I love forests, trees, wood and what-else-is-there-not-to-like-about-these-matters. We had some trees cut up in our garden past year and we kept the lumber, for burning it later on. But these branches looked so great I took them into my studio. They’re part of a lumber-studies, not sure in what form or series these will fit but I just love them. It’s great to be shooting plates again, especially when they work out so nicely, at least to me!
The only thing I am having issues with is the varnishing. Except for a plate or two being ‘eaten’ by the varnish, I never had any problems with it. And that issue is easily fixable by adding a bit of water.
Now I had issues with the varnish not running over the plates properly, resulting in awkward nasty ridges and parts not covered in one pour. I figured it might be because of too little alcohol so added some more. Eventually it seemed to pour better but the plates dried unevenly. With that I mean streaks turned out matte and others glossy, random, not showing hints as to why. With these last plates I cut back on heating of the varnish and plate which seemed to help quite a bit so for now I’m satisfied. Though not completely as it’s still not perfect and that just puzzles me. In the process of ordering a fresh batch of alcohol and spike oil so that I can make a new batch, even tough this one is actually pretty new. TBC.
All images shown are Wet Plate Collodion Black Glass Ambrotypes, either 8×10″ or 10×10″.
Two Fridays ago I had a day off as I had to prep the collodion demo for the TedX event. It was gorgeous weather and for the first time in our new place I had the time and opportunity to shoot some collodion wet plates! Our garden is really pretty (to me at least) and thought it would make for a great start of this season. Spring has arrived and all kinds of lovely flowers and leaves are exploding from out of nowhere. Quite different from our previous garden where most of it consisted of stone haha!
This was also the first session after the dry plate collodion workshop and I cleaned the plates much thorougher than I did before. It certainly paid off! No need to use rotten stone with black glass, or sub the plates either when you take your time to clean them properly without taking short cuts. I first cleaned them with much more calcium carbonate solution than I used to do. After that I made sure the ridges where absolutely free of excess cleaning substance and I polished them with a clean cloth, like really long. Worked like magic 🙂 First time proper real usage of my darkroom! Happy as a goose 🙂
The images are on 8×10″ black glass, photographed using my good-ole Steinheil lens, aperture at around 16. Exposure times were around 4 seconds.
The contrast in light on the last plate (which I actually did first) is a little too high. But I like it anyway 🙂 Of course, what comes after shooting and drying is varnishing the plates. Instead of heating each plate using the alcohol burner I decided to place them on a tray warmer. I have one that can hold 5 8×10″ plates at the same time. This works really well! Saved quite a bit of time.
I know my varnish gave a bit of issues the last time I used it so kind of expected it to really act up now. It did. Always make sure you varnish a test plate first before doing the real ones! It dissolved the image and looks like the following image:
It was a plate of the garden but an overexposed one so no loss there, just a funny example of what varnish can do 🙂 I added a bit of distilled water to my varnish and the problem was solved. The rest of the plates looked just fine. As far as the specific why goes…don’t know. The alcohol in the varnish perhaps collides with an older collodion used to make the plates (same alcohol in both solutions though)? As long as I know how to solve it I don’t see a problem. I love this varnish too much to use the other horrible smelling alternatives. And the traditional Sandarac varnish is a proved recipe; why change a winning team?
A couple of months ago Marieke contacted me regarding something collodion. She was one of the attendees on a collodion workshop I gave at the IKA in Mechelen (BE). She is working on her graduation project and wanted to make some plates for this. So she asked me if she could join me on one of my field trips. For me this meant an opportunity to actually plan a field trip (today I realised it was actually 2 YEARS ago!). We agreed on a price, time and place and yesterday came the day we went to visit a small village called Doel in Belgium.
Doel is near Antwerp, a small village near its harbour. In the sixties the Big Harbour of Antwerp wanted to expand and found Doel to be what it wanted. The people were bought out in order for them to leave but not all of them did. The population dropped from a 1300 inhabitants to 188 in 2010 and around 10 nowadays (not sure about that last number but someone told me yesterday that there where only 3 houses left that had people living in them). From what I’ve heard Antwerp has dropped the plan (for now) as it’s too expensive to continue. Yeah…
So, now we have a village that is pretty much abandoned. But not for real! I was surprised of its vividness! There are two cafes, one in an old windmill which is nothing but dead. Whole families come there on their day off to enjoy the weather, the view (on the nuclear power plant ;-)) and of course lots of photographers. We had an awesome day!
We had one darkroom and one camera so the working speed was pretty low. Marieke shot positives on black glass, I was looking to shoot some clear glass. The tricky part for her was to find her way back to working with collodion after having done only one workshop more than a year ago. I wasn’t able to go with her in the darkroom tent to guide her there so it was rather tough to create proper images seeing the conditions we worked in. We had a lot of fun though! I managed to make three clear glass ambrotypes but hope to get back there soon to try some more and better myself. It’s a wonderful location, heck, even the ride through the harbour fields is extremely fascinating, at times it looks like a moon scenery (not that I’ve ever been there ;-))!
The sweet darkroom setup in an even sweeter surrounding. Luckily I was able to park the car real close after we chose our location. Note to self: buy something on wheels to lug your stuff around! We first walked the perimeters to see where we would set up everything and I made some photos with the M6 and a couple impressions with the iPhone which you can see here (the only colour photos in this post).
The photo below is the courtesy of Marieke Bakkes and is of me focusing the camera for my shot down the streets of Doel.
The light was really FULL of UV so my exposure times were around 3 seconds on f/16, including the triple time overexposure for my clear glass images. There is still some work for me to be looking at because the images are far from perfect. I see stripes / striations; could be a pouring issue, or too little rocking of the plate, or too little alcohol in the collodion to make it flow properly over the plate due to the hot temperature. I have small black dots on the plate, not sure what that is? Dust contamination but from what? I have to practice on the pouring (4×5″ while holding the plate in the corner is really finicky) so I’m looking to use a suction cup next time. I hope to get back there soon, on my own though, to be able to work on my skills and plates more.
This image is of my mum and dog watching over my camera standing on the dike while we are pouring the last plate you’ll be seeing in a bit.
4×5″ Clear Glass Ambrotypes
Exposure +- 3 to 4 seconds f/16
Scanned using the Epson V700, not yet printed.
I hope to print them soon in lith to see how far I can stretch these images. But I’m not 100% satisfied with these so hope to get back there soon, hopefully with my Linhof so I can save on lugging heaviness around.
From what I’ve just read in a piece from the Volkskrant (Dutch newspaper, thanks Mr. Neighbour) the Belgian government agreed past Tuesday with the harbour expanding and Doel being torn down. This means I will have to go back at least this very season. There are worst things in life, me thinks 😉
I guess that was it for now…thank you Marieke, I hope you had a great day, I sure did, and thank you mom, dad and brothels for helping me looking after my stuff -x-
Not the best plate I’ve made but I like my brother on his guitar.
A couple of things went wrong; poured the developer poorly; received a call right before I wanted to expose the plate which I had to take, not a very well cleaned plate and so on.
10×10″ Black Glass Ambrotype
I also made a 4×5″ clear glass ambrotype which I hope to be able to print soon, most likely the lith way. Not sure when, my cold has finally caught up with me and have lots of projects/things that require my attention. I will first have to varnish it anyway 😉