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Autumn updates

As the weather steadily grows colder and the days shorter, I have entered my winter stop for this year. I know some people may find it silly that I am willing to burn but not freeze – but I’ll remind those people of the accompanying increase of wind and rain within the season. My next wet plates will either be next spring, or if we our shed / garage in the next house will be big enough – in there. In the meanwhile I’ll have to keep myself entertained by developing a new smaller darkbox, a contact printing table/ frame and making some salt prints, as well as focusing on my Etsy shop, photography product development for said shop and organizing our first ever Christmas pop-up shop in the center of Cambridge! Expect location and date announcements in the next week or two! 😀

 

 

Which bring me to the next bit of news: we are moving house….again. We’re due to leave our sweet little apartment at the Cambridge cemetery at the end of November. At the time of writing, we applied for another apartment within the same area which is a bit bigger and hopefully more suited to our current needs. It will still not allow for pets though, which is a massive pain as we’re wanting a dog for a long time now, but it’ll have an additional bedroom, a separate kitchen, a bigger garden and a massive shed. Fingers crossed our application will be checked and approved within this week 🙂

And finally, Sean and I are engaged! After having been together for well over 13 years already, it still feels a little odd to know that we’ll actually be married at some point! We have not settled on the who’s and what’s, we have no date or location in mind as of yet but I’m sure that will come after having moved house.

Exciting times!

 

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Wet Plate Photoshoot: Lara Alice

Straight after the shoot with Alp on a Tuesday, I would photograph Lara Alice on the Wednesday. She also knows all of the guys (Wil especially) and has a healthy interest in photography. I showed her the process and some of the plates that I did with the guys and we set to work. The BBC had predicted a foul day with nothing but rain, but we didn’t see any of that.

Our first plate did not come out well. It had the same dark spot as Alp’s test plate the day prior and the lighting did not favour her features, although the timing was good. I recalled a story told by one of my fellow wet-platers that he knew a beautiful girl that would not photograph well on plate, and sincerely hoped that would not be the case here. We made some changes with regards to the pose and location, which made a world of difference!

What I really loved about this shoot was not just Lara (although she was rather lovely) but having to think on your feet, and the fact that she looks so different in the various images. The images were taken on a no-brand 1/2 plate camera with a Dallmeyer lens, mostly on f5.6 between 8-12 seconds.

 

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test plate on glass

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second plate on glass, the pose is much better but the technical side is not

 

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third plate on metal

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Fourth plate on Glass. Darn those too-dark-darkboxes!

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Gotta love a flower crown!

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My favourite plate of this shoot. The actual plate has a lot less contrast than this. Shot on glass

 

 

 

Wet Plate Photoshoot: Alp

Alp was introduced to me through Calvin and later it turned out he is also friends with Wil and Varun. We would take out shoot in the afternoon and lucky for us, the weather was as beautiful as an October day could be, albeit a bit chilly.

The only plate that would not come out well from this session was our test plate, due to the pose being a bit ‘common’ and the plate had no real sparkle. Some small little tweaks and the second plate was a great improvement, but then he spotted the swords! Neither of us had anticipated him going bare-chested – it being quite nippy and all – but he went there! The portrait we took at a shady spot in the cemetery and I completely adore it – the pose, the light, the crispness…. all of it! Then, Alp kindly agreed to let me have a go at photographing his fangs and even though it did not fully work as intended, it was good practice. The last plate of the day however, steals the show in it’s sheer over-the-top-ness; I shall have to find a nice spot in my house to hang this one 😉

The images were taken on a wooden no-brand 1/2 plate camera using a Dallmeyer lens, mostly on f5.6 at around 8 seconds.

 

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test plate

 

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plate 2, a little more vintage thug-ish

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Time to bring out the props!

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Possibly my favourite portrait to date

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we tried to get the fangs in by using an apple

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And one more go with the sword. I still believe it’s missing the maidens and mullet 😉

 

 

Love Lacock photo competition

After the wet plate weekend in Lacock I entered my last image into their local competition, category ‘traditional photography’- and I had a reply!

 

“Hello,
>
> I am delighted to say we have chosen your photograph as one of the 5 finalists in the Traditional Photography category of the Love Lacock photography competition.
> Your image will be on display in our grounds from 4 October – 2 November.”

 

Huzzah!

 

Go and see it at the Abbey – I am tempted to go for myself just to see it displayed, but it’s a 3.5 hour drive!

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lacock/

 

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Wet Plate Photoshoot: Wil & Varun

Just after the last wet plate weekend in the Peak District, I photographed two friends on consecutive days. They both know Calvin (see his shoot here) from their weight lifting club and Calvin had been kind enough to recommend me for a shoot.

 

On the Tuesday, It was Wil Solano. I have to admit I was pleased to meet him. A polite, intelligent and somewhat soft-spoken man, he seemed enthusiastic about the photographic process and his plates came out better than many I had tried before. Maybe it was because of the great weekend we have had recently, or maybe I am getting a bit better with timing, pouring etc. but also the fact that strong men with beards seem to capture well in this process. 🙂

 

Wil

Wil

Wil

Wil

 

On the Wednesday I would meet Varun Choda, a big fella, easy to smile with a good sense of humour, with an equally impressive beard. Maybe I shouldn’t be photographing people with beards – I’m having serious beard-envy! Can you believe that this guy is still single? I’m loving how the images we captured all seem to be a blast from the past – we started with a test plate with just his arms folded, which led to ‘you look like you should be holding a massive hammer’ to: ‘ I only have this one!’. He told me he likes art and to paint, so we did another version with brushes, which I believe came out better. His portrait came out as well as Wil’s the day before and he kindly agreed to sit for one last plate. He looked quite the sight in the middle of a cemetery sitting at a tiny table staring intently into the lens!

 

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Varun with hammer

Varun

Varun with brushes

Varun

Varun portrait

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The bad guy in a 1970s Hong Kong Movie?

 

 

 

Wet Plate Photoshoot: Hisui

Right after the wet plate weekend at Lacock Abbey (see my previous post) I had planned to photograph a Cambridge based model called Hisui. I had found her profile via Purpleport.com and asked her to shoot with me. She agreed and we set our date on the 5th of August. With a day of work in between the weekend and the shoot, I did not have much time to prepare and unfortunately, it showed!

On my last day of the wet plate weekend, I noticed my collodion thickening up and showing more crepe lines than on the day before. I did mix up some fresh fix and developer, which were fully depleted.

Hisui arrived with her partner, spot on time. After explaining the process to them, we chose a few spots on the cemetery to shoot. I took a few Medium format film shots in between on my Rolleiflex (I must have had an inkling of what was to come) and we shot 6 wet collodion plates in total. Out of the six, there were two clear winners – which then both peeled off the plate! I chose to scan another 2, which I thought were OK, not as strong in form and execution as the 2 destroyed ones and 2 film stills. The film images I believe are good studies, but perhaps not final products. That will teach me to step away from digital….

Hisui, thank goodness, was patient and professional throughout the day and very understanding even after I let her know what happened to the plates!

 

The best 2 plates of the shoot *cringe*

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The second best 2 plates of the day

 

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The 2 best film images

there is a lot I like about the second image where Hisui flicks up the skirt, but it lacks the separation before fore- and background in the skirt that it needs to make it a true classic stunner!

 

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Wet Plate Photoshoot: Weekend at Lacock Abbey

On the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of August 2014, ten wet plate photographers would gather from all corners of the UK to spend two days at Lacock – once the home of Henry Fox Talbot- and I was pleasantly surprised to be invited (Thanks Tony & Mark). After a gruelling drive on the Friday afternoon I arrived at the Picadilly camp site well on time. The owner, Peter, is a little peculiar but friendly enough. I pitched my tent and met most of the others at the Red Lion pub in Lacock village.

On the Saturday, we were met with rain, more rain, heavy rain, proper showers, downpours and more such fun. Driving up to the Lacock Abbbey, we met Roger Watson, the curator of the Fox Talbot Museum who guided us onto the site. Marquis and tents were pitched in record time, darkboxes erected and cars and vans unloaded before starting the day proper. Lucky for us, the rain cleared later in the morning and the burning sun that followed made for some …. interesting …..shooting conditions!

 

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I started my photography in the cloisters as I fell in love with the light the moment I laid eyes on it. Both plates here have an exposure of around 1-1.30 minutes at f4.5  and look to have suffered from collodion drying before development.

 

Sacristy

 

Some plates were a little less successful, such as the two below. The fogging on the plates may have come from warm developer, warm silver, warm plates, drying plates…..

 

The Chapter House

 

The Chapter house

 

This image, taken from the cloister walkway, I tried about three times before I settles on this one, and ‘perhaps it was not to be’. There are more than a few subjects that will be very hard to capture in collodion due to very low or very high contrast. This particular scene had everything going for it in colour, but falls completely flat in this beautiful process….Also note the two darker spots on the top right. These are actually collodion drying spots where I had my fingers whilst supporting the plate. Mark Voce told me this is a myth – but it was clearly happening to me! You will be able to spot some of these black marks on other plates as well.

 

Cloisters

 

I had taken several other plates on the day, from outside the building, keeping the Abbey in full view – which all failed. Oh well.

On the Sunday, the weather had dried up completely. We rode in convoy back to the site, set up and started afresh. This first image was shot into the sunlight, which might not have been the best choice! I shielded the lens with my hand from a slight distance, but the haziness due to the brightness of the light is clear.

 

Entrance archway

 

Slightly less conventional, I then tried to capture the tap we used to take fresh water for rinsing our plates. I loved the contrast between the strict lines of the tap and pipes, the grittiness of the old wall and the lush succulence of the plants. Again, it didn’t quite go as planned. I left myself only a small space to move in and it’s noticeable that the first attempt at the top is much better framed than my second one. Apart from that, The grain of the wall and the detail on the plants – their shadows being quite deep – might be something not easily captured in one plate.

 

tap

tap

 

Next, I moved to the Abbey walkways. Initially, I wasn’t going to take this image as it seems too obvious a shot, but I’m happy I did. The first attempt worked well at 1:30 at around f8, and dried well after – but it seemed so dark when wet, that I decided to shoot a second one at 2:00 at f8. The second plate is so beautiful and silvery on the plate and I am completely in love with it! The white lines going through the middle are left by people going into the abbey, the open door can be seen on the end.

 

Cloisters hallway

Cloister hallway

 

Staying within the cloisters, I decided on a hard shot to take and I set up at the Abbess stairs. There is a window and stairs and no room to more back from them. The stairs being still very dark, regardless of the window right next to them. I do like how this image somehow looks like I used flash lighting. The exposure was 2 minutes at f4.5.

 

The Abbess stairs

 

One of the last shots I then set up was in one of the darkest rooms in the cloisters. There is quite a fair amount of space, before you get to 3 coffins in front of a latticed window. Most visitors just cast a glance at the coffins and pass through to the next space, making in a perfect subject in a busy National Trust property. I set up in the corner and it took two attempt to get this plate. With the lens wide open at f4.5, it took 2:30 minutes and quite a bit of over development. I am sorry/ happy to say that this plate didn’t scan amazingly well and the original looks a lot better!

 

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The weekend was more than amazing and even though the weather didn’t always play ball, the organization, location and company more than made up for that small hindrance. Many thanks to all that came along and made it so enjoyable!

 

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Wet Plate Photoshoot: Alice II

Just about a week ago, I photographed Alice for a second time. We met up at mine for a short shoot indoors. Our first test plate worked fine so we dove straight in, going for a morbid look, derived from a very sexy fashionable image taken from a glossy magazine ages ago. The slight movement resulting from the 12 second exposure – Alice being sat on a wobbly soft bed, tule in her face – works so very well with this look!

After that, we had a little bit of time left to go for the head wrapped look. Even though I really love how the plates turned out, I would like to try my hand again at the head wrapped ones as the original plates hardly show any contrast and I had to push them in Lightroom a little too far for my liking.

At this time of posting, I will be on my way towards Lacock, a 3,5 hour drive, to shoot the Abbey over the weekend. I’ll be meeting up with a number of fellow wet plate enthusiasts, so fingers crossed we’ll come away with some kick-ass plates!

 

test plate

test plate

Tule, I

Tule, I

Tule, II

Tule, II

Wrapped

Wrapped

Using and Repairing a Thornton Pickard Roller Blind shutter

When I bought my new camera (see my last blog post) It came with a slightly sorry-looking TP roller blind shutter. Granted, there was no name stamped onto this thing, but the basic principles seem to be the same.

Personally, never having owned one of these shutters, did not know how to operate one, so it was hard to establish which parts were there, and which were missing. After a good bit of digging the internet I found a few well-illustrated articles on how to replace the blinds and this helped me a great deal in figuring out how this thing works.

So how does it work?

When the thing functions properly, you just have to set the required shutter speed, you pull the spring to wind the mechanism and you press the shutter. Presto!

 

The shutter with lens

The shutter with lens

The lens removed. I had this little block in there, not sure it's really needed although it will help guide the string and blind

The lens removed. I had this little block in there, not sure it’s really needed although it will help guide the string and blind

This side shows the shutter speed it's set to

This side shows the shutter speed it’s set to. The gap in the middle might just be for a screw that’s gone missing.

this side shows the shutter mechanism

this side shows the shutter mechanism

 

To Operate:

 

wind this bottom brass know clockwise to increase the shutter speed

wind this bottom brass knob clockwise to increase the shutter speed

To decrease the shutter speed, push the little level downwards. The spring inside the bottom roll with release it's tension and the dial on the other side will drop to a slower speed.

To decrease the shutter speed, push the little level downwards. The spring inside the bottom roll will release it’s tension and the dial on the other side will drop to a slower speed.

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If your speed setting is not decreasing, help it along by pushing this little toggle gently upwards.

To cock the shutter, pull the string. Mine clicks once into place for an opened setting (handy for long exposure times) but keep pulling to the second click and you're good to go.

To cock the shutter, pull the string. Mine clicks once into place for an opened setting (handy for long exposure times) but keep pulling to the second click and you’re good to go. Keep in mind to set the shutter or keeping a lens cap in place before opening your darkslide!

To fire the shutter, push this little tab outwards. I'm sure there used to be a firing mechanism attached at some point in time, but that's gone.

To fire the shutter, push this little tab outwards. I’m sure there used to be a firing mechanism attached at some point in time, but that’s gone. The brass bits directly underneath might be part of a timed or remote shutter release.

 

And that’s it! Not that hard, until you find a few bits missing. I found mine like this:

 

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It needed some wood repairs (which were my own fault as I could not get this darned thing off the front of the camera), the string and some screws replacing. I’m missing the original loop that holds the string into place, the (remote) shutter mechanism and something that once lived just over the shutter speed setting dial, which may have just been a screw. Lucky for me, the spring mechanism for the shutter speeds and most of the curtain were still intact, and, as it turns out, I had all the needed parts to make it work again.

First, I repaired the wood as that was the easiest part.

wood repairs

wood repairs

Second, the roller blind. I used pieces of adhesive bandage tape, then, when they tore again after only 1 day, I re-enforced them with fabric glue. I forgot to do this at this stage, but this is also a good time to check for fabric integrity and any light leaks. Make repairs where needed and give your blind a fresh coat of acrylic black paint.

remove the brass on the shutter side so you can take out the top roller

remove the brass on the shutter side so you can take out the top roller

Repair the break(s). I used bandage tape, re-enforced with fabric glue

Repair the break(s). I used bandage tape, re-enforced with fabric glue. Clamp them down and leave to cure for 24 hours.

finished repair

finished repair

 

Then, the chord. I had a spindle of green chord of a similar thickness of the remains of the pull string in the shutter. I pulled it through, knotted it to keep it in place and wound a good part of it onto the string (anticlockwise, so over the top towards yourself). You’ll need about 30 cm as you’ll need to accommodate the full length of the shutter and then some. Guide the string into the little groove on the side of your shutter and pull it through the little hole at the bottom. Traditionally, the end would hold a ring or wooden toggle to secure the thread, I’ve used a safety pin till I can find something better.

My old cord was knotted at the top so I did the same with my thread.

My old cord was knotted at the top so I did the same with my thread.

wound and guided

New thread wound and guided

thread guide

thread guide. The damaged wooden part shows where once sat a little brass loop.

Secure the end of your pull string

Secure the end of your pull string

 

Finally, I was ready to build this thing back up. Make sure all your repairs are done and dried. Insert your top roller back into it’s place (you will have done this already if you repaired your string) and make sure you got the left side in its little hole. Slide the brass plate over the other, radared side and screw it down. Keep the top roller into place with that small brass plaque that looks a little like a duck face.

brass 'duck face' toggle, here shown with the shutter cog behind it

brass ‘duck face’ toggle, here shown with the shutter cog behind it

On top, screw the shutter cog into place. Make sure you align this properly, so that your first click actually fully opens the shutter and your second click fully  shuts it. It will look like this:

The little snag nearest the biggest needs to point straight west.

