Dusseldorf, Germany


Yesterday, after having been in Dusseldorf, Germany for only 3 days, I was treated to an onslaught of a cold that beset me in the middle of the night. Needless to say I was not impressed by this phenomenon so I did whatever I could to cheer myself up between sneezes: go shopping!

I had written down a list of local charity shops all over town, but it being a lovely day – and me sneezing my head off – I decided it might be better if I went for a walk and not endanger folk in traffic or on the metro. Silly me….. it took me about an hour to walk the distance which Google maps had clearly presented to me as being very nearby! I did however, manage to find it (and went past all the Designer sales which are all held this week) and to my shock and amazement there was half a cabinet dedicated to photography! Oh my! Here I am being used to roughly 10 books on the subject – if I’m lucky 😉

I picked the following, and got all these for under €20 (yay!):


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Today, still not fully recovered, I visited the ‘Nordfriedhof’, which is an enormous cemetery in the middle of town, and about 5 minutes walk from our temporary place.


This is our temporary place (please excuse the mess – we are not the tidiest folk)

























The cemetery itself is vast, and, on a hot afternoon such as today – it’s not wise to be without water as you can easily get lost. It was beautiful though and it gave me some great ideas for pictures I would like to take. Once again I’ll have to apologize for the image quality as I took these on my cellphone.


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Chemicals etc


Finally – I am sure everyone out there is breathing the same sigh of relief – Spring is here at long last!!!


This meant I was able to put more paint all over the plate holder I created and paint the inside of the darkbox. That pesky stretch of plastic (Asperagus Foil) managed to arrive after a full 3 weeks wait as well…. now I can put the final touches on that Darkbox this weekend and hopefully start using it. The foil feels like a smooth thick plastic, it feels sturdy yet fairly lightweight, with a black and a white side to it. I am currently contemplating whether best to sew it into a funnel or tape it, how to incorporate an air shaft (going up like a chimney) to get a little air flowing on the inside, and whether or not to cloak the whole thing in cloth.

I did a bit of research on the chemicals I will need for my wet plate project – and the trickiest bit proved to be the correct translation before being able to find them in the online shops. I did try to be careful before just putting anything down – but please do not hesitate to correct me if you find any errors!  You can find them here: http://www.classic-photographers.com/chemicals/


With this info, I managed to order pretty much all I need to get started, with a lot of time wasted browsing the minefield we call chemical suppliers and a little support from this blog written by my fellow Dutchie Indra Moonen in 2009 – 2010 (Thanks Indra, you’re blog has been invaluable!). A few of the Dutch Chemical websites require you to register with them first, noting a KvK (business registration number) and a BTW (tax) number before either getting back to you in about 1 days time (Antonides.com) or let you proceed straight away (labstuff.nl) IF they haven’t stopped taking orders due to a peak in sales. Rubbish! These sites are basically two parts of the same organization with a business and an individuals front end as Antonides pointed me to the other branch.

There is also Labshop.nl who seem to be dealing with their own kind of trouble – a website being renewed for months, illness of staff and burglary, including theft of the company PC – so they have been unable to provide me with any solid data on prices and chemicals they will be able to deliver. I did manage to find a rare gem in Hekserij.nl, where I found a whole bunch of the chemicals I needed for a reasonable price, although I cannot vouch for their shipping times….yet. Their Terms and Conditions do state they can take up to 30 days to deliver, and if my experience with that plastic from ‘het Vlaamse Zaadhuis’ is anything to go on, it WILL actually take 30 days to the minute. They were polite enough to take the time responding to my comments on the order – stating that normal delivery times are up to 1 week but due to their process being changes (more mail runs) it will speed up considerably over the next few weeks. That’s one piece of good news I didn’t see coming 🙂

Obviously it would have helped if I had this page to start off with, but then again, maybe not. I tried another possible supplier of Collodion in the Netherlands, fagron.nl – but they also require registration and an indefinite wait until you can go onto their site to spend your money. So I’m back to square one and thinking I should’ve gone with Indra’s suggestion and just go ahead and order it from Assink Chemie in the first place! It would have saved me quite a bit of time. But, being Dutch, and a cheapskate, their hefty price tag of €94,86 per liter or Collodion USP (you read that right my friends!! 9-4!) is putting me off a little. Apart from that, you really should make sure that your order is more than €150, or they charge you € 30 shipping. (Over €150 has free shipping)

So, I’m thinking I can be clever and order it from the USA. Bostick-sullivan.com in the USA are known to ship to Europe.

