A while back I got invited to be a speaker on the TEDxUHasselt and talk about my Disposable Project. I found it an honour and a great way to work on my public speaking so I said yes. However, due to circumstances that happened the last few months, health wise, family-matter wise, the move, busy period at work due to less colleagues etc. I slowly got the feeling I bit off more than I could chew. It’s not in my nature to cancel things or say no to things but the feeling got stronger and due to all that happened I wasn’t able to put all the effort in prepping this talk than I wanted but also needed to. After a lot of deliberating I finally decided to withdraw so they had the time to look for someone else. It was a hard thing to do but I felt really relieved afterwards. Sometimes you just have to take a few steps back and regain your wits.
Once I informed them of my decision they mentioned that there would be a possibility for me to give a demo / lecture on the wet plate collodion process, if I wanted to. Well, why not! Great way to still be there and contribute in a field I am familiar with , so no huge preparation needed besides the obvious material prepping. I am very happy I did it the way I did, it was a wonderful day, met great people, heard very interesting stories, shared some cool-photography things and just had fun! Also one of the first gigs I did on my own, without Bart, as he had to work. It was a long day but a fruitful one 🙂 The talks were great, some talks were fantastic and inspiring. Some of the speakers:
Charles Spence (UK), the head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University and talked about Pleasure and Pain.
Peter Perceval (BE), a Belgian writer, director and producer. He revealed why the world needs funny people for innovation, based on recent developments in neuroscience.
Thomas Spaas (BE), not only a lawyer specialising in Belgian and International taxation, he is also co-director of the Belgian Bitcoin Association. He focused on the regulatory aspects of Bitcoin in general and on providing legal support to the association and its members.
Yves Tieleman (BE), a Project Manager at Group Machiels, leading the research, development and demonstration of the Enhanced Landfill Mining concept and the Closing the Circle project.
These were the speakers that stood out to me but I missed the last round of speakers due to having to finish varnishing the plates. There were more speakers from the UK, India and the United States.
Special thanks go out to Maxim Renaerts and Wouter Vanoppré for making it happen for me. And another special thanks goes out to the man from the kitchen staff who, on the end of the day, surprised me by loading all of my gear on a 3-story high-carrying wagon so I didn’t have to drag everything piece by piece back to my car. You made my day! If you want to know more about the speakers that day etc. have a look at their website.
Somewhere in the beginning of February I was asked if I would be interested to photograph a local, but rather large, beer brewery on wet plate. No need to think long about it 🙂 Gulpener (the name of this brewery) published its own magazine every three months called “Puurzaam”. The theme of this issue was Evolution. Not necessary to expand on the why wet plate would fit here. So…I took the challenge and packed my things to photograph. Actually my first collodion shoot and on top of that outdoors since I moved. Everything was still finding its place so quite the job locating everything 🙂 But I managed and had a wonderful day that ended with some gorgeous beers; how much more perfect does life really get!
Rob Oostwegel made the documentary-style images of me (thank you!). Anyway, enough of the chitchat… on to the article (in Dutch sorry) and images.
And a link to the pdf if you want to read the text more carefully.
And of course..the images in a larger size. The first 4×5″ test plate I made that day (all black glass ambrotypes) had an exposure of 45 seconds at f5.6. Very hard to determine exposure indoors, no additional lighting and all three plates different surroundings. Chemistry was fine, exposure too short; the plate came out pretty much black. I took a leap and poured an 18×24 which I exposed for 3.5 minutes…right on! Shot 2 other plates at two different locations and then my time was up. Breweries are cool locations!
So..that was it! On to the next shoot 😉
Woehoew, last Friday was my Magic Friday! I left for Boerdonk early in the morning to arrive there at around 10 for the start of the dry plate collodion workshop given by Jeroen de Wijs together with Jetfire Jefferson. Three days of photographic history amazement and happiness. It all went by like it was nothing and it’s all sinking in now. It was a great couple of days, I learned a lot, had fun, drank lovely wine, enjoyed lovely food (thank you Ina & Wim!), saw a classical concert and even enjoyed a little bit of hotty sunshine. This summer will be dry plate time 🙂
P.s. Apologies for some unsharp images. I tried my best to hold still but I got all excited haha! This time the images are taken with a proper camera, not the iPhone, ha 🙂
Day 1: Preparing the plates
Some things are quite the same as with wet plate, some things are totally different. Cleaning the plates is where it starts, same story but I realise now more than ever that I can do a better job at that next time making plates 🙂
After the cleaning part it’s time to steam the plate before coating it with a layer of albumen. This happens by heating water in a beaker and hoovering the plate above it (make sure the suction cup works!) so to get an even layer.
