80 to 100 Year Old Glass Plate Negative's, Can You Do This?

Discussion in 'APUG.ORG's "Gray" Area Subforum -NOW HYBRIDPHOTO.C' started by papisa, Aug 10, 2006.

  1. papisa

    papisa Member

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    I have a lot of 4X5 Glass Plate Negative's from 1900 up to 1920 or so, what i have been doing is put the original glass plate on a scanner, scan them in and then print them out, after reading some of the post on here i thought of trying to do this.
    Put the plate on my light box and then take a 35mm negative with a camera of the plate image that you see showing on the light box and then scan it in to see how it would come out.
    This might be a real crazy idea to do but might be something different to try and see what you get.
    Has any one tried something like this or any suggestions or should i just forget about this and not waste my time? Hope this was the right site to post this on.

    Mike.
     
  2. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Mike,

    Sure, you can do it, but why double your work? And add another characteristic curve to be faked out? Remember too that exposure and development wil be critical or the highlights will blow -- and the contrast and demsity of old negs will often vary widely, so you can't even standardise exposure and contrast. The easiest 'exposure meter' would be a densitometer...

    If I were you I'd stick with scanning the originals unless your curiosity gets the better of your common sense.

    Having said all this I'll probably try it myself now, just to see what happens...

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)
     
  3. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    If this does not work too well, I think a scan of a contact print would give better quality but if the direct scan works fine, then there's not much point doing the extra work.

    Just to be pedantic, there is no apostrophe in negatives!! (sorry).


    Steve.
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Since this is about scanning ultimately, and doesn't seem to have anything to do with contact printing where it was originally posted, I've moved this thread to the Gray Area.

    Plate negs are very contrasty usually. In general, I'd agree with Roger Hicks, that it doesn't make any sense to add another generation, particularly if the interpositive will be a smaller format than the original, but if the scanner doesn't have enough range for the density of the plates, it might make sense to try to make a lower contrast interpositive.
     
  5. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    If the scanner can't handle the range the best quality results would be from a package of print out paper from one of the 'new' suppliers of that material. The self masking effect should tame any density range problems.
     
  6. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Yes, if I has a bunch of old glass negs, I would be most excited about making real prints from them.
     
  7. DKT

    DKT Member

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    sometimes I have to "reformat" glass plates for my job (working in a history museum photo dept.)...I've done it various ways. In archives in particular, the method most used is either in two step duplicating (film interpositive--panchromatic-- then contacted onto a sheet of ortho film for the working duplicate) or by making a print and then shooting a 4x5 or larger copy neg. The first method has more control--the interpositive has a density (d max) aim point. The duplicate negative has a d-min aim point as well, but you can make your contrast adjustments here and multiple copies can be made also at this point. The master file becomes the interpositive, the access file or "surrogate" is the negative. The actual glass plate, or older negative (nitrate, acetate etc)--this goes back into storage.

    there were also one-step, positive acting dupe films that aren't made anymore. kodak had one with a weird tonal scale that was hard to use with early plates & negatives. it also had some longevity problems. then there was pro copy, which some people used for duping glass plates--the way that film controlled contrast through exposure, was used to advantage for making the interpositive (I never used it this way though, so I can't comment much beyond that).

    I've been picking away at a project of dupliacting about 900+ glass plates from the late 1800s though. I need to make a set of prints (2) and a set of 4x5 negs as well. Early on, I experimented with making my interpositives and then scanning these and I had some pretty nice results, but in the end, it didn't solve my need for prints and negs as easily as just printing the plates and then shooting them onto 4x5 film.

    I made the interpositives by using an aristo 8x10 coldhead, flipped over under a copystand with a toyo camera/150mm g-claron. I used TMX--overexposed and pulled it. I also tried some type 55, and that worked pretty good actually.

    I think ultimately if somebody had to use a scanner to access the plates--this would be a good "archival" method, in that it would give you the film interpositive for long term storage. 35mm film is too small for this to be honest, although maybe a technical film would work if you got the contrast problems worked out. For economy, I know some labs use 70mm for duplication...

