried out on ‘silver-based’ black-and-white prints to change their color. Some toners can improve the stability of the print and allow it a longer life, while other toners can make the print less stable.

“Sepia toning preserves pictures because of a chemical process that turns any silver in the developing photograph into a sulfide. This sulfide is more resistant to aging than silver. (And further) Of a black and white photo developed at the same time as one treated with sepia toning (stored in identical conditions), the sepia tone photo would last longer than the black and white.”

Thus endeth the lesson!:-)

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