Much to the chagrin of Eastman Kodak, the world has moved on from chemical photography into the realm of digital, thanks to the ease of use and high quality of modern digital cameras. There are a few photographers here and there still using darkrooms and various chemical processes to develop film, and the most common of these use some type of chemistry based on silver to transfer images to paper. There are plenty of alternatives to silver, though, each with their unique style and benefits, like this rarely-used process that develops film using platinum.
This process, notable for its wide tonal range, delicate highlights, and rich blacks, produces only black and white photographs. But unlike its silver analog, it actually embeds the image into the paper itself rather than holding the image above the paper. This means that photographs developed in this manner are much more resilient and can last for much longer. There are some downsides to this method though, namely that it requires a large format camera and the negatives can’t be modified to produce various sized images in the same ways that other methods allow for. Still, the results of the method are striking for anyone who has seen one of these images in person.
As to why this method isn’t more common, [Matt Locke] describes a somewhat complicated history involving the use of platinum to create commercial fertilizers, which is an identical process to that of the creation of explosives, which were needed in great numbers at the same time this photographic method was gaining in popularity. While the amount of research and development that goes into creating weapons arguably generates some ancillary benefit for society, the effects of war can also serve to divert resources away from things like this.
In a time when cameras have been reduced to microchips, it’s ironic that the old view camera, with its bellows and black cloth draped over the viewscreen for focusing, endures as an icon for photography. Such technology appears dated and with no application in the modern world, but as [Ben Krasnow] shows us, an old view camera is just the thing when you want to make homemade microchips. (Video, embedded below.)
Granted, the photolithography process [Ben] demonstrates in the video below is quite a bit upstream from the creation of chips. But mastering the process on a larger scale is a step on the way. The idea is to create a high-resolution photograph of a pattern — [Ben] chose both a test pattern and, in a nod to the season, an IRS tax form — that can be used as a mask. The camera he chose is a 4×5 view camera, the kind with lens and film connected by adjustable bellows. He found that modifications were needed to keep the film fixed at the focal plane, so he added a vacuum port to the film pack to suck the film flat. Developing film has always been magical, and watching the latent images appear on the film under the red light of the darkroom really brings us back — we can practically smell the vinegary stop solution.
[Ben] also steps through the rest of the photolithography process — spin coating glass slides with photoresist, making a contact print of the negative under UV light, developing the print, and sputtering it with titanium. It’s a fascinating process, and the fact that [Ben] mentions both garage chip-maker [Sam Zeloof] and [Justin Atkin] from the Thought Emporium means that three of our favorite YouTube mad scientists are collaborating. The possibilities are endless.
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