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 🙂
I guess this post is more of a sum-up of my own thoughts for future reference than they may be useful to anyone else..but anyway…!
I’ve printed some images over the past two weekends, trying to improve my coating skills and to figure out if and how I am to use it for the Serendipity project.
Coating skills have improved, I coat using a cotton pad dipped in emulsion, and swiping it over the paper from top to bottom, left to right, while turning the paper four times so that I essentially create a four-layer coating.
It’s pretty even, although I have to try to be a bit more consistent in applying as you can tell by the look of the image attached to this post. What I do find a bit ‘stressing’ is the way I attach the negative to the paper before placing it into the contact printing frame. The tape I use sucks. Apart from it leaving a nasty residue on the negative itself when removing it afterwards, is that it shows on the coated area. So have to use different tape and perhaps attach it somewhere else. Bigger border around the image so it doesn’t interfere with the coated area on the paper, something like that. If anyone has a proper method for this, feel free to chime in 🙂
Also, I don’t like the messy borders. It’s fun, but it’s distracting from the image itself. So I’m thinking of making a sort of cut-out mat which I place on the paper before coating so I can create a slick and even border. If anyone has a brilliant idea there, shoot! I’ll look into it myself but the wheel has already been invented…like a trillion times 🙂
And..on the developing part; I now develop using a single water bath before fixing. I’ve let myself get away with that until now for ‘testing’ purposes but it’s time to stop playing around and do it the right way. Archival printing has been my way of working with regular baryta papers (fix, rinse, hypo, rinse a shitload more, selenium / gold toning, rinse and so on) and want these prints to last as long as they possibly can too. I read some interesting stuff on the website of Sandy King so will be going more into that way of working next time. Have everything I need for it anyway so no more excuses, ha!
So, new steps summed up (makes it easier for me next time):
- Sensitiser, expose image la-die-da-that
- Development using a two-bath method, with slightly acidified water (teaspoon of citric acid to 3.8L of water), two minutes each.
- Toning: gold thiourea toner (of which I bought several bottles of Tetenal back in the days) for 5 minutes, discard after each use (f*ck though, that makes it expensive).
- 5% Sodium Thiosulfate fixing bath ( for some reason I now use a 3% dilution). A two-bath fixing method is recommended for the best archival quality, two minutes in each bath.
- Clearing bath; I still have some Kodak Hypo Clearing somewhere, but you can easily make it yourself by adding 10g sodium sulfite to 1000ml water and stir until completely dissolved. Mix before usage and discard after usage. Two minutes.
- Final wash: 5-10 minutes when clearing bath is used, 20 minutes without.
So, it’ll get a bit more serious than before, which is good. I have some ideas in mind with the negatives shot in France this year, that I want to contact print using Vandyke.
Yes, ladies & gentlemen..it’s THAT time again 🙂 I seem to have grown quite fond of building them, so gotta keep up the pace!
I moved again, to a nicer place, and had to set up the darkroom, also again. I planned for it to be on the attic, only the wet table turned out to be too large to get it up the frikkin’ stairs. Remodelling the place to make it go up that stairs is not (yet) an option so decided to take a different approach.
I split up the sections a bit. The wet table and enlarger ended up in a room with the central heating system and washing machine. Already had connections for water and drainage so it took me and my dad a bit of work to fix the piping (cool to do with my dad!) but did a good job.
The living room is part working space, part dining and stuff, the heart of it being a large table measuring 125 x 250 cm. And across the room a large white board of 100 x 200 cm (yes, size does matter at times :p ). And then there’s a walk-in closet room for my clothing and across storage for chemistry bottles, other glassware and this and that (of which there’s a lot).
Works pretty well so far! Not sure if I’m going to keep the enlarger in the place it’s at now, doesn’t get much use these days with the contact printing and can make better use of the space it’s filling up now.
Photos suck, sorry ’bout that. For lack of spirit I made them using my iPhone.
I already used it, better said, I really had a deadline to make. I joined a photo group a while back, and we’re applying for a group exhibition and had to prep an example image of the concept. I will get deeper into the conceptual bit further down the lane somewhere, so don’t ask yet please..
