I have just received 14 glass plate negatives that I am about to contact print. They are approx. 100 years old. Very exciting! 12 of them are 5x7 inches and 2 are 9x12 cm.
The guy who ordered the prints have tried to scan them and photograph digitally, but without much luck...so now we do it the analog way! And I think he will be amazed when he receives 14 nice fibre prints!
Be prepared to deal with the very high contrast of the negatives; they may have been intended for use in a self-masking, printing-out process (POP, albumen, salted paper, something of the sort), as developing-out gelatin papers were in their infancy this time last century. If they wouldn't scan well, it's likely because they were too dense or too contrasty...
Photography has always fascinated me -- as a child, simply for the magic of capturing an image onto glossy paper with a little box, but as an adult because of the unique juxtaposition of science and art -- the physics of optics, the mechanics of the camera, the chemistry of film and developer, alongside the art in seeing, composing, exposing, processing and printing.
AZO might serve you well for this project if you have poor results with "regular" paper.
Good luck with this and let us know how it truns out.
Thanks for the info.
Originally Posted by Donald Qualls
I did over 100 such plates made by my grandfather who died in 1905. Many of them were in terrible shape after having been stored in paper envelopes in an attic for most of the time. I scanned them without problem and was able to do the repair work more easily than I could have in contact printing. Once the negatives are scanned and repaired, they can be printed as negatives on transparent film and printed for permanence on photographic paper.
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if they are too contrasty, use selctol soft and a second bath of water to devlop the paper in. This from me now, heresay.....try scanning the plate as a print, with a white sheet of paper behind on top of it. Then invert it in PS. It should give you an image to judge by. Do not take my suggestion to mean you can print it out on a damn ink jet printer. It is only to see if you can get the image to show you some of the problems, ie contraswt that you might face in the darkroom.
I've been picking away on a project at work for the past year or so--contacting about a 1000 glass plates from the 1880-1920 period. Most of them are in the 5x7, 6x9 inch type range, with some that are 8x10 or slightly larger. Some are in great shape, others are cracked and stained with flaking emulsions. It's a big project of making duplicate master and working negs in the end. It comes down to a couple cases of paper and 4x5 film, plus chemistry to process all that and selenium toner for the prints as well as the storage enclosures to rehouse the plates. The budget really got eaten up on the storage though, the paper and negs were only about half of it.
There's not enough money to make interpositives/dupe negs, and access prints. I did experiment a bit with interpositives by shooting them on 4x5 with a light box--then scanned these and got some pretty good positive digital images. But still, it's a wash in the end-because we need negs.
What I found worked best was Ilford MG Warmtone RC. I use an old nine lamp Burke & James contact printer on an Omega voltage stabilizer. I have this lamped with 7.5 watt and 25 watt bulbs. I change them out based on the density of the plate. I also use sheets of vellum to cut the intensity of the lamps if needed. The exposures are usually 3-5-10 seconds or so, the densest plates may be more like 30. There are 2 frosted glass diffusion panels in this printer, that I lay smaller pieces of tissue paper, vellum and black paper on to hold back areas. I can switch the lamps on & off to add or subtract density--dodge & burn if you like--as well. I also use a black sharpie, or graphite, or red china marker to shade in pieces of tracing paper to make masks.
I took the platen off the printer and replaced this with a heavy piece of glass scavenged off an old Kodak copy machine. Under this I glued a thick piece of foam. This way, I can hold the paper to the plate with less pressure than the platen lid. I bought about 6 packs of Multigrade filters and taped them together to make big sheets to slide into the top diffusion drawer on the printer. It works very well compared to making the print under an enlarger, plus you have the masking blades and can make a very clean border. You handle the plate less as well, since it has the lightsource underneath it and you lay the paper on top. You only have to move it twice.
Most of the ones I've done so far, I've had to flash the paper to cut the contrast. What I do is to make the print hard--about a grade or two higher than normal--and then I flash with an enlarger. This way, I expose on the contact printer for the shadows, and flash in the midtone & highlight density.
I make notes of each plate--where I use a densitometer to take spot readings and measure the density range. I've found that I can get a ballpark idea of exposure and contrast over the course of printing several plates-- I can then group them in batches and work this way.
This is just what works for me though--if we had more money, I'd probably try to do it on Centennial POP, but I'd still have to shoot a 4x5 neg in the end, so in the end, it doesn't really matter how we get there.
Hope this gives you an idea on how to do it using modern materials. Azo or would be a good way to do it with fiber paper, but the best way, from an archival point of view, is to actually make interpositives and duplicate negs on polyester based film.
my opinions/not my employers.
I have a few old glass plates, as well as a few new ones (exposed during the past few weeks).
There is a lot of variation in the density and contrast of the old ones, which is probably why the chapter on intensification and reduction is twice as thick as the one on development in most of the old books!
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
That is right! - we can in no way condone the use of a wicked mechanical device that shoots ink to be used in place of a luminous chemical reaction. Feel free to post the images for us to see though!
Originally Posted by Aggie
My photos are always without all that distracting color ...
It might as well shoot ink if you're going to scan it and show it on a screen at about 72 dots per inch. If I scan a 5x7 plate at 600 DPI, clean up the image, make an 8x10 negative on transparency film with an ink jet printer that will print at 3 or 4 times the resolution of the scan, and print it on a good photographic paper, I'll never have to tell anyone how I did it. So far, none have asked. These are not the uses of digital photography that are driving our stuff off the market. I think it's not even those professional portrait and advertising photographers who have switched over. I think it is the snapshooter who used to load up a point-and-shoot with color film and shoot snapshots to send to relatives who subsidized our high class small to large format cameras and supplies. Now everyone who used to carry the P&S film camera to weddings and parties and sporting events has a little digital box. They can take a picture and immediately see if it "came out" and show it to the persons next to them. Polaroid had some of that effect when it was popular, but it cost money every time you pushed the button. Those who want finer art to save for generations to come want film. To take the pictures that you paste 4 to the page in the family album, digital has arrived. We must somehow count noses and form some kind of a group that is large enough to keep at least one manufacturer in business making film and all it takes to use it, or else learn how to do it ourselves. There are some processes that we can do from scratch, but making high quality high speed 35 mm film is not among them. I'm 77 years old and may not live to see the dreaded demise of photography as we know it, but I worry about it all the same.