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Toronto!

It's been a few weeks since my last post and plenty has happened in the meanwhile. I already mentioned in my last post that we found ourselves a house in East York of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and we're setteling in nicely. The neighbours are all very friendly and we've been donated plenty of super useful things. The hardest part so far has been unpacking; all of our stuff had been re-packed by the moving company so we don't know which box holds what. Apart from that, we got rid of almost all of our furniture in the UK, so we've been on more than one hunt to find replacements. And there was a ton of paperwork to do: for our house lease, energy bills, health care applications, changing over my drivers licence, applications to mailing systems, re-energising my Etsy shop.....and the compulsory hiccups. TV and Internet being fickle. Not being able to find anything. A washing machine flood in the basement and blocked water pipes for 12 hours. Our banking cards not having Visa. Our visa card having a stupid low limit. Transit lines being interrupted. Being caught out in the seasonal downpours. The heat. The humidity! The best part has been all the space we have to put things in. I'm especially loving the garage and I'm finally getting round to more than one DIY project. We've already repaired our antique fan, I'm currently still stripping our media unit (which turned out to be a very nice English Walnut) and refurbing an old pidgeonhole cabinet to go into my office space. There are still a pair of rusty folding chairs, a camera with studio stand, a black chipboard cabinet and a white kitchen cabinet to attend to. The latter two were free curbside finds and will be part of my darkroom outfit. I've also gotten round to ordering my wetplate chemicals from two Canadian sources. Initially I thought getting this stuff in Canada would be very difficult and truth be told, the pricing of some of the ingredients (silver nitrate- $95 for 50 grams - GULP! Lucky I brought some with me!) would make me think twice if I wasn't into wetplating already. Now I still need a decent enlarger and to set up my scanner somewhere to process all of that film I shot in previous months. And then there is still more film to develop! So much work to be done!  
Summer, downtown Toronto

Summer, downtown Toronto

It had to be done

It had to be done

Horrid black paint - stripping

Stripping paint

Mid-century look

Mid-century look with a brand new sofa, antique fan and curb-find box

The office, still barren

The office, still barren

 

California Honeymoon

Monday, May 4th

We take our own car to Heathrow, as parking there for 2 weeks turns out to be about the same price as taking the train. No hauling suitcases for us and we arrive well on time. The moment we try to check in, it turns out that I made a stupid little mistake on Sean's Esta, putting in an o instead of an 0, and he cannot be cleared to fly until we book another one on my mobile. This is super stressful but I am very glad that for the first time in a long while my phone just does what it's asked to do. About 12 hours later we are in the USA, collect our upgraded rental car and drive to the hotel. I am happy we brought out own satnav as I wouldn't have wanted to navigate the streets of LA by map at night. Or by map at all! We arrive around 22:00 at the hotel.

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Tuesday, May 5th

After a rough and restless night we wake up silly early and cannot seem to go back to sleep. We get up at 6.30, have breakfast at the hotel around 7.30 and off for Hollywood. We see the walk of fame and sunset boulevard (which is a bit of a...dump) but we're too early for most thing to even be open! After a much-needed coffee and a view of the Hollywood sign through a tourist binocular, we are off to see the sign closer-up.

We drive to the observatory through an amazing neighbourhood to a fantastic view over the city and hills. In the afternoon we go to the Citadel outlet shopping centre where we spend money on things we don't really need; apart from my wetsuit ofcourse!

We have out dinner at a diner, which was a poor choice and more for convenience sake than anything else. Sean is hoping to join a local Kyukushin Dojo for their Tuesday training session tonight. He can, and does, and I for one am very impressed as I sit on the side trying really hard not to fall asleep....

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Wednesday, May 6th

We're going to Disneyland!!! The ride over is smooth and after putting down $17 for parking we take the little tram to the entrance. The day start off great; The bobsled ride (Matterhorn) that Sean wants to go into, is closed for maintenance. We head into Toontown and get stuck in a ride that's breaking down! Then we find out that pretty much all the big rides are closed - in all fairness, there was a list at the entrance, but we were way too excited to get in to look at it properly. We still have fun in several silly rides, have a blast with the great purchase of a pair of  Malificent horns (small children are easily convinced you are a villain on a day off) and going on Splash Mountain was a baaaad choice. The Indiana Jones ride, as well as the Finding Nemo submarines were an unexpected success. Then, as a final stroke of genius, the park shuts early!!!! At 19:00 things start shutting down, restaurants closing and everyone gets kicked out at 19:30.....Boooo!

