One year ago this coming week I started my blog. I vowed to post weekly no matter how busy life got, no matter how tired I might be after a full workweek, no matter anything! Here it is, Blog Post #52!
Now for that second goal…I attended a wet collodion workshop! This is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and after hearing about a good friend’s experience, and getting a taste of wet collodion one weekend in March (see The Best Kind of Learning Experience blog post March 26), I was hooked! And, for my birthday this year, Randy bought me a weekend-long workshop.
I attended the Wet Collodion Workshop at Studio Q in Denver with Quinn Jacobson. I can’t believe how much I learned, and how much this workshop really did confirm to me that my photographic future lies in the past.
On Day 1, we discussed making positives (alumitypes and tintypes for example), and the theory and history behind these processes. If you know me, you know how much I love the history. We had a great discussion on the evolution of these early processes and a further discussion on the “why”? Why do we want to continue to do this today? What will this type of art mean, and how do you put meaning into your creations?
We went from there into some demonstrations. Quinn made several plates, taking our portraits in his studio, and showing us both positive on metal, and negatives on glass. Through this process we saw him coat the plates with collodion, sensitize the plates in a silver nitrate bath, expose an image in camera, then back to the dark to develop the image and finally fix the image. In development, we learned to look for highlights, then mid-tones, and shadow details during a count to about 15. After 3-5 seconds, we should see highlights – if so, you’ve got a good exposure!
Speaking of exposure, your average light meters, and today’s UV-coated strobe lights don’t work well with collodion. Your ISO is about 2, sometimes it can be as low as .25 depending on the age of your collodion. And, the UV coating on strobe tubes lowers the color temperature of strobes to about 5500 Kelvin, slightly warming the light. Collodion is most sensitive to UV light; it actually likes the ultra-violet, violet, indigo, blue and green part of the light spectrum. Warmer colors are often rendered as black or not seen at all.
After learning more about equipment – cameras (oh, you have got to see those 8×10 cameras!), and lighting, we moved on to chemistry. Now, here’s where I had already read about things like Cadmium Bromide (lethal) and KCN (potassium cyanide, also lethal), so I was just a little hesitant. But, after a thorough discussion, safety information and actually using these chemicals, I relaxed. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a very healthy respect for these chemicals, but I also now know how to handle them properly and I don’t fear them.
On Day 2, we made plates! All day, my classmate Tom and I, made alumitypes – we learned how to coat the plates, sensitize the plates, load them into the camera for exposure, develop and yes, fix in the dreaded KCN (again, a healthy respect goes a long way). We made still life images, and did portraits of one another. I have two here that I’d like to share – my two favorite images of the day.
My portrait of Tom – he is an interesting psychiatrist from Little Rock who is an expert in mental health, and an artist! You can guess we had some very riveting lunchtime conversations! And I’ve added, Onion, my favorite still life from the day. I made a total of six plates on Sunday! I’m hooked…now it’s time to find my own 8×10 camera, and the coolest selection of antique Petzval lenses that I can get my hands on, and oh yea, a portable darkroom! I’ll need one of those to take this show on the road!
See you in the field, under my dark cloth!
Digital reproductions (i.e., shooting these with my DSLR, and/or flatbed scans) are NOTHING like the original. I have not mastered the art of reproducing the beauty of these plates when held in my hand to translate into the world of pixels!