Large Format Photography: Day 1 in the UK

As the days grow longer and the weather is progressively getting better, I started on the inventory and checking of my wet plate chemicals. I was keeping my mixed collodion and my silver baths, as well a box with the other chemicals in the shed, mainly because of the fumes that might leak out into our bedroom. And we don’t want that.

Living in a much smaller place than before (let’s face it, my parent’s shed was utterly convenient) it took me a little longer to establish that some of my dry chemicals had gotten soggy, my Glacial acetic acid had frozen solid, the silver bath needed dire maintenance and the collodion mix had gone bad. Great!

I could have served it up for desert

I could have served it up for desert

So, I did what any self-respecting self-taught DIY-er does: I went online. I pretty much expected the collodion to be un-salvageable, the consistence was a little firmer than a jello-pudding and I was forced to mix up a new batch. Now here came the trouble: I could not find the same alcohol (spiritus) that I had used in Germany so was forced to use something else. My good friend google advised me to use methylated spirits instead – as it’s basically the same thing with some colour added – but I decided to be curious and stubborn (or both!) and not heed the advise against using surgical spirit.

let the battle commence!

let the battle commence!

 

I took two identical glass jars to mix about 100 ml of salted collodion of each kind. The methylated spirits, despite the glaringly obvious notion of it being bright purple, mixed very well and acted just like my spiritus. The surgical spirit however, did not fare so well. The salts I was using (ammonium bromide and iodide) swiveled and swirled into small strands and beads, refusing to mix with the collodion and surgical spirit. They sank to the bottom of the jar like a ton of bricks. And this is where they have remained.

 

IMG_0777 IMG_0779 surgical spirits vs methylated spirits

 

After this, I remedied the silver bath and defrosted my glacial acetic acid. Apparently it’s freezing point is around 16 degrees Celcius and it had been in the shed for the winter.

steamy

steamy

 

So now I finally got to do some tests! I decided to use the new lens I had gotten (see my post on making a lens cap) and create a quick scene in my study. Out of the two mixtures, the purple mix had cleared quite nicely, still leaving some residue on the bottom of the jar, but seeing my previous mix always left some residue, I was not bothered.

Pouring it, I noticed immediately it was a lot thinner and a lot clearer (less yellow) than what I had used over the previous summer in the Netherlands. The pour was very fluid and pleasant and it adhered to the plate very well. My first test was 6 seconds which left me with a completely blank plate. Judging the light (late afternoon, inside, using quite a bit of bellows extension, lens wide open but fairly dark) I tried once more at 45 seconds. I had to overdevelop by about 4x so I know it’s underexposed but still I am quite pleased with it.

I’m sorry it’s only a snap for now but I think it’s a keeper!

skull spider

skull spider

 

 

 

 

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