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Thread: Wet Plate Beginner

  1. #1

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    Wet Plate Beginner

    Hi All,

    I've only ever shot digital and in the last year got into Polaroid and now have a fascination with wet plate and would love to try my hand at it. I picked up a set of rails and ground glass, and now need a lens board and lens. Fortunately I was donated a 135 f4.7 Schneider lens to get myself going, but really love the look of petzval lenses.

    The guys over at Bostick-Sullivan suggested I don't invest too much money in 4x5 since he knows I'm keen to learn and move up to 8x10 once I figure it out. What do you guys think? Petzval now or later? Do 4x5 Petzvals cover 8x10 or would I realistically need another lens?

  2. #2
    Light Guru's Avatar
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    Wet Plate Beginner

    Quote Originally Posted by brianm View Post
    Hi All,

    I've only ever shot digital and in the last year got into Polaroid and now have a fascination with wet plate and would love to try my hand at it. I picked up a set of rails and ground glass, and now need a lens board and lens. Fortunately I was donated a 135 f4.7 Schneider lens to get myself going, but really love the look of petzval lenses.

    The guys over at Bostick-Sullivan suggested I don't invest too much money in 4x5 since he knows I'm keen to learn and move up to 8x10 once I figure it out. What do you guys think? Petzval now or later? Do 4x5 Petzvals cover 8x10 or would I realistically need another lens?
    Later way later. Learn film and large format cameras first before getting into wet plate.

    And there really is no such thing as a 4x5 petzval or 8x10 petzval lenses, petzval lenses were around long before people started using 4x5 or 8x10 film. Back then the common sizes were "whole plate", "half plate" and "quarter plate" none of wich have the exact same dimensions as modern film.

    Like I said learn film and large format cameras before getting into wet plate.
    Zak Baker
    zakbaker.photo

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

  3. #3

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    Re: Wet Plate Beginner

    Personally, I'd try large-format film at the 4x5 size before going larger or before going to wet plates; timing and consistency are crucial elements that most of the digital crowd simply doesn't understand...and big, wet plates demand a lot of both. If you get yourself used to basic processes before trying the obscure and arcane stuff, you'll likely be happier in the long run...but if you just like to experiment and don't mind wasting a few dollars/supplies, then jump in, by all means.

  4. #4
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    Re: Wet Plate Beginner

    Quote Originally Posted by Penumbra View Post
    If you get yourself used to basic processes before trying the obscure and arcane stuff, you'll likely be happier in the long run
    Exactly get used to dealing with chemicals and developing regular film before starting to use the much more toxic ones hat are used in wet plate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Penumbra View Post
    but if you just like to experiment and don't mind wasting a few dollars/supplies, then jump in, by all means.
    Oh its MUCH more then a few dollars. Shooting large format itself is not the cheepist, and doing wet plate can be really expensive.
    Zak Baker
    zakbaker.photo

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

  5. #5

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    Re: Wet Plate Beginner

    Quote Originally Posted by brianm View Post
    ...Fortunately I was donated a 135 f4.7 Schneider lens to get myself going, but really love the look of petzval lenses.

    The guys over at Bostick-Sullivan suggested I don't invest too much money in 4x5 since he knows I'm keen to learn and move up to 8x10 once I figure it out. What do you guys think? Petzval now or later? Do 4x5 Petzvals cover 8x10 or would I realistically need another lens?
    A Petzval lens intended for half-plate (4.25" x 5.5" in the US) should cover 4x5 but won't cover 8x10. In fact, you will need a Petzval of slightly longer focal length than a modern normal lens typically used with film to cover the same format. For example, I have Dallmeyer 3A Patent Portrait lens which is a 16" lens of Petzval design. It is intended to be used on the whole-plate format (6.5"x8.5") while a modern lens of 12" is usually considered "normal" for 8x10. If the 3A is used on a larger format, swirls and vignettes will appear on the plate. (An example of this lens used on a 10"x12" plate can be seen here, but be forewarned it is a nude subject.)

