Reading back this blog I realised it’s been one and half years ago since last collodion test…time for another one that means…
The last post has also been just over a year ago…time for a new one…also…
I’ve been incredibly busy with a lot of things, also photography, but on another level. First of all… I bought a house last year! I set a goal for myself to fix my housing problem with renting being too expensive on my own. I got very very lucky and when I put my mind to something…well…let’s just say I don’t easily give up 😉 But I was also very very lucky. I was able to buy the house I rented first. Utterly amazing! The chances were very slim and the alternatives really would not have been all that great…it’s of very special meaning to me. Miracles do happen! It will take quite a bit of work but that’s part of the fun. Most wonderful thing about this place, besides plethora of others, is that I have a working space! The house came with a garage attached to it, which wasn’t part of the rental version but it sure now is. I have expanded my darkroom there. I recently sort of finished it and finally am able to properly work with all the chemistry and have enough space to actually move around. So, after an unsuccessful test past Monday I was able to redo it today and ended up with images! As soon as I have another free weekend / day I will be shooting outside again. Needless to say I’m immensely looking forward to that!
Secondly, I have photographed more than ever before (I think), but mostly commercial. This has been quite a challenge in more than one way. New conditions for every shoot, adjusting to that and learning new things every time, make this really interesting. Shooting mostly with a Fuji X-T3 (autofocus ftw) with my reliable X-T1 as a backup. Godox AD200 as a portable (wireless!) studio light on location, awesome little device which you can use with heaps of accessories (properly thought-out system). Assignments vary from events to real-estate to corporate photography. Also important…it pays for shit. A lot of it so that’s good!
Thirdly, the Monochrom…well…that’s not going so well…I’ll spare you the details but it’s been sent back to Leica for the fourth time now…I hope this time I will get back something that actually works as it should…anyway, fingers crossed!
Fourthly, working towards a group exhibition that will open next month, on the 27th of february in Alter Schlachthof Eupen (BE) with the F68 photographers collective I joined a while back. I have visited a bit of first world war areas (Somme, Verdun) with my monochrom as I got triggered, firstly, by my visit to the Elzas in 2018, and secondly because Paul is also interested in visiting these areas and it sort of became a collective undertaking. These landscapes are, even on its own, quite fascinating. But when you dive into its history and you know what exactly is beneath your feet it gives the whole a different experience walking about. There have been so many killed during that war, such a dirty war being the first time poisonous gas has been used. So many bombs have been thrown, grenades, mines etc. And they are still there, lurking from underneath the ground, waiting for you to dig them up (or leave’m). So many still unexploded devices literally litter the grounds today. So many people buried on the battlefields, never been dug up. So much ground polluted from the chemical bombs. It will take between 300-700 years to clean everything up…
The more I learned about this war, the less it made sense (as if it ever does, but still). As a ww1 officer once said; “It’s not sending people to war, it’s sending people to die”. The woods in for example the Somme have been the backdrop of horrible battlefields. You can find the locations of these woods on old maps dating from around that period and you can look up these spots on google maps using satellite footage and find the forests are still there today. Of course back then they have been completely devastated by the war, but eventually grew back. They are filled with craters of the intensive bombing and also packed with what’s left of the trenches. When you start digging you’ll find a lot of things…grenades, shells, communication cable, barbwire, you name it. Sometimes you don’t even have to dig, just to keep your eyes open and scroll the surface. Walking there is like walking through a vivid and tangible history book.
My main focus is the forests, as it always is, and I like to convey its sadness and eeriness. My images are never really happy so I hope people will feel slightly uncomfortable and with the exhibition sharing also the location of the shots I hope people will be triggered to look up their whereabouts and learn (more) about this war. I find it hard to get into my head that after ww1 we also deemed it necessary to have another round with ww2 (of course ww1 pretty much formed the grounds for ww2). Two generations war… For the love of all mankind I hope we get spared a third…
Onto the collodion testing…it’s winter here of course, the darkroom is not all that warm so chemistry is cold. First plates I did indoors (with new lights I have not really used before) didn’t go so well. Perfectly black plates implying chemistry-wise it should be fine. Today I tested outside. 30 seconds on f4,5…still perfectly black… second plate 4 minutes in silver nitrate instead of the previous 3 and an exposure time of 2 and a half minutes. Development time…1 minute…but an image appeared at last! No chemical fogging, it looks pretty good really. Probably exposure time has to be even longer to shorten development time.
Looking back at the first test I did here back in 2018 the contrast was insanely high, the images now look a lot better. Most important of today; fun it was! Looking forward shooting more, I just love doing this. I promise (also myself) that it won’t take another year 🙂
So.. after the brief Van Dyke tour of course wet plate could not be left behind. Checked the chemistry about a week back and was able to shoot a test plate today to see if all worked accordingly. Cranked open those speakers (a working space without music is like coffee without the coffee, impossible!) and cleaned three 4×5″ plates. Decided to shoot outside as I’m currently still rearranging the studio place. Looked to be dry all day and had a nice flower in mind (skulls are so boring, even for testing).
Collodion batch from 2016 so slow but contrasty. Developer from 2017 so should work together just fine. First plate; dark with some highlight spots as I still had some sun (and wind). But no fogging so chemistry fine, plate merely underexposed. Second plate, changed flower, and just dark because it got darker fast. Third plate; looked like rain was coming after all, so made a bit of a hurry and forgot to put back the slide after exposing…Putain! So, aside from shooting wet plate I also got around testing my wonderful extensive vocabulary lol 😉 All works just fine!