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Thursday, May 7th

After a broken night due to an alarm going off, we get up, pack our bags and have breakfast. We fail to find the address to 'It's a wrap' vintage shop on the satnav, so we point it toward Jack's Surf outlet instead. We find it (disappointing), we find a secondhand bookshop nearby (also disappointing) and finally and most wonderful antique shop, filled with goodies. Ellie, the owner of Gramma's Attic is lovely (and also went to the early-closing Disneyland yesterday) and we end up taking away a gorgeous black dress and a 1920's-1930's ice cream scoop. We then continue to Huntington beach where we have a great lunch at a 'good food' place and shop somewhat for bikini's and surfboards. The weather is cloudy and a little chilly and there is no waves.

Later in the afternoon we take the I-5 south to San Diego. Along the way we managed to slow puncture the front tire, which we keep filling up and after checking into the hotel we exchange the car at Dollar rental. Since we're already in that area we go into Old Town for some Mexican food.

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Friday, May 8th

Tonight, and this morning in San Diego it doesn't just rain - it pours! Bad news for us is that this means that we cannot go surfing, unless we'd like to risk infections and/ or becoming very ill. Apparently, when it rains after a dry spell, all the crap from the city washes into the sea. Not only that, they get the rubbish from Mexico on top of that! Needless to say, we stay on dry land today. We talk a while with a surf dude at 'the Surf Bunker' named Travis, who recommends going to the Wavehouse further down the road. With our luck though, its closed! Closed!!

Thank goodness there is an arcade next door that is open and we throw some quarters at our misery. Afterwards, we drive to San Diego antique district where we have beautiful burritos for lunch / early dinner and shop around a little. Sean even manages to find some retro games to take home. We then ask the satnav to take us to a cinema, to have a look if there is anything we want to see perhaps, it guides us to Sea World... which is closed....and after resetting the directions to another cinema it doesn't have anything we'd like to see.

Back at the hotel, we walk to a pizza place for cake and margaritas and quickly jump into the hotel pool before it shuts for the night.

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Saturday, May 9th

We check out of our hotel in the morning, drive to the same Japanese-run fruit-and-crepe place we had breakfast yesterday and then go on to a secondhand board shop we passed yesterday (you may have guessed by now that it was closed at that time). Sean finds himself a great board, just what he was looking for. Across the road there is a kite festival going on and we decide to join in by getting ourselves a dragon kite. We have ice creams, enjoy the show and the great weather for today the sun is out in force!

At around 13:00 we set our satnav back to LA, first to the Anaheim center of photography. We arrive around 16:30 - it looks abandoned and it's... CLOSED! When the machine wants to charge us $14 for the privilege of undergoing this nonsense, I throw a little fit and get back in the car without paying the ticket. Lucky for me, a kind lady actually lets us out of the complex. We try the Getty instead. The satnav guides us to the rear of the building and after some cursing, swearing and honking by my fellow road users, we arrive at the Getty. Which is open!

We view their photography collection on display and after being thoroughly disappointed with the (second half of the) day, we pay for parking and head towards our hotel.

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Sunday, May 10th

Today, we're off to the Rosebowl, a giant monthly fleamarket held in Pasadena, LA. We get up at 6:30, enjoy our complimentary breakfast, pack up and we're on our way. We get there nice and early around 7:30 and dang! They did not lie when they said it was big! We decide to skip all the new stuff as we won't have time for that and focus on the antiques and vintage clothing sections as those will be hard enough to cover as-is. There is some amazing stuff for sale on this market - some cheap, some bizar, some wonderful and everything suited for every budget. We manage to find some amazing things: I get a short dress with apple print, a small musical box with a dancing man, a flight suit and a full leather sports / weekend bag. Sean finds a retro skateboard deck, fully made of wood and a bunch of retro games.

With pain in my heart, we leave around 13:00 to head for Vegas.

Driving through the Mojave desert is not as I imagined it. It's not actually very desolate with petrol stations around every other corner - and what's up with those little fences next to the Motorway? Are they afraid people will wander off into nowhere? We stop a few times and reach Vegas around 18:00. We booked a room at the Luxor (the pyramid) and after refreshing ourselves, I change into my old new black Cinderella dress for dinner and we take a walk on the strip.

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Monday, May 11th

We agree that Vegas is a little like Disneyland meets Times Square; the buildings are mad and everything is expensive around here. Even though we are - I am - happy to have seen it, we're also happy to have been here at night time. It looks so .... dead... during the day! We drive towards the North side of the strip to try and find the 'World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop' from the TV show. It's a lot smaller than we thought it would be and after checking out the other shops as well, just across the street we set off for Death Valley.

Today's drive will be out longest, according to our planning so wanting a fairly early start we leave Vegas at 11:00. Within the hour, there are plains with Joshua trees, mountain ranges and vast open spaces of hostile rocky terrain. We see sand dunes, salt flats, gravel pits, dust plain, dust devils and snowy hilltops. This is amazing and I am a little sad that I 'only' brought my medium format camera with me, instead of a proper proper old big one.

We get to our destination, a hotel at a half-way point at around 20:30, half an hour before reception closes for the night. We settle in with some store-bought cheesecake and a B horror movie. And I can tell you that watching a B-horror movie, set in a small town in the middle of nowhere is NOT a good thing to watch when staying overnight in a small town in the middle of nowhere!

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Tuesday, May 12th

After a restless night we pack up and go find breakfast in the nearest town. We have a look around some small shops, get a drink in the saloon (it has horse ties and swinging doors and everything!) and set course for the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park. Our hotel keeper advised us a different route than satnav wanted us to take, so we drove for many a mile through orange growing country before going off into the hills again. Along the way we stop at a lovely antiques shop where I manage to find a few stereo cards to add to my ever growing collection.

Going through Sequoia National Park is tough - an hours of slowly winding upwards, fortunately with stunning views to easy my pain. We reach the old man around 17:00, have a good look around - but not too good as it's freezing cold up here - and then go find food and out hotel for the night.

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Sherman! Buddy!

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Wednesday, May 13th

We leave the hotel early in the morning, after some amazing complimentary self-cooked waffles. Today we'll be setting course for Yosemite National Park. We drive a while and stop along the way at some random antique shops and I manage to find myself a beast of an X-ray lens. I don't yet know how I should be using it - let's just say it won't be for original purposes. We reach Yosemite proper at around 13:00, drive a little further in but do not really have time to do a walk as we had planned as we'll need to reach San Fran by the end of today. We also managed to miss inspiration point, but I suppose the Tunnel view vantage point more than made up for that. We also have our lunch there, on a log next to a stream....ahhh. Relaxation! It's out first 'normal' sandwiches we have had here and the desert we got - a cake/custard vanilla/ banana whatever sort of pudding mix - is utterly delicious!

Then, we drive another 3+ hours to San Francisco, arriving at around 19:30. We check online for tickets to Alcatraz, but as it turns out, May is not a slow season around here and everything is sold out! The night tours are even sold out for the next 2 months! Oh well, we head out for a slice of pizza and dive into a book shop that's open late.

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Thursday, May 14th

Today we'll be spending the day in San Fransisco. Going up Polk street, we have breakfast at a 'French' Boulangerie place, having coffee from a cereal bowl (honestly, these Americans! ;-)) Visiting the Fisherman's Wharf, we quickly determine this is NOT for us as the area is overly touristy and walking onwards to the Alcatraz landing dock we see that normal tours are booked up till Tuesday. Sean does receive some kind compliments on his wooden skateboard deck from the local bums, which is nice. We take a street tram towards Mission street - we are hoping to find a skate shop that can fit Sean's deck with some trucks and wheels. We find one and he gets the work done.

We carry on a few blocks to a bunch of Antique and thrift stores before going towards Chinatown. Chinatown, like Fisherman's wharf is unfortunately yet another tourist trap. We do sit in at a great teashop, having a full-on taster session with the salesgirl. We opted for dinner at the 'Great Eastern Restaurant', a place where apparently Barack Obama once had a Dim Sum take-away, or so the proudly displayed newspaper clipping tells us. We walk back to the Hotel UP the giant sloping hills, wandering what it would be like to live here (and having to carry shopping bags up this hill....and what if you forgot the butter....?)

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Friday, May 15th

We walk over to Lombard street 'the crookedest street in the world' - which was yet again, disappointing. We walk back to our hotel to check out and head over to Santa Cruz instead. Sadly for us, there's not much surf going on. The winds are fierce (and a bit chilly). We park at the hotel, take a walk on the pier where we spot a group of sea lions chilling out, go over the boardwalk and have some hotdogs for lunch. The place we decided to sit down at, the picnic basket also does these amazing wild flavours of ice cream, most of them from local farms.

We take the car for a drive round some other beaches in the area and to a local surfshop to get Sean a boardbag. We visit the museum of surfing at the lighthouse and then lo and behold! There's waves!! Sean heads out on his new board, we meet a new surfer in the area and help him out a bit. Afterwards, we head into the Santa Cruz main street for dinner and some late night shopping. I could get used to shops being open till 22:00!

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Saturday, May 16th

We have some complimentary waffles and head out to the beach. Again, no waves! Instead, we check out some of the sample sales advertised along the roads and make several unplanned stops for yard sales in between. At a local surfshop, Sean finds some tiny fins to go with his board and I find some vintage clothing to put on Etsy. Win!

We then drive South along the Coastal Highway, stopping countless times to take photos. When we arrive at our hotel for tonight, the historic Santa Maria Inn, it turns out that it played host to the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Eva Gardner, Judy Garland, etc etc. No=one famous stayed in our room, however. We take it easy for the night as there is nothing to do or see in this area.

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Sunday, May 17th

We get up quite late and re-pack all of our stuff. My hand luggage now has a killer weight due to that massive 'radioactive' lens I just 'had' to buy. We enjoy a continental breakfast and set off to Venice beach, where we booked the last hotel of this trip. We are hoping to meet up with James Cooper, one of Sean's former colleagues who lives somewhere in the area. We arrive fairly early and after a bit of faff parking the car, we walk up to Santa Monica Boulevard, play a few games in the arcade and end up at 'Hama Sushi' in Venice for food. They are not the cheapest place, I'm sure, but their dishes seem quite original and sure were tasty!

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Monday, May 18th

It is our final morning and again, there are no waves! We have been unlucky on this trip with quite a few things, but thank goodness there was also plenty fun stuff and more than enough to make us want to come back!

We have out breakfast at a nearby cafe, complete with building site ambience. We grab the car, check out a few shops on the South side of Venice and then drive towards Santa Monica. There, we get bored real quick with the dime-a-dozen up-scale shops, but we do manage to find a massive charity shop. We have crepes for lunch and head back to the car. The car!! Where did that car go!!!!

PANIC STATIONS EVERYONE!!! WHERE DID THAT CAR GO!?!?!

Turns out we were looking in the wrong building.....sigh....

The rest of the day runs smoothly, dropping off the car, getting to the airport and faking my hand luggage really isn't that heavy at all. Bye bye California! We hope to visit again soon!

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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 😉

   

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* IMG_3196IMG_3197   The second best 2 plates of the day   untitled-102 untitled-103   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!   untitled-110 untitled-108  

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:   IMG_2507 IMG_2547 IMG_2548 IMG_2560   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.

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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.

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New thread wound and guided

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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.
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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.  
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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!

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

       

Making an – inkjet printed – digital negative

Last time I talked about salt printing, and how I used a inkjet printed digital negative to use for the contact print. Today I'll show you how I made the negative and the printout.   This is the first time I tried making one of these negatives to use in my first salt-printing attempts, so I am not claiming this to be the best, most accurate or most technically insightful of tutorials - but it seemed to do the trick.

What you need to make a digital negative:

  • digital image
  • printer
  • (Pictorico) OverHead Projector Film (OHP)
 

Step 1: Choose an image. Select a file that is large enough for the size of the print-out you intend to make.

Step 2: Open up your image in your image editing software (Lightroom, Photoshop, GIMP) and edit it as you would normally do. I usually stick to spotting for any dust that may have gotten onto the film whilst scanning and adjusting the levels in Lightroom. Save your image.

Hong Kong, 2012

 

Step 3: With your image opened, save the file under a different name, so you won't accidentally save over your original. I've done the next few steps in Photoshop.

Step 4: Make the image 16 bit & RGB. You can do this under Image > Mode > 16 bit / RGB in Photoshop.

RGB conversion 16 bit conversion

Step 5: Apply a ratio curve to the image, invert the image and flatten. Don't worry too much about how messed up your image is looking right now - but try to judge the contrast that it will provide to your print. The contrast I'm showing here is actually not that great, but it's a good example of a 1:1 image conversion.

Ratio curveinvertinginverted, flattened

 

Step 6: Add a new layer, set to 'screen' mode.

add new layer, screen mode

 

Step 7: Using the colour picker, set the foreground colour to:

Platinum printing (density 1.6) R: 127 G: 255 B: 0

Palladium Printing (density 1.9) R: 70 G: 140 B: 0

(some) Palladium printing (density 2.2) R: 50 G:100 B:0

Salt and Albumen printing (density 2.5) R: 25 G: 50 B: 0

color picker

  Step 8: Fill the new layer with this colour. The idea is, that some colours block out UV light better than others and you'll see in a cyanotype printing video I've linked below, that red is their colour of choice.  

finished

Step 9: (optional) Taking the advise from another website (see links below) I added a step tab, so judge my exposure times. You can find a few via Google, but you could also opt for a classic exposure test by making a test strip.

Printer Calibration Image

Step Tab

Step 10: You are now ready to print your negative! Fire up the printer and insert one of your OHP sheets. The 'sticky' or non-slippery side is the one taking the image. Insert it with the paper strip first so your printer has something to hold on to. Print with the following settings if you have the option:

Working space: adobe RGB / US web coated (SWOP) Gamma Grey 2.2, Dot Grain 20%

Policies: Convert to working (all) - tick all boxes

Conversion: Adobe (ACE), perceptual - tick all boxes

Leave your print to dry for at least 24 hours.

   

As I did not believe that the above negative would have made a great print, I went back and made some changes in the original to bring out more detail in the shadow areas. Other than that, I followed the same steps as outlined above, resulting in quite a different negative!

Hong Kong Switches

   

Should you like to learn more about making a digital negative, I can recommend having a look the following sites and articles:

Alternativephotography.com

Article by Dan Burkholder on ProfessionalPhotographer.com

Article by Robert Hirsch on Masteringphoto.com

Article by Christina Anderson on Freestylephoto.biz

Bark-edu.com

precisiondigitalnegatives.com

 

