Urban/rural exploration has been a hobby that has given me much joy over the years. Both the historical aspect of it and the joy of taking pictures and documenting old ruins. Svalbard has many such places, and I thought it was a good idea to introduce them here. Maybe others will have an interest in visiting these places as well? Coles Bay is one of the abandoned settlement that is easiest to visit, and I thought to introduce it first.
What is it: Coles Bay area has a history of Norwegian trappers dating back to 19th century, but the buildings and ruins we see today stems from the Soviet mining operations that came later in the 20. century. Coles Bay and Grumant further north was linked by railways. Coles Bay had a good harbor and functioned as an export port for the Grumant settlement. Grumant and Coles Bay had a total of over 1,100 inhabitants at its peak in 1951-1952.
What to explore: In the area there are about 10 to 12 large and small buildings that are more or less intact. Several ruins can also be seen in the area. There are two ports in Coles Bay and at one of them lies a shipwreck half sunk. Traces of the old railway is seen north-west of town going toward Grumant. The old power plant and the graveyard is seen in easterly direction from the main buildings.
Condition: Most buildings have roofs intact but may have such a state that those are not recommended to enter. Some houses have locked doors and windows in good condition, while the other houses are open. Intrusion by force to closed buildings is not ok.
How to get there: You can travel to Coles Bay with either boat in the summer time or snowmobile in the winter time. Coles Bay has a good harbour and is a safe lie in. The trip from Longyearbyen by boat is approximately 25 kilometers one way. No liner go there ohwever regular tours go there in winter time. In winter you can travel with snowmobile over the mountains near Longyearbyen and down Colesdalen. Also about 25 km one way. It is recommended to travel with a local guide to get to Coles Bay. Hiking between Longyearbyen and Coles Bay is not recommended. At least not for people without mountain experience.
“Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints” Is a good rule to follow. These places exist because there was activity in the area and the facilities and location served people a purpose. Today they are a memory of a bygone era. Let us not destroy them or affect them in any way with today’s activity. Be careful.
I have done another toning test similar to the tea toning test I did before Christmas. I used the same concentration of washing soda for bleaching and the same type of watercolour paper (Arches satin hot pressed 300g).
The recipe is as follows:
Bleach bath: 1 teaspoon Sodium Carbonate (washing soda) for each liter hot water. I mixed up 3 liters.
Toning bath: 3 tablespoons instant coffee (Nescafe gold) for each liter hot water. Also 3 liters in total.
Cool down the bleach and toning bath to room temperature before starting the process. I have been precise when it come to the timing. Especially with the bleach bath. A few seconds longer or shorter time submerged in bleach will produce a noticeable difference in the result. I might consider using a lower concentration on the bleach. I think it should make it easier to get the best result. Golden in the highlights and purple in the shadows is what I try to achieve. Another important ting is the pre-soaking in water (1 minute) and thoroughly cleanse between bleach and toning.
Early 2016 I placed six pinhole cameras in the terrain around Longyearbyen, and let them collect sunlight for about one year. The cameras were made from a beer can with a photographic paper curled inside the can and with a small pinhole to let in sunlight. Apart from the pin hole, the camera was lightproof and mounted on a wooden frame.
When I collected the cameras I soon understood that I had made a mistake. The sun and weather has dried and cracked the wooden frame and it must have caused a movement to the camera during the exposure time. I saw warped wood on all six of my pinhole cameras. The picture below is the one with least movement.
Some edit is needed in lightroom and/or photoshop:
This last image is the original photographic paper straight from the pinhole camera to the flat bed scanner. No development or other chemicals added. If the paper is submerged in developer it will turn completely black. Don’t do that!
Lesson learned: Create a better foundation for the camera. It must withstand the weather conditions without creating any movement. One year is too long to wait to find out that one has camera movements …
If you like the simple process (and low price!) of cyanotype printing, but wish not everything was bluish. Why not try toning your prints! You will be surprised how different the print appears. This time I have decided to tone my prints in black tea. It is said that it produces a warm black/brown shade! In my opinion the image below came out best:
In the image to the right you can study how far I bleached the print. On the top you see the dried original from the flatbed scanner. Number two is briefly bleached. Only 15 seconds. Number tree is bleached for 30 seconds, and the last one for 60 seconds. After the bleach bath I rinse the print in water for at least one minute. If you bleach on eye measure, start rinsing in water a little before you think it is bleached enough. Remember the print will continue bleach for a while after you have removed it from the bleach bath. Photo of the bleached prints were taken when still wet. Sorry about the glare.
Bleaching and toning cyanotype prints is a bit tricky. There are many variables; paper quality, under/over exposed image, bleaching time and toning time. All those variables are essential for a successful result. My best advise is to experiment with several prints. The result will vary, and do not judge the print before you have seen it dried. I performed some pre tests before I completed this one, and found my paper to stain a lot with long toning baths. The print was completely ruined after 20 minutes, and I decided 12 minutes toning was enough for this test. Another make of paper might produced better (or worse) result.
Out of twelve cyanotype prints, bleached and toned differently I have this result:
From the result I see that the none bleached prints ends up too dark blueish. And the longest bleached prints is a little washed out. I think the best one is number 6; 15 seconds bleach and 12 minutes toning. The darkest parts are black and warm brown in the highlights without looking washed out.
In this test I used Arches hot pressed 300g watercolor paper, Lipton Yellow Lable tea, and Stabil krystall soda (Sodium Carbonate). And of course tap water from Longyearbyen 🙂