Glass plate negative questions

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by BetterSense, May 18, 2009.

  1. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    I went to an art exhibit this weekend where they had many digital prints made from what they said were original glass plate negatives shot during the 1930 discovery/robbing of King Tut's tomb. I don't know anything about glass plate negatives, but I had assumed that into the 1930s, they would be using nitro film. During what time period was silver-gelatin-on-glass in widespread use for commercial photography? When did film start to take over? I imagine that glass negatives can be printed just like film negatives, probably even easier because they are flat. But are there any other differences in technique compared to film? I suppose you need a special camera for glass as opposed to film negatives.
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Glass plates were still in use in the 50's & 60's. Looking in 1930's publications all the manufacturers offered a wide range of plates while film tended to be mainly limited to smaller sizes.

    It's probably the invention of Safety film and the wide scale adoption of the International darkslides that heralded the switch from plates to film. If you look at early negative the nitrate film is not as sturdy as modern film base and would not have been suitable for larger sizes.

    Ian
     
  3. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Wirelessly posted (BlackBerry9000/4.6.0.167 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/102 UP.Link/6.3.0.0.0)

    And you didn't need a different camera, per se, only a ground glass assembly that accepted glass plate holders. Here I am talking past tense. There are many who still pour and shoot glass plates. Our mag just had a special issue a couple of months ago on the subject.
     
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  4. DannL

    DannL Member

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  5. dwross

    dwross Subscriber

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    The glass negatives that Burton used were gelatin dry plate negatives. 'Glass negative' can also refer to wet plate collodion negatives (I believe Chris is referring to these when he says there are many who still pour and shoot glass plates.) As opposed to collodion photography, you don't need much in the way of special equipment for gelatin dry plates. You will need a plate holder, but they are easily made from old wooden film holders.

    Enlarging for printing is identical as with film negatives, with the flatness benefit you pointed out. My 4x5 plates fit perfectly in my 4x5 negative carrier. I run into trouble with 5x7 because my holder is a glass carrier a half inch larger in both dimensions. I have set a 5x7 plate on the glass like I would a negative and the glass cover sheet. Works fine except for perhaps just a hint of light bounce.

    There's more info on dry plate photography here:
    http://www.thelightfarm.com/Map/DryPlate/DryPlatePart1.htm

    Hope you give it a try!
    d
     
  6. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    I printed a bunch of vintage 11x14 glass plate negs a while ago. Surprisingly a couple negs had flatness issues and I was unable to print them sharp, as I wasn't using a vacume. (however you spell vacume) I was just clamping the negs down to the paper on top of another piece of plate glass that I know is flat. I was unable to get a couple of the prints sharp in areas regardless of how much I clamped it, the glass was just too warped.

    In Rolleiflex lore the camera was created when Kodak figured out how to put film on rolls but it wasn't good enough for a lot of photographers. So Rollei created a plate glass back as an accessory. If anyone cares.
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    tmax 100 dry plates were available commercially
    until just a few years ago. they cost about 4x as much as
    sheet film ...
     
  8. dwross

    dwross Subscriber

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    Luckily for us, today, we can make ULF plates for less cost than ULF film :smile:.

    Dennis: I'm pretty sure you would have good luck contact printing your old plates if you used a contact printing frame. They really are necessary for sharp printing. A sheet of glass just doesn't have the weight required. It might work for a process where a bit of softness isn't a distraction, but not so much with gelatin papers (in my opinion, of course). The rub is that you need a frame that's exactly the size of your plate. The plate replaces the glass. The old contact printing frames did just that. All the modern frames seem to be an inch longer in both dimensions to meet modern printing habits ( i.e. a frame advertised as 11 x 14 is really 12 x 15). You can look for antique frames or you can make your own from a sturdy wooden picture frame, 1/2" plywood, thick felt, and metal straps for press-downs.

    If anyone knows of a commercial source for new frames exactly the dimensions of the various standard plate formats, I love to hear about it.

    Denise
     
  9. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    Hi Denise, when I first started printing platinum I used a printing frame with the spring clips and just couldn't get good contact every where. I was stuffing sheets of foam or mat board or anything I could to force the film to stay in tight contact and just had bad luck. I switched to using 1/4" plate glass on top and bottom and clamps all along both sides and got much tighter contact with film and paper. I keep the glass sandwich close to the paper size. I really don't think there is a better way except with the vacuum.
    Dennis
     
  10. sanking

    sanking Member

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    I have often wondered why more people appear attracted to wet plate collodion negatives than to making gelatin dry plate negatives. Is there some special image quality in the wet plate collodion negative, or is it just more difficult to get an even coating with dry plate negatives?