Making a salt print

When I started diving into the various printing varieties, the salt printing immediately caught my eye. Not only do I adore the slightly romantic feel of salt printing, it's also fairly safe and affordable to try.   Hong Kong, 2012salt printing This is what you need - it will seem like a long list, but you'll find you already own most of these items: 1. An image to print. We will be contact printing the image, meaning that you will get a 1:1 copy of the negative. I have tried contact printing some of my wet plate collodion clear glass plates with some encouraging results but not everyone will have some of those lying around. We'll be using a digital image - this specific image of the light switches has been taken in Hong Kong in 2012. 2. A digital negative from said image. I'll explain how to make one in my next blog post. You'll need a computer, a printer with sufficient ink and one/ several sheets of Over Head Projector (OHP) Sheets. You can buy these online or at an office supply store. I am using some I bought in Germany to try, but it seems that Pictorico is widely used and recommended. Make sure you leave your negative dry for at least 24 hours, or it can stain your print! 3. Paper to make your salt print on. You can really use whatever paper you like, but do consider ease to work with and archival values. Watercolor paper gives the images a beautiful classic look and there's tons of brands to try, including acid-free brands. Lighter, thinner papers like Japanese tissues can give interesting effects but might be harder to smooth down after they've been soaked with a salt solution. Again, try looking online, a hobby/ craft or art store or a stationary supplier. I got a super cheap batch of 300 grams watercolour paper from amazon.co.uk to give this process a try.     4. Tape and boards to tape your paper to. The tape should be low-tack as not to damage your paper, like a paper painters tape. The boards should be at least somewhat sturdy, but in all fairness, I have used cut pieces of a cardboard box which seem to do the job perfectly well for 1-5 uses.   IMG_0615   5. You will need some stuff to prepare your paper to take the image:
  • distilled water (1600 ml)
  • table salt a.k.a. Sodium Chlorine (10 grams)
  • silver nitrate (10 grams)
  • hypo a.k.a. Sodium Thiosulfate (100 grams)
  • sodium bicarbonate (2 grams) or ammonia (2 ml)
    6. Then there are your tools:
  • trays for the (chemical) baths - these can be darkroom trays if you have them, or alternatively a couple of glass dishes or washing up tubs will do just fine - just don't put any chemicals into a tray you'll want to use for food in the future.
  • a small pan and a heat source to warm up some of the water. Using a non-metallic stirring rod is advised.
  • brushes to coat the paper, alternatively use a glass pushing rod or a piece of a washing up sponge.
  • an eyedropper (optional)
  • a washing line, pins and a place to hang up your paper to dry. I put mine in our tiny shower cabin.
  • a piece of clear glass, larger than your intended print, or if you have one, a printing frame. Make sure the glass you are using is clean and not UV coated!
  • a source of UV - the sun, a sunbed, UV lamps - all will work. I use a small Philips face tanner, picked up from a local charity shop for under a fiver.
  • a source of running water.
  IMG_0563 IMG_0680 7. Do remember to use protection kids:
  • protection for your eyes (glasses)
  • protection for your hands (disposable rubber gloves)
  8. A space to work in:
  • a room that you can black out completely, a closet or bathroom - with a red safety light. you will need this during and after sensitizing your paper. I'm using my portable darkroom I normally use for wet plating.
  IMG_0618 IMG_0620   That's a lot huh? Well, here comes how to use it.
  • Take a couple of sheets of paper that you want to use for your salt printing. Take your pan and heat up 500 ml of distilled water and mix in the 10 grams of salt. Stir until it is dissolved. Pour it in the tray and now dip in your sheets of paper one by one. Leave then in a few seconds and turn them over till they're drenched. Now pin them up somewhere to dry.
  • Next, warm up 100 ml of distilled water. When it is warm, put it into a (dark brown) glass container and go into your darkened room, put on your protective gear and mix in 10 grams of silver nitrate. Stir it with a glass rod until dissolved and put the mixture into an eyedropper. Be careful with this mix - it is extremely corrosive and will stain everything it touches. It could even make you go blind if it gets into your eyes! This mix is what will make your paper light sensitive.
  • (optional) I use a 10 ml eyedropper bottle to coat my paper. A full bottle will coat approximately 5 full A4 sheets. I have added a few drops of a 5% mix of potassium dichromate (1-2 drops to 12 drops of silver) to increase contrast and the image does seem to turn more into a blueish grey than the normal yellow / reddish-brown. It does increase exposure times, so keep that in mind if you're adding this step.
  • Once your paper has dried completely, tape it to a support. In the darkroom, use the eyedropper to form a liquid line on one edge of the paper. Take your brush or glass rod (a glass rod is harder to control, but a brush will use more fluids) and spread the solution over the paper. You can coat it once, twice, as many times as you like - as long as you coat the paper evenly and your paper is sturdy enough to take the strain. Leave to dry in the dark. If light hits the paper, it will fog over and start to darken; your whites won't be white and you'll lose contrast overall.
  • When this stage is completely dry, place the paper, with your negative on top (emulsion side down when using an original, protect your image by using a thin sheet of Mylar) under the sheet of glass. Place it in a spot where the sun can hit it, or use your UV light. You can check on the progress from time to time by carefully lifting the paper backing - you can see the image appear as you go along! Beware that you'll need to make it quite dark as fixing and washing will lighten the image somewhat.
  • Once you are happy, rinse the image in water for about 15 minutes to wash any unexposed silver off. Then, place the image in a fixer made from 1 liter distilled water, 100 grams Hypo and either 2 grams of soda bicarbonate or 2 ml ammonia for about a minute. Leave it a little longer if you want the print to be lighter.
  • Finally, move the print to a tray with (running) water. This can be tap water, and you should leave it in there for about 30 minutes. Hang to dry, and you're done!
 

