Building and learning Wet Plate with no instruction... hmmm

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by nick mulder, Sep 16, 2009.

  1. nick mulder

    nick mulder Subscriber

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    Hello all,

    I've been fascinated by the WPC process, to me it seems to be a way to rid myself of the dependency on film supply ...

    I currently shoot 8x10 and 11x14 and print mainly in Pt/Pd (some good cyanotype also, attempts at photogravure on occasion when I have access to a press and have attempted Gum but ran out of patience with the bad results and haven't restocked on gum since).

    Two questions:

    I know that WPC plates can be used for negatives - can they me made to be appropriate for Pt/Pd ? and if so could these negs be used as positives also ?

    I learned large format in general, camera building and alt processes so far without any instruction but following my nose around the net. I'm confident but WPC seems like a heavy investment so I thought I'd ask first:

    Building an appropriate conversion back for my 8x10 Sinar P and learning WPC - is this really possible with nothing but a website and a youtube video or two to go by ?

    What is the largest size plate I could expect to work with eventually ?

    Also I order most papers and chems through B&S - is everything I need here:

    http://www.bostick-sullivan.com/cart/home.php?cat=323

    ?

    one day !
     
  2. timeUnit

    timeUnit Member

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    It is definitely possible to make pt/pd negs with WPC. Those negs are not suitable for display as positives though. For the density range you need, most people intensify their WPC negs with iodine or copper sulphate (I believe, I don't have the formulas here). Some people are able to build enough density for albumen prints without intensifying, for instance Tom DeLooza.

    Making a WPC back for your Sinar is quite easy. Take a regular plastic 8x10 film holder, remove the darkslides and glue the "lips" down. Then cut a rectangular hole in the aluminum septum of the holder (big enough for a 6,5x8,5 plate) and glue plexiglass pieces in the corners of the hole. With a little black paint and maybe some extra "light traps" (strips of zip ties for instance) you have a functional, but maybe not ultimate, wet plate holder that fits your Sinar. Oh, and you need a little piece of bent metad to serve as a spring for the back of the plate. I use a piece of aluminum. There are instructions here and there online.

    Incidentally I have a lens that might be of interest to you, because it has a Sinar lens board. It is a Taylor Hobson Cooke portrait lens. 12 1/2 inch FL, f/3.1. It weighs 4.2 kilos, and is very beautiful. It works great for portraits, and has a soft focus function. It is an extremely rare lens, and has a custom made aluminum barrel and lens board to fit a Sinar camera.

    B&S seem to have all you need, but they might not ship it to you. I've heard that obtaining collodion "down under" is a real hassle.

    Good luck!

    Sign on to the collodion.com forum board, that's where the WPC action is! :wink:
     
  3. nick mulder

    nick mulder Subscriber

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    I have a 360mm f6.8 Caltar, which for now suits me fine...

    f3.1 though, hmmm

    is f6.8 fast enough for daylight WPC ?

    please IM me info on your lens (no shutter?) - cheers,

    Nick
     
  4. timeUnit

    timeUnit Member

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    For portraits, f/6.8 is generally not fast enough, unless you shoot in direct sunlight, which is not preferable. For landscapes etc, anything goes, as long as your exposures are not so long that your plate dries out (2-15 minutes, depending on weather).

    The Cooke has no shutter, and you don't need one with wet plate. You use the lens cap (included) as a shutter. Works fine. Seldom are you blessed with the luxury of exposures shorter than half a second. :smile:
     
  5. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I've seen platinum prints made with WPC images that were not specifically processed for printing. It may have been a happy accident, but it worked. You can also redevelop WPC negs in Pyro, which is a recommended developer for uv-based printing processes.
     
  6. nick mulder

    nick mulder Subscriber

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    I use PMK Pyro for my 8x10, and its very clear to me that it is effective (saving that precious NA2 for subtle changes rather than simply making it work) - Interesting that it works with WPC ...
     
