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 😀 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 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.
Straight after the shoot with Alp on a Tuesday, I would photograph Lara Alice on the Wednesday. She also knows all of the guys (Wil especially) and has a healthy interest in photography. I showed her the process and some of the plates that I did with the guys and we set to work. The BBC had predicted a foul day with nothing but rain, but we didn't see any of that. Our first plate did not come out well. It had the same dark spot as Alp's test plate the day prior and the lighting did not favour her features, although the timing was good. I recalled a story told by one of my fellow wet-platers that he knew a beautiful girl that would not photograph well on plate, and sincerely hoped that would not be the case here. We made some changes with regards to the pose and location, which made a world of difference! What I really loved about this shoot was not just Lara (although she was rather lovely) but having to think on your feet, and the fact that she looks so different in the various images. The images were taken on a no-brand 1/2 plate camera with a Dallmeyer lens, mostly on f5.6 between 8-12 seconds.
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.
After the wet plate weekend in Lacock I entered my last image into their local competition, category 'traditional photography'- and I had a reply! "Hello, > > I am delighted to say we have chosen your photograph as one of the 5 finalists in the Traditional Photography category of the Love Lacock photography competition. > Your image will be on display in our grounds from 4 October – 2 November." Huzzah! Go and see it at the Abbey - I am tempted to go for myself just to see it displayed, but it's a 3.5 hour drive! http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lacock/
Just after the last wet plate weekend in the Peak District, I photographed two friends on consecutive days. They both know Calvin (see his shoot here) from their weight lifting club and Calvin had been kind enough to recommend me for a shoot. On the Tuesday, It was Wil Solano. I have to admit I was pleased to meet him. A polite, intelligent and somewhat soft-spoken man, he seemed enthusiastic about the photographic process and his plates came out better than many I had tried before. Maybe it was because of the great weekend we have had recently, or maybe I am getting a bit better with timing, pouring etc. but also the fact that strong men with beards seem to capture well in this process. 🙂 On the Wednesday I would meet Varun Choda, a big fella, easy to smile with a good sense of humour, with an equally impressive beard. Maybe I shouldn't be photographing people with beards - I'm having serious beard-envy! Can you believe that this guy is still single? I'm loving how the images we captured all seem to be a blast from the past - we started with a test plate with just his arms folded, which led to 'you look like you should be holding a massive hammer' to: ' I only have this one!'. He told me he likes art and to paint, so we did another version with brushes, which I believe came out better. His portrait came out as well as Wil's the day before and he kindly agreed to sit for one last plate. He looked quite the sight in the middle of a cemetery sitting at a tiny table staring intently into the lens!
In the last weekend of August 2014, Tony Richards organised a social wet-plate gathering for all those from the UK and Ireland. Wet-plating would be optional, having a pint in the local pub would not be! 🙂 After packing my gear, I drove for nearly 3,5 hours to the Bank House Farm Campsite in Derbyshire where I would meet with Tony Richards, Marc Voce, Mark Scholey, John Kiely, John Brewer, Kate Horsley and Violet, Sam Christopher Cornwell, Guy Brown, Kevin Lunham, Moo Pa, Tim Ingmire, William Cameron, Tony Lovell, Simon Harbord and Ray Spence. (Sorry if I missed anyone). The Friday night was a bit miserable and the camera's remained hidden, us photographers opting instead to head to the pub for a meal and some drinks till the early hours. The campsite proved fine, with plenty of space - with the only downside being the distance to the toilet and shower block, which was a 5 minute walk. The little river that ran by it was very pretty and proved a popular subject for the plates. The Saturday started off with much of the same as the Friday, occasional showers both light and heavy, but we set up regardless and started shooting. The whole day would remain overcast and we finished up like the night before: in the pub with food and drink. I managed to shoot around 10-12 plates on the day, of which I will keep 2. I learned a lot about judging light and development times this day and will need to keep an eye on my continuous over-development of plates. This was my first set-up, it took me about 5 tries to get the exposure about right. The light kept changing, with the sun towards the lens - so the spot between the trees burned out amazingly quickly. I am fairly happy with this plate as I tried tin typing for the first