So.. after the brief Van Dyke tour of course wet plate could not be left behind. Checked the chemistry about a week back and was able to shoot a test plate today to see if all worked accordingly. Cranked open those speakers (a working space without music is like coffee without the coffee, impossible!) and cleaned three 4×5″ plates. Decided to shoot outside as I’m currently still rearranging the studio place. Looked to be dry all day and had a nice flower in mind (skulls are so boring, even for testing).
Collodion batch from 2016 so slow but contrasty. Developer from 2017 so should work together just fine. First plate; dark with some highlight spots as I still had some sun (and wind). But no fogging so chemistry fine, plate merely underexposed. Second plate, changed flower, and just dark because it got darker fast. Third plate; looked like rain was coming after all, so made a bit of a hurry and forgot to put back the slide after exposing…Putain! So, aside from shooting wet plate I also got around testing my wonderful extensive vocabulary lol 😉 All works just fine!
Anyway, too lazy for cleaning a fourth, let alone a fifth plate and having gotten what I wanted in a way, I decided to leave it at that. Next step; pick a decent subject and shoot some actual plates!
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″.
So…After the first experiment with polish-machine-style-plate-cleaning there’s always a second, with improvements of course. The first thing I wanted to solve was moving of the plate during polishing. This machine has a disc that rotates at 3200 times per minute = 53,33 times per second… Try that by hand 😆 This puts forth some power on the plate which makes it a little nervous on a flat surface. I already tried solving it by putting some gaffer tape on the table but that was not enough.
Now I decided to put some small boards on two sides of the table, pointing towards the corners thus each other, and letting them stick a little over the surface of the table so that a glass plate could be positioned alongside them. That way I could push the plate towards the corner without having it fall off. It worked a whole lot better but still the plate had the tendency to hoover a little over the table’s surface. Than Erik came along and made me a square wooden board on which he put a glass plate. He then put 4 long cocktail sticks along the plate sides and fixed them to the board with gaffer tape. That way the plate was sort of clamped in between the sticks and I could easily polish. I placed that board design along the smaller boards I earlier screwed into the sides of the table so it stayed put on the table and…Tadaaa, problem solved!
I then put the table in the middle of the darkroom and the second problem of spattering the cleaning substance all over the place also got solved. What a glorious evening 🙂 I was able to incredibly lazily clean the plates for a commissioned portrait shoot this Wednesday, awesome!
I love wet plate. In fact, I love everything about wet plate! Except for…cleaning the plates 🙂 So, it might be a bad habit but I look for shortcuts, no concession in outcome of course. I use a dishwasher for the first cleaning cycle. And then you still always have to scrub by hand using the chalk cleaner. Polishing and polishing, overheating etc. You know. That stuff. So, Erik said the other day; might it not be an idea to use a polishing machine for that? Hmmm….
So, I got meself a polishing machine and went for it! Interesting. It works. So, that’s good. Start is as usual; pour cleaning solution on plate:
Put polishing machine on plate:
Turn it on:
Right, no image there as I needed both hands to keep this thing under control 🙂
…Do a lot of cleaning afterwards! Ha, that stuff goes everywhere! In a radius of 2,5 metres all was covered in chalk mixture! Quite funny; it works, saves quite a bit of energy (if you leave out the cleaning afterwards) and it’s fun: because, well, machines just are. I will find something to fix this as I like it. I hope you did too 😉
A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine, Jean-Pierre Pijls, asked me if I could photograph his kids, Rafke and Thieu, on wet plate. Knowing that we followed the same photography classes and his children being around the age of 17 I felt it like a cool challenge, seeing that I normally do not make portraits on commission. I ‘shot’ them on 18×24 cm black glass. Now they have been varnished and scanned I can share them with you.
I’ve used a new light to make these portraits: a Kaiser 2000 watt video light which I aimed at an umbrella. I was able to bring the exposure time back to 20 seconds instead of 30 with the 2 Falcon Eyes lights. I’m pretty happy! I used a small reflector to lit up the face on the other side. The Lastolite Urban Collapsible as a background works really well again! I’m very happy with this one! Enough of the blabla…on to the images…Jean-Pierre shot some images during the shoot which I will use as an introduction to the real plates.
And last but not least, Brother & Sister on Black Glass
So, I did manage to find some time to and make the photos and publish them on here. This presentation is totally different than anything I’ve thought of before, only that my exam work has been finished this way too though with a different backing color.
I had a company cut 4 plates of black plexi-glass (perspex?) size 28 x 34 cm (the plates are 18 x 24 cm). I used u-shaped aluminum strips to attach the glass plate to the plexi-glass plate and used those same strips again on the back to attach it the wall. I placed the glass plates exactly in the middle of the perspex plate. Here are some images (don’t pay attention to the filth; didn’t have space to clean the plates today):
I actually like this quite a lot AND it was not that expensive either 😉 Anyway, off to start packing for France!!
Update 8 June 2010:
As requested a photo of the front, how the viewer will see them:
Side note: the photo has been taken outside with the plate flat on the ground. The kind of stains you see are the reflections of clouds in the plate etc. I was too lazy to use a pola-filter so forgive me 😉
Last Sunday at the Kunsttour Jeroen joined the party as you could read before. He also brought a lens which he had for sale and I was interested in. You can read that before too; I just wanted to show it off one more time with some prettier photos as it deserves it 😉
It’s a Darlot Petzval No. 28,249. Specs: 370mm f5.
I still have to try it but Bart already made a lens board for him so when the weather and our days off make a match it’ll be the first I do! So, hang in there for some swirly impressions soon…
Edit: Here’s a table with sizes and focal lengths of different Darlot lenses. The funny bit is that the diameter of my Darlot is 3″ (7,5 cm) but its focal length is the one with the diameter of 4″ (10 cm). Anyway, here it is: