View Full Version : out of one hole and into another

07-27-2012, 11:15 PM
I started working with wet plates yesterday and have overcome one problem but am now stuck at another.

Im using the bostick and sullivan wet plate kit. The problem I was having yesterday was getting the Collodion to stick to the glass plates. I know now I wasn't cleaning them well enough, but even after vigorous cleaning the Collodion would still not stick, so i turned to the almighty internet for answers. I found on Lund Photographics the suggestion of applying albumen to the plate. I mixed one egg white to 1 L of water, mixed, filter, and applied it to the entire plate. Then left this to dry for 2 hours. I then applied my Collodion to this surface.

When I was practicing making plates yesterday, they were coming out without any color tint to them, so when i would hold up the glass plate to a black background, it would appear to be a normal black and white print, today thought they were coming out brown and dark. Could this be because of the Albumen on the entire plate rather then just the edges? I thought maybe it was my developer or fixer, and mad fresh batches of both. I check the PH levels in my silver nitrate bath and they seem to be okay, the test results were at PH4, I didnt check the specific gravity of the bath though. I even thought it might be something with my collodion (as the batch I mixed yesterday has become slightly cloudy), so i made a small new batch to test it, and everything yeilded the same results, very brown and hard to make out plates.

So my questions are: Does albumen affect the color of the final image and does it affect the quality if applied to the entire plate?
Is this normal?
Any ideas on how to solve this problem? (Im going to try just using albumen on the edges tomorrow with the addition of cleaning my plates very very very meticulously.)

another question I have is, is the white areas in the image below areas on the plates that were not clean enough for collodion to stick and gather silver while in the bath? I have happend on several plates and I wasn't sure what to make of it, so that is my only guess.

thanks in advance for any answers that anyone might have.
Sorry for such poor photographs, I didnt have time to scan them.

This was the first test, i think the expouser was almost on target, maybe not?

this was another test with the new batch of collodion, developed, and fixer.

both plates were coated entirely with albumen and let to dry.

Andrew Moxom
07-28-2012, 01:02 AM
The albumen is purely to make the collodion stick better at the edges, and most folks just use it at the edges only. What you are seeing with the lack of color is normal for clear glass ambrotypes. Basically, a positive image is an underexposed image regardless of whether on blackened metal or glass, or in your case, clear glass. Placing a dark background behind a clearglass ambrotype will turn the image positive. From what i can tell in your examples, they are over exposed, which is very common for someone starting out. Now the confusing thing i must ask. Are you looking for a clearer positive image? If yes, then try black glass, or trophy aluminum first. If you are wanting to make clear glass ambrotypes, you will always have to provide some type of black backing to the plate, to make the image show as a positive. That can be done with black paint, black velvet, or card. Now if you are wanting to make a real wet plate negative on clear glass, then these examples will lack the necessary contrast and density to make a salt or albumen print. A negative is typically exposed for up to 3 times longer, and then developed longer, and even intensified for use as a negative for albumen/salt printing.

07-28-2012, 09:45 AM
Thanks for the advice Andrew. Im not looking to make any albumen prints or salt prints, i was planing on painting the back of the glass black.

Im going back to the studio today and will post later how things went.