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Wet Plate Collodion Weekend 2015 – Llanthony Priory, Wales

Last weekend of the 7th, 8th and 9th of August myself and a bunch of other wet plate photographers gathered ourselves in a field just besides the gorgeous ruins of the Llanthony Priory in Wales, UK. We met up on the Friday afternoon, or rather in the evening for those of us that needed to come from far flung corners of the UK and Scotland (and Geralt from the USA) and we would start our wet plating on the Saturday morning. Getting there almost proved too much of a challenge as my satnav decided to give up 30 miles before reaching the final destination. Lucky for me, I found someone with a map! IMG_9907 Brilliantly arranged once again by Tony Richards (you can find his blog here), there was an easily accessible field for our dark tents, running water and a pub on site. I brought along my newly purchased and blacked out Eskimo 3 quickfish tent, a gift for my birthday this year, but still opted to shoot with my small half-plate camera as I know the camera are silverbath are in good working order and the plate holder is light tight. The amount of space in the Eskimo tent now means I can go up in plate sizes as I'll finally have space for that silver bath I still mean to build!IMG_9944 We started our Friday in the pub, catching up with old and new friends. The camp site was fine, the grass wet and dewwy and the night just a bit cold. Ahhhh Camping in the UK, always a joy!
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the stars were out in force!

 

SATURDAY

On the Saturday morning, we get started. The first few plates seem to be ok. Not without their faults, but acceptable. The first few go into the bin or on the recycling pile. I get a couple of good plates, but I also see some issues that I've not had to this extent. On the plus side, I've had a lot less problems with crepe lines. Some plates work fine, and I'll be proud to add them to my permanent collection.

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Like this 'staining'

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I love this one!

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Digital snap of the same spot

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Technically OK, just a shame that the framing isn't very good....

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As the afternoon heated up, we had a LOT of fogging issues

 

SUNDAY

I had gone to bed a bit earlier this time and set my alarm at stupid-o-clock in the morning, to start shooting around 6.45. Since most of us will be packing up and driving back home today, we won't have the entire day. Starting with a view on the priory that was popular with my fellow wetplaters the day before, I tried to catch the early morning sun as it passes onto the ruins. After a test plate on glass (which was an utter failure) I tried another, which I messed up in my plate holder, hence the damage in the center. This was 40 seconds on f22. I have no idea why I got that watery crap on the edge of my plate though. My best guess at this moment is that I may not have developed as well as I could have, or rinsed as well as I should have.

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oops

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Attempt 2. The sun hits the priory. I digitally cleaned up the sky a little, but there's still a lot going on there

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my Eskimo tent on the right - proud part of an eskimo tent line-up 🙂

 

Giving up on that view as the sun had now gone behind a large stack of clouds, I moved my camera a little closer to my darkroom. The rest of this day would be overcast but also less hot, providing us with less contrast and less fogging issues.

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One of several attempts

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also a personal favourite

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The last shot of the weekend

  The whole weekend has been an absolute joy - the location, the company, the activities, the food and drink at the bar.... even the weather. Good luck to Tony for trying to top this one next year, I know I'll be looking forward to it!

Wet Plate Photoshoot: Lara Alice

Straight after the shoot with Alp on a Tuesday, I would photograph Lara Alice on the Wednesday. She also knows all of the guys (Wil especially) and has a healthy interest in photography. I showed her the process and some of the plates that I did with the guys and we set to work. The BBC had predicted a foul day with nothing but rain, but we didn't see any of that. Our first plate did not come out well. It had the same dark spot as Alp's test plate the day prior and the lighting did not favour her features, although the timing was good. I recalled a story told by one of my fellow wet-platers that he knew a beautiful girl that would not photograph well on plate, and sincerely hoped that would not be the case here. We made some changes with regards to the pose and location, which made a world of difference! What I really loved about this shoot was not just Lara (although she was rather lovely) but having to think on your feet, and the fact that she looks so different in the various images. The images were taken on a no-brand 1/2 plate camera with a Dallmeyer lens, mostly on f5.6 between 8-12 seconds.  
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test plate on glass

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

 
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third plate on metal

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

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Gotta love a flower crown!

