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 while back I had a chat with friends and they thought it would be cool if I were to make collodion plates during the build of the new A2 tunnel in Maastricht. I thought it to be a great idea and I knew someone who’s working on this massive project, named Bjorn Vink. So, one day I pulled his jacket (sweater whatever or I just said hi) and I asked him if that would be at all possible. His answer was quite positive 😉
It took a bit to plan everything, need good weather, needs to be approved on time etc. This weekend’s Saturday there was an Open Day for the public to come and see the tunnel, how the build came along etc. On Sunday employees could bring their families and that’s when we were able to come in! We first enjoyed a guided tour by Bjorn which started at 10 AM with lots of interesting background information on the build and we decided on a final standing place. We set everything up at around 11:30. I had until around 2:15 PM to make images. Needless to say time flew by like mad and we had a GREAT time!
This specific tunnel being built is a 2-way tunnel, separated lanes, double-decked, so four lanes in total. The build has started in, I believe, 2008 and will take until 2016 to be finished completely, and even then more work needs to be finished such as the greenery and the real estate parts.
It is a massive undertaking, taking place right at the heart of the city, but I think it will all be worth it. It was extremely fascinating to be allowed to walk the premises and see with my own eyes just how massive this project really is, and even then you still get to see (and understand) a mere glimpse of it.
Bjorn is also a photographer besides being the Senior Adviser geo-technique / geo-fysiology / geo-hydrology at the A2 tunnel project. He loves to make time-lapses and made one of us with an abused Nikon D700 setting up the darkroom tent and everything and making the first images, really cool!
On to the collodion part. I worked on black glass solely this time, partially because there was an interest from a potential buyer in the glass plates. So, not yet the inauguration of my Linhof. I chose for 8×10″ plates and 10×10″. The latter I partially regret now because I took pre-used plates that I cleaned thoroughly yet not good enough apparently. I used these cardboard sheets to place in between plates to keep them from scratching but they leave this nasty pattern on my plates which you can’t see only after exposing the plates aka when it’s too late. Never too old to learn I guess 😉 Below a panoramic impression (made with an iPhone) of the site where the darkroom and camera were setup.
Locate the camera and darkroom tent if you can 😉 The first image I took is situated in the middle of this panoramic image.
The second image is where the camera is standing in the panoramic image. The first 10×10″ was unusable because of the patterns I mentioned earlier and the collodion layer even cracked at that spot when heating the plate for varnishing. A perfect trashcan image..
The structures, all that rhythm with the lines is so cool! I wish I could have made more images, it’s so fantastic and they look so good on collodion.
The last image that worked out okay is the next one. It was shot looking outwards from the tunnel.
I made another image after this one looking into the tunnel where it was quite dark. I found it hard to guesstimate exposure time and actually overexposed it a bit. The biggest mistake however I made with that plate was when rinsing it at home, the collodion came off the plate, another one for the trash can 😦 And that was the last image I could make. Bjorn had another meeting and, of course, we were not allowed there without the proper guidance. We packed everything swiftly, lugged the stuff back to the car (thanks for helping Bart, Bjorn and dad ;-)) and found our way back home, where we unloaded the car and crashed. It had been quite the day.
If you care to find out more about this wonderful tunnel project check their website for more information.
Oh, and a final Thank You goes out to the weather gods 😉 I don’t know what dance I did but the weather was really on our side which was not something we expected during the coarse of the week.
Oh, and another thing I need to change in my work thingy, I have to ditch that LED light with battery. It works fantastic for the first 2 plates but after that the intensity of the light greatly diminishes making it really hard to see where to put the plate in the back and, even worse, where to pour the developer. It worked pretty alright but it’s a needless pain.
Anyway, I pray this adventure gets a second chance because I LOVE it and would like to get more out of it than I did so far!