  7. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Redevelopment in Pyro was a common practice for making printing negs from collodion plates during the heyday of the process, especially as the preferred medium for printing was albumen, which requires a very steep density curve compared to platinum or silver gelatin. There's a LOT more information over on the collodion forum (http://www.collodion.com/forum). You'll have to register to post to it (they had a big problem a while ago with spammers on the forum), but Quinn is pretty good about activating account requests.
     
  8. nick mulder

    nick mulder Subscriber

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    I had to email him directly to get access but I'm pouring over the info at http://www.collodion.com/forum right this moment...

    Interesting stuff, its clearly the place to be for WPC - cheers all
     
  9. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I am also persuing wet plate and like you, the idea struck me sometime ago as a way to keep using my ULF camera after I am priced out of the ULF film market. I live in Omaha and would have to travel quite a ways to attend a workshop so I thought I would simply figure it out on my own with the help of Quinn's forum and some books.

    Fortunately Allen Friday who is active on APUG saw a post of mine and invited me over to his home about 60 miles away to get a feel for the process. Allen had taken a workshop last year. We poured and shot 4x5, 5x7and 8x10 aluminum tintypes and ambros. Quite addictive.

    Some observations:

    When discussing why we like shooting on film and using a darkroom we often talk about the process being as enjoyable and important as the final product. With wet plate that is even more so. If you don't enjoy mixing your own chemistry wet plate is probably not for you. I love that process so it fits me. Everything must be mixed from scratch except the collodion. There are recipes that eliminate the use of ether and you can avoid KCN altogether but the salts for the collodion are carcinogenic and the silver nitrate will blind you if it gets in your eyes. Use gloves and good ventilation ( I mix nasty stuff in the garage with a respirator and face shield) use common sense, proper lab technique and be methodical.

    Pouring the plate is pretty easy to learn. I was pouring good plates after a few tries.

    The process is simple, but you have to take your time. If you rush you make mistakes. There are a lot of steps and each one has the potential to cause problems with the plate.

    From what I have read and experienced at Allen's, I can see where attention to your chemistry is the key to eliminating a lot of frustration. Keeping to consistent times for sensitizing the plate, proper washing, and paying attention to developer times, capacities and the fixer (Allen uses KCN) go along way to eliminating a lot of problems I read about on the wet plate forum.

    Stick with one recipe for developer and collodion. At least to start with. Quinn lists a few on the forum. It seems that a lot of people get into trouble by switching between recipes or "adjusting" based on something they have read which probably leads to inconsistent results.

    To start out, if you begin with small plates, (1/4 plate, 1/2 plate, 4x5) you can process and develop with trays (have some dedicated for wet plate only). I will eventually make a dipper tray for my silver nitrate and a set of helper trays for development and a dipper tray for fix when I use KCN. Converting a standard film holder is pretty simple. I have converted a pair of 8x10s for 5x7 and whole plate.

    You don't need a special camera, but if you get into big heavy period lenses most modern cameras will not support the weight or accomodate the required flange diameter. I am going to shoot with my metal Kodak Commercial View and build dedicated plate holders to work with my home built 11x14. I built that camera with the ability to use big lenses.

    As others have pointed out you can shoot with any lens for still life, architecture and landscape. For portraiture you want a faster lens but it depends on lighting. Allen was using a modern lens, a Fujinon IIRC for portraits we made of each other. I think it was either 6.5 or 8 wide open and the exposures in sunlight filtered by high clouds was 3-4 seconds. That was in early afternoon. Later shooting objects in the backyard in shade and more cloud cover exposures were up to 1.5 minutes but the plates came out good.
    I have modern lenses but if I want to really persue doing portraits I will probably buy at least one older lens just to get the speed they provide. Learning about the older lenses (and which are a good value) is one of my new projects. There is a lot to learn as I see 19th century lenses go for as little as $50 to in the $1000s on Ebay.

