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Thread: Wet plate / artificial lighting

  1. #1

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    Wet plate / artificial lighting

    Any suggestions on what sort of UV-rich artificial lighting can be used for wet plate photography? My place does not have large windows, and over the next few months going outdoors will not be an option. Mercury vapor?

  2. #2

    Re: Wet plate / artificial lighting

    Florescents provide, I think, the best quality and cheapest source of artificial light for collodion and other color-blind (UV and blue only) processes. Mercury/HMI works great, but can get incredibly expensive, especially for the photographic market, and get really hot. Going to a indoor plant store will be cheaper, but make sure your bulbs have the right spectrum. Studio strobes work fine but you need a fair amount of power (>4800 ws), and in my experience the highlights in collodion postives tend to block up more than other light sources.

  3. #3

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    Re: Wet plate / artificial lighting

    Thanks Jason. I was thinking that there are industrial mercury vapor bulbs/fixtures that I can use and which are cheaper than those for the photographic maket. The spectrum for mercury vapor lamps seems to have a large spike for UV beats the pants off of flourescent.

  4. #4

    Re: Wet plate / artificial lighting

    No doubt mercury provides more UV light, but also consider the type of light source. Mercury will be a point source, very high contrast, so you may need to diffuse it; expensive HMI units for film often use Fresnel lenses to do so. Regular (tube) florescent bulbs don't need much, if any, diffusion because they are already so big (a potential problem). I haven't used the twisted compact florescent bulbs, so I can't say about them.

  5. #5

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    Re: Wet plate / artificial lighting

    I already have some Red Heads and fresnel tungsten flood lights- will try putting mercury vapor bulbs in them.

    Anyway, light control is something to worry about that later - for now I was just curious what sort of artificial light is workable with wet plate. If I am going to be stuck needing/using only sunlight, that makes the attraction of wetplate substantially less interesting for me, under current circumstances esp as winter comes along and the days get shorter. My real goal was working towards coating my own DRY plates anyway.

    I'm surprised though that there isn't much other information on artificial lighting for wet plate available. I guess most practitioners are "reenactors" who naturally work outdoors anyway. I see references to flourescent but they tend to be contradictory, and tend to say that it only works for long exposures, close up - which means it doesn't really work all that well. I don't see any references by anyone to using mercury vapor or blacklights. Is this because it doesn't work, or because no one has really tried it (which seems unlikely!)

  6. #6

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    Re: Wet plate / artificial lighting

    I would imagine mercury vapor lights would be very uncomfortable for the sitter in terms of visual intensity and heat. After reading all the wetplate posts on the subject I think your best bet is probably some common relatively inexpensive daylight 4- or 8-foot tube fluorescents in a large bank.

    Another alternative might be commercial black lights used in stage performance. I've never heard of anyone actually using them for wetplate, but I think they might be worth a try. "American DJ" is one brand.

    After looking at spectral data I intend to experiment with some AQM aquarium actinic fluorescent lamps.

    As Jason relates, high-powered electronic flash units will also work. I have successfully used a Speedotron 4800ws head or a 9600ws quadlight for wetplate in the studio.

    Surprisingly, I also have had success with a quartz 1000w FEL lamp in a Lowel fixture. Exposures were about 22 seconds f/8ish with the lamp about 4 meters from the subject IIRC. In retrospect, I would not expect such a hot light to have a proper spectrum for wetplate, but the exposure was in the ballpark of what others get with CFL arrays of 9 or 16 lamps up close (e.g., 5-6 seconds at f/4).

  7. #7
    indecent exposure cosmicexplosion's Avatar
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    Re: Wet plate / artificial lighting

    i was just looking some where secret and not very obvious for mercury lights and came across the information that cars use mercury lamps

    which means that all you need in your dark room, is a car!

    but the lamps are 12V and throw some light

    most of the other globes seemed to be designed for large warehouses.

    i just bought 2 600 watt flashes for using with wet plate

    and as they arrived yesterday i am keen to try them out.

    i bought them as i saw them used on the up coming doco about wet plate called artist and alchemists.

    they are beauties as they have battery and ac. light battery, will be taking em every where.

    think it will solve the old look in portraits out side.

    i also booked marked a u.v light for home security, mostly invisible, but @ $90 bucks, it will remain invisible.
    through a glass darkly...

  8. #8
    Scott Davis
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    Re: Wet plate / artificial lighting

    If someone would like to try it out sometime, I have a 2400 WS Calumet Elite pack and a head with a flash tube in it that does not have UV-blocking coatings. As I'm not really doing wet plate at this time (I've decided to focus my energy on my gum and platinum printing), it would still be interesting to see the results from it. My studio is in Washington DC - all you'd have to do is bring your chems and plates, as we have a decent sink in the bathroom (it's an old industrial space, so no worries about spilling chemistry).

  9. #9

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    Re: Wet plate / artificial lighting

    Quote Originally Posted by cyrus View Post
    I already have some Red Heads and fresnel tungsten flood lights- will try putting mercury vapor bulbs in them.
    Mercury vapour bulbs look as if they fit regular incandescent lights, in having Edison sockets. They do not - you would need a ballast for them (unless you use mixed fluorescent bulb - but these have less light output than the highest power incandescents for the same socket).

    Edison thread incandescent lights can be replaced with high power CFL lamps - but these aren't UV heavy either, and conserve energy rather than increasing the light output significantly.

    Besides, your readheads and fresnel lights will be halogen, with different (G or PAR) sockets and a small reflector that would not work with the huge old-school mercury bulbs even if you'd swap sockets.

    Unless you stumble upon some ancient arc lights, tanning bed UVA tubes might be your best bet - these are predominantly UV (and that without any in the strongly unhealthy UV-C range), easily obtainable and cheap, and fit standard lighting fixtures and power converters. HMI would do, of course - but they are expensive unless some friendly film company lets you borrow them for free.

  10. #10

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    Re: Wet plate / artificial lighting

    Quote Originally Posted by cyrus View Post
    I already have some Red Heads and fresnel tungsten flood lights- will try putting mercury vapor bulbs in them.
    You could also screw sticks of dynamite into those Red Head sockets. You might need a ballast, though... and about a foot concrete between you and your lights.

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