The little snag nearest the biggest needs to point straight west.

Then, place the shutter back onto the whole thing. The lower end sits just underneath the brass plate (look for the slots) and the top screws into place.

this side shows the shutter mechanism

shutter placement

 

And that’s it! Congratulations on your repairs and have fun using your new (old) shutter. If you want to read an excellent tutorial on how to make and replace your roller blinds, I’ll gladly refer you to paulewins.com and Lungov.com.

 

 

DIY: Transporting wet plates out in the field

Today, I’d like to share a little secret with you. Well….little……..I had been pondering and pondering on how to keep my wet plates safe whilst being out in the field. Granted, my camera isn’t exactly the sort of size you’d happily take out to shoot some snaps at the beach, but still. I absolutely hate not being able to do something because of technical or practical limitations.

 

when it came fresh into our lives

my Reproduction camera when it came fresh into our lives – and yes – that’s me 🙂

 

I will warn you now – this is possibly the highest-tech solution I could come up with: trays within a bucket of water! Well? Isn’t that great? I know it’s exactly what print washers do – but I have neither the funds to just go out and buy one – nor do I have the patience to build one properly. 

The other difficulty would be the varying sizes of the plates that my camera takes. I decided to take the half plate (12 x 16 cm) and full-plate (16.5 x 21.5 cm) sizes as a starting point, to order and test my super-complicated idea.

 

What you need:

 

(Large) plastic storage container + lid

Plexiglass / acrylic sheet, 2-3 mm thickness, cut to size

Tools to cut / order to size online or in-store

Drill with large bit for holes

Acrifix / other acrylic glue

 

Take your (large) plastic storage container with a lid. A square one (or as square as you can get) without any holes, slits, gaps or damage. If it has a solid closing lid, perfect – because you’ll be needing that. Take the measurement of it’s smallest point – for me that was on the bottom as it tapers out slightly towards the top – and check what size plate it will hold. Mine would hold 2 full plates next to each other with space to spare, or 4 half-plates. Taking the measurement of the plate + a little space around it, this will be the size of the bottom. Now, you need some sides; I placed them on top of the bottom plate (easier to measure) and made them 1 cm high.

So, calculate the measurements of the pieces you need (this example is for 3mm thick acrylic). I ordered all my pieces from acrylic-online.co.uk and even though they state in their disclaimer that any tiny measurements may be slightly off, all cut pieces I received from them were perfect. They do charge £10 shipping as a minimum per order, so make sure you get all you need in one go!

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I ordered additional acrylic sheets for a massive silver bath – all the bits for the tray are at the back wrapped in dark blue, with the measurements written on them

 

I made 8 x full-plate trays: Plate=16.5 x 21.5 cm, Tray bottom plate (8 of these)=18 x 23 cm, Long sides (16 of these)=23 x 1 cm, short sides (16 of these)=18-0.6 (2x thickness) x 1 xm

And 16 x half-plate trays: Plate=12 x 16cm, Tray bottom plate (16 of these)=13.5 x 17.5 cm, long sides (32 of these)= 17.5 x 1 cm, short sides (32 of these)=13.5 – 0.6 (2x thickness) x 1 cm

Apart from that, you’ll need some 2 mm acrylic sheets, roughly the size of your tub to cover the trays between layers. With the amount of tubs I have, I can make 8 layers, I would be wise to order 9 divider sheets (1 to go on top).

 

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trays inside the tub – 1x full plate, 2 x half-plate

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trays in front of the box – I only fill it to about half-way when I wanted to use all of them

 

The only thing I have yet to do is drill thumb-sized holes in the bottoms, to make taking the plates out a little easier.It is also not advised to use a large tub this size and fill it up completely. Not only will it be amazingly heavy, it might break and / or spill water all over you, the car, your camera etc.

I have now used this system once – I transported my glass in the trays to begin with, to make sure I could fit them all in when done. On location, I took all trays out and filled the bottom of the tub with a layer of tap water, which I brought with me in several plastic bottles. It’s easy to keep your plates wet when they are immersed! After each layer, insert a plastic divider, so the tubs don’t sink into each other, damaging the plate below. Add more water as needed. When  done, close the lid securely, place the tub into your car and gently drive it home. Stick it under a slowly running shower and presto – safely transported and washed plates!