phone picture of drying contact print made from glass negative
I have a person doing work practise with me until March. It’s proven the best way to get productive! Monday we packed the bike trolley and ventured down the beach to do wet plates. It was very wet indeed. The air was so cold and clammy that the glass plates kept steaming up but we managed some good plates in the end. Back home we warmed up in the darkroom and made contact prints from the wet plate glass negatives that I made in the studio over the weekend. One is a definite keeper, I think I’m becoming addicted to tulips.
Phone picture of the drying contact print made from a glass negative
Today the plan was doing more prints in the darkroom but the weather was just irresistible. Sunshine and everything covered in frost. So we went down the beach and the nature reserve with some old cameras and my favourite pinhole camera. Just stunning! I got my mind set on a picture I wanted and ended up getting my feet wet. Haven’t developed the pinhole negatives yet but I’m sure it was worth the pain. Happy, sunny and hungry we returned to develop some rolls of film in Caffenol. This is my favourite way of developing using only coffee, washing soda and vitamin-C, no bad chemicals. Even though I enjoy working on my own it felt great to share the day and also having an assistent on hand. I have a feeling February will be a very productive month!
How many wet plates photographers can fit in a tent?
Hans Jonsson and the youngest model of the day
Markus Andersson photographed by Aron Mattsson
Henning Klasén being photographed by Aron Mattsson
Me by Eva Karlsson
For the first time wet plate photographers in Sweden gathered together at Donsö, an island in the southern archipelago, to do wet plates and hang out. With last weeks exhibition and one the coming weekend I wasn’t going to come but changed my mind the last minute. Since I hadn’t mixed any collodion recently and my camera holders are broken I didn’t do any photography and ended up being a model instead. Donsö is actually quite close to Hönö but there is no boat or ferry connection between the islands so it took me over two hours to get there by bike, bus, tram and ferry. There are no cars on Donsö, everyone’s got mopeds or golf carts to get around. We set it all up in the woods just by the water. The drawback with wet plate photography is that you need to bring so much stuff, our host had to do countless trips back and forth with all the equipment. It was a great location and we were very lucky with the weather to begin with. I went for a swim and tried to a floating model for one of the photographers, gosh it’s really hard to float without moving! Suddenly the heavens opened up and and the rain started pouring down. I sacrificed my raincoat to save some of the plates that had dried. All we could do was squeeze in to the eskimo tent and wait for it to pass. The rain kind of killed the mood a little bit and we were getting hungry and wet so our host drove us back one by one with all the cameras and plates. The rest of the evening we had a meal together and ended up talking until early hours. So great to get to discuss things with other people who know what you’re talking about and to see how everyone else does their plates. Definitely the beginning of a yearly event!
another note: do not wear clogs carrying a large format camera on rocks…
looks very much like my first wet plate, very fogged…
Once my wet plate box was done I realised that I needed to mix more chemicals thus I didn’t get to go out the day after and with a busy schedule it wasn’t until yesterday I finally made it. Last time, after trying out my first box, I promised myself that I would try the next one out in the garden but hey memory’s short! I only had two hours but got everything packed on my bike and went down the seafront. For the last box I used red ruby with plastic, which failed after a light test so this time I had doubled it. Next time I’ll quadruple it. The box worked fine but it felt like daylight in there and the plates came out foggy. BUT there were some pictures, not great but I’m happy with having done the trial. Things to remember for next time: Don’t splash silver everywhere, use smaller bottles(I planned on this and even built a shelf for them but was too much in a hurry) and last but not least do not pour developer up my sleeve. Apart from the window the box worked just fine it’s just working inside it that needs some fine-tuning. I didn’t think about it at the time but before next excursion I will pour a plate and develop without exposing just to make sure that it’s not my plate holders acting up. Maybe third time’s the charm?
amazing what you can fit on a bike trolly
not easy to keep concentration when the barn turns into a zoo…
beginning of a box
getting there and getting late…
Did I do this?!?
Inside, folded down
inside folded up
finished box! Wohoo!!
So I decided earlier this year that this would be a wet plate year, no actually, THE wet plate year. I also have a another great big plan but it’s too early to spill the beans… Anywho, I started out building my wet plate box with stuff I had but soon realised that I wanted the box to be long lasting, sturdy and nice looking so I took a bike ride to the wood shop. Bought big boards of plywood and while figuring out how to fasten it to my bike-trolly one of the guys working there stopped and asked if I needed assistance(the perks of being female is sometimes very rewarding). He was nice enough to cut the wood into the measurements I had in my head. I cycled back and started building. Only problem was the plywood was a bit bent but I just worked on feeling and didn’t mind the measurements too much. The chicks came to watch and then suddenly I see movement and look up, there’s a huge seagull there! Almost inside the barn. I followed it around for a while taking pictures and making sure that it wasn’t injured, it could fly so that was not the case, but it was not a bit scared of me or the hens. It got me thinking of the story my 96 year old neighbour told me about the seagull who used to steal peoples underwear from the beach, fly far out and drop them in the sea! I’ve spent most of my time lately working on the box but also clearing another wall in the gallery. Somehow I got that huge kitchen cabinet down and turned upside down, on my own, without being squashed. I do need some storage space so I’m keeping it but it needs a lick of paint and some textile where the doors were. As always when I get into these creative swirls there’s a moment where I stop and look around, thinking -did I create this mess?? My husband having a Frank Zappa-week has helped me heaps, forcing me outdoors. Oh well, tomorrow is the big day, trying out my new box!
filtering the varnish
Varnishing plates is the least favourite part of the wet plate process. The varnish is made of alcohol, gum sandarac(sap from a tree in South Africa) and lavendel oil. It needs filtering a few times. There are always lots of dirt in the gum sandarac and sometimes little bugs remaining on the cotton. I can’t stand the smell of lavendel and the sticky varnish gets everywhere. This time I tried something new and heated the plates in the oven instead of with the gas-burner. Must say it worked pretty well and the plates didn’t catch fire as they sometimes do. After 15 tintypes the whole house reeked of lavendel and alcohol. I must remember to put the bottle of varnish back downstairs so that my husband doesn’t confuse it with his mead. The mead has gone from a chalky yellow (looks exactly like fresh collodion) to a beautiful clear pale yellow. It should be around 13% alcohol when done. He’s bottled it and now we just need to wait for a year or so before drinking it…
oranges, raisins and honey
first bottles of mead!
A very blurry me
It’s hard to keep concentration with cats and chicks around…
A happy audience
Didn’t get an image of my husband but this reward is good enough
As my son pointed out -Mum, you’re doing everything the wrong way around! True that, the other day I spent all day in the garden getting drenched in the rain and today I spent all day in the barn and down the basement even though the weather was glorious. I’ve definitely caught the wet plate bug again. Yesterday was Wet plate day and I got a few plates made but today I started in the morning and carried on until the cats started naming me for food at 6pm. Decided that every year around this time I will do portraits of my family and me(well the husband was too busy baking and sleeping, maybe next year…). I called in my daughter to help with the exposure for my “selfie” and after it was her turn. I lectured her about how important it is to sit still for 20 seconds, she answered -Piece of cake! My answer was -Well you think you sit still but then when you see the picture you will see what I mean. Pah! She won the sitting-still-competition big time.