It’s been a reasonably productive week for me. I managed to pull myself out of a winter slump that had me sapped of any motivation, even for exercise. It shocked me that it’s come to nearly halfway through the year and I haven’t done much work at all to speak of.
Friday I went to a friend’s house whom I used to work with. I promised him months ago I would take a photo of his baby when it was born. Well, nature took it’s course and the baby was indeed born and I went and made an 8×10 plate of it.
This was an incredibly easy session. It went much smoother than I anticipated.
I set the camera up close to the main window in the small apartment’s loungeroom. It is now just about winter and the sun is low in the sky, it was shining directly through the window so I just used a thin white bedsheet to diffuse the light. I made a test exposure plate and determined at 32 seconds at f/5.6 on my 210mm lens was sufficient.
I then poured the first plate, sensitized it and while I was doing all that the parents put the fed and sleepy baby on the chair hoping she would settle down in time before I got back.
I came back in, loaded the camera as quietly as I could and made the exposure. The baby did actually wriggle quite a bit during the exposure and I was worried it was going to be much too blurry. Actually to my surprise the plate came out really, really well in my opinion. Despite the wriggle it still looks very acceptable. Almost a little ‘soft focus’ effect instead of the shitty aberration usually associated with motion blur.
This plate was varnished and sent off to the happy grandmother. It was really fun and rewarding watching the family get a lot of enjoyment out of the process. Nice to be able to contribute something special to the family. It was a very easy and problem-free shooting. The plate was clean to my satisfaction and everything went well. Good for the motivation levels.
Today’s adventure had me up all night last night cleaning glass plates and mixing up collodion and getting ready for today. I mixed all of my old and new batches of differing recipes of collodion together and just thought “fuck it”.
I loaded up my car this morning and headed out towards New Norfolk again determined to make it work. Along the drive beside the Derwent River I spotted this nice willow covered in ivy vines.I had spotted this before and the light was nice so I decided to see what I could make of it. I pulled out both my 8×10 and 11×14 cameras and got everything ready and started to make an 8×10 test plate. I was keen to try the new 240mm Schneider lens and this seemed like a pretty good scene for it. My test plate determined that my exposure was going to be 32 seconds at f/11. The collodion is quite slow! It is a mixture of Old Reliable and Scully + Osterman’s positive formula (with Ether).
I figured that this lens was going to need some depth of field to it and this lens only stops down to f/45, so I factored in those stops and ended up with a 5 minute and 15 seconds exposure.
Well, my first two 11×14 plates were rubbish. I was having those same bloody developer problems again, with the developer not hitting the entire plate. So frustrating! On my second plate I also smashed my developer vessel..
While the third and final piece of clear glass I had with me was sensitizing, I practiced pouring developer over my dirty plates. It seems the mistake I’ve been making is that I’ve been pouring the developer along the very edge of the plate (using the edge of the glass as a guide) which means a lot of it just pours off the top, it doesn’t even make it over the glass. So bloody stupid! I fixed this by hovering the developer vessel a little (2cm or so) over the emulsion and pouring that way, quickly, then setting down the vessel and then start aggressive agitation of the plate to cover the area missed during the initial pour.
The third and final plate was certainly good but still not a keeper. Those nasty emulsion gaps at the top of the image are a little too distracting, and the image is just slightly out of focus… I’m not sure if this is because I didn’t use hyperfocal focusing or if there was motion blur or if the camera moved or what during the 5 minute exposure. The other plates were much sharper so it could have just been the wind.
But… I am very very happy with the exposure. Just about perfect. Nice and bright, lots of detail in the shadows and the highlights… perfect. These new black developing trays make things much easier, too. Big game changer. I now have no issue whatsoever using clear glass and am in fact looking forward to using it more in the future.
Since I broke my developing vessel I figured I should go and look for a new one. Went to a kitchen supplies store and found this little beauty! Infinitely better than what I was using before! Absolutely perfect… this should make things much much easier again!
I’ll try get out again this week and try that composition again. Lady friend is heading overseas on Saturday so will probably be busy until then but will see what I can do otherwise. That tree has lots of potentially really good compositions all around it, I reckon I could pull 4-5 good images out of that scene. That will be my goal over the next 7 days.