Category Archives: Wet Plate Photography

Wet Plate Prepping

Salted Collodion

Salted Collodion

Woke up this morning and mixed a fresh batch of collodion for shooting some plates. I had just enough dyethel ether left to mix 600 ml.  Once I got it all mixed, I added about 50 ml of my old collodion to the mix, capped it off and put it in my chemical cooler to age for a week.  I am hoping that time and weather allows for me to do some test shots next week end!

In the mean time, I have some work to do my newest camera.  10″ x 12″ Vageeswari field camera (Vag for short). This camera was built specifically for plate photography. While it is, generally, in good shape; I have to replace a couple missing screws and make some plate inserts so that I can shoot in different sizes other than 10′ x 12′. I am really excited and can not wait to shoot some plates with this camera. As a side note, I named the camera Celeste (After a Project Pitchfork song).

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Another workshop comes to a close.

Over the last weekend, I provided the space for Dale Bernstein to teach one of his Wet Plate Collodion workshops. It was a good time had by all! I am very happy to say that my studio smells of ether and lavender right now.

During the workshop, I managed to shoot a couple of test plates with my Panolga™ (Panoramic Holga) and I am very pleased with the results.  There was not enough light to shoot hand held but the proof of concept was a portable solution to take to the parks when I do not feel like lugging the large format gear around.

35 second exposure Tin Type

35 second exposure Tin Type

8 Second Exposure Tinetype

8 Second Exposure Tin Type

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Tintypes and Junk

1426177_736490876380951_478322056_nEarlier this month I had a weekend of wet plate love. I did run into two problems that, combined, created a feeling of create frustration The symptom of these problems was a plate with only hints of am image.

No matter how well or bad things go with shooting plates, it is still a labor of love. You never know if the photography gods are shining down on you, or if your are just inhaling too much ether. In the end, it keeps me off the streets at night; And that is definitely a good thing.

Problem 1: Exposure

Up to  this point, I have been using my Graflex with it’s original lens to shoot plates.  On this day, I decided to break out my Omega 45d with a much newer Rodenstock lens. The problem here is that the new lens has a coating on it that blocks a lot of UV light, which wet plate is sensitive to. This alone took my from 5 second exposures (on the Graflex) to 7 minute exposures with the newer equipment.

Problem 2: Developer

I had just run out of developer and needed to make some more. Jody Ake had a neat recipe that I thought I would try. Iron Sulfate, Vinegar and Sugar in proper proportions. Unfortunately, I added too much iron sulfate; This made the developer too aggressive and thus ate away at the image. To correct, I added small amount of glacial acetic acid to restrain the developer and that did the trick.

Though the hole thing was very frustrating, I am very happy with some of the resulting tintypes.

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Wet Plate Photography

Wet Plate Photography

Wet Plate Photography

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to partake in a private wet plate workshop with Dale Bernstein. 2 days on playing and making Ambrotypes, Tintypes and Glass Negatives. This was really a fantastic experience and would highly recommend this to anyone whom has an interest in photography.

On Saturday (20-APR-2013), Dale came to my studio with all his gear in hand; There was very little that I had to provide. Within a couple of hours we were shooting my first ambrotype with superb results. Dale walked me through the entire process, from cleaning and prepping plates through the finishing process. By the end of day two, I had enough wet plates to start a small portfolio which is not bad for 20 hours and never working in the particular medium prior to the workshop. Dale really breaks down the process and makes it easy to understand with out getting into the nitty gritty of science behind the process; His approach is that of an artist..

In the amount of time that workshop lasted, I have fallen in love with the process as well as the resulting images from the process. As an added bonus, my studio smells like lavender from the varnishing bonus. With all of that being said, I have pulled my Toyo/Omega 45D out of retirement and have purchased a plate holder for the camera. Soon I will be gathering up the rest of the equipment needed  to go off on my own wet plate adventures.

Origin of the Wet Plate Photography

In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer introduced a wet plate process, sometimes referred to as the collodion process after the carrier material used. The process is simple: a bromide, iodide, or chloride is dissolved in collodion (a solution of pyroxylin in alcohol and ether). This mixture is poured on a cleaned glass plate, which is allowed to sit until the coating gels but is still moist. The plate is then placed in a silver nitrate solution, which converts the iodide, bromide, or chloride to silver iodide, bromide or chloride. Once the reaction is complete, the plate is removed from the silver nitrate solution and exposed in a camera while still wet. The plate loses sensitivity as it dries, requiring it to be coated and sensitized immediately before use. It must also be developed while still moist, using a solution of iron sulfate, acetic acid and alcohol in water.

The sensitivity of silver halides to light is the underlying principle behind most types of 19th century photographic processes (Daguerreotypes, Ambrotypes, Calotypes that use paper negatives, and wet and dry plates) as well as modern 20th century photographic film processes.

Follow Dale on his blog at http://dalebernstein.blogspot.com. Dale’s contact information is on his blog if you are interested in taking one of his workshops, or set up a private workshop.

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