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

     

Wet Plate Photoshoot: Alp

Alp was introduced to me through Calvin and later it turned out he is also friends with Wil and Varun. We would take out shoot in the afternoon and lucky for us, the weather was as beautiful as an October day could be, albeit a bit chilly. The only plate that would not come out well from this session was our test plate, due to the pose being a bit 'common' and the plate had no real sparkle. Some small little tweaks and the second plate was a great improvement, but then he spotted the swords! Neither of us had anticipated him going bare-chested - it being quite nippy and all - but he went there! The portrait we took at a shady spot in the cemetery and I completely adore it - the pose, the light, the crispness.... all of it! Then, Alp kindly agreed to let me have a go at photographing his fangs and even though it did not fully work as intended, it was good practice. The last plate of the day however, steals the show in it's sheer over-the-top-ness; I shall have to find a nice spot in my house to hang this one 😉 The images were taken on a wooden no-brand 1/2 plate camera using a Dallmeyer lens, mostly on f5.6 at around 8 seconds.  
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test plate

 
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plate 2, a little more vintage thug-ish

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Time to bring out the props!

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Possibly my favourite portrait to date

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we tried to get the fangs in by using an apple

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

   

Wet Plate Photoshoot: Wil & Varun

Just after the last wet plate weekend in the Peak District, I photographed two friends on consecutive days. They both know Calvin (see his shoot here) from their weight lifting club and Calvin had been kind enough to recommend me for a shoot.   On the Tuesday, It was Wil Solano. I have to admit I was pleased to meet him. A polite, intelligent and somewhat soft-spoken man, he seemed enthusiastic about the photographic process and his plates came out better than many I had tried before. Maybe it was because of the great weekend we have had recently, or maybe I am getting a bit better with timing, pouring etc. but also the fact that strong men with beards seem to capture well in this process. 🙂  
Wil

Wil

Wil

Wil

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

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Varun with brushes

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Varun portrait

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The bad guy in a 1970s Hong Kong Movie?

     

Wet Plate Photoshoot: Wet Plate Camping

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. 113   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.   115   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.   116 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. 117 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. 111   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.  
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John Brewer, master in antique photographic processes, turns his hand to the power of digital image capture

Mark's brand new Marquee tent took a dive

Mark's brand new Marquee tent took a dive

  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. 119   118   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! 112      