time and the material is remarkably easy to work with. Thanks to Kevin from Wet Plate Supplies (http://www.wetplatesupplies.com/) for hooking me up! This plate was shot at 25 seconds at about f5.6 - f8. This was my second set-up. Again, it took me a few plates to get the exposure right, but the balance on this plate is definitely better. I believe I came to 2.5 minutes at f8. The subject and composition, unfortunately, are not great. I scanned it, but this plate might be wiped. For my third set-up, I just turned the camera round and took the same exposure. It had a lot of lines over the top, that only showed when the plate was dry - which are not great - and I am not overly keen on the composition. I scanned it, but the plate will be wiped. This plate was just a complete guess. I saw the scene and wanted to capture it, but ideally, I would have come closer to it. There was a river in the way though.... I took this at 20 seconds f5.6 - and overdeveloped by about 15 seconds due to underexposure. This plate might look OK now, but the plate is very low in contrast and needed a lot of help in Lightroom. It will be wiped. The last set-up of the Saturday was, again, that little current in the river and the trees behind it. I love that I managed to get the timing right and for once I did not overdevelop. This image is taken on trophy aluminium and it has to be my favourite of the weekend. The Sunday proved a little better on the weather front and despite some people having to pack and leave earlier due to driving distances or being kicked out of their plush B&B, most kept shooting till well after midday before packing up themselves. The winds had picked up, most dramatically when it decided to pick up Mark Voce's marquee and ditch it over the roof of Tony's marquee tent. That day, I managed to shoot about 5 plates, of which I would keep 2. Having shot the river with varying results, I directed my attention to some of the attendees of the weekend. I asked John Kiely if I could photograph him in his van. Not amazingly original, but John is a patient man that proves a great subject. The first plate came out... odd, but it was not the first time I had seen this happening on one of my plates. Unless there had been an 8 second hail storm I failed to notice, it had to be a chemical issue. I remembered I had used the same funnel for both my fixer and my silver bath.... oops! I quickly filtered the silver and the second plate came out much better. It got hit straight into the lens by a stray ray of sun though, so it was very overexposed. The third one came out well enough - still a little overexposed at 8 seconds f5.6 - but we decided to leave it at that. For my last plates, I asked Mark Scholey to pose for me. The first one coming out well overexposed, this one was much better - again 8 seconds at f5.6. Unfortunately for both me and him, he must have moved a slight! Oh well.... I would have loved to have had more time to shoot some of the other amazing people at the gathering, but it'll have to wait till next time. I will be looking forward to it!
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* The second best 2 plates of the day 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!
On the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of August 2014, ten wet plate photographers would gather from all corners of the UK to spend two days at Lacock - once the home of Henry Fox Talbot- and I was pleasantly surprised to be invited (Thanks Tony & Mark). After a gruelling drive on the Friday afternoon I arrived at the Picadilly camp site well on time. The owner, Peter, is a little peculiar but friendly enough. I pitched my tent and met most of the others at the Red Lion pub in Lacock village. On the Saturday, we were met with rain, more rain, heavy rain, proper showers, downpours and more such fun. Driving up to the Lacock Abbbey, we met Roger Watson, the curator of the Fox Talbot Museum who guided us onto the site. Marquis and tents were pitched in record time, darkboxes erected and cars and vans unloaded before starting the day proper. Lucky for us, the rain cleared later in the morning and the burning sun that followed made for some .... interesting .....shooting conditions! I started my photography in the cloisters as I fell in love with the light the moment I laid eyes on it. Both plates here have an exposure of around 1-1.30 minutes at f4.5 and look to have suffered from collodion drying before development. Some plates were a little less successful, such as the two below. The fogging on the plates may have come from warm developer, warm silver, warm plates, drying plates..... This image, taken from the cloister walkway, I tried about three times before I settles on this one, and 'perhaps it was not to be'. There are more than a few subjects that will be very hard to capture in collodion due to very low or very high contrast. This particular scene had everything going for it in colour, but falls completely flat in this beautiful process....Also note the two darker spots on the top right. These are actually collodion drying spots where I had my fingers whilst supporting the plate. Mark Voce