Anyway, too lazy for cleaning a fourth, let alone a fifth plate and having gotten what I wanted in a way, I decided to leave it at that. Next step; pick a decent subject and shoot some actual plates!
Shoot Amsterdam is a yearly photographic event held in Amsterdam @ Pakhuis de Zwijger. I will be one of the speakers during the “How do they do it” sessions in the Studio at the 5th floor.
I will be talking about the wet plate collodion process, its place in time, so a little history and a little nowadays, accompanied by some visuals on a screen. Needless to say I’m very excited to be participating in this great event and hope to see you there!
Oh…and Sign up; it’s for free and it’s gonna be fun 🙂
I love to take my camera out in the field, to make collodion images on location. I prefer that over studio images. The only issue that kept me busy of the last few years? How to transport the camera when traveling. Until now I just put the camera in the car, no protection, and dragged it everywhere I needed it to be. I had seen one photo bag that I figured could hold the camera, the TinkTank Logistics Manager, but it was so expensive I never actually tried it.
As some of you know I work in a photo store in Maastricht, Foto Rembrandt (feel free to chime in and say hello if you’re nearby ;-). and two weeks ago I went with my colleague to a special ‘dealer’ day at one of our suppliers. This specific supplier Transcontinenta has, among other brands such as Leica, Gitzo, Lastolite etc, ThinkTank bags. I decided to take my camera to them to find out if they have a bag that would actually fit my camera.
They did! I ended up with the Video Rig 24, one of their largest bags on wheels. It makes it easy to carry the camera around, fits perfectly, along with some small items such as red light, charger, waterhouse stops and of course the glass plates, camera, lens, back and dark cloth. Needless to say I am really happy! All I need is a new car now as the bag hardly fits in the back 😉
For those following me on Facebook might have seen a post on issues with specks on the plates. It took me quite some time to figure out what it is exactly. I have looked at several options. But it really took ages, at least to me, to narrow it down.
Specks, appearing as little black dots, on the plates (see cropped image above). Not immediately, some plates needed a couple of hours, some took days to show. At first I thought of the silver nitrate bath. I had this before and boiling the bath down solved it back then. Not this time..
I rinse my plates, certainly in studio, for over half an hour. Specks.
I started to use freshly mixed fix before each shoot. Specks.
Collodion bottle was steady before using, no shaking. Specks.
Oeff…nutty specks…the thing I did notice was that the fixer bath upon every mix started to look dirtier and dirtier. I bought the Sodium Thiosulphate crystals, I believe, in 2011. 25 kilos at once; better be prepped I figured 🙂 I guess it’s prone to deteriorate over time. I decided to filter it, to the max. A lot of small stuff got filtered out, and the fixer turned out to be the problem! After filtering I was left with a clean fixer bath. No specks!
For the filtering I used a normal cotton pad to wipe of make-up. I pressed it firmly into the funnel (see above image), takes ages to filter a liter but it works!
So…After the first experiment with polish-machine-style-plate-cleaning there’s always a second, with improvements of course. The first thing I wanted to solve was moving of the plate during polishing. This machine has a disc that rotates at 3200 times per minute = 53,33 times per second… Try that by hand 😆 This puts forth some power on the plate which makes it a little nervous on a flat surface. I already tried solving it by putting some gaffer tape on the table but that was not enough.
Now I decided to put some small boards on two sides of the table, pointing towards the corners thus each other, and letting them stick a little over the surface of the table so that a glass plate could be positioned alongside them. That way I could push the plate towards the corner without having it fall off. It worked a whole lot better but still the plate had the tendency to hoover a little over the table’s surface. Than Erik came along and made me a square wooden board on which he put a glass plate. He then put 4 long cocktail sticks along the plate sides and fixed them to the board with gaffer tape. That way the plate was sort of clamped in between the sticks and I could easily polish. I placed that board design along the smaller boards I earlier screwed into the sides of the table so it stayed put on the table and…Tadaaa, problem solved!
I then put the table in the middle of the darkroom and the second problem of spattering the cleaning substance all over the place also got solved. What a glorious evening 🙂 I was able to incredibly lazily clean the plates for a commissioned portrait shoot this Wednesday, awesome!
I love wet plate. In fact, I love everything about wet plate! Except for…cleaning the plates 🙂 So, it might be a bad habit but I look for shortcuts, no concession in outcome of course. I use a dishwasher for the first cleaning cycle. And then you still always have to scrub by hand using the chalk cleaner. Polishing and polishing, overheating etc. You know. That stuff. So, Erik said the other day; might it not be an idea to use a polishing machine for that? Hmmm….
So, I got meself a polishing machine and went for it! Interesting. It works. So, that’s good. Start is as usual; pour cleaning solution on plate:
Put polishing machine on plate:
Turn it on:
Right, no image there as I needed both hands to keep this thing under control 🙂
…Do a lot of cleaning afterwards! Ha, that stuff goes everywhere! In a radius of 2,5 metres all was covered in chalk mixture! Quite funny; it works, saves quite a bit of energy (if you leave out the cleaning afterwards) and it’s fun: because, well, machines just are. I will find something to fix this as I like it. I hope you did too 😉
I kept postponing making new varnish for way too long until I really pushed myself to it yesterday. The really annoying part about making the varnish is filtering the solution; probably all suffer from that 🙂 But Erik has found a way to do a filter stacking, proper school, so the solution gets filtered 4 times in just one pour. Tadaa!
Now, still have to get to varnishing the plates but that is the fun part! Just thought I’d share. Anyone else funny filter methods which make life easier?
(Sorry, Dutch text today)
11:30 uur Ontvangst van de gasten
12:00 uur Presentatie ‘Maastrichtse Drukkers’