Wet Plate Collodion Photography In The Field … My Dark Box/Room

Wet Plate Collodion Photography requires that:

  • The plates be coated (“flowed”) and sensitized immediately prior to use.
  • The exposure, development, and fixing processes must be completed within 15 minutes of the sensitization. Otherwise, the collodion will dry out rendering the plate a failure.

When working in a studio the 15-minute window for processing is usually not an issue as the darkroom is generally located in close proximity to the studio.

However, when working in the field, the photographer must bring a dark box/room to the location in order to complete the entire  process in the field.

The field dark box/room must be portable, completely light tight, and large enough to allow processing plates in the size selected by the photographer.

There are several commercially available and DIY options for portable field dark box/rooms:

DARKBOXES have two basic designs:

  1. Designed to allow your hands and arms to be inside the darkbox while the photographer sits or stands outside the darkbox in the daylight and looks through a safelight window (usually red rubylith).
  2. Designed to allow the photographer to walk into or sit/stand in front of a three-sided box/cabinet and wrap a very large curtain of darkcloth around the box/cabinet and him/herself creating a light-tight fourth side to the box/cabinet.

XXX-Large film changing bags and bench top sand blasting cabinets have also been repurposed as darkboxes. Typically, the darkbox is set up on a three-legged stand, in the back of an SUV, on the tailgate of a pickup truck, or on a table. DIY wooden darkboxes are very popular … plans & photos are easily found on the web.

DARKROOMS can generally be repurposed vans, box trucks, trailers, camping tents, ice fishing tents, and grow tents with modifications to insure a light tight space.

After exploring these DIY and commercial options on various wet plate collodion web sites and forums I decided that a grow tent would be the best choice for me because I wanted to be able to be IN the space, move around, stand up, and sit down.  I did NOT want to reach into a box to work.

I chose the CoolGrows grow tent for its’ size, portability, price, and ease of set up.

Size:  4 feet x 4 feet x 7 feet 8 inches

Weight:  26.5 pounds

Set up time:  15 minutes

Price:  $91.00

My portable darkroom is large enough for me to use a 4×2 foot folding table inside giving me almost the same working area that I use in my home-based darkroom. Plenty of room without bumping into the walls when moving around. High enough with a flat roof so that I can easily stand anywhere in the tent and hang my safelight from the ceiling. All my chemicals, cooler (when needed), wash water, and waste container for liquids to be carried home for disposal, store easily under the table.

Drew Wagner

 

 

“CAN YOU STILL BUY FILM?”

This is the question that I hear most frequently when discussing photography with friends, family, acquaintances, and passers-by.

I have never had an issue getting the film type that I wanted. I shoot TriX, TMax, J. Lane Dry plates, and make my own wet plate collodion plates.

I got to thinking about how many other companies still make film.

A recent web search for BLACK & WHITE NEGATIVE FILM available in the US turned up 25 companies producing 62 types of film!

Below is my list of companies with the number of film types that they offer. (I am sure that there are more!)

Adox 2                                             Kentmere 2

Agfa 2                                              Kodak 5

Arista 3                                            Kona 3

Astrum 2                                          Liquid Emulsion 1

Cat Labs 1                                        Lomography 4

CineStill 1                                        Pictoriographica 2

Ferrania 1                                        Revolog 1

FilmWashi 2                                    Rerapan 2

Foma 4                                             Rollei 8

Fuji 5                                                Silberra 1

Holga 1                                            StreetCandy 1

Ilford 8                                             UltrafineXtreme 1

JCH 1                                                Xray (multiple manufacturers)

Drew Wagner

 

 

 

Workshops and Tutorials Offered By Monalog Member David Haas

Discover the ease, economy and joy of the silver process.  Individual tutorials and small group workshops are tailored for the beginner or those that want to take their skills to the next level.  Design your own workshop or leave it up to David based on your input.

From pin hole to large format cameras, in the filed, studio, or the darkroom, taught at your pace, on your time, weekdays or weekends. Pricing by the hour or the workshop – your choice!

David can provide room board at a very affordable rate for up to three in his comfortable five bedroom row home dedicated to all facets of the silver process, set in the heart of the Lehigh Valley. An environment rich in history, culture and natural beauty, offering a state of the art facility ideally suited for serious artistic endeavors with silver.