    I'm sure you'll get many responses as to how to work with them though, and really the only good answer is to handle them with care and avoid any excessive handling. It's better to copy/print them-- whatever, once, and then store them safely away--instead of pulling them out repeatedly to make prints.

    my opinions only as always.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2006
  8. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have a few 6.5x9cm glass plate negatives from the mid 1930's. Even most of those are a real challenge to scan, the high contrast makes the highlight detail disappear. In the end I gave up on that, and contact printed them on VC paper with full yellow filter on the colour head as a light source. A few were still hopeless, but looked great on POP.

    If yours are 10 to 30 years older than that, I believe contact printing is the way to go.
     
  9. DKT

    DKT Member

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    I used to use oriental portrait, but that's not around anymore. Now I use ilford warmtone RC pearl.

    I've written here before about how I do this, but in short, I use an old multi-lamped contact printer with a voltage stabilizer. I removed the top pressure platen, and replaced this with a sheet of plate glass with a thick piece of foam attached to it. I lay the plate down, emulsion up, on top of the glass, and mask off the edges. Now, I flip on the printer's safelight, and standing over the plate, I can decide which parts I need to hold back or burn in. I can do this by switching on/off the banks of bulbs, or by laying in velum or tracing paper masks (sometimes I shade these with graphite as well) on the two diffusion stages between the lightsources and the glass stage. When I'm ready to print--I lay the paper on top of the plate, put the foam/glass on top of that very gently, and then make the exposure.

    I took about 8 sets of large Ilford MG filters and taped each grade together to make a large filter to fit onto one of the stages. What I usually do is to print about one to two grades harder (higher contrast). Then, I take the paper off and move to another enlarger which is set up to flash the midtones back into the print.

    Using a contact printer has some advantages though, mainly in that you're not picking up the plate, putting it on top of the paper and then removing it repeatedly to make your prints. And you're not locking it into a print frame either. You can also work with broken plates easier....

    If you do decide to try your hand at film---the interpositive that you make--needs to be dark & flat. don't think of it as a slide....you can make your adjustments tonally to it when you can scan. Even when I used type 55 for this, I was really surprised with the quality of the final file. It's just I had to work within a budget, and it was cheaper to make prints and shoot negs to be honest. If I had to use scans only, I would seriously consider using film interpositives for the master file and scans for final use. This way if your digital media fails, you still have the interpositive. You can still make your dupe negs as well, if needed.
     
  10. papisa

    papisa Member

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    I am truly sorry about putting this in the wrong area, i was not thinking because of the plate and light box idea i had.
    Thank You to every one for there reply and i will stick to what i was doing.

    Mike.
     
  11. DKT

    DKT Member

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    hey mike--if you still want to try using film, here's another idea. contact print the 4x5 onto another sheet of film. you can probably use ilford ortho plus, this way you can handle it under a red safelight. it will make the exposure somewhat easier as well, since you can do a test strip more or less and sacrifice a sheet for that. if you have a darkroom, just do it under an enlarger, just like making a contact sheet. put a piece of black construction paper or similar under the whole sandwich as well to keep flare down. Ortho plus is very easy to use in the darkroom. you can tray process it in a paper developer, or you can use regular film developers for lower contrast. It will give you a larger piece of film to scan as well.


    If you still want to shoot them--my advice would be to maybe try to do it like duplicating a transparency. Use a slow, low contrast film--standardize on your exposure. There's a neutral density filter, a wratten no.96 I think (I use one at work, can't recall the exact number right now) but it's a one-stop neutral density filter. You lay this over the stage where the transparency is and take your meter reading (TTL) off this if you were making a slide dupe for example. It's like reading off a gray card. This would be a starting point for your exposures--and you could bracket on either side to nail it down. Take notes...then sort out your plates into different batches for contrast and density and work with them from there. you probably need to flop the plates--emulsion side up--on the lightbox to get them oriented right for the film neg in the camera.

    hope this makes some sense