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2017 – Year of Photography

I hope everyone has had wonderful holidays and is enjoying the winter weather when it’s not too cold. Our holidays were quiet, as they are every year and like every year, I start wondering about my life and all the various things I could do to enrich it. So. This year is photography year. There. I said it, now there is no backing out.

Last year, due to a few house moves and consequently all of our stuff being in storage, I did not get round too much wet-plating, much to my chagrin. This year will be different; I dusted off my Model Mayhem account and created a casting call, to start photographing some plates in upcoming springtime. Yeah, I know, I don’t do cold weather shooting so I’ll have to be patient. I look forward to shooting a few fresh faces in an exciting new project. The theme was so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before! And – it will take me some time to finish it. Which could be a good or bad thing, we’ll see.

 

No, I’m not telling you what it is just yet! If you are truly curious, go find the casting call on Model Mayhem ๐Ÿ˜€

 

I did manage to do a couple of plates last year, but somehow they did not manage to enthuse me. They are just not exciting enough! For lack of a model, I used a small porcelain figurine that was left to me by my late great-grandmother as well as a small piece of a wasp nest that I found in the shed (and some wasps that were dead on the ground in summer). There was also a pepper, and a mortar and pestle providing the subject of the images.

 

I was mildly enthusiastic about this plate, where the top of the pepper emerging from the shadows almost looks like some monstrous stag beetle…This could be a fun image, after a bit of work.


I did get to do some medium format shooting last year though, with all that travel. I hope I’ll see more of that coming my way this year, that would be sweet! It’s a shame I don’t actually enjoy the scanning and retouching of my images all that much, it would make things a little easier. Hah! This time round, just like my belated holiday images in my last post, I have scanned them all small and did only the bare bone retouching on them. That way, I’ll finally not waste time on image that I’ll never use or will misplace at some point anyway. Again, time will tell if this is a good of bad way to go about it.

In my second round of scanning, I found a few beauties that I do not want to keep to myself. These are taken in the Chinese Garden in Frankfurt, Germany. It’s not a big garden, and it’s usually busier than this, but it certainly provided with ample opportunity for a few nice shots.

 

 

 

 

 

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 ofย  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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Photography gear on Etsy

As we slowly mosey on into deeper darker winter, I have started my spring cleaning early. With all of my Etsy shenanigans going on, and two new pop-up / markets events in the pipeline, I decided to clear out some of my photographic gear. Even though we moved into a bigger property, it still seems space is at a premium as I struggle to find a place for everything.

I had already noticed the mildew forming on some of my newer equipment and I was saddened to see that even my older bits and bobs were not spared this faith. Some of the camera covers, some of the antistatic cloths and even a cloth hairband all were infected and in need of a good clean or throwing out. Thank goodness none of the lenses were affected but it did provide me with an excellent excuse to pull everything out and get rid of thing I no longer need / have never used / I don’t know what they are for!

So keep your eyes peeled on my Etsy shop as I will be listing these goodies in the next few weeks to come!

 

 

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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Photoshoot: Jack Cooke

A little while ago I had flung myself back on Model Mayhem, full of zest and inspiration, eager to find some fresh faces to photograph in order to maintain and further develop my photography skills. I soon got in touch with local man Jack Cooke, we met for a meet-up and a coffee and decided on a first test shoot – a digital one. Anyone following this blog would now notice this is a slightly odd choice, but I had my reasons!

Not only would going digital on this occasion allow me to get a good feel of Jack’s capabilities, it would also allow for both of us to see how well we would work together without wasting a lot of time, money and film. We would not have to deal with the off chance of the film not coming out well and, most important, I wanted Jack to have a wide selection of shots to choose for his portfolio.

Apart from all those (dare I say; good reasons) it allowed me to dust off the digital camera and take it out for some fresh air! If all would go well on the day, we agreed to do another session in which we will use film and wet plate only. I did take the Rolleiflex TLR with me with 1 sneaky roll of 400 ISO. With regards to my previous post on planning shoots: I did not know what Jack would be wearing before meeting him at his house, I had not seen his bike or the pub where we would start shooting. We agreed on a quiet road, but again, I had not seen it prior to the shoot.

