Weeping Willow ambrotype


Yesterday I had a pretty shitty day. And I went to bed and decided that today I was going to go out and make a plate.  I figured the 12×20 camera doesn’t work yet but the 11×14 still does so I might as well get out and use it.

Woke up a bit late this morning but the weather was nice, no wind, and I headed out to Bushy Park to try and see if I could find some old Oast Houses (hops drying sheds). I got out there but unfortunately they were all fenced off. Not wanting to drive my van onto private property I just headed back out to the Southern Midlands. I drove down Hollow Tree Road (an old favourite) and saw this nice weeping willow sitting in the middle of a paddock.

There was a nice little creek running alongside the tree but to get that into the shot meant I would have to shoot into the sun, so I passed on that idea and just went for the arching composition with the splayed branches reaching into the sky.

The 8×10 test plate I made told me that I’d need a 36 second exposure at f/45. Interesting, at f/16 this would mean it was a 4.5 second exposure… which is pretty slow for this collodion, considering it’s not that old. Generally this stuff fresh gets a 1 second exposure
in full sunlight at f/16.

I used to really try and avoid shooting in open sunlight and would just sit at home waiting for overcast days which means I’d not be making photos. I’m learning to like and try and get out and shoot in open sunlight, sure it’s a bit more contrasty but I need to learn to look at things different and use the light that’s available to me. Wet plate looks really nice in soft overcast light but there’s no reason open sunlight can’t be used too.

Anyway, the first 11×14 plate I made the fucking dipper snapped inside the silver tank. The glue holding it together gave way, again, (it’s a prototype by a guy in Victoria).
I completely spat the dummy. It was the last thing I needed after the bad run I had yesterday. I nearly packed up and went home but ended up draining the tank, pulling out the now broken 11×14 collodion-covered plate from the bottom, re-filling the tank and then using the oversized dipper from the 20×24 tank. It was too long for the lid to sit flush over the top of the tank so I just sensitized a new plate, put it in the tank, sat the lid over the top of the long handle and then draped a dark cloth over it.

So basically it was a ‘make do with what you’ve got’ situation but I’m glad it worked out in the end. The weird streaking at the top I’m almost sure is from not stopping the development cleanly. I think next time I might try stopping the plate by dropping it in a tray of water straight up, which I’ve never done before. The plate needs to be hit hard and purposefully straight up with water to stop the development.

I was hoping to get out again tomorrow but I might not get out again until early next week. Hollow Tree Road has some great scenery around it, but I really want to try and get some dense twisted willows around the rivers.


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