Plate Holder Prototype, 35mm SLR

The Moon, on a plate

The Moon, on a plate

A post on the Wet