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Thread: Wet / dry plate photography

  1. #1

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    Wet / dry plate photography

    Hi there,

    Im curious on doing some dry / wet plate collodion / tin type / ambro type photography... to be honest I know very little of these things.

    To start of I'll begin with 2 questions... is there a way to do this that will produce a positive image that can be displayed for viewing and that is not mirrored? Ive seen that when some of these photos are displayed (even on glass) in youtube videos or whatever they are displayed mirrored...

    My other question is regarding wet vs dry plates... is there any advantages to the wet plate over the dry plate?

    Cheers
    Peter

  2. #2

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    Re: Wet / dry plate photography

    The only way to get a true positive is to print from your wet/dry negative. I suggest that you take some time and watch the "Live from studio Q" videos that Quinn Jacobsen has put on youtube. The more recent videos offer an in depth discussion of positives vs negatives as well as giving nice deep dive into the chemistry and how it all works. Additionally, there are demonstrations and discussions of a variety of printing processes to use once you get your negatives where you want them

  3. #3
    ghostcount's Avatar
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    Re: Wet / dry plate photography

    Quote Originally Posted by pkr1979 View Post
    To start of I'll begin with 2 questions... is there a way to do this that will produce a positive image that can be displayed for viewing and that is not mirrored? Ive seen that when some of these photos are displayed (even on glass) in youtube videos or whatever they are displayed mirrored...
    Assuming ambrotype, place the black backing on the emulsion side and display the back side of the glass. Can't do this with "tins".

    Quote Originally Posted by pkr1979 View Post
    My other question is regarding wet vs dry plates... is there any advantages to the wet plate over the dry plate?
    Wet plate - Needs to be process on location unless you submerge it in gelatin(I think?)/water and take it home. You can find this in Quinn's forum if it is still around. Better yet, buy his books.

    Dry plate - Can be processed at home using standard film development process and typically more sensitive than wet plate (see J. Lane dry plates - good stuff BTW).
    "Sex is like maths, add the bed, subtract the clothes, divide the whoo hoo and hope you don't multiply." - Leather jacket guy

  4. #4
    Scyg's Avatar
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    Re: Wet / dry plate photography

    Quote Originally Posted by pkr1979 View Post
    To start of I'll begin with 2 questions... is there a way to do this that will produce a positive image that can be displayed for viewing and that is not mirrored? Ive seen that when some of these photos are displayed (even on glass) in youtube videos or whatever they are displayed mirrored...
    You can reversal process most gelatin emulsion black and white negative materials. It's somewhat more involved than regular processing, but can be done. Once you have a transparency, you can display it so as to avoid mirror reversal (glass side toward viewer).
    Ambrotypes and tintypes (wet plate) will give you positive images straight from the camera. The only way I can think of getting them to not be mirrored would be to have a camera with an internal mirror (EDIT: come to think of it, an external one would do as well).

    Quote Originally Posted by pkr1979 View Post
    My other question is regarding wet vs dry plates... is there any advantages to the wet plate over the dry plate?
    From a strictly historical perspective, wet plates were replaced by dry plates, mainly for reasons of convenience. You didn't have to lug your darkroom around when you used them, like wet-plate photographers did - so that's their advantage. Wet plate seems much more for people who just like the whole process.

  5. #5

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    Re: Wet / dry plate photography

    Thanks guys. I'll watch those 'Live from Studio Q' videos - thanks for that.

  6. #6
    Foamer
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    Re: Wet / dry plate photography

    I regularly do b&w film, dry plate, wet plate using 4x5, 5x7, 8x10. Each has their strong points. Dry plate is very similar to film in ease of use and processing. It gives a look similar to wet plate in that it's orthochromatic and has halonation. It's more consistent regarding exposure than wet plate. Wet plate is pretty involved and can get expensive. You'll need a silver tank, silver solution, plate holder, and a few chemicals. You'll also need either a dark room or if taking photos in the field you will need a portable dark box or dark lab. If you already have a camera & lens I would allocate maybe $1,200 to start wet plate. You can only photo stationary subjects, must learn to judge exposure because you can't meter it, and wear old clothes because the silver nitrate stains are generally permanent. It takes me most of an hour to get my first shot in the field using wet plate (includes a couple of test plates.) It took me a couple of months and about 40 plates before I began getting more consistent results with 4x5. Mostly you have to be very patient to do wet plate. I often go out for a day, drive several hundred miles, and come back with one or two nice tin types. I'm OK with that. It becomes more involved to shoot wet plates when the temperature drops below 40 (almost impossible when it's below 10 F,) and again above 80 degrees (must keep chemicals in a cooler with blue ice.)


    Kent in SD
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  7. #7
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    Re: Wet / dry plate photography

    The Q Show guy is very knowledgeable but rambles a lot. I don't recommend him for a beginner. I highly recommend you watch this series. He's pretty dry but very informative. I don't think you need a gas mask though. Eye protection when messing with silver nitrate, yes. Gloves, yes.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msgPl7kWxLI&t=663s


    Kent in SD
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  8. #8

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    Re: Wet / dry plate photography

    Kent,

    I don't think that's the right link you posted there. Doesn't look like the wet plate process and the guy is not boring or dry.

  9. #9
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    Re: Wet / dry plate photography

    Quote Originally Posted by ghostcount View Post
    Wet plate - Needs to be process on location unless you submerge it in gelatin(I think?)/water and take it home. .

    Gelatin is not used in wet plate. The base is collodion--a mixture of collodion USP, ether, and a little grain alcohol plus some iodizers. It's then soaked in 9% silver nitrate solution for ~4 minutes, and immediately loaded into the plate holder. (In the dark.) Must take the photo AND process it withing 10 minutes or so (in the dark.) You probably could take the photo and then place it in a container of water & glycerin to keep it wet but I have no idea why you would do that. You need to process the plate to check your exposure. I do keep mine wet in the field after fixing in a container of water. I do that so I can do the final washing at home. I have limited water supply when in the field.


    Kent in SD
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  10. #10
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    Re: Wet / dry plate photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Wellman View Post
    Kent,

    I don't think that's the right link you posted there. Doesn't look like the wet plate process and the guy is not boring or dry.

    Fixed--thanks.


    Kent in SD
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    miserere nobis.

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