Then it’s time to sub the plate with albumen (=1 egg white to 1 liter of distilled water). You do this by pouring the albumen over the plate as you would with collodion. This layer keeps the collodion layer stick to it when you arrive at the developing stage. The main compound of the developer is pyro and it makes the collodion layer shrink. With black glass ambrotypes you do not need to sub the plates as the iron sulphate based developer doesn’t have that specific characteristic. After pouring wipe the back of the plate carefully so no albumen residue is left; this will pollute the silver bath. After that the plates are left to dry.
As soon as the plates dried it’s time for the silver nitrate to come in. Standard bath you use with wet plate so that’s convenient. Filter and ready to use (I took this image as I found it a real handy way of filtering the bath into the box).
The dry plate process we did was the Tannic Acid Preserved Collodion Negative variant. Tannic Acid is the compound that keeps the pores of the collodion open so that when the plate gets developed later on the developer can reach the sensitive layer and actually develop the plate. With wet plate you have to develop etc. before the collodion dries out because when it does it closes its pores so that developer can’t penetrate the layer and no development is possible. Tannic Acid keeps that process from happening and enables the plate to dry and develop later on.
When the subbed plates have dried (depending on humidity and temperature this takes about an hour) you can pour the collodion on the plate. This is as with wet plate though now you use a negative collodion. After that the plate goes into the silver bath. The duration of the time in the silver bath is determined on inspection. When the silver nitrate leaves no streaky residue on the plate it’s good to come out. This can be within 2 minutes or after 5, depending on the age of the silver bath (the older the longer). After the sensitising the plate gets rinsed (in safelight of course). Then follows the tannin bath for the plate to go through. And then the plate is left to dry again, in the dark.
Day 2: Exposing and developing the plate
Wahhh the exciting time begins! Prepping the plate is not difficult, you just have to follow procedure, carefully that is with attention, and it should be fine. Exposing and developing is where the challenge begins! We head out to an abandoned house which looked really nice. We sat up the cameras, I used a 5×7″ camera from Jeroen. He made sure some street was in the shot, as well as greenery, the house and air. Proper ingredients to help determine developing.
Jeroen measured the light with a Minolta Autometer IV set at 100 asa and measured an EV of 13. According to his calibrations this should come at an exposure time of 8 minutes at f11. We made one plate like that, one at 4 minutes and one at 16 minutes. A bit boring to shoot three plates of exactly the same thing but all the more interesting and learnfull when developing the plates. After we got back we made the developer, actually 3 variants. One standard, one in case of overexposure and one in case of underexposure.
After the baths were ready I took the plate out of the back and placed it in a mixture of alcohol and distilled water. This bath is meant to open up the pores of the collodion / get the tannin out (alcohol is a solvent) so that the developer can get easier access. After that the plate gets rinsed a little until the alcohol is off it and then it’s ready for developing. We started with the standard developer and with each developer bit we used we added a little silver nitrate solution to it (the quantity depends on how much and how fast you want density to build and at what point). At around 5 minutes I checked the plate to see how far the image had developed. If nothing is there you move to the underexposure bath, if you can see a lot you move to the overexposure bath, and then whatever you feel like comes in between.
That’s where the fun tweaking and carefully observing part comes into play. I really liked doing this. It’s a matter of getting a hang of the developer as with the way you apply it on the plate can either speed up the developing or tame it a little. It’s good fun! I can’t explain how it all went down in detail, it’s far too complicated to write it down in just a few words. When the plate has gained the density and development you’re after it goes into a rinsing bath for 5 minutes.
After this exciting part has taken place the plate is being fixed in hypo and then being rinsed again for at least 20 minutes. Drying is the last thing it has to do before varnishing. Varnishing works the same as with wet plate so nothing new there. I did learn a better way of keeping the drip lines to a minimum so that’s good! Also, warming the varnish using a coffee warmer is also a very smart idea 🙂
And when that is done, the negative is done! Ready for drooling all over 🙂 They invented a light tray for that. Also to properly judge the negative of course. With my 3 exposures you can see the overexposured negative to gain a reddish colour. The middle one at 8 minutes definitely printed the best the next day. The stereo negatives made by Mr. Jefferson looked wonderful too. The highlights look a little bit too washed out than they really are on these digital next two images btw.