    Sandy King





     
  11. Loris Medici

    Loris Medici Member

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    I'd prefer dry plate negatives to wet plate negatives each and every time in terms of ease -> even assuming pouring dry plate negatives are harder (I absolutely don't have a clue on this! But my feeling is that it shouldn't be any harder, both need mastery - gained w/ exercise...), just because the fact that with wet plate, you need a darkroom with you *in the field*... I'd rather learn how to pour well gelatin emulsion instead of carrying a darkroom with me!

    OTOH, in my limited knowledge, theorically, wet plate negatives have the edge in the ultimate image detail department. There aren't silver halide crystals with pre-determined shape and size in wet plate, which is not the case for dry plate negatives. Does that have an importance in real life situations? Hardly... (My gut feeling again.)

    I'm interested in dry plate (future plan) because I have a nice 5x7" plate camera with a fine / large aperture lens which I want to exploit.

    Regards,
    Loris.


     
  12. dwross

    dwross Subscriber

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    One of the reasons collodion has attracted modern practitioners is its original history. Due to the nature of the beast, wet plates could never be commercially produced - at least not the final product. Because photographers poured their own plates in the field for over twenty years, we know it can be done.

    Gelatin dry plate, on the other hand, was the Holy Grail delivered to the 1880's photographic industry. Cameras and printing papers were already being commercially produced, now so could the negatives. The sales loop closed. Kodak especially sold a message along with its products - "modern photographic materials production is so complex only the experts can do it". It was marketing, pure and simple, but the message took root fast and deep. You can still hear it from Kodak and ex-Kodak people today. And, unfortunately, too many people still believe it.

    By 1940, the photographic industry was infamous for its secrets. And, without a doubt, by that time they were making products that we'd have a hard-to-impossible time reproducing in our darkrooms. But, anyone can make the early emulsions. It is both safer and far easier than collodion (Although I have to admit, hauling your darkroom around in a covered wagon is pretty cool. Never want to do it, but I can see the attraction.)

    Coating was one the first things to go mechanical. Because it's hard to get clean edges on plates, huge pieces of glass were coated. After the emulsion set up, the unevenly coated salvages were cut off and the big sheet was cut into smaller plates. It is possible to pour-coat with practice, but the emulsion will rarely be completely uniform. That's perfectly ok, if that's a look you want. I prefer my plates as nice as I can get them, so I borrow from the idea of the old coating machines, but rather than cut off the selvages after coating, I essentially do that before coating. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here's a picture or two: http://thelightfarm.com/Map/DryPlate/PlatePrep/DryPlatePart4a.htm

    Denise
     
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  13. Don12x20

    Don12x20 Member

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    These were often used in astronomy. Film surface perfectly flat, and no negative "popping" during long exposures.
     
  14. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Denise,

    Thanks for the explanation. And you have some very interesting illustrations on your web site. Really fun to look at.


    Sandy


     
  15. nawagi

    nawagi Member

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    Sandy-

    For me it was the complexity of making gelatin dry plates. Between the noodle washing and cold flat stone, I decided that my collodion technique was far better than my (zero) gelatin experience. Collodion also permits me to intensify the negative in a couple of ways- I can leave it "soft" for modern silver gelatin paper printing, intensify "bullet-proof" with copper sulfate for salts or albumins, or iodine re-develop for VBD or c-types. I like those choices.

    Gelatin glass plates are probably fleixible too - but they are the devil I don't know. And I apologize for not printing platinum. Your work is this area is just terrific and I look forward to learning this process in the next year.

    NWG
     
  16. dwross

    dwross Subscriber

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    Thanks, Sandy. I really am having a lot of fun. I'm glad my website reflects that. I think all of us involved with the old techniques (and the newly old!) are having more fun than is probably seemly. (But, what the heck.)

    Nawagi, I'm pretty sure you don't need a cold flat stone :surprised:.
     
  17. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Denise,

    How do you prep the glass surface for receiving the emulsion. I looked through your directions but must have missed that detail if it is there.

    Sandy
     
  18. wildbillbugman

    wildbillbugman Member

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    Sandy,
    Go back to Denise's Website(the light farm) and look under "Articles".
    I have an article on glass preparation there. It has worked well for me. My final images are on glass. So permanent adhesion is a must.
    Bill
     
  19. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Hi Bill,

    Thanks. I will have a look.

    Sandy


     
  20. dwross

    dwross Subscriber

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  21. wildbillbugman

    wildbillbugman Member

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    "I think all of us involved with the old techniques (and the newly old!) are having more fun than is probably seemly. (But, what the heck.) "

    Some of us,on the other hand, just suffer from Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder and have No Life!
    Bill:tongue:
     
  22. dwross

    dwross Subscriber

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    Bill,

    Don't let them tell you that Photographic OCD isn't a perfectly valid lifestyle choice! (Anyone who implies that is obviously jealous :D)

    d
     
  23. Kirk Keyes

    Kirk Keyes Member

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