October 2009

Monthly Archive

Prints in London

Posted by on 30 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

The project Vedos had a visit to London and became acquainted with a great exhibition “Hand-made photographs in the digital age – Six artists working with historical pigment print processes”. The exhibition can be seen at Clifford-Thames Gallery until the 15th of November. The online version of the exhibition can be viewed on the Alternative Photography website.

General view from the exhibition space.

Geoff Chaplin, the gallerist and artist who also has fine work in the exhibition.

While in London we also enjoyed services of the Victoria and Albert Museum and went to see some chosen original prints. In the Prints and Drawings Study Room you may order works to be seen, and the staff will then retrieve the material for you. In our viewing list there were mainly historical works from artists like Anna Atkins, Hill and Adamson, J. M. Cameron, Benjamin Turner, P.H. Emerson, and Frederick Evans, among others.

Benjamin Turner‘s Cottage, Bredicot Common, Worcestershire, is being examined. It is an albumen print from a calotype negative, from 1852-1854.

Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap, Worcestershire by Benjamin Turner, 1852-1854.

Pirkko is studying a photo-etching by Bowling / Hemminghaus.

Shooting Paper Negative

Posted by on 13 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Ambrotype

Two quick tests with the home-made F:6,7/400mm singlet lens. After sending the previous post I quickly realized that the other lens that I made of two elements was not correctly contstructed – it could not cover the 8 by 10 inches image area. So, I will need to build it again… I think what I’m going to do is make another tube to put the lens elements in, and bring them closer to each other. The fine thing about a cardboard tube is that I can easily try different lens combinations…

An 8×10″ photo paper was rated ISO 6 and exposed in camera for one second. The paper was Ilford MGIV RC, developed in Dektol. The resulting negative was then scanned and inverted to positive in Photoshop.

Another shot with a four second exposure (ISO 6).

I’m quite pleased with this primitive lens, at least the price-quality ratio is nice 😉 . In the test pictures the geometric distortions are surprisingly low, and there’s not too much light fall or blurriness to the corners.

Other tests that I made showed that my wooden plate holder (see the previous post) should work ok, it won’t leak light! Now I can’t wait for the real wet plate tests…

Wet Plate Dreams

Posted by on 10 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Ambrotype

Maybe I would like to try collodion wet plate photography, IF I only had a camera and a lens for that purpose, and IF I had a wet plate holder for the camera, and IF I could acquire all the chemicals and stuff here in Finland, and IF I could construct some kind of portable darkroom for processing the plates, and so on…

Quite many “if”s there, when dreaming of wet plate photography! Yet, there are some very special qualities in a collodion wet plate photograph (particularly in a glass ambrotype) that you can’t find in any other photographic image. I guess the success in the process is very much dependent on the photographer’s chemistry and darkroom skills. You expose the final plates in camera, so you need to use a large format camera to get large format images. Plus, if you want to create something noteworthy with the process, you will have to be an artist as well… 😉

Anyway, I added the “Ambrotype” tag on the sidebar, with intent on giving the wet plate process a try. I’ll be doing this now and then, and between other tasks. I have already ordered some chemicals from a Finnish supplier and Artcraft Chemicals from USA.

But first things first – I have to make sure that my camera suits wet plate working. I have an older Tachihara 8×10″ wooden view camera, no lens. The camera should be just fine for starting wet plate work, and maybe I could build a lens myself for the first tests.

I also need a special plate holder; can’t use the standard 8 by 10″ film holder. But a conventional two-sided film holder can be modified by cutting an opening for a glass plate. This is just what I did to an old wooden sheet film holder.

Here’s my old wooden sheet film holder with the dark slides removed. On the left I have cut a hole out of the septum, and (on the right) inserted silver wires to each corner to hold the glass plate. I also had to make other minor modifications, because the holder’s dimensions are a bit different from modern 8×10 holders.

A few years ago, inspired by Alan Greene‘s excellent book Primitive Photography – A Guide to Making Cameras, Lenses, and Calotypes – I ordered three inexpensive positive meniscus lenses from Surplus Shed. I haven’t used the lenses since, but now, by loosely following Greene’s instructions I built two lens systems for my Tachihara; one is a single element “landscape” lens with focal length of 400 mm and aperture of F:6.7. The other one is made of two identical positive lenses, so it is a kind of symmetrical 200 mm duplet lens. These are very much prototypes, built into cardboard tubes (actually Pringles potato snack cans) painted with matte black spray. Greene recommends PVC tube for lens building, which is a good idea, but I thought I’d make some quick tests first with very simple construction.

Basic materials for building simple lens objectives for a view camera: Pringles cans with caps, cheap lenses, black foam-core, some glue, a cutting knife, and matte black spray paint.
On the left I have some building material, and on the right the finished 200mm duplet and 400mm landscape type lenses, separate interchangeable stops (made of Pringles caps) and a lens cap (which is just a coffee jar cover painted black).

Tachihara 8×10″, equipped with the 400mm lens.

Very soon I’m going to shoot some paper negative tests to see if my plate holder is light tight… and to find out how my new lenses perform!