Thank goodness all went well! Not only is Jack a funny and likeable fellow, he is eager to learn and worked hard throughout the session. Some images at the start of the session did not work so well due to an ill-fitting blazer but later images of the day will have to count amongst my favourites to date. Not planning a shoot seems to be working well for me when going digital and even though it might cause small fits of stress on the days beforehand – I quite enjoy working like this.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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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Winter

After settling in well in our new Cambridge home, I thought it was time to turn my attention back onto my website. Lo and behold – there are technical issues with it! The pages are EXTREMELY slow to load and the guys at Justhost.com don’t really seem to know what’s going on, apart from that *I* need to fix it. *sigh*

Regardless, I’ve managed to update the resources page to include a few tips, tricks and DIY overviews I have blogged about over the last number of months, so they’ll all sit together happily in one place. I will add the building instructions of my second darkbox, as well as some wetplating troubleshooting information. Since the weather isn’t exactly suitable for me to go out at the moment and we don’t have the space to set up inside, I’m using this time to prepare for the next season. A car has been found and purchased, so I will be able to get out and about.

In the meanwhile I’ll have to stick to using my Rolleiflex TLR – Woe is me – and get to shooting again. The cemetery is lovely in the morning with the striking beams of the low sun, but I’m just holding out for that little bit of frost to start creeping over the grounds.

Regardless of the subject matter, I wonder if they’ll turn out as depressing as some of the images I shot last year. We had just come back from our failed adventure in Australia, to land in the snow covered Netherlands. My folks were kind enough to take us in for a few months, which can’t have been easy for them. I know it wasn’t easy for us. Not only to having admit defeat, but losing your independence (even if only temporarily) without being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We didn’t know what would happen next – where we would live or work – and it was so grey, and so cold……..it was as if nature itself was mourning for us.

Coincidentally, Sean found work in Germany just as Spring set in, and we were on our way again.

 

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Coalmine: Cheratte, Belgium.

Since I’m still working on the images from New York, and the house isn’t tidy enough to show any images of that en public, I’ll play a little catch-up and share some images I have taken on my first proper Urbex trip a few months ago.

In my last week in Dusseldorf, I met up with a group of like-minded photographers via Meetup. We were going to an abandoned coalmine in La Cheratte, Belgium, and spend a good two hours on site. We went on a Sunday and even though the weather was cloudy, it was dry and the place was magnificent. For the occasion (and because I’m a geek) I had brought 3 cameras. Please note that some of the pictures are near identical and you can see the differences between the exposure qualities of the three camera’s really well.

Camera 1

My small digital Canon Powershot SX130 IS to take non-important snapshots. I still have one or two moments during a day of shooting where I just cannot seem to guestimate my exposure correctly. I use this little thing in auto to see what it comes up with and check it against my own numbers. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. All of my failed film images are too dark.

 

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Camera 2

The Praktica Super TL2 for 35 mm color shots (1 roll of 36). The lens I used was a Panagor PMC 28mm 1:2.5 Auto Wide Angle with an Izumar coated UV filter, and I had it mounted on a small light-weight tripod. This is the camera I have used since my days of Art College in 1999-2001 and I still love it to bits. Some area’s of the coalmine were very hard to get into proper focus but I think I got a few nice images out of it. I used Kodak 160NC film, which is, ofcourse, NOT suitable for this dark environment, but it was the only 35mm film I had at hand – and non-perfect images are still a lot better than no images.

 

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Camera 3

The third and last camera I brought on this day was my trusty Rolleiflex Planar 2.8 with synchro-compur shutter. With 4 pictures left on a roll and 2 spare rolls of B/W film (28 shots in total), I had to think carefully about the shots and how I would set them up. It was a terrible shame I didn’t have my dedicated tripod handy for the occasion as it was still roaming around in a storage unit in the Netherlands, so I had to use it hand-held and hope that the camera-shakes wouldn’t be too bad. Eek! I used Kodak 400TX film and developed in R09 (Rodinal). I love how some of the images came out – especially those with a very classic feel – and I am currently using them to attempt salt-printing.

 

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Image update

I’d like to take a moment and greet everyone that’s recently signed up for the news feed or the newsletter – ever since I’ve started the Large Format Project, we’ve grown from around 200 to nearly 600! So: Hellooo! I hope my blog and/ or website will bring some inspiration or entertainment value to your life!

