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Two23
7-Apr-2019, 20:05
Now that I've been shooting dry plate for a year, and processing my own b&w for three months, I'm wanting to move into wet plate. I had hoped to do that last year but was interrupted by winter. I didn't think wet plate would work very well at 20 below zero. I hope to start within the next three months but as usual I research things quite a bit before jumping in. I'll start with what I have now:

4x5 and 5x7 camera, about a dozen & half lenses 1845-1930, three 8x10 trays, red safe light.

My thinking so far:

1. Use the 4x5 Chamonix with a Chamonix plate holder. I'm hoping it doesn't leak a lot and destroy my camera. If I carefully wipe it off after each use could I get away with it?

2. Build a portable dark box that will fit in the back of my Subaru Forester. I will work in it while standing next to the tail gate. Box will have a plastic base about 3.5 feet x 2 feet, will probably use one of those plastic storage boxes that slide under a bed. That would catch any leaks. Frame of the dark box would be PVC pipe, maybe 1 inch diameter. Cheap & easy to work with. Covering will be a black out curtain cut and sewn to fit around the frame. Light will be my red safelight plugged into the car's 12v plug. Might add a long black hose with a small computer fan to help keep it cooler inside and the air breathable.

3. I plan on using one of the processing kits from Bostick & Sullivan for chemicals. Will avoid the ferro cyanide stuff as I'm uneasy about using it in a confined space. Will be wearing latex gloves, eye protection.

4. Will buy a good portable silver bath for 4x5 such as a Lund.

5. Not sure what media I want to start with. I'm thinking the pre-cleaned aluminum plates might be the way to start. I do prefer glass in the long run but looks like they take more prep.

6. Initially will scan the images. Long term I want to make contact prints, and for that I will move to either my Gundlach Korona 5x7 or probably 8x10. (Kodak 2D etc.)

7. Most if not all photography will be done on location. Don't have a studio. Not sure how I'll handle the swings in temperature: 90 degrees in summer, 30 degrees in early fall.

8. I hope to use period lenses for the most part--I have some very nice ones from 1840s-1860s. Will add a couple of rapid rectilinears vintage 1860s-1880s.


So any advice? Have been watching Youtube videos. I do have a guy about an hour away who does wet plate but not sure how helpful he'll be. Has not answered my emails. There's also a guy in Bismarck ND, a day's drive from me, doing a lot of this. Other than that I might be on my own. I think I can figure it out though. First I need to start processing my own dry plates and intend to start that this month.

Lund has a clear dip tank that I could process in. Wouldn't that be the way to go--I can easily watch the image form on both wet & dry plates and stop it when it looks good?

Would appreciate any thoughts here. I'm mostly after the challenge, and am interested in the historical aspect.


Kent in SD

goamules
8-Apr-2019, 10:30
Your plans look pretty good. I'd make sure your dark box is big enough to work in. Nothing worse than trying to pour developer with your arms stuck to your sides because there isn't room.

Gary Samson
8-Apr-2019, 11:26
I strongly urge you to buy the wet-plate manuals by Osterman & Scully, John Coffer and Quinn Jacobson, they all have useful information that will guid you through the process. Coffer's manual comes with 90 minutes of video material on DVD's that walk you through the process. Development of a wet-plate image for positives on glass or aluminum plates takes about 15 to 20 seconds and you should learn to develop in-hand. Then the plate can be placed in a tray of water to stop development with several changes of water. Fixing can be done in a tray or tank before the final wash. If you have not already joined the group page, Collodion Bastards of Questionable Parentage on Facebook, please do, there is a lot of helpful info there.

paulbarden
8-Apr-2019, 12:57
Now that I've been shooting dry plate for a year, and processing my own b&w for three months, I'm wanting to move into wet plate. I had hoped to do that last year but was interrupted by winter. I didn't think wet plate would work very well at 20 below zero. I hope to start within the next three months but as usual I research things quite a bit before jumping in. I'll start with what I have now:

4x5 and 5x7 camera, about a dozen & half lenses 1845-1930, three 8x10 trays, red safe light.

My thinking so far:

1. Use the 4x5 Chamonix with a Chamonix plate holder. I'm hoping it doesn't leak a lot and destroy my camera. If I carefully wipe it off after each use could I get away with it?

