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Thread: My Lack of Knowledge in Wet Plate

  1. #1
    Stephography stephography's Avatar
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    My Lack of Knowledge in Wet Plate

    I don't think I am unique in that I have spent hours upon hours researching wet plate collodion and browsing plate cameras... trying to decide if I should buy one or make one... trying to figure out which lens would be the best & most cost effective at the same time... can I just say- HELP!!!

    I am a skilled photographer. I shoot digital by trade currently, but hibernate in my darkroom making my way through my 5x7 film and 35mm when it's just "me" time. My newest endeavor that I've been itching to begin for some time now (actually 9 months... didn't want to do it while pregnant due to chemical exposure) is wet plate. I am ready to begin this process in my heart, but just when I thought I had it all figured out I realized I don't really know as much as I thought.

    I need a wet plate camera. I want a 10x12 or 11x14. I am having trouble finding very many of them. The original idea was to just build my own. I have a skilled woodworking hubby, but my problem is the design... "how" to do it. I have to be able to give my hubby a plan so he can make it since he doesn't know anything about photography. I have ran across the Otti design book and heard mixed reviews. I am wondering if any of you guys know an approximate cost of making your own wet plate camera in the sizes listed? Also, if it would be more cost effective to just buy a camera already made? And if so, what camera(s) would you recommend?

    I hope this is not a redundant post. I did search the forum first, but didn't quite find the answer I was hoping for. Maybe some of you wet platters out there can be more of assistance. I almost feel a bit discouraged about the whole thing. :/

    Thanks in advance!!
    "The very instant that I saw you did
    My heart fly to your service." Shakespeare

  2. #2

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    Re: My Lack of Knowledge in Wet Plate

    I'm not much help with regard to wet plate, but if you want a custom built camera, you might could try Richard Ritter, or possibly - doubtfully, J.B. Harlin. I know he's built personal cameras for himself and for his wife Susan, not sure whether he'd be willing to take a commission. Should either of these routes lead to the camera of your dreams, be prepared to pay!

    As to Wetplate, there are many here who practice the art - I'm not one of them.

  3. #3
    Light Guru's Avatar
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    My Lack of Knowledge in Wet Plate

    Quote Originally Posted by stephography View Post
    I shoot digital by trade currently, but hibernate in my darkroom making my way through my 5x7 film and 35mm
    Quote Originally Posted by stephography View Post
    I need a wet plate camera. I want a 10x12 or 11x14. I am having trouble finding very many of them.
    So you already have a large format camera, before going to the effort of building one or spending big $$$ on buying a plate camera why not get a wet plate holder to use with your existing camera. I know your current camera is not as but as the plate camera you want to get but that also means that materials and chemicals needed during the learning process will be less.

    I have been thinking of getting ordering a 4x5 wetplate holder from Chamonix myself.
    http://www.chamonixviewcamera.com/wetplateholders.html
    Zak Baker
    zakbaker.photo

    "Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."
    Ansel Adams

  4. #4
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: My Lack of Knowledge in Wet Plate

    Start with smaller plates (4x5 to 5x7-inch range) til you get the process down.

    Any large format camera is fine. If your husband is handy, it's not hard to convert a conventional film holder to a plate holder.

    Whatever lens you have is probably fine, as long as it's reasonably fast, but even f/8 is fine out in the sun.

    Take a workshop or find a local wet-plater to help you get going. It will save a LOT of time, effort, and frustration.
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  5. #5

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    Re: My Lack of Knowledge in Wet Plate

    Mark has it right. Start with 4x5 till you get a handle on the process. the larger the plate the harder and more expensive it is.
    you can buy a wet plate holder from me ( http://incameraindustries.com/ ) or Chamonix or make your own like this.
    http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/WP...P04/wpp04.html

  6. #6
    C. D. Keth's Avatar
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    Re: My Lack of Knowledge in Wet Plate

    Hi, Steph! I assume your name is Steph, anyway.

    Mark is right. Like the cost of film, everything gets harder and more expensive by order of area rather than linear measure as plates get larger. Since you're already shooting 5x7, how about converting one of your holders to a half plate wetplate holder, the size of which is 4-3/4"x6-1/2"? That's large enough to be nice looking ambrotypes or nice sized contact portraits but small enough to be easily manageable plates in the hand. Here's a short write-up on how to convert a holder for wetplate.

  7. #7

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    Re: My Lack of Knowledge in Wet Plate

    The problem I've had with modified holders is that they are not easy to clean. Collodion is liable to get into light-trap area, for example; and possibly pulling more collodion off the plate. Also its inconvenient to have a GG size that is larger than the actual plate size when composing the image.
    I just ordered a Chamonix 5X7 wet-plate holder - looks like a good design.

  8. #8
    Cor's Avatar
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    Re: My Lack of Knowledge in Wet Plate

    Good advice to start small and use your exciting camera with a modified holder..Jody's holders get a good press. Be meticulously (always wanted to use that word..;-)..) clean, the chemicals (silver nitrate) is quite corrosive to your camera (be it metal or wood: wood will stain), I started with my Toyo Field 8*10 and a standard 8*10 holder with a wet plate insert (actually cut out in the septum). Although I did not stain my camera I later obtained a wooden Japanese whole plate camera and holders..sadly I do not practice wet plate that much any more, partly because other photographic priorities and partly because for me wet plate has a more restricted idiom

    And you should really consider joining a dedicated web forum on Collodion such as Quin Jacobsons http://www.collodion.com/

    good luck!

    best,

    Cor

  9. #9
    Light Guru's Avatar
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    Re: My Lack of Knowledge in Wet Plate

    Quote Originally Posted by Cor View Post
    And you should really consider joining a dedicated web forum on Collodion such as Quin Jacobsons http://www.collodion.com/
    Problem with Quin's forum http://www.collodion.com/cp/forum.php is that it is seldom used. I check it once a week or two and when it click "What's New" to show me any new posts there NEVER are any. So ether there are never any new posts or the forum does not function properly to show the new posts.
    Zak Baker
    zakbaker.photo

    "Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."
    Ansel Adams

  10. #10

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    Re: My Lack of Knowledge in Wet Plate

    Hi Steph,

    Although I very much appreciate both the romance and beauty of wet plate, you might consider learning dry plate instead. No worries about damaging your camera or plate holders, and certainly safer and easier with little ones in your life. Way less expensive, too.

    There aren't many of us yet practicing dry plate, so not as much social interaction. Also not as much competition. Those factors might influence your decision, or not. Anyway, I throw this out because it amazes me how dry plate still isn't a known option to many LF photographers.

    Best of luck (and fun!)
    d
    Denise Ross
    www.thelightfarm.com
    Dedicated to the Craft of Handmade Silver Gelatin Paper, Dry Plates, and Film

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