Day 3: Salt Printing
Yihaaa, another cool day! Or hot, better said cause Spring sure found her way to our Dutchie-land. The negatives had properly dried and were also waiting to become positive. We started with preparing the gelatine. Mixing it in water while heating it so it will dissolve properly. Once it did the salt (Ammonium Chloride) is added to the mix.
When it’s cooled a little it’s ready to be coated onto the paper. As far as coating techniques go, I won’t go into that now extensively. The method I discovered that day and preferred is applying the solution with a cotton pad to the paper.
The paper is then dried with a hairdryer. Papers prepared like this will keep for years. When it’s dry it’s ready to be coated with a solution of silver nitrate (12% for more contrast, 15% for less). When doing this of course safe lights have to be used. After that the sheet is dried again and ready for exposure. This is best done with a contact printing frame. It makes sure the negative is firmly pressed to the paper, enables checking how the exposure is going etc. The weather was so good we enjoyed a nice cup of tea while exposing it in the sun/shade.
I didn’t count the time, why would I anyway, and when it was thought to be fine we went to the darkroom again to rinse and fix it, again in hypo. You can then choose to hypo clear and gold tone and rinse again, or use traditional toners before fixing. More on that later when I start using it more extensively. When drying the paper with heat it dries up more choclate-brownish than the images shown above.
When the print got dried it received a waxing. This gives the image a lovely sheen (saw some pretty ones by Julia Margaret Cameron at the Tefaf last year) and acts as a preservative. The wax is a mixture of bee wax and spike oil. The ratio depends on preference, for a more glossy finish use more spike oil. Make sure you attach the print firmly to an even surface like a table. Apply the mixture in strokes and then rub it in circular movements over the print. It smells wonderful and is nice way to end a print I must say. Much much better than selenium toner 😉
And that was kind of it… all that’s left is to digitise the print, which is quite hard really. I had to scan it as I had to bring back the camera to work and that just doesn’t do the image any justice. But…here it is; the result of 3 days hard work!
Another smallish but handy thing I’ve learned is making four flaps yourself. This can be done really easily (shown on the photo is the really fast way) and it makes sure you have a perfect fit for your plate. I bought prepped ones but you can only get them in 4×5″ and 8×10″. Not for 18×24 or 4×10″ for example. I never thought of making them myself but will from now on!
In short: I have learned a lot of practical things that you simply can’t learn from a book. I plan on using this process for making negatives of landscapes. Time and effort wise there’s no shorter choice but dry plate out in the field will definitely be a lot more comfortable and will get you to places where a mobile darkroom would be kind of an impossibility. After having seen this process I definitely want to grow bigger, 30×40 cm’s is what I have in mind, so that when contact printing them it will be of a nicer size than smaller (at least to me). I’ll first learn this process on the smaller sizes, get accustomed to it and its perks, and then grow. With salt printing there’s is some research to do on paper choice. I have some here from the Van Dyke story so will continue with that. All in all; woeh, quite wonderful!
Hi all, it’s been awhile but it’s been soooooooooooooo busy! I rode a spinning marathon the day before our Big Move, it was great! The Big Move was too 🙂 Busy at work, like insanely, plus projects with deadlines, some (minor) health issues though not very pleasant, and some more stuff going on have made these past few weeks quite something. In between the darkroom and studio are coming together nicely.
We hung the background paper yesterday, all it really needs is lights set up, the table top set up and I’m good to go there! During the day it looks like this (taken from the “office” part where I have my scanner, printer etc. set up):
This is what it looks like when looking from the doors towards the inside of the space:
And here’s with the background paper (2,75 seems so small now haha) hanging and me being happy 🙂
When you look in the back of the second photo you can see the stairs going up all the way on the left and on the right is an opening. This leads to a short kind off hallway which leads to two cellars. One is my darkroom. On the hallway is a bit more storage space for our things.
The working table has been fixed, big trays stacked underneath it as is the large container with sodium thio-sulphate and a bin. The wet table still has to be connected, waiting for a hot water boiler to arrive. When that’s done I can fill up the storage space beneath them.
Shelves have been hung (quite the challenge with these marl walls!) but it’s there! Chemistry has been unpacked, everything is a bit in place now. Darkroom safelights still have to be mounted, certain chemistry fixed etc. and I can roll again! During actual working in this space things will probably get moved around a little to improve working but it’s pretty nice already I guess 🙂 Have to find a place for my large papers but that will fit in once the time is there. Also, the big white board needs to be mounted to the wall…I hope it will hold…trick so far: no plugs, just screw directly into the wall.
