World Wet Plate Day… infuriating excursion

Saturday was World Wet Plate Day and I was committed to getting out and making some plates. Feeling confident from my last little tester mission I packed up my Van and drove about an hour and a half North towards Campbelltown to an old Homestead. This was the same place I went the day I made my very first plates nearly two years ago.

The weather was pretty terrible. It was really windy and the rain was patchy. This did not bother me so much but the cloud cover was even patchier again and there was never any consistent light for longer than 30 seconds. Very very hard for wet plate photography. Also there were very thick, black rain clouds rolling in and out all afternoon.

I was still determined. I set up my camera and parked my van in such a way that provided a wind block in the big open paddock I was in. Every time I moved the camera I would move my van again to provide the shelter. I made a test 8×10 plate and it told me I would want around a 20 second exposure at f16. But the light was so inconsistent it was hard to maintain a solid judgement. I’m guessing the light would vary up to 4 stops or more with the patchy sunlight and thick heavy clouds and scattered lighter cloud.

This was the first plate I made:


As it was fixing in the tray and the image started clearing (very, very slowly on the cold day and with the very diluted Hypo, which I should mention, I’ve recently started mixing much lighter hypo to save on cost, about 100g/L as apposed to 300g/L) I thought I was pleased with it but after a little while I realised it was about 1-2 stops too dark. It is still a nice plate and nice in really bright light but overall I don’t think it’s a keeper. Also the developer streaks on the bottom right hand corner of it where the developer doesn’t flow completely even down that last section of the plate. I only seem to have this problem on aluminium.. not so much a problem on glass?

This plate was a 40 second exposure at f22.
Here is the second plate I made. The light had changed once again and I stopped my lens down to f45. I guesstimated about a 1m40s exposure. This turned out to be just about perfect I think. A really nice, bright image. Very strong exposure. Shame about the composition being a little too high and also the stuffed top right corner. 😦

I re-composed this same shot and tried again but the light was again darker as it was nearing the end of the day and the heavy thick clouds rolled in, I exposed for 2m30s but it was about 3 stops too dark. By this stage I gave up as the wind was really picking up and the rain was starting to set in with only an hour or so left of daylight.

I left feeling really bummed about the day and my wet plate photography in general. When  am I going to start getting plates I’m really happy with? Why can’t I just get my technique consistent? Aluminium plates are a pain in the ass to develop but so much less cleaning and the collodion sticks to them like magic. So many variables. Arrrgh.

Anyway, I just chalk it up to practice I suppose. Today the 240mm G-Claron arrived from the US so I dropped it in to the engineering shop to have it mounted into a lens board so I should be able to get out and have a play with that this week before we go away for the weekend.


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