Hey Kent! I'm excited to see you wanting to learn the wet plate process! Its a real pleasure to do, especially if you enjoy the craft aspect of photography.
I have four different plate holders: one is an 8x10 modification by Lund, which makes a plate significantly smaller than 8X10, and Lund 4x5 holder (they make these), a home-made 5x7 modification, and a Chamonix plate holder in both 4x5 and 8x10. Af this bunch, the Chamonix is by far the most pleasant to use. Although it can be said that the plastic holders can be washed and scrubbed periodically to clean out old silver.
As for silver getting into your camera: if you are fastidious with your technique, that shouldn't be a problem. I will say, its important to swab out (with Q-tips or similar) your plate holder after every plate, because no matter how well you drain your plate after the silver bath, there will be drips that end up in the plate holder. If you leave these drips without wiping out the holder, the silver will (potentially) find their way onto the surface of the next plate you make, and that will cause "oyster marks" on the face of the plate. Some will tell you that you only have to wipe out silver leakage every few plates, but you will likely discover that if you swab out the plate holder after every plate, you will almost eliminate any cross-contamination.


2. Build a portable dark box that will fit in the back of my Subaru Forester. I will work in it while standing next to the tail gate. Box will have a plastic base about 3.5 feet x 2 feet, will probably use one of those plastic storage boxes that slide under a bed. That would catch any leaks. Frame of the dark box would be PVC pipe, maybe 1 inch diameter. Cheap & easy to work with. Covering will be a black out curtain cut and sewn to fit around the frame. Light will be my red safelight plugged into the car's 12v plug. Might add a long black hose with a small computer fan to help keep it cooler inside and the air breathable.

That sounds very reasonable. Planning for spills is wise, as there WILL be spills. Air quality inside the tent isn't likely to be much of an issue, since you aren't going to spend a lot of time under the hood, and simply laying the fabric open after each plate is processed will dissipate any fumes. Don't try to pour collodion inside the tent: fumes WILL become too much if you do. I also suggest you keep your fixing bath outside the tent, as this step can be done in daylight anyway.


3. I plan on using one of the processing kits from Bostick & Sullivan for chemicals. Will avoid the ferro cyanide stuff as I'm uneasy about using it in a confined space. Will be wearing latex gloves, eye protection.

When I started out, I too bought the B&S kit and I have never regretted it. Get the full kit that includes a hygrometer, etc. I did use the B&S developer concentrate for the first few months of wet plate work, but quickly changed over to making my own from scratch, since it is very easy to do and inexpensive. I also find the results with home-made developer (Orlov formula for summer, Coffer or Osterman formula for cooler weather) is much better. The B&S developer concentrate has one distinct advantage for new practitioners: it allows you to develop a plate much more slowly: you can leave the developer on the plate for up to a minute without fogging, and so this allows you time to get the plate flowed and to get acquainted with the technique. One of the biggest challenges is to get the developer on the plate quickly and evenly, and allow for no more than 15-20 seconds of development before washing it off. It does require some dexterity and skill.
As for fixer, there is no reason to start your learning by using Potassium cyanide, rather than simply using plain old Sodium thiosulphate (Or rapid fix).


4. Will buy a good portable silver bath for 4x5 such as a Lund.

I like my Lund silver baths. Get the one with the dip paddle (plexi) built into the lid. It works very well and is a great idea, IMO.


5. Not sure what media I want to start with. I'm thinking the pre-cleaned aluminum plates might be the way to start. I do prefer glass in the long run but looks like they take more prep.

"Peel and pour" aluminum plates are excellent for beginners, since they eliminate one of the tedious steps: prepping and cleaning glass. There are some practitioners that look down on those who use "trophy plate" aluminum, but it doesn't matter what the purists say - make it easy for yourself during the learning phase.
Here is a tip about using glass: If you go to one of your local "Dollar Stores" (near me the brand is Dollar Tree) you will find very cheap 8x10 inch picture frames offered for a buck apiece, and those - believe it or not - have real glass in them! Just pull the glass out of the frame (the frame is the cheapest imaginable "foam" plastic material held together by staples at the corners: they practically fall apart just looking at them) and cut it to whatever size you want. I shoot in 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10, and those pieces of frame glass are easily cut down to fit your plate holder, since they are HALF the thickness of regular windowpane. Each $1 picture frame give me TWO 5x7s or FOUR 4x5s. Its nice glass to work with. Just be aware that it is quite a bit more fragile than windowpane glass.


