It’s been over a year since I wrote a blog post. Rubbish!
So, I thought I’d write one about my process, which I’ve been experimenting with for a few years now.
It’s been a challenging journey, with virtually no budget, apart from when I’ve offloaded more of my professional camera equipment, sold a few prints or had a client in the studio again.
It’s been more than a bit frustrating to have to sell my Hasselblads, Mamiya RB67, Rolleiflex etc. Which I doubt I will ever replace now. I did get given a Holga 120….but that’s another story!
Unfortunately, film has become very expensive and glass plates are relatively cheap. I can get a lot of plates out of 1kg of emulsion and glass doesn’t cost too much, especially when I recycle glass given to me, 2mm (3mm maximum thickness) in case you fancy donating some :)
I think it’s in a good cause, but who knows?!
About a year ago, I got rid of my RB67, it was painful, but, I used the proceeds to buy an 18x24cm large format camera, lens and a couple of dry plate holders. The body came with a fully operational curtain shutter, which has been a real bonus for shooting outside.
The lens is a Berthiot Olor, Serie lla, 300mm f/5.7 dating from around 1912. A very good, relatively inexpensive, Tessar style lens.
Obviously I’d love a Petzval lens, but, well, too damned expensive!
Technically, my process isn’t actually the ‘true’ Ambrotype process (which is made using wet plates: collodion, silver bath etc).
However, the end results are very similar.
I make my own dry plates (and Tintypes) and use my own formula ‘reversal developer’ to make them into positives, most dry plates are/ were usually negatives.
I do love a challenge though and it’s certainly been that.
As yet, I’m not making my own emulsion. I use Foma’s proprietary brand which works perfectly well.
I shoot my dry plates at around ISO 6, with flash, in the studio.
Outside is a different story, UV varies all year round, so, the ISO is somewhere between 2 and 6 depending on the season!
Experimentation is all you can do…
It’s taken a couple of years to hit on the best developer formula, this has involved playing with chemicals and a good few proprietary developers, for both paper and film.
A lot of my earlier dry plate ambrotypes were quite dark and more like viewing Daguerreotypes, ie, a lot of light and a certain angle to see them. Also, they often were a quite brownish colour or close to that, sometimes great, sometimes frustratingly crap.
I have finally hit on a formula that produces a quite beautiful and bright plate…