The Big Collodion Test
So..here we go! Yesterday I’ve shot 12 plates (2 plates were to determine exposure time) of 5 different collodion formulas and 2 developer formulas. Please keep in mind this test is performed under my specific conditions, with my chemistry, age of silver bath etc etc so all conclusions that I draw here may not be consistent with your findings or may not turn out the same when you give them a go.
Having learned that a formula is just a formula and has to be adjusted according to specific circumstances (temp, humidity, age of silver bath, amount of alcohol used etc etc) this is by no means a ‘scientific’ test or whatsoever, merely meant for me to see how a 2 salted collodion will compare to a 4 salted collodion, if I would gain anything in speed from one of the formulas and how the tonal range would vary. Anyway, enough of this diplomatic stuff 😉
The difference in developer is not really that interesting, the difference you might see may just as well be caused by flowing too much developer over the plate, wiping off some of that precious silver thus changing the result. I used the Osterman developer and the Lea’s Sugar developer (for the exact formulas see this former post). The latter because of the amount of restrainer used (sugar) might be interesting to use in hot conditions so I’ll surely be bringing it out when summer hits our land to see how it fares. I’ll post all of the photos anyway, if you’d like to have them mailed to you to give them a closer look, shoot me an email and I’ll send them to you.
Above the test setup I used to make the photos. A lot of different colors to see how they would come out on the plates. A color chart and a grey scale to check out tonal range and dynamic range. Orange carrots and orange mandarins, oh how different they look on the plates!
Specific Circumstances of the Test:
Silver bath – Specific Gravity: 1,06
Silver bath – Acidity: 4,5 -5
Silver bath – Age: +- 2,5 years old
Temperature: 17,6 degrees
Fixer: Sodium Thiosulfate 30% (I can’t stand the smell of KCN so never use this indoors at home)
Lighting: 2 Falcon Eyes 928 lights in an approx. angle of 45 degrees on the subject, 1 on each side.
Medium: 4×5″ Black Glass Ambrotypes
Lens: Steinheil 230mm
All the plates are unvarnished as I didn’t want to run the risk of screwing up plates 😉
I don’t have much to say about No.1 +2. This is the formula I’ve used exclusively until now.
No. 3+4 are the etherless versions and the first thing that I noticed was that with both plates I have an inconsistency in the background at about the same locations. They are the only two plates that have this. On the scan it is not that apparent but on the plates it is.
The plates that really stood out to me are No. 7b+8. No. 7 + 7a were over exposed as you can imagine. 7b is still on the light side so it saves me over HALF the exposure time, at least one stop that is. For studio use this will definitely be the one I’ll be working with. For outside use it’s probably a bit too fast, or I’ll have to stop down the lens of course but I might give Lea’s Traditional Landscape a go and the OWH.
The plates that surprised me the most are No. 9+10. This particular formula didn’t clear at all. Lot’s of undissolved salts at the bottom of the bottle which I decanted before using. I also filtered this collodion version before use but didn’t make much of a difference in the clearing part. I didn’t expect anything from it when using so I was surprised something came up on the plate. I should’ve dissolved the salts first in water before mixing with the alcohol and ether (stupid me) but it worked nonetheless.
Another thing that’s odd on plate 9+10 is that the SUN bottle on 9 is much lighter than on 10. Seeing that this is the only thing coming out much lighter it’s probably a flaw in my development, having poured off some of the silver with the developer. This is however my best guess as to what has happened there. I don’t recall the exact development, curiosities etc anymore from these plates.
For people not eager to work with Cadmium Bromide this is a proper way to go I guess. It’s a contrasty plate, pretty even all over and compared to the other formulas (except the OWH) comparable in speed. It also gave the most detail in the SUN bottle of all the other plates, together with 1 +2.
The plates developed with the Osterman formula seem the most consistent which gives cleaner more even plates (except with the Lea’s traditional formula, sugar is also fine). It’s a developer I’ll take as a starting point from now on and learn how to adjust it when needed.
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this overview, I sure did! Doing the testing was a good thing to do for me. I now have a good place to start from and I’m really happy to have found a formula which gives me shorter exposure times with good tonality.
Maybe I’ve forgotten things which I may add or adjust in the future. Thanks for looking and have a great weekend!
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