by Gerald Boerner
Sabattier Effect (Wikipedia)
Solarisation is a phenomenon in photography in which the image recorded on a negative or on a photographic print is wholly or partially reversed in tone. Dark areas appear light or light areas appear dark. The term is synonymous with the Sabattier Effect when referring to negatives, but is technically incorrect when used to refer to prints.
The Sabattier effect
Initially, the term solarization was used to describe the effect observed in cases of extreme overexposure of the negative in the camera. The effect generated in the dark room was then called pseudo-solarization. This fine distinction is not made in the jargon of contemporary photography.
The effect was first described in print by H. de la Blanchere in 1859 in L’Art du Photographe. It was described again in 1860 by L.M. Rutherford and C.A. Seely, separately, in successive issues of The American Journal of Photography, and in the same year by Count Schouwaloff in the French publication Cosmos. The phenomenon should have been christened the Blanchere Effect, for it was not described by Sabattier until later in 1860 in Cosmos, and another paper published in 1862 in the Bulletin de Societé Francaise de Photographie.
The effect was usually caused by inadvertent severe over-exposure or occasionally by accidentally exposing an exposed plate or film to light before processing. Artist Man Ray perfected the technique which was accidentally discovered in his darkroom by his assistant Lee Miller. It is evident from publications in the 19th century that this phenomenon was invented very many times by many photographers as it tends to occur whenever a light is switched on inadvertently in the darkroom while a film or print is being developed.
In modern film photography, this effect can be emulated for artistic effect by briefly exposing the film to actinic light during chemical development. However, because of the speed of modern films, the effect is much more commonly seen in printing.
In solarization, not only are parts of the image reversed in tone but a thin line is generated around areas of contrasting tone, called a Mackie line. If the film negative is treated, the line is light, which produces a dark line in the print; when the print itself is processed it produces a white or light line around areas of high contrast. It is therefore always possible to determine whether the negative or print has been used to produce the solarisation effect.
In the darkroom
Careful choice of the amount of light used and the precise moment in development to provide the additional exposure gives rise to different outcomes. However, solarization is very difficult to manage to yield consistent results.
As a guide, an exposure of 1 second to a 25 Watt lamp at 2 metres distant at around the end of the first minute of a 2 minute development can produce acceptable results. If the exposure is made with the developing print still in the tray of developer, it is important to stop agitation at least 10 seconds prior to exposure to allow any bubbles on the surface to disperse and to ensure that the print is lying flat. Solarizing colour prints is more difficult because of the more careful control of temperature and timing that is required and because most amateur processing is undertaken in a processing drum rather than a dish.
In colour photography, different coloured lights can be used to effect solarisation, but the results become even less predictable.
It is possible to solarise a negative and subsequently solarise the print made from that negative. The results of such double solarisations are rarely successful, usually producing muddy and poorly defined images.
Solarization in digital media
Graphs describing solarization curves typically place input range of tones on the x axis, with black at 0 and white to the right, and the output range of tones on the y axis with black at 0 and white up. A curve then defines the input to output mapping.
Early video synthesizer technologists concerned themselves with achieving arbitrary curves not limited by film chemistry. A goal was to extend the range of solarization effects possible to a computer specified curve. They then applied the defined solarization curve to real time video images. A video lookup table was often used to implement this. Using this enhanced solarization technology, still photos could also be passed through a gray scale or color lookup table with the advantage that the effect could be previewed and progressively improved, instead of a procedure based on darkroom exposure calculations applied on a one time basis to a volatile light sensitive film or print, as described above. This was an especial advantage for creating color solarizations with 3 primary colors.
Sabattier Effect (Solarization)
Sabattier Effect or Solarization is a phenomenon in photography which includes recording of the image on a negative or on a photographic print, found to be wholly or partially reversed in tone. Dark areas appear light and the lighter side of the image appears to be darker. More specifically, the Sabattier Effect is generated in a dark room which is called pseudo-solarization.
The Sabattier Effect was discovered in 1862 by French photographer Armand Sabattier. The effect was caused by the unintentional and severe over-exposure and even sometimes accidentally exposing the exposed plate or film to light before processing.
Artist Man Ray worked more intrinsically on the solarization effect later with assistant Lee Miller. The phenomenon is a very common concern among 19th century photographers as it had a loud consequence. They proved that the Sabattier phenomenon tends to occur wherever and whenever there is light or more importantly in the darkroom during the course of transformation from negative to positive of a film.
In modern times, the Sabattier Effect was emulated in film photography to give an artistic touch in the print through its brief exposure to actinic light during chemical development. Nevertheless, solarization is a very commonly practice in printing business now.
Sabattier Effect not only includes reversed parts of images in terms of tone but also an occurrence of Mackie line. Mackie line is a thin line created around the areas of contrasting tone. Such a phenomenon helps to determine whether a film or print has been used to produce the solarization.
film solerization (not Sabattier)
I was reading this old book from the seventies about film and it mentioned solarization, and says that true solarization is different form Sabattier effect, which is mistakenly called solarization. Anyway, somebody else told me that solarization is extreme under exposure combined with extreme over development, which yields a crazy kind of transperancy. Can anybody explain solarization and give me some exposure and development times that I can use to start experimenting with.
If you can find a copy of the October issue of Shutterbug Magazine there is an article about solarization. If you follow the author’s instructions you can get some surprising effects.
True solarisation occurred with older films, where the characteristic curve dropped off after the shoulder. So if part of the subject gave that much exposure, the negative would be lighter (and the print, darker) than you would expect. From the word "solar" = "from the sun". There is an example in Ansel Adams, The Negative.
I have used a method of solarization that I obtained years ago from the Peterson Photo Magazines that were out then. Basically, this is what I do. Start with a weak paper developer, a very contrasty paper, I used to use Agfa 6, and find a proper exposure for the paper and then expose it about 50% less. Then treat the paper as if you were making a test strip, I remove the neg. and use the white light from the enlarger. Expose the ‘print’ to the white light for say, 3 second intervals. have a bunch say, 3 to 15 as in test strips. then put the paper in the developer with no agitation and you should see some solarization appearing. Keep it in for the whole minute, or 2 depending on whether you are using RC or Fiber paper. Then look at it under a white light. You will find various times of solarization, then choose one you like, i.e. exposed 9 seconds to white light.
Sabattier Effect is an interesting phenomenon in photography. This photography technique records an image on a negative or on a photographic print which is partially or completely reversed in tone and shade. In an image with Sabattier Effect, the light areas appear dark while the dark areas appear light. The term ‘Sabattier Effect’ in photography is synonymous with ‘Solarization’ but it applies only when it is referred to negatives.
How Sabattier Effect is caused
During processing, Sabattier Effect is caused when the film or the paper is exposed to light for a very short period. After the film or the paper gets exposed to the light, the half developed image which acts as a negative forms a new image which is known as Sabattier Effect. The image created through this technique is not very effectively prominent on black and white materials. It, however, gives out very prominent shades if created on color paper or material.
During the process of exposing the film to light, the unusual shades of a Sabattier print are produced from an amalgamation of effects. But an attempt to re-expose the print to light will have no effect on the dark areas as most of the crystals found have already been exposed and reduced to black silver in the course of the development process. The bright areas still have several sensitive crystals which react to the light.
As a result, the bright areas are converted into grey shades but they stay lighter than the shadows created. The by-products which are resulted from the earlier development and which are present between the light and dark areas slow down the process of further development. The border areas which stay lighted form the Mackie lines.
Materials needed for creating Sabattier Effect include:
- A negative of normal to high contrast
- Normal print processing chemicals
- Multi-contrast paper or high contrast paper