To learn more, contact David Haas at:

Carbon Transfer Printing – How It’s Done

Over the years I’ve been asked how I make my carbon prints. The key to carbon printing is patience! There are many steps one must do before you even make a print. It take a lot of time to understand the variables in play with this process and finding the “balance” as I like to call it is the key to success. I have developed my techniques over the years to allow me to print almost any negative. Once you understand how to use the controls it is amazing what you can do. I teach this process at my home studio in Vancouver Washington. When we get the Covid monster under control I hope to continue teaching as it gives me great joy to pass along what I know to others. The following is just a bit of what you need to do.

Trying to simplify this complex process is not easy but I will try. First one must have a negative to print in contact with a pigmented gelatin substrate. Mine are 8×10, 8×20, 11×14 and 14×17 negatives.

I manufacture what is called tissue” which is a substrate coated with a pigmented gelatin. This process takes an entire day. Once dry, generally 4-5 days of curing is needed, the pigmented tissue is coated with a light sensitive liquid, Ammonium Dichromate. This is allowed to dry for 3 hours.

A negative is placed in contact with the pigmented tissue and exposed to ultra violet light. I use a graphic arts plate burner. The negative is then separated from the tissue and the tissue is brought into contact with a final support medium under water in a cold-water transfer bath. This sandwich is then squeegeed together on glass then covered and weighted and allowed to mate” for a half of an hour.

Developing the image is done in a tray of warm water. Once the tissue is softened it is removed from the final support and the image is developed in the warm water to completion.

Each handmade print is unique unto itself and no two are identical. Some may exhibit a beautiful “relief” visible texture and some a subtle relief. Many variables come into play and some of them can cause failure. Still carbon transfer prints are considered to be some of the finest and most archival prints any collector can own. It is considered the Process of Royalty.”

Jim Fitzgerald

My Journey to Carbon Transfer Printing

So how does one decide to go back to 1864 and learn an obscure (at the time) hand made printing process that so few photographers practice?

I have always been a person who is curious. As a large and ultra large format photographer and camera builder (that is a whole story in itself) I decided that contact printing was the way to go for my work. I printed silver gelatin and silver chloride with Azo for years and when I built my first camera, my 8×20, my friends said I was now a Platinum printer! Hell I had two of my sons at the finest universities in California. Stanford and USC are not cheap and there was no way in hell I had money left to by “noble metals.”

I was reading some posts on the large format forum, image posts I think, and I happened on an image that just floored me. It was a carbon transfer print. Knowing that Google is your friend I found everything I could read about the process. It wasn’t until I met Vaughn Hutchins, the one who posted the image, that my life changed forever.

I sent a message to Vaughn and told him I’d love to see a carbon print. He was in a show in Yosemite called “The Yosemite Renaissance” and we decided to meet. I will never forget sitting on the steps of the Ansel Adams gallery next to Vaughn as he showed me print after print. I was speechless.  I think he asked if I was okay? I told him that the images he showed me were the type of images I had seen in my mind for a long long time. It was how I had to present my work. At that moment, my life was changed. I was a carbon printer. That was thirteen years ago and I have done nothing but print carbon ever since.

I owe a lot to my good friend Vaughn Hutchins for his inspiration, friendship and love of traditional carbon printing from our film negatives.

I now co-instruct the carbon workshop with Vaughn at the Ansel Adams Gallery through their workshop programs. I have come full circle and I am fortunate to have found my true voice for my work through carbon printing. The process is not for the faint at heart, for it is very time consuming but so so rewarding. My journey is still evolving and it is so much fun!

Jim Fitzgerald

University of Texas, Austin Briscoe Center for American History to Acquire Archives of Ed Eckstein

Monalog is thrilled to report that the Briscoe Center for American History will acquire the archives of Monalog member Ed Eckstein for its collection of contemporary American photojournalism.  Included will be thousands of images that Eckstein has captured throughout a career that has spanned the past 50 years.  Eckstein has worked extensively documenting civil rights, Native Americans, healthcare, and religion as well as everyday life.  His work captures life from the mid-20th Century to the present.

The Briscoe Center for American History resides at the University of Texas, Austin.  It holds the largest collection of images by contemporary photojournalists in the world.

Postponed: Inaugural Monalog Collective Photographers Outing

Due to the continued danger posed by Covid-19 our members have determined it necessary to postpone our Inaugural Monalog Collective Photographers Outing that was to be held on September 10th – 12th until sometime in 2021 when it is safe for all of us to get together.  As much as we were looking forward to this event and the opportunity to make new friends, the recent uptick in Covid-19 cases makes postponement the responsible thing to do.

As soon as the health situation becomes clearer we will determine a date to reschedule this event, but in the meantime we hope you will continue to visit us here and stay in contact. Even though we are postponing the outing, we have met some wonderful photographers, some who are now members of Monalog!