I tried ordering Collodion from their website – which is only $65 / liter (the injustice!!!) adding a few goodies to the order as shipping started at $60 anyway – but got a reply from them saying that even though it is not stated on the Collodion chamical page itself, all wet plate chemicals (being flammable or worse) will have to travel via Fed Ex Haz Mat – which in my case would end up costing me $350!! Crikey!!! Well, it’s back to Assink Chemie for me then, but unfortunately without the gas mask or aluminium plates I added to the order. *cries*

I ordered Silver Nitrate from Ebay.de – and it seems the stuff will need to come from Poland. Heck, at very nearly half the price I’ll wait a little longer (€12 / 10 grams instead of € 23 )


So, to make a long story short, these are the items I ended up ordering, please bear in mind that I’ll be using John Coffers ” Poor Boy” recipe, just in case you feel there are a few things missing on my list!


Potassium Iodide –  hekserij.nl – € 18.00 for 50 grams

Potassium Bromide – hekserij.nl – € 6,00 for 50 grams

Collodion – Assink Chemie – € 94,86 for 1 liter (I ordered 2 liters to circumvent shipping charges, and to have some in storage)

Silver Nitrate – Ebay.de – €60 for 50 grams

Ferrous Sulfate – hekserij.nl – € 5,00 for 250 grams

Sodium Thiosulfaat – hekserij.nl – € 20,00 for 5 kg

Gum Sanderac – hekserij.nl – €6,50 for 50 grams

Lavender Oil – hekserij.nl – €15,00 for 50 ml

Calcium Carbonate – hekserij.nl – € 6,00 for 1 kg

Glacial Acetic Acid (plan on getting this from a supermarket/ pharmacy/ hardware store)

Denatured alcohol (plan on getting this from a pharmacy)

Distilled water (plan on getting this from a supermarket/ pharmacy/ hardware store)


I’m just keeping my fingers crossed the collodion won’t ACTUALLY take 10 weeks to get to me as the disclaimer in the order confirmation stated……….


UK Visit

It has taken a little while, but Sean has found a new job! At the end of this week, we’ll be moving to Dusseldorf, Germany where he’ll join Ubisoft Bluebyte. This meant that our lazy days on the sofa would soon be over so we decided we would make a short trip to the UK whilst we still could.

We left on the Wednesday the 10th of April and arrived in London around 14:00, checked into the hotel and went to see the Tower of London. The Ravens were cool, the arms and armour fantastic but the Crown Jewels were absolutely amazing!! We somehow managed to see most of it before closing time, scuttling over the battlements whilst being herded along by a beef eater closing the gates behind us.

Clockwork Pistol Gun and Mace in one armour the dwarf the giant











On the Thursday we attempted the Imperial War museum, only to find it closed until July, and opted for the National Gallery instead where Sean was bored whilst I stood drooling in front of Rembrandts.

SThe afternoon was spent at SM&M world (OMG Black M&M’s!) and the Camden markets, followed by Dinner at Pho with Claire and Mark. The Friday we spent the first four hours at the V&A (and what a fantastic place that is!) before heading off for Leamington Spa to catch up with friends and family on the Saturday. It was great seeing a lot a familiar faces and good to hear that for most some positive changes will be coming along. I cannot believe how many people have had a rubbish 2012!

I truly enjoyed the Sunday with it’s early Sunday roast at the Saxon mill, my first time Urban Exploring in bright daylight (thanks to Melysa for being a bad influence and dragging me into Guy’s Cliff!) and a vintage fair as well!

(images taken with a mobile phone, unedited – so I am truly sorry about the crappy quality)





Large Format Photography Project: Update II

So, here we are, about 1 week on since the last update. I have thought long and hard about how my darkroom/ box should look like and what I need it to do, and what sort of budget I will be able to set for it. After all, I could just buy one from Nova Darkroom (UK), but somehow I’d like to NOT spend 530 GBP + Postage on a darkroom tent. Scouring the internet, I find a lot of people asking, only a few people sharing images of the darkroom they use (not all portable) and not a lot of DIY information seems to be available. Even though historically correct and very VERY awesome, horse drawn carts or wagons are a no-no as are military grade containers, my portable darkroom needs to  fit inside a car, I should be able to carry it by myself and I’d like to try and keep it within a 100 euro budget. Please do share any comments, suggestions, additions or designs of your own!


From what little information there is out there, two options seem most viable:


One: a square or rectangular construction made from PVC tubing, clothed in dark cloth/ foil. Pro: lots of space (including floor space), not very hard or expensive to build as any hardware shop usually carries PVC pipes and connecting pieces. Cons: Lots of loose parts, windcatcher when put in the wrong spot and susceptible to damage if the blackout materials used are too thin. Closures can be of various designs, most commonly used are hook and loop straps (glued on) or an old sleeping bag/ tent zipper.