6. Initially will scan the images. Long term I want to make contact prints, and for that I will move to either my Gundlach Korona 5x7 or probably 8x10. (Kodak 2D etc.)

Scanning works well with tintypes. A collodion-on-glass negative also scans beautifully. But my preference is for making contact prints in the darkroom using my collodion glass negatives. Its a joy to work with.


7. Most if not all photography will be done on location. Don't have a studio. Not sure how I'll handle the swings in temperature: 90 degrees in summer, 30 degrees in early fall.

Cool weather is easy, its the hotter temps that become an issue. Plan to modify your developer formula in hot weather. I like Anton Orlov's summer formula. Also, plan to keep your developer solution cooled while you work. A stock jar of developer sat in a bucket of cold water (and adding ice if you need to) will be your best friend on hot days.


So any advice? Have been watching Youtube videos. I do have a guy about an hour away who does wet plate but not sure how helpful he'll be.

Kent in SD

Get yourself at least one of the aforementioned three manuals. John Coffer's volume is the best, since he goes into greater detail, and includes a substantial chapter on making albumen prints. Quinn's book is good as well, but I find his writing style is a bit wandering and he doesn't get to the point with the greatest of clarity. Its a style thing. Mark and France Osterman make a very good beginners guide, but it is very much a BEGINNERS guide: it doesn't have the richness of detail that John Coffer's manual does. (Although John too has his own "style" of writing, and while colorful and eclectic, he does actually communicate his process with great skill and in detail) Coffer's manual also includes several DVD videos that are an absolute goldmine of information. His is $75 to purchase, but I refer to his manual often, whereas I rarely look at the other two, since they are far more "learner" manuals. (Don't get me wrong, the Osterman manual is excellent, as a beginners resource).

If you can manage to hook up with the local wet plate guy, pursue having him demo the process for you in person. There is NOTHING better than seeing it done in person, and have someone guide you through making your own first plates. I learned at a workshop by Ray Bidegain in Portland OR, and it was incredibly helpful to have someone walk me through the process. There are plenty of ways the process can go wrong, and a workshop will help you avoid most of those. You are handling some dangerous chemistry, after all, and you need to see how to handle those materials so you don't injure yourself.

If anyone within reasonable distance offers a workshop, DO THAT. Its worth the time and expense.

Two23
9-Apr-2019, 16:48
Plan to order the Coffer material. This stuff can't be all that hard, but I do need to be careful. Thanks for the detailed info.:)


Kent in SD

Randy
12-Apr-2019, 15:20
I to have been contemplating making the jump into wet plate. Am running low on dry plate. And I also have a Subaru Forester :)

Paul - thanks for the detailed advice.

Greg
12-Apr-2019, 16:41
Also have been considering that leap to wet plate. Several years ago we had a Rialta RV. When going solo used it also as a traveling darkroom. Many a times washing up to 11x14 films on the side of the road in running stream followed by a soaking in distilled water then Photo-Flo. Never had a problem with scratches or dirt! Seriously considered "Beginning Wet Plate", but then right after that we decided to sell the Rialta RV :-(. Would be with my Whole Plate Chamonix with yet to be purchased wet plate holders. Acura RDX (medium sized SUV) also has enough room in the back. My biggest set back is that I just love to shoot at locations that are a short hike from the car. When shooting from the back of my car, I immediately go to shooting exclusively 11x14. 11x14 wet plate a definite option, but in doing a dry run of shooting 11x14 wet plate from the back of my car last week... well would have been a whole lot more feasible to do from my Rialta RV in many ways. Shooting Whole Plate Dry Plates, for me, just might be the way for me to go. Thanks for starting this post... has caused me to seriously seriously just what direction to take. Current plans, for the next couple of months, are to backpack (on short hikes) a newly acquired Noblex 6 150 UX and a Mottweiller P.90 lensless medium-format camera. Now projecting to start shooting wet plate sometimes this summer.
Many thanks for this post.

goamules
12-Apr-2019, 18:16
I"ve been coaching and training new wetplaters for years. Another tip: use ONE system. Buy one guys manual, like you are doing, and don't get distracted with all the variations. When you can get very clean plates with that, you can start experimenting with changing one thing at a time.