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making a glass negative storage box

IMG_9358   So far, I've made a few storage boxes, in different sizes. This time, I'll show you how to make one for yourself, step by step. It's easy! I don't even have table to work on and I can do it! I'll provide the measurements to make a loose lidded storage box for plates sized 16,5 x 21,5 cm (full plate) but obviously you'll need to adapt these if your plates are bigger or smaller.  

I used the following materials:

 
  • grey bookbinders board of 3 mm thick
  • a large sheet of paper to cover the box and lid once assembled
  • standard white wood glue (PVA glue)
  • a stiff haired brush
  • a small paint roller + tray
  • scissors
  • a ruler
  • pencil
  • a box cutter knife
  • a cutting mat
  • (optional) a bone folder (folding bone)
  • (optional) a metal/ wooden square, a little thicker than the glass plate
  • (optional) small amount of water, to dilute the glue

 

 1. Measure and mark the parts you need onto the bookbinders board, cut them out.

Start with the bottom: 18 x 13 cm The width of your plate + spacing + 0.6 cm for the side boards = 16.5 + 0.9 + 0.6 = 18 cm. the depth can be whatever you want it to be, I chose to make it 13 cm, so it would fit a minimum of 10 plates. Then the front/ back: 18 x 23 cm The width is equal to the bottom plate. The height is your plate height + spacing, so anything over 21,6 cm would have been fine. Next, the sides: 12,4 x 23 cm The sides are sandwiched in between the front and the back, so substract (2 x 0.3 cm) from the width. The height remains equal to the front/ back. Now, the lid, starting with the top: 18.6 x 13.6 cm The lid is the size of the bottom + a little bit of space for the paper and movement (0.2 cm, increase this if you are using thick paper or fabrics) + board thickness x2 (0.6) and the lid sides: The front / back of the lid are the lid width x however deep you want to make the lid = 18,6 cm x 3,5 cm The sides of the lid are the lid depth - 2x board thickness (0.6 cm) x lid depth = 13 x 3,5 cm Finally, you'll need a lot of spacers: 19 x 1 cm The size of the spacers is not really important. Just mind that you do not make them too wide (too much contact with the plate is not necessary and could damage the image) or too narrow (if you put too much spacing in the width of the box, the plate could slide past the spacer and bump into another plate). Lengthwise I would suggest covering half the plate or more, leaving a couple of cm at the top so that plates can be taken out easier. I used about 36 spacers in total.  

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2. Assemble the sides with the spacers.

To assemble the box, start with placing the spacers. I had a lot of help using a carpenters'  square, but anything else which is straight and flat (and a little bit thicker than your glass negatives) will do. Start with the sides, paste 2 spacers together and glue them at the very end of the side. All the ends should meet up exactly on the lower edge as you'll paste this to the bottom later. Now place your square or other tool to help you place your spacers and work your way across, gluing them neatly in their spots. Finish with another double spacer at the end.  

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3. Assemble the box and lid

Now, glue the sides to the front/ back and to the bottom. Again, a carpenter's square may help, but you can always use another square, a corner, floor-wall etc. The sides should be sandwiched in between the front and back and the bottom placed underneath, turn it over, make sure it's square and weigh it down whilst it dries. Assemble the lid, and test carefully if it fits the box. You can cheat a little with the placing of the sides to the top of the lid to make it a tiny bit bigger if need be. Then set aside and weigh it down to dry.  

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4. Covering the box with paper

I've covered my boxes from 1 sheet of paper per box. It might have been easier to use several little scraps, but hey - it looks nice! For this one in particular I have used a sheet of acid-free paper I still had, which is a bonus since I want the box to be as archival safe as possible. Covering the box is a lot like wrapping a gift. Make sure that the paper fits all the way around your box, both in length and width. Glue the bottom onto the center, using either a brush or a roller. Make sure to flatten out the paper with your hands, or a folding bone before the glue sets or it'll be all wrinkly. Fold the paper up and around where it needs to be, cutting away any excess. Since this paper was long enough, but not wide enough to cover the box in the most simple manner, I've cut it slightly differently. Glue the sides, with help of the roller/ brush and the bone folder, then clip the paper in at the top and fold the paper over the edges, gluing it in place. Cover the lid in the same manner and you're done! Good luck with making your own storage box 🙂  

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