embracing the unexpected
2 days ago was “Make some collodion wet plates with my 8×10 and a 12″ f2.5 strapped to the front” day. I lured my buddy Mike Mohaupt in with the smell of ether and promises of exciting darkroom wonders. Nicole McConville came over on her lunch break to sit uncomfortably but beautiful for an hour.
Those of you that are familiar and proficient with the collodion process I apologize for the crappy pours. I am still learning every pour. Should be there in ten years or so.
Those of you that are not familiar with the process I will give you the quick run through….
Ok, so I have an 8×10 Deardorff set up with a homemade platform on the front holding a 20lb 12″ f2.5 aero ektar. Very homemade but it works. I have my subject sit in, I set up the shot, set focus and ask her to keep semi-still for the next 7 minutes. I run back to the darkroom, grab an 8×10 piece of black aluminum and pour out my collodion mixture on top of it making sure to put a perfectly even coating on the plate. (way way way harder than it sounds) you need to be part acrobat and part surgeon. After the plate becomes tacky, turn off the lights, turn on your safelight and you dunk it in a tank on silver nitrate to make your plate light sensitive. You are basically making homemade film here. After it becomes cloudy and about 5 minutes have passed, take it out and put it in your wet plate holder. You can make these or you can get one made by incameraindustries like I did. These are killer! You are now ready to make an exposure. Oh yea, some things I forgot to mention. The exposure is kind of a guess since a light meter does you no good. You get a feel for it after some practice. The plate is only sensitive to blue light which means LONG exposures. Oh yea, you only have 6 minutes to make your exposure and get it under the developer or the plate will die. SO hopefully you have made it back to the darkroom in time. You pour an acid on your plate now which acts as the developer. Hopefully you see an image in 12-15 seconds. This is the window. After you see it rinse with water 4 times more than you think you should. Why? Because if one drop of the developer gets in the fix (potassium cyanide) you get cyanide gas. Not fun I would guess. BTW, you can use an alterative fix (Sodium thiosulfate) and not worry about killing yourself …so quickly. In the fix you will see it as a negative, then it goes cloudy and disappears and then comes back as a positive. Super cool to see! Soak it 5 minutes and rinse in water for 20 minutes. Now your all done!…..not quite. Now you need to coat it by heating the plate and pouring out your varnish on it. You can ruin all of your hard work anywhere along this path but it sucks when it happens at the final step! Just a side note. This can be a very dangerous process if you are not very meticulous about the process. Everything is either highly flammable or highly toxic or both. Or you could just trip in the darkroom.
OK this is the most I have typed ever. I’m done.
Keep on Clickin’
The plates below had an exposure time of 14-24 seconds. Don’t allow your sitter drink coffee before posing!