For those interested in learning more about our collective please contact us and let’s talk about what we love so much!

Stay safe and best wishes.

For more information contact Michael Marks at:

info@monalogcollective.com or 215-348-9171

What Equipment Do I Need for Wet Plate and/or Dry Plate Photography?

We are in the midst of a resurgence of many alternative photographic processes. These processes date back to the mid-19th century and are capable of producing exceptionally fine prints. This post deals specifically with wet plate and dry plate processes and answers the question: “What equipment do I need for wet plate and/or dry plate photography”?

CAMERAS: The good news is that you do not need to purchase a special camera for wet/dry plate work. You can use just about any modern or vintage camera that accepts modern or vintage film/plate holders.

PLATE/FILM HOLDERS: You need a new or used modern plate holder, a vintage plate holder, or a modern film holder modified for plates.

COLLODION WET PLATES: Since collodion wet plates are no longer commercially manufactured you will be coating your plates. This applies to tintypes, ambrotypes on glass, and glass negatives. You can cut the plates to whatever size fits your holder.

DRY PLATES: You can purchase ready-made dry plates or coat your own. If you are purchasing ready-made the plate sizes will be determined by the manufacturer. J. Lane Dry Plates provides many standard sizes and will build to order many sizes. If you are coating your dry plates you can cut the plates to whatever size fits your holder.

MODIFYING A DOUBLE DARK SLIDE FILM HOLDER THAT FITS YOUR CAMERA: Modifying an existing double dark slide film holder is a great option that will save you $200 – $400, vs. buying new, depending on size and supplier. Double dark slide film holders with a METAL septum work best. I have used Fidelity with great success. The modification took me less than 90 minutes. If you want to modify a double dark slide film holder but do not want to DiY or do not have the time or tools required, Lund Photographic can do it for you. I cut my first two and Lund modified two more for me. All four work great. There are many tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere on the web so I will not go into details here.

BE AWARE OF TWO LIMITATIONS WHEN MODIFYING A MODERN DOUBLE DARK SLIDE FILM HOLDER: Only one side of the double dark slide film holder can be used for the plate. (One side is used for loading the holder the other side is for exposure.)  The plate size must be ¼ inch smaller on each of the four sides to allow for the installation of corner brackets to hold the plate in the proper position. So, a modified 8×10 double dark slide film holder can take a maximum plate size of 7.5×9.5 inches.

Lund Photographics      Film holder modifications

Pictoriographica            J. Lane Dry Plates

Pictoriographica            Double Sided Dry Plate Holders

The Light Farm              Dry plate coating

Drew Wagner

Call for Work – Lightbox Photographic Gallery

Carbon Transfer artist and Monalog member Jim Fitzgerald will be a juror for “Altered Reality”, a show to be held at the Lightbox Photographic Gallery from September 12th through October 7th, 2020. The gallery is located in Astoria, OR.

“Within the Historical Process Photographic Community there is a spirit of positive reaction when facing uncertainty. Experimentation with new ideas and the perfection of old formulas are part of the photographic process. Have you been affected by the new world disorder? How do we know the Real from an Altered Reality? Your work inspires us. Please share your creative mind and processes.

Thank you Diana H. Bloomfield, Karen Hymer and Jim Fitzgerald for Jurying this years Historical Process Photographic Exhibit for Lightbox Photographic Gallery. Our panel of Jurors have all been affected by the events of 2020 and all excel with the experimentation and perfection of their process. Each is inspired by individual creativity as they are practicing artists in their own right, we are sure you may know of them all. Please share your thoughts, feelings, emotions, your work with them.

With this exhibit we wish to expose the viewers to work created with a variety of Historical photographic processes. Processes including Platinum/Palladium, Cyanotype, Vandyke, Daguerreotype, Saltprint, Wet Plate Collodion, Dryplate , Ambrotype, Kallitype, Calotype, Gum Bichromate, Carbon Transfer, Photogravure, Lith, Albumen prints are desired, to name a few. Darkroom Silver Gelatin and C-prints are considered alternative process for this exhibit. Original works done in an alternative process are required for the exhibit. No digital reproductions of original work will be exhibited. In “Altered Reality” we would like to see visionary contemporary use of Historical processes. We are looking to present the finest works, considering technique, originality and creativity, from photographers using Alternative Historical Processes.”

Deadline for submissions of work is August 10th 2020.

For more information visit http://lightbox-photographic.com/call-for-entries/altered_reality