They will be portraits shot digitally (most likely and hopefully using the Monochrome…), making digital negatives of these files and printing them using Van Dyke. Exposure time of the paper was 17 minutes using an UV-light source. I will share the testing with you:
Anyway, that is as it stands a bit for now. More to come soon, and by that I mean not the build of darkroom No. 9, pinky promise 🙂
15th of June 2017, 29 degrees celcius. Seemed like the perfect day to finish the build of the darkroom 😊
Going through all the still unopend boxes to make sure I had all the ones with “doka ’17” written on them was quite a bit of work. But hard work always pays off and everything has been installed now except for the glass plates. Good to go!
Took quite a bit more time than anticipated but very happy now!
Yep, it’s that time again 😊
Trying to rebuild my darkroom again. Not going as good and fast as I hoped but it’s slowly getting there… 😊 Moving can be quite demotivating but I know why I’m doing it..
Anyway…long time no see 🙂 I started with the chemistry last week, making fresh fix, developer, collodion and checking the silver bath, which looked and tested really well! It had a proper cleaning, with boiling-down half way and all, before I packed it up for moving, but still, quite the surprise. Last Monday, my regular day off, I decided to continue but it was a busy day with a meeting scheduled and had some prepping to do for that so didn’t get much work done in the darkroom. Feeling a bit anxious about that I thought I would give it a shot asking the day off on Tuesday, which I was able to do….so Tuesday was Theday.
Erik grabbed the change to film everything but we will redo this as I was too much occupied with looking for all my stuff, trying to find back that routine in a new place. I spent about half the time looking for things 🙂 I was too excited to give the plates the proper cleaning they should have had and it clearly shows, as expected. But, it works! The first pour was indescribable; don’t want to sound like a sentimental old fart (the smelly one), but wow, it felt great! The smile on my face….loved it!
Well, what else can I say? There’s some work to do to get it all ‘perfect’ again, better cleaning, more ether to the collodion as it was relatively cold in the darkroom and it didn’t flow nicely, creating a striped pattern. The smallest first test plate (see plate above) was so scratched and polluted that the layer of collodion curled off while drying, making it look pretty fascinating. Also, I want to re-read Osterman’s manual again, just because it has been awhile and it’s never a bad thing. And of course, making a batch of varnish and do the final very-good-smelling step 🙂
The following images are the ones I like best. The last one is an image Erik made of me. He composed the images, lighting and everything and I did the chemistry part. The digital overview images are mostly Erik’s.
Hope to see you soon again!
Erik, not experienced in plumbing, was looking up to the job because he felt a little insecure. Due to this darkroom being housed on a squat-basis there are quite a few limitations on how to attach the table to existing water hoses. And a boiler had to be built in as there is no warm water in that space. So, all the more challenging.
He made a life-size drawing on how the piping needed to be done with the exact measurements and then we started building. The drawing made it so clear that even I could understand it perfectly. Everything was built using compression fittings so if ever, for whatever reason, this thing has to be disarmed and put back again, it’s easily possible. Comforting thought 🙂
Tonight I shall be showing Erik the reward of all this hard work; learning him to develop film! Yes, another soul to dive back into Analogue! I normally do not look forward to developing film (after 10+ years it does get a little boring :-)) but this time it’s different. This time I can’t wait!
And there will be plenty of film sooooo lucky us!
It took awhile, but finally a bit of rest caught up along with more will to start rebuilding the darkroom and studio. The thought of having to break it off again when Ad Hoc tells us to leave kind of put me off rebuilding. But in the end it keeps me from being able to work so rebuilding really is the only option. And.. it is fun! Rethinking everything all over is always a challenge and an exciting thing to do. The only major thing left to finish is hooking up the wet table to water and a drain. Got all the stuff, just needs to be done.
Today we finished making the space light tight with some great fabric, donated by Erik which he bought quite a few years back for a whole different purpose. My first plan was to use something like black rubble sacks, double-layered, and tape it to the windows (which were quite a few!). But this is much much better as only one layer is sufficient to get the job done and it’s white so reflects all red light inside and reflects light, thus heat, outside. Anyway, enough with the blabla…onto some images, from start to where it’s at now 🙂
So…that is as it stands now..Hopefully soon things will be fully up and running. About the cloth, it’s a three-layer synthetic fabric, two outer whites and one inner black. Don’t know the price, don’t know the name, only that it works REALLY well, it’s light, thin and easy to handle / cut etc. If I find more info on it in the future I’ll add this.
Have a great evening and I’ll be off for some dark dreams tonight 🙂
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…. 🙂