Tag Archive for: large format


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!





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…..


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.




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.





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!




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!









Large Format Photography – Day 18 in the Netherlands

On the Thursday I decided I would try and photograph the little pond we were shooting at yesterday, but this time I would want to photograph the location, using that cheap projector lens and the recessed lens board. I had cut a hole in a jar lid, and taped it to the back of the lens to serve as a F-stop. I guestimated the size of the hole to be roughly a f11-16 hole to see what it would do – and something it indeed did!

I set up and shot 2 plates, one at 3 seconds and the second one at 6 seconds. The 6 second exposure clearly being too long – the 3 second one looking pretty good. But then….. disaster struck!!!!



A swoosh of wind picked up my darkbox and threw it right over! My silver bath emptied into the tent, along with the developer dripoffs that came from the first 2 plates. I was only fortunate that I didn’t use all my silver bath in the one go – and that nearly all the fluids were caught in the plastic that makes up my tent. I cursed, then panicked, then set to mopping up what I could salvage and drying off the rest.



After setting up the darkbox again – this time between the car doors sheltered as best I could from the wind – the resulting plate was an abomination. The grey flecks (like film grain) and severe fog make it hard to see what is being pictured. The surface texture looks like sand mixed with scum. The scene is still the pond, at 3 seconds. That was it. My silverbath needs desperate servicing and I was stuck for the rest of the afternoon with clouds and  rain. I packed up and retuned home…..

I did some additional work on the new darkbox and after today I don’t think I’ll make it quite a high or as slender as the previous one. I’ll try not to have an opening that needs opening and closing and I’m contemplating such a low one as to use it with a small seat or kneeled.







Photographer: William Henry Jackson

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Sunday Video: John Chiara’s giant pinhole camera

I think by now you got the idea about the video tutorials by Prophotolife – head over to his profile on Youtube to see his other videos. This week I’d like to share a man’s work with his giant pinhole camera. Amazing stuff!

Photographer: Karl Blossfeldt

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Photographer: Bellocq

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Photographer: Ansel Adams

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Photographer: Irving Penn

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