told me this is a myth - but it was clearly happening to me! You will be able to spot some of these black marks on other plates as well. I had taken several other plates on the day, from outside the building, keeping the Abbey in full view - which all failed. Oh well. On the Sunday, the weather had dried up completely. We rode in convoy back to the site, set up and started afresh. This first image was shot into the sunlight, which might not have been the best choice! I shielded the lens with my hand from a slight distance, but the haziness due to the brightness of the light is clear. Slightly less conventional, I then tried to capture the tap we used to take fresh water for rinsing our plates. I loved the contrast between the strict lines of the tap and pipes, the grittiness of the old wall and the lush succulence of the plants. Again, it didn't quite go as planned. I left myself only a small space to move in and it's noticeable that the first attempt at the top is much better framed than my second one. Apart from that, The grain of the wall and the detail on the plants - their shadows being quite deep - might be something not easily captured in one plate. Next, I moved to the Abbey walkways. Initially, I wasn't going to take this image as it seems too obvious a shot, but I'm happy I did. The first attempt worked well at 1:30 at around f8, and dried well after - but it seemed so dark when wet, that I decided to shoot a second one at 2:00 at f8. The second plate is so beautiful and silvery on the plate and I am completely in love with it! The white lines going through the middle are left by people going into the abbey, the open door can be seen on the end. Staying within the cloisters, I decided on a hard shot to take and I set up at the Abbess stairs. There is a window and stairs and no room to more back from them. The stairs being still very dark, regardless of the window right next to them. I do like how this image somehow looks like I used flash lighting. The exposure was 2 minutes at f4.5. One of the last shots I then set up was in one of the darkest rooms in the cloisters. There is quite a fair amount of space, before you get to 3 coffins in front of a latticed window. Most visitors just cast a glance at the coffins and pass through to the next space, making in a perfect subject in a busy National Trust property. I set up in the corner and it took two attempt to get this plate. With the lens wide open at f4.5, it took 2:30 minutes and quite a bit of over development. I am sorry/ happy to say that this plate didn't scan amazingly well and the original looks a lot better! The weekend was more than amazing and even though the weather didn't always play ball, the organization, location and company more than made up for that small hindrance. Many thanks to all that came along and made it so enjoyable!
A few posts back, I hinted at a new wet plate series that was being made. The series are centered around flowers, collected from local graves. The idea behind it is the questions of morale - is it OK to take from the dead? In this case they are 'just' flowers that 'just' happen to grow on a small plot of land, but is it OK to take flowers that are planted there? Or flowers that someone bought and left for a friend or relative that has passed away? How about any of their personal belongings - going into the subject or 'proper' grave robbing? Do we consider the cemetery as a public place of rest where all that stands and grows there belongs to society as a whole? The advantage to doing this series has been as a practice for my wet-plating skills: to smooth out the collodion pour, better my feel for timing, develop a faster work-flow and provide me with plenty of issues to troubleshoot. Another advantage has been the challenge of styling. Setting up flowers to take a still-life shot has proven more difficult than it should be and I am sorry to say some flowers have been picked without being captured successfully. I tried to photograph each flower or bunch of flowers as to create a monument for the deceased, to represent something that will last as long as their headstones. The series is at this time unfinished - even though I initially planned this to encompass only 8 plates - more plates will be added as we progress through the seasons.
A few weeks ago I convinced Calvin, one of the fellow members of PhoCus in Cambridge, to sit for a few wet-plate portraits. We share the same interest in Medium and large-format photography and it would be a good chance for him to see and experience the process before moving back up North. In the last few sessions, I had photographed people outside as the presence of UV makes the exposure times shorter, whilst providing me with ample (free) light and more space to more in. I had, however, also noticed that exposure times could vary wildly on days where clouds could pass in front of the sun at any given moment. I decided to take this shoot indoors. For this shoot, we used one unit of Halogen lighting of 2000W on a tripod to the right. There is a skylight in the window behind Calvin, but no other ambient light. We used a (gold) reflector in some of the shots.