Two: a wooden box construction with a dark cloth/ foil tunnel. Pro: everything is present in one box, small to carry, quick to assemble, few loose parts. Takes up very little space. Cons: Less space on the inside to manouvre with your materials, cannot use floor space, a bit harder to build, can be more expensive to build depending on materials used. This construction will be better grounded due to the weight of the wood, but it will need a additional table to reach a good working height.


I decided on number two mostly due to it being one box I could lift/ carry and set up in seconds. Also, it would be another excuse to make this item out of wood and, if it works well, I will be able to make a deluxe version of it. Oh how I love wood! 😀

In the image gallery you’ll see my initial drawing (from a picture posted online) but I would find the solid top of the box in my way, and the wooden construction keeping the cloth up failing. Gee, I know my wood-working skills don’t I? I decided to keep 1/2 of the box rigid, and have the other half fold away. Initially all it it would fold forwards, to turn into a working surface – I soon realised that all of this space adding up would have me step back almost a meter! So, I’ll have the top fold upwards (creating an additional support for the dark cloth) and only part of the front folds down to form a tray.  At least – that’s the plan! I will make a window in the back, covered with RubyLith to have a little bit of safe light inside. The cloth will be supported with tent poles, and I think I may have found the perfect rounded ones in Prenatal’s baby sleepingtent. (the blue tent pictured).

I got myself some MDF sheet and had it cut to size (at the GAMMA, they cut it to exact measurement for free). As today was the first bright and sunny day in ages, I rushed it outside to cover it in base paint. I’ll do the other side tomorrow and start assembly.


In finding light tight material, a few options were brought up time and time again, but I would have to keep locations of the shops into consideration, as shipping can be quite steep! Overall, it would seem to make sense to create the inside of the tent with a black material (to prevent stray rays from fogging your plates) and the outside white (to keep out the heat) although maybe a white inside couldn’t hurt if the light that bounced around on the inside is a safe red light?


Thorlabs BK-5: This material sounds amazing and I think it would have perfect for my needs. It’s a rubberized fabric and nearly 100% light tight. Lightweight, thin and take a small amount of abuse. I have my order entered and everything until I saw what the price would come to: 117 euros for 2 pieces!!! Fair enough the pieces are 2.7 x 1.5 meters but – wow! It worked out as 40 euros per piece (80) + VAT (18) + shipping (19) if I remember correct. Apparently it is (or was) a bit cheaper in US dollars as in 2010 a price of $44 is quoted.

Blackout Curtains: To be found at fabric shops as it’s used as curtain lining. The colour of this materials is usually white with a 95% blackout rate, but I was a little more worried about the weight, and if my design would be able to hold that up. Especially as I needed either 2 layers of it, or combine it with another materials to make it 100% light tight. The good thing about this stuff is that you’ll be able to buy it in any major city and online, it comes in good sizes (2 m wide is normal) and it’s quite affordable. Cheapest I’ve seen it was about 6 euros/ meter. I would seriously consider this stuff if I used the PVC construction and would keep my dark room at home, in one place, even though dust particles would be a cause for worry.

Reflex Total Blackout Reflective Sheeting: I found this stuff at www.growell.com (UK), but they never answered my request mail for shipping to the Netherlands. Apparently they only accept money from the British – which is lucky for you if you are for this stuff is cheap! At 2 meters wide, you can get either 5 meters (12.95 in total) or 10 meters (19.95 in total) As far as lightproofing goes, it should be between 95 – 99% and incredibly thin, so not to be used on it’s own. Maybe it’ll make a good combo with the Blackout Curtains?

Black/ White Foil (Panda Film): can be found at various gardening grow-shops as it’s used to bounce light and heat back onto seedlings/ plants. Cheap as chips; I found some at a Dutch Grow-Shop for as little as 18 euros for a 2 x 25 meter roll. It seems really thin, but should be quite light-tight.

Black Plastic Foil: The kind used on farm. I would not go for the stuff that they use to construct ponds as that’s incredibly heavy! I did not choose this material as I figured it may be quite heavy as well.

Asperagus Foil: This is the stuff I ended up ordering, a sturdy plastic sheeting that’s lightproofed on both sides (Black and White). Depending on the actual weight and thickness when I receive it, I will use it in combination with a lightweight (lining) fabric on the outside to protect it a bit from damage. It’s dirt cheap at 1,99 euro per meter at 1.40 m wide. Shipping to the Netherlands is only 5.95 (from Belgium) and the total can be paid for after receipt of goods via bank transfer.


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