View Full Version : Night time wet plates, has anyone succeded?

29-Jan-2021, 10:14
Hey tintypers,

I've been thinking about doing a series of images at night, which I think would look great as tintypes. However, when I did some experiments last night, it didn't really work. I shot with a rapid rectilinear at f/8, and even with an exposure time of 8 minutes, the only thing that appeared were little dots where the outdoor lights around my house are. It was near freezing last night, so the thought crossed my mind that maybe plates become less sensitive in the cold, is that the case? if so, I'll probably just wait for warmer weather before trying again. My other thought was that I could acquire an aero ektar which would give me another 2 1/3 stops of light, but I'm not sure if I'd get enough in focus with that. Do any of you have suggestions?


29-Jan-2021, 10:24
Not a lot of actinic light available at night. At f4 on TXP320 by full moon, I need maybe 5-10 minutes at f4 so f8 on tintype seems hopeless, though the reciprocity failure might not be as bad (not sure, could be worse?). Tintypes can be made at night, the cold might help you make an extra long exposure before the plate dries out, but itíll need some serious assessment of light sources. Itís possible but not simple and each situation is different. I recall someone managing over an hour long night exposure in cold weather in low light. Canít recall who.

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29-Jan-2021, 10:39
As said above, once a wetplate dries, it's not sensitive. I've never had one stay wet more than about 5 minutes after bringing it out of the silver bath. That is why there were almost no low light photos made with wetplates, it's an impossible thing to get a 15 min exposure from a medium that lasts only 5 min.

29-Jan-2021, 11:11
You might want to try shooting paper negatives to get a feel for how something slow and orthochromatic ďseesĒ the scenes before committing to plates. Then you can see if itís feasible. If you need a hour on paper, youíre hosed on a slower medium that dries out. I never say much is impossible, ingenuity can find a way, but i think youíll have a hard time here. Some of the modern masters like Luther Gerlach have shot 30+ minute exposures using some tricks to keep it moist, but I would expect a whole symphony of details have to go correctly do hit that target.

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John Layton
31-Jan-2021, 12:06
I've been thinking about this also, notwithstanding that I've only tried doing wet plate once, and may never do this again. But...if I were to give it more of a go, I'd be very interested in the possibility of doing time exposures - and have thought that there could be a means of introducing enough moisture into the plate itself, during such an exposure, to make this work.

Perhaps a small camp stove setup, with a teapot with an attached hose, long enough to allow the steam to cool just a bit before making entry into the holder - but not enough so that it instead condenses out inside the hose. Then again, the holder itself would need to be kept warm enough so that such condensation would not happen on the plate's surface.

Hmmm...probably would not work. But there must be some way...oh! I just re read the above post about Luther Gerlach. Maybe give him a call!

3-Feb-2021, 12:23
Trying to do this is like putting a person in a round room and telling them there is a dollar in the corner.

3-Feb-2021, 14:18
You just need to fill the camera with alcohol and ether vapors so the plate doesnít dry out...whatís the worst that can happen?

But like Garrett said, itís not really a plausible pursuit. And youíll probably be disappointed with the outcome even if you pull it off. Maybe try alt process prints from a modern negative to get a similar feel? Why do you think collodion is the optimal medium for your night series?

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Mike in NY
25-Feb-2021, 21:54
When I make still lifes, I place 1000 watts of halogen light two feet from the subject matter, and it still takes two full minutes to properly expose my wet plates at f/8. The faint light you would hope to capture at night (even if it were actinic light) would barely register (if at all) on a wet plate within the few minutes you have to make an exposure before it dries and loses its sensitivity.