    If you want to get away from the home you need a darkbox. If you look through the archives on Quinn's forum you will find all kinds of examples and ideas. I have drawn up some preliminary sketches of one that you put you arms into and look through a red plexi window in the top.

    My goal is to get started with a minimum of expense untill I make sure I want to do wet plate on a regular basis. I have figured about $600 for start up chemistry, a batch of glass plates and some aluminum plates, new starage containers, gloves, galss cleaning supplies, etc. I plan to shoot 5x7 plates unitll I get comfortable and consistent. Then go on location, get comfortable and consistent with the smaller plates in a darkbox and then work up to bigger sizes.

    Good luck Nick. Post updates about your progress. I plan on doing the same as I get going.
     
  10. Kirk Keyes

    Kirk Keyes Member

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    It's all that ether!
     
  11. nick mulder

    nick mulder Subscriber

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    I'm attracted by Pt/Pd for the amount of time I can spend out of the darkroom (as opposed to being in locked in a darkroom) - portraiture is also very social - with WPC I'd build all the associated tools that allow relative daylight processing ... The near on instant result (compared to film) is also going to be an interesting new component to the process...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 20, 2009
  12. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    One of the appeals of wet plate for me is the ability to produce clear glass ambros that can then be used as negatives for pt/pd prints. If you go to Kerik Kouklis' web site you can see some gum bichromate over platinum prints using collodion neagatives.

    http://www.kerik.com/gumover.htm
     
  13. John_Brewer

    John_Brewer Member

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    Jim, Kerik makes collodion positives and makes digital negatives from these.

    Making WPC glass negatives for other alt processes is easy enough, I've done it with Carl Radford and Quinn. Some negs do need intensification though, particularly albumen, POP and palladium.

    J.
     
  14. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Nick yes a lot can be done in daylight conditions but keep in mind that the sensitizing of the plate and loading it into the wet plate holder and then developing the plate must be done under red-light darkroom conditions.
     
  15. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    darkbox

    Nick, I'm not a reenactor but i did have to build a period correct setup for a few shoots I was doing. Most of the time I work out of a darkroom van that I built but here is a few pics of a period correct setup that I built. If you'll notice the darkbox in the photo is where the plates are sensitized and developed.http://www.apug.org/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=15551&stc=1&d=1255876962
     

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    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 18, 2009
  16. nick mulder

    nick mulder Subscriber

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    yup, understood re. the dark time - I've watched a few vids online and its seems ok - most of my time in the darkroom for pt/pd is tray developing the negs...
     
  17. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    I have a magazine article at home somewhere, telling of a fine arts photographer who uses a small wetplate tintype camera - using some digital work he creates a negative that he uses to make a Pt./Pd print.

    If you'd like I can find it and get you the info.
     
  18. nick mulder

    nick mulder Subscriber

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    If I have to resort to scanners and photoshop I don't see it as a particular benefit - I'd rather fork out for fp4 in 11x14"/8x10" and shoot in-camera negs than use a digi-print transparency film (what do you call it?) ...

    As much as I like the fashionable WPC look - swirly petzvals, process aberrations etc.. - I'd like to be able to produce some clean plates too, thereby potentially no longer having to buy any film...

    That is the goal anyway, anecdotally I hear that I have quite a chore ahead of me :wink:
     
  19. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I have seen a couple of platinum prints contact printed from large glass plates. They are exquisite. Printing from a glass plate is no different than printing a negative. I have printed from glass plates (non-collodion) and had no problems. I made a plate holder for my enlarger to hold 4x5 glass plates out of aluminum but a thin stiff plastic would work equally well.

    The issue with enlarging collodion would be the fact that every pouring flaw, as well as debris in the collodion would be magnified. But after pouring enough plates one should be able to achieve close to flawless pours. For some, these "flaws" are what give a collodion image its character.

    One could also create an enlarged negative from a wet plate by the traditional method using ortho/lith film.