Wetplate is very techniques critical. How you pour, how you uncover the lens, how you develop are all things that you can do right...or wrong. The flaws you see many people make are those that try to "wing it" on technique, and are sloppy people. Follow Coffer, watch his videos. He's where I learned, in about 2006, and is all you need.

pepeguitarra
12-Apr-2019, 19:27
I know I will end up doing wet plate and more. So, I have been following this guy, I hope it helps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCWwPIgqn7E

cuypers1807
12-Apr-2019, 21:08
The Chamonix holders are great. I use them with my Chamonix 045N-2, 8x10 & 11x14 with no problems.
Regarding leaking: The only real worry about leaking is if you shoot straight down. Silver might drip onto the back of your lens.
Stick to smaller plates for a while. Smaller plates are much easier than large plates. Each increase in plate size will require changes in procedure or technique. Outdoor shooting is dramatically more difficult than studio shooting.
I highly recommend you take a workshop or study wet plate with someone who is experienced and can pour clean plates. They can help speed up the awkward stage and you can get to work making the images you want.

Kiwi7475
13-Apr-2019, 10:26
I know I will end up doing wet plate and more. So, I have been following this guy, I hope it helps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCWwPIgqn7E


Very interesting, thank you for sharing this.
That guyís incredible. Itís amazing not only see the technique and process but also the infrastructure that is needed to do this in the field, and itís nuts!!

cuypers1807
14-Apr-2019, 18:47
I like my Lund silver baths. Get the one with the dip paddle (plexi) built into the lid. It works very well and is a great idea, IMO.
I also use Lund tanks but advise against the paddle for sizes larger than 5x7. It is difficult getting 8x10s and definitely 11x14s off the paddle with one hand as it tends to stick. The steel rods are great for the bigger plates. They are also less messy. I get a lot of dripping from the larger paddles.

Cameron Cornell
14-May-2019, 04:13
I have a favor to ask. Could one of you fellows who has the John Coffer ďDoerís GuideĒ email a screenshot of pages 95 and 96 to me?

Iím attending the all-around wet plate workshop at his farm upstate NY this coming August 22-24, so Iím reading and re-reading his manual and watching the DVDs in preparation. However, those two pages right in the middle of the albumen print-making process were missing in the manual he sent. And since John has neither computer nor telephone, Iíd need to write him a letter and request that he make the copies and mail them to me. Iíll do that if I need to, or just wait until Iím there this summer to fill in this two-page gap in my knowledge, but itíd be great if one of you fellows could just fill me in.

My email address is on my website or I can send it to you via PM. Itís illogical, but I feel a little bit funny about just posting it here.

Cheers,

Cameron Cornell
Washington State
www.analogportraiture.com

Cameron Cornell
14-May-2019, 11:43
I have a favor to ask. Could one of you fellows who has the John Coffer “Doer’s Guide” email a screenshot of pages 95 and 96 to me?

I’m attending the all-around wet plate workshop at his farm upstate NY this coming August 22-24, so I’m reading and re-reading his manual and watching the DVDs in preparation. However, those two pages right in the middle of the albumen print-making process were missing in the manual he sent. And since John has neither computer nor telephone, I’d need to write him a letter and request that he make the copies and mail them to me. I’ll do that if I need to, or just wait until I’m there this summer to fill in this two-page gap in my knowledge, but it’d be great if one of you fellows could just fill me in.

My email address is on my website or I can send it to you via PM. It’s illogical, but I feel a little bit funny about just posting it here.

Cheers,

Cameron Cornell
Washington State
www.analogportraiture.com

Got it! Thank you so much. That’s a great help.

Cameron Cornell
Washington State
www.analogportraiture.com

Lehmansa
18-May-2019, 08:06
Very interesting, thank you for sharing this.
That guyís incredible. Itís amazing not only see the technique and process but also the infrastructure that is needed to do this in the field, and itís nuts!!

I was lucky to attend a five-day workshop with Borut Peterlin. I can say it was a wonderful experience - recommended.
He is technically bulletproof, artistically very inspiring and most importantly a remarkable and friendly Person.
Go for it: www.topshitphotography.com

Jim Noel
18-May-2019, 12:22
I know I will end up doing wet plate and more. So, I have been following this guy, I hope it helps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCWwPIgqn7E

Pepe,
It is OK to watch You Tube demos,but get John Coffer's book for the real low down on what and how to do.

paulbarden
18-May-2019, 13:32
Pepe,
It is OK to watch You Tube demos,but get John Coffer's book for the real low down on what and how to do.

I second that recommendation.