My schedule has the finicky habit of changing the very last minute. The plan was to write a blog post last night, go cycling today in the morning somewhere and print the image for the exhibit in Aachen during the rest of the day. Found out on Monday we had a theatre show planned for Tuesday evening…darn. I rescheduled the printing to Monday evening / night, cycling with a friend Tuesday afternoon and go the theatre (cabaret) in the evening. Hmmm what to do with the Tuesday morning…Linhof yeah! I still had everything packed from Sunday, switched a couple of things, reread the Linhof manual, the bits that mattered anyway, and went on a trip this morning.
Seeing that the time would be limited I picked the Enci as a good place to shoot. Been there before in 2011 (see this link), easy parking, easy access, not many people around, close to home and was eager to see how it looked after two years. Nature has found its way; really beautiful there. Unfortunately they made a sort of bar and introduced paid parking (blood suckers) but luckily for us this wasn’t opened and we did not see the parking meter 😉
I chose to work with the darkbox this time as it would work faster with setting up etc. The flashlight I bought to function as a darkroom light with red foil works like a charm! Plenty of light, you can switch it off to save battery life and easy to hang from its detachable hand strap: good purchase! The Jody Ake back works really nicely, the ridge the plate rests on is relatively small and will fall off during printing because of the ridge in the glass plate holder of the enlarger. I had trouble focusing; don’t have a dark cloth for 4×5″ and I really need one outside; the foldable hood from Linhof itself is not good enough, certainly not with an f/14 lens. But, the lens was properly attached this time! 🙂
A fresnel will be one of the next purchases for the Linhof to improve focusing as well. On top of that I focused for the background; the line of trees at the other side of the water but the foreground comes out sharper than the back..? Maybe there was wind on the other side of the water..(35 seconds exposure time)? And I find it hard to ‘read’ the negatives. As in if they come out a little foggy perhaps? Not sure. I still have to adjust developer for them, in the first place to build up more silver on the plate. Did it here by multiplying regular exposure by 3 times and overdeveloping a little.
A first timer this shoot was the use of glycerin to keep the plates wet until I got home to give them a final rinse. I ordered two liters of glycerin and added 2 liters of water to them in a large canister. Left it overnight to properly become one. France mentioned you were supposed to coat the plate with the substance like you do with collodion and it’s supposed to lay on top of the plate. This solution was not thick enough for that so I covered the plates in the boxes to make sure they stayed wet enough. Have to read up on that a little more but it seemed to work out just fine. In the scans I can see some strange cringes in some parts of the plate; have to look with a magnifier to determine if it’s the scan or in the negative. Will report back on this when I do.
I left the plates in there for several hours, around 5 hours even I guess, before I gave them their final rinse. I fixed on the spot after the shoot, placed them in a rinsing bath to get the fixer off and then placed them in these boxes you can see up here and covered them with glycerin. When I took the plates out at home to rinse them I poured the glycerin back into the stock bottle for re-usage.
Anyway, enough of the boring part..it’s the plates we care about! They are all 4×5″ clear glass ambrotypes shot using a Berthiot Perigraphe 90mm f/14 with an exposure time of 35 seconds.
Not perfect but fun we had and better they will get! Looking forward varnishing them and seeing how they will print. Have a good day! Already excited about my next adventure 🙂
P.s.: the cabaret turned out to be a duo singing their songs for the entire show..right. I took Bart out for Sushi, much better!
Glycerin, widely known for usage in pharmaceutics and cosmetic applications such as cough syrups, tooth paste, soap and other skin care products, can also be used in wet plate collodion photography.
When working out in the field KCN is the recommended fixer as it requires a lot less washing time than the safer, more friendly alternative, hypo (sodium thio-sulphate). Apparently I’m very sensitive to the smell of KCN so slowly want to push it out of my workflow. I just don’t feel comfortable using it when I can smell it this badly. But working with hypo on location is not really an option unless you have running water. So……
I remembered a discussion on Facebook where the use of glycerin and or honey was mentioned to keep the plate wet until you arrive home and give the plates their final proper rinse. I just couldn’t remember how it was diluted, ratio, if glycerin or honey was the only compound needed etc. Luckily Facebook is still around and I started a discussion on the topic. That surely cleared things up and here’s what I will be doing (first in the shape of a test, later on the real deal):
* Fix the plates in hypo 20% dilution
* Give it a quick rinse to get the excess fixer off
* Flow the plate with a mixture of glycerin and water, ratio 1:1 (read flow the plate as with collodion, not submerge)
* Stash it in a tray which on its turn is stacked into a black light-tight box
* When I get back home, rinse the shit out of them!
Sounds like THE thing to do! Now, all I need is to find some proper trays, a couple for 10×10″ plates, and a couple for the 4×5″ plates. And of course a black box. The purpose of the glycerin here is that it will adhere to the plate without having to submerge it in a fluid. Saves in weight to drag along and when you would hold the plates in an angle there’s no chance they will (partially) dry out. Not having to lug around 25 litres of water when working on location sounds like a dream, without all that water a weird wet dream, so just a dream 😉
I will first be testing this to make sure the hypo will not affect the plates in any way while waiting to be rinsed. I hope to post results soon and the stuff I used to keep the plates stored in. I’m very happy to have figured this out a little and would like to thank France Scully Osterman, Craig Tuffin, Frank Lopez, Denis Roussel and Andreas Reh for their input!