A Day in the Dark Room Making Collodion Images Without Training Wheels!
Since Todd was off escorting members of the 21st Century Iron Brigade on a tour of the Antietam battlefield, I headed back to the dark room to practice making wet plate images on my own. It was time to take off the training wheels and fly on my own. With Todd out of cell phone reach for the morning, I was left to my own devices to set up the dark room, attach the lens correctly, and trouble shoot my own issues. And….there were a few.
While most Civil War re-enactors prefer tintypes, for my own artistic endeavors I prefer ambrotypes or making images on glass. I like the ritual of preparing the glass plate, the fact that I can graduate to making collodion negatives when I’ve mastered the positives on glass, and I like that I can just rub off the image if I don’t love the result. Using glass eliminates waste and it is great for practicing. Okay – I just like it!
At this juncture I can say with confidence that I’m good at pouring the collodion on the plate. Of the 20-25 images I made today I had no pouring disasters. I used gloves and managed to avoid more than a few small silver nitrate stains on my hands. With one exception, I did well with developing. I missed a spot on the last plate because I’d tried to capture one of the cats. The cat moved and then posed absolutely still; I tried to compensate for the movement but presumed the image would be worthless and when I poured the developer was a little hasty because I figured it was a waste of time. Well, I was wrong about that, which reminded me not to make presumptions! The image turned out really well – considering it was an animal. So – I learned a lesson!
I worked on still life with flora. Had a few issues with fogging, adjusted the exposure and it disappeared. All in all I was pleased with my progress- particularly the patience I’ve cultivated. If an image didn’t turn out great, I didn’t get frustrated. Instead, I methodically reviewed what I’d done, what I thought was the cause of the problem, and started over. This is huge progress – and I did it without training wheels!