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  

Wet Plate Photoshoot: Weekend at Lacock Abbey

On the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of August 2014, ten wet plate photographers would gather from all corners of the UK to spend two days at Lacock - once the home of Henry Fox Talbot- and I was pleasantly surprised to be invited (Thanks Tony & Mark). After a gruelling drive on the Friday afternoon I arrived at the Picadilly camp site well on time. The owner, Peter, is a little peculiar but friendly enough. I pitched my tent and met most of the others at the Red Lion pub in Lacock village. On the Saturday, we were met with rain, more rain, heavy rain, proper showers, downpours and more such fun. Driving up to the Lacock Abbbey, we met Roger Watson, the curator of the Fox Talbot Museum who guided us onto the site. Marquis and tents were pitched in record time, darkboxes erected and cars and vans unloaded before starting the day proper. Lucky for us, the rain cleared later in the morning and the burning sun that followed made for some .... interesting .....shooting conditions!   IMG_3159 IMG_3161   I started my photography in the cloisters as I fell in love with the light the moment I laid eyes on it. Both plates here have an exposure of around 1-1.30 minutes at f4.5  and look to have suffered from collodion drying before development.   Sacristy   Some plates were a little less successful, such as the two below. The fogging on the plates may have come from warm developer, warm silver, warm plates, drying plates.....   The Chapter House   The Chapter house   This image, taken from the cloister walkway, I tried about three times before I settles on this one, and 'perhaps it was not to be'. There are more than a few subjects that will be very hard to capture in collodion due to very low or very high contrast. This particular scene had everything going for it in colour, but falls completely flat in this beautiful process....Also note the two darker spots on the top right. These are actually collodion drying spots where I had my fingers whilst supporting the plate. Mark Voce told me this is a myth - but it was clearly happening to me! You will be able to spot some of these black marks on other plates as well.   Cloisters   I had taken several other plates on the day, from outside the building, keeping the Abbey in full view - which all failed. Oh well. On the Sunday, the weather had dried up completely. We rode in convoy back to the site, set up and started afresh. This first image was shot into the sunlight, which might not have been the best choice! I shielded the lens with my hand from a slight distance, but the haziness due to the brightness of the light is clear.   Entrance archway   Slightly less conventional, I then tried to capture the tap we used to take fresh water for rinsing our plates. I loved the contrast between the strict lines of the tap and pipes, the grittiness of the old wall and the lush succulence of the plants. Again, it didn't quite go as planned. I left myself only a small space to move in and it's noticeable that the first attempt at the top is much better framed than my second one. Apart from that, The grain of the wall and the detail on the plants - their shadows being quite deep - might be something not easily captured in one plate.   tap tap   Next, I moved to the Abbey walkways. Initially, I wasn't going to take this image as it seems too obvious a shot, but I'm happy I did. The first attempt worked well at 1:30 at around f8, and dried well after - but it seemed so dark when wet, that I decided to shoot a second one at 2:00 at f8. The second plate is so beautiful and silvery on the plate and I am completely in love with it! The white lines going through the middle are left by people going into the abbey, the open door can be seen on the end.   Cloisters hallway Cloister hallway   Staying within the cloisters, I decided on a hard shot to take and I set up at the Abbess stairs. There is a window and stairs and no room to more back from them. The stairs being still very dark, regardless of the window right next to them. I do like how this image somehow looks like I used flash lighting. The exposure was 2 minutes at f4.5.   The Abbess stairs   One of the last shots I then set up was in one of the darkest rooms in the cloisters. There is quite a fair amount of space, before you get to 3 coffins in front of a latticed window. Most visitors just cast a glance at the coffins and pass through to the next space, making in a perfect subject in a busy National Trust property. I set up in the corner and it took two attempt to get this plate. With the lens wide open at f4.5, it took 2:30 minutes and quite a bit of over development. I am sorry/ happy to say that this plate didn't scan amazingly well and the original looks a lot better!   untitled-91   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!   IMG_3166 IMG_3170 IMG_3172 IMG_3175    

Wet Plate Photoshoot: Alice II

Just about a week ago, I photographed Alice for a second time. We met up at mine for a short shoot indoors. Our first test plate worked fine so we dove straight in, going for a morbid look, derived from a very sexy fashionable image taken from a glossy magazine ages ago. The slight movement resulting from the 12 second exposure - Alice being sat on a wobbly soft bed, tule in her face - works so very well with this look! After that, we had a little bit of time left to go for the head wrapped look. Even though I really love how the plates turned out, I would like to try my hand again at the head wrapped ones as the original plates hardly show any contrast and I had to push them in Lightroom a little too far for my liking. At this time of posting, I will be on my way towards Lacock, a 3,5 hour drive, to shoot the Abbey over the weekend. I'll be meeting up with a number of fellow wet plate enthusiasts, so fingers crossed we'll come away with some kick-ass plates!  
test plate

test plate

Tule, I

Tule, I

Tule, II

Tule, II

Wrapped

Wrapped

Wet plate series: …From the Grave

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.  
wet plate series - from the grave

Wet plate series - from the grave; Alice Maud Green, died 1958

wet plate series - from the grave

Wet plate series - from the grave; C.N.Butler, died 1915

wet plate series - from the grave

Wet plate series - from the grave; William Alfred Hugh Peddle, died 1919

wet plate series - from the grave

Wet plate series - from the grave; Bertha Matilda Brock, died 1939

wet plate series - from the grave

Wet plate series - from the grave; Josh Brown, died 1995

wet plate series - from the grave

Wet plate series - from the grave; Minnie Mary Wenham, died 1961

   

Wet Plate Shoot: Calvin

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.  
1. test plate

1. test plate

Happy - circa 12 seconds exposure

Happy - circa 12 seconds exposure

looking away from the camera, lost detail to the eye.

looking away from the camera, lost detail to the eye.

Nice and creepy

Nice and creepy, just the way we like it 😛

   
Calvin's first wet plate. 12 x 16 cm on clear glass

Calvin's first wet plate. 12 x 16 cm on clear glass

       

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