It seems I’ll be having some extra time on my hands now that my friend Georgiana has left Germany to move back to her home country Romania, to find work. She had trouble learning the language and it’s hard to find a job in Germany without that skill and sad as her departure may be, I do very much hope she’ll have more luck in Bucharest. I already envy her friends that get to see her on a regular basis!

Now, in today’s post, I will not be whining any more about my sad, sad loss. Instead, I’ll be catching up on some images I have promised in some previous blog write-ups, but never actually shared, and some images of an event I never even mentioned.

 

JAPAN DAY

A good number of weeks ago, we went to Dusseldorf’s Japan Day. You can read the original post here. I took some images on my Uber cool but highly fickle Hanimex Electra II using Kodak Ektra 100 film (35 mm color with 36 exposures). The film had been loaded since we lived in Sydney, and I already shot half the film at our local Bondi Beach. Unlucky as I was this time, the film had not loaded correctly, and must have slipped inside the camera. All exposures came out doubled up! Even though it does nothing to detract from the nice quality of the film, or the vintage feel the camera seems to lend to the images, or even the fact that it looks quite cool – I think it’s a shame I don’t have a ‘back-up’ of the images I had taken. But I suppose that’s the risk you take when shooting film….

 

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WET PLATE PHOTOGRAPHY

In the last session on wet-plate photography, I shot some images of Taz, that came out very well – and some of Angela, where I had more than one technical hick-up. I have since then scanned and given them their images and feel it would be only right to share a few of them here as well. I have taken some samples from the original scans and will be putting them into a separate troubleshooting section on the site, possibly within this week.

 

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SOEST MEDIEVAL FAIR

At the start of August, we went to Soest to visit their yearly medieval event. We were recommended this fair by a couple that attended the medieval fair at Xanten a few months earlier. They stated that ‘it was the biggest and best around and each year they were looking forward to it’. This obviously sounded great so we looked up the fair, planned and booked our trip. We had no car, so had to go by train, taking us nearly 2 hours to get there and when we finally did – it was such a downer! There was hardly any signposting and the stands and performances were dotted through the town center. Not that it’s huge, but searching for the next stall? That takes all the fun out of it! We were lucky enough to be at the right place when the parade hit the main street and I got a few nice shots of it too.

The main event was taking place between the inner and outer defensive walls, charging 2 euros per person to walk along a few stands and people sweating their pants off in re-enactment gear, having lunch. Truth be told, we COULD have stuck around till the evening, when they would be re-enacting the battle, but we were knackered and fed up and too cheap to pay the 20 euros to sit on an uncomfortable stadium stand! Needless to say, we were not impressed…..

I shot 3 rolls of film this day and managed to ruin one of them by not following the manual (what do you mean, I cannot stand develop kodak?!? Let’s just see about that shall we??__ please note: you cannot stand develop Kodak Tmax 100 in Rodinal -_-)

 

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Elfia 2013 – Elf Fantasy Fair, Haarzuilens, the Netherlands

 

A few weeks ago, Sean, our friend Kaya and myself visited the Elf Fantasy Fair (a.k.a. Elfia) at Haarzuilens. This 2,5-day event is held annually on the ground of the beautiful Castle de Haar at Haarzuilens, a tiny village near the city of Utrecht.

 

I decided to don my best semi steampunk outfit, which is nothing more than my actual everyday garb, but it looks slightly Victorian gentleman-ish. It must be the pocket watch, waistcoat and cufflinks that do the trick. This year, I also brought my Rolleiflex TLR and 3 rolls of film, not including the remainder of the roll still in the camera. Ha! A whole 39 (3 x 12 + 3) images to burn on the day with thousands of people, costumes, scenes and props to photograph! Such an enviable position – well, maybe not according to the many people I have seen with their big, bigger or biggest digital cameras slung over their shoulder.

 

Apparently most people don’t even know that this Rolleiflex is an actual camera! I did get more than my fair share of stares and comments when wielding it about or changing the film rolls. I did like to occasional ‘now that’s a real camera’ remarks made as folk casually walked past. It did take me longer than usual to develop and scan the images as my scanner only got back into my possession last Sunday night as our household shipment from Australia arrived – but here are the images I’m happy enough with to share:

 

 

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