Monday, June 18, 2012

Out in the field with my photography





This weekend I had the opportunity to practice my learnings of the collodion wet plate photographic process using a traveling dark box. Collodion photography is an early form of photography that was used before and during the Civil War. The photographer uses glass or tin plates, coats the plates with collodion - a chemical solution using collodion, ether, alcohol and metal salts - that is sensitized with silver nitrate before exposing the plate to light using a box camera and removing a lens cover.

The images are beautiful - with a high resolution and an image in soft tones of coffee and cream. The glass plates are, of course, clear and require a glossy black backing. If done on japanned tin - ( or a tin painted black with a special paint ) no backing is required.

I participated in a workshop taught by Mark and France Osterman in conjunction with the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York and Scully & Osterman, who are the real experts in this type of photography. My husband Todd has been practicing this art for several years. But.....as anybody who has ever asked a spouse to teach them golf knows....it is not always a path to marital bliss to rely on one's significant other to teach a craft. Now, Todd has been refining my golf swing with an abundance of patience. However, sharing a dark room or a traveling dark box is far more intimate than an 18 hole golf course. (or curse.....depending upon the day, hour, minute).

Since, in this relationship only death will part us ( and I've explained that murder/ suicide is not an option - and I have no inclination to do myself in) it made sense to rely upon the experts to teach me.

While my classroom work was not ( how shall we say) stellar, I've shown an aptitude for the process since retuning to Virginia and making images in the back yard using our beautiful dark room. This weekend, however, it was out to the field at a Civil War reenactment using the traveling dark box....which is a wooden box with a shroud that one can envelope oneself in to keep light out using a small red glass window for filtered ambient light and two red flashlights. I found myself back to square one in figuring out when the collodion covered plate was ready to go into the silver bath, figuring out the ever changing exposures that changed with the cloud cover, and seeing when the plate was ready to stop the development in such a confined space. Any illusions I had that I'd made strides were immediately laid to rest

Fortunately, I had a ready subject available to pose for my practice portraits, a delightfully charming 11 year old young lady who goes by the moniker "Squirrel".  While is should be needless to say....I was somewhat surprised that portraiture was more challenging than say....botanicals. I discovered I need my own dark box set up and practice practice practice.....Fortunately, I've found that time spent in the dark room flies by as if in milliseconds. To find a new creative outlet at 52 is fabulous.

It is my hope that by sharing my own experiences, I can inspire even one other woman of a certain age to expand her horizons and reach for the stars. I found marital bills at 46; decided after years of city living that the rural life was more suited to my temperament; discovered that climbing the corporate ladder was not worth the sacrifice of my sanity, serenity or core values; found grounding in yoga; learned to appreciate the beauty in the everyday simple things; accepted that I have no control over anything but my own attitude; accepted that I have an addiction to shoes and handbags. Ok - books. I includes books. And wine....well...pasta...that's all I need.....shoes, handbags, books, wine and pasta....Maybe....olives and cheese....
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