    Your 135mm f/4.7 (Xenar?) is fairly fast and comes close to the speed of many sought-after f/4 Petzvals. It should work OK but with essentially no view camera movements possible on a 4x5. Probably fine for quarter-plate which will be the closest size you'll get anyways with a wetplate-modified 4x5 film holder. "Donated" also seems a good price for a wetplate lens. (I'm contemplating selling my Dallmeyer 1A, intended for 4x5, for $1,300 and the 3A for $2,400.) And, the size of your lens will be much smaller than a Petzval for the same format. That translates into a smaller camera and/or lensboard, and less weight to deal with.

    Fundamental use of a view camera isn't difficult to learn, nor is starting wetplate. But, it takes some time to grasp the nuances. Get a 4x5 camera and use your current lens at the beginning. Later, you can decide if you really want to invest in that big, expensive 8x10-coverage Petzval. (A 4A Dallmeyer for 8x10 sold for $3,800 last year.)

  6. #6

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    Re: Wet Plate Beginner

    I'm just starting on wet plate and learning with your lens on 4x5 is good enough!!!
    The less parameters to master the better. You should learn the basic of the camera, it seems simple but there is a lot involved...
    Petzval lens are nice as old tessar are too. Also, it is nice on film but then you need a shutter.
    I jumped in with out thinking too much. I tried 3.5 x 4.5 WP then i want bigger so i bought a 5x7 and a few lenses to realized that i also like using film but i was limited because i didn't have a shutter for my lenses.

    Go slowly regardless or others comments!

  7. #7

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    Re: Wet Plate Beginner

    I disagree with everything the nay sayers above claim, you can easily learn wetplate first, before LF film. That's what I did. And that's what thousands of photographers did in the 1800s too. I've taught several people who had no LF experience and they're doing fine with collodion. I just gave a workshop here in Tucson and one attendee had no LF experience. He jumped right in and is doing great.

    If you go to the wetplate facebook groups, you'll find dozens more starting each month, worldwide. Speaking of that, May 4th is World Wetplate Day, something we started to foster and encourage people to learn this easy and fascinating technique. See http://www.wetplateday.org/

    And it can be less expensive than film. You can use your 4x5, buy a 5x7 camera for $150 or an old Kodak box brownie for $10 and use the existing lens. The chemicals can be bought for about the price of one box of 8x10 film, and you can shoot many, many plates with those chemicals. All you need is a barrel lens, no shutter, and not a petzval (though they are great when you can afford one). Joe's explanation of sizes above is very good. And petzvals for smaller plates are very available and affordable. I shot halfplates exclusively for over a year, with cheap 6" petzvals.

    And it is not toxic, if you consider Hypo fixer is just a salt, and the acetic acid I use for developer is grocery store white vinegar.

    I totally encourage you to get in touch with people that are really doing wetplate collodion, and ignore the rest. Join http://www.collodion.com/, then buy a manual and start.

  8. #8
    Alex Timmermans
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    Re: Wet Plate Beginner

    I fully agree with Garret. Wet plate is totally different from film. There is no need to start with film first.
    And if you know what you are doing it isn't dangerous at all. Just throwing a few cleaning liquids in a toilet is more dangerous.

    I would suggest to start with 4x5, use the lens you already have, buy a starter kit and see if you really like it.
    Starting with wet plate is as expensive as buying a middle class compact camera.
    I have seen stunning pictures made with very cheap lenses and really bad pictures made with expensive petzvals. It's not the gear which makes the picture. It's the person behind the camera.
    "You dont take a picture, it's given to you"

    www.alextimmermans.com
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    email : collodion-art dot onsmail dot nl

  9. #9

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    Re: Wet Plate Beginner

    I also agree completely with Garret. There is really little carry over from film to wet plate as far as exposure or processing. At this point an investment such as he suggests may be less than you would need for a good 4x5 equipment. Get a manual through collodion site, read it well, get started and have fun.

  10. #10

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    Re: Wet Plate Beginner

    If you already have the 4x5 camera, you could get a Graflex film pack adapter pretty inexpensively ($10-$15 on eBay) and modify it easily for wet plate. I started that way using a regular 4x5 lens. Using tilt and shift, while not the same as using a Petzval, can let you get creative swirl (trees in the background are good).

    As for Petzvals, get a no name. Over the years I've bought a few and to be honest my favourite is my no name. It's not as pretty as my Darlot or Hermagis, but the quality of image is just as good.

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