For those following me on Facebook might have seen a post on issues with specks on the plates. It took me quite some time to figure out what it is exactly. I have looked at several options. But it really took ages, at least to me, to narrow it down.
Specks, appearing as little black dots, on the plates (see cropped image above). Not immediately, some plates needed a couple of hours, some took days to show. At first I thought of the silver nitrate bath. I had this before and boiling the bath down solved it back then. Not this time..
I rinse my plates, certainly in studio, for over half an hour. Specks.
I started to use freshly mixed fix before each shoot. Specks.
Collodion bottle was steady before using, no shaking. Specks.
Oeff…nutty specks…the thing I did notice was that the fixer bath upon every mix started to look dirtier and dirtier. I bought the Sodium Thiosulphate crystals, I believe, in 2011. 25 kilos at once; better be prepped I figured 🙂 I guess it’s prone to deteriorate over time. I decided to filter it, to the max. A lot of small stuff got filtered out, and the fixer turned out to be the problem! After filtering I was left with a clean fixer bath. No specks!
For the filtering I used a normal cotton pad to wipe of make-up. I pressed it firmly into the funnel (see above image), takes ages to filter a liter but it works!
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!