Anyway, looking forward finishing this! I have a proper shoot planned at the end of this month. Need some new collodion first (which is on its way but will not arrive before March 23nd) and need to desperately fix my silver bath. Already have a large erlenmeyer and cooking plate to do that. This week it’ll have to happen as well as the first collodion test as I have been invited by Gulpener Bier brewery to photograph their brewery on collodion for their “PUUR” magazine with a (short) interview of me. Will have to be shot this Sunday / Monday but so cool I’ll have to make my stuff work before then. Only will have to shoot small plates as I’m practically out of collodion oehh…. 🙂
I have finally planned a dry plate collodion workshop with Jeroen de Wijs, THE man if you really want to learn the collodion process (wet or dry) inside out. It’s a two-man-3-day-workshop which will take place the 2nd weekend of March. I am soooo looking forward! This means I can take plates with me when traveling by plane, or to places where a wet mobile darkroom on the spot isn’t too handy. And…learning how to make proper negatives AND learning how to print them using the Salt Printing process. At the TEFAF I’ve seen some awesome waxed salt prints from a/o Margaret Cameron.
Ohhh negatives ready for contact printing…the only debatable thing is the purchase of a 4×5″ Linhof for making negatives…4×5″ is really small for contact printing…I bought it so I could enlarge them but I also want to do contact printing processes…ahhh dilemma haha! Maybe, maybe when I get a hang of the process I’ll jump to a camera that makes 30×40 cm plates, imagine A3 negatives on glass…oeff…what’s that for p**n huh 😉
Anyway, first moving the entire darkroom which is a challenge on its own. I almost cleared out the DR by now, did a lot of work today. What’s not in boxes (and will not fit) are the big babies such as the wet table, cameras and enlargers. Can’t wait to build it up again, it’s gonna be fun redesigning!
So…just thought I’d share 🙂 :happybellydance:
I almost can’t believe it but my boyfriend and I will be moving into another house in the beginning of next year. Thus so will Contrastique. Besides that we’re going to have a fabulous kitchen (we love to cook and eat), a really nice garden with actual grass haha the house also has a truly magnificent basement. I didn’t think it was possible to find a house with an even nicer basement but we sure did! As is the case now my darkroom and studio will be made there. So…right now we’re cleaning things out and packing up the entire thing. Now I really realise just how much stuff I have gathered over the last couple of years, especially since I started woking with alternative processes haha…emptying the shelves and packing is A LOT of work 🙂
The basement is actually split in two parts: one separate part which forms the original basement and is already light-tight on its own will be housing my new darkroom. The ceiling is a little lower than I have now (2 metres instead of 2.20) but plenty of space to work, keep my chemistry (fridge), DR-papers and no more risk of flooding as it’s higher than the rest! As soon as the build and decorating starts I’ll post images of its progress. I am soooo looking forward to that!
When you stand with your back towards the entrance of the darkroom you look into the studio space. This is an ancient marl basement dating from the original farmer’s house that once was there from around the 1800’s. Our new house has been build on top of it when the farm was demolished. The former owner restored that basement, made it a 50 cm’s higher and placed a large window with doors in it (daylight studio aaaaahhhh though not towards the North, but hey; I’ll happily deal with that 🙂 ). This is much higher and wider than our current basement and great for a studio. I already have the first assignment planned for 2014, a couple on collodion, so this will be fantastic! I also got asked to make images from racing/mtb bikes for a magazine à la my collodion-alternative-style, something I was already working on for my own, so this is great! I now have the space to get really creative with light and composition.
The basement also contains a toilet (very convenient), a small kitchen with a sink and a fridge so it’s more than perfect. I will also be using it as a office so I don’t have to do my administrative chores at the dining table, which was comfortable and cosy but also made it a mess with papers, cables and the like. This does mean that Contrastique will be closed for about two months before I have everything up and running again. But as my Silver Nitrate bath is shot anyway and due for extensive maintenance I can’t shoot any collodion plates now anyway.
I’m also in the process of planning a date for a dry plate collodion workshop by Jeroen de Wijs. It will be a three day course which covers all the aspects of dry plate negatives and salt printing. This is supposed to take place around March.
So….2014 is already full of beautiful, fun and exciting challenges and I am looking forward to it immensely! I wish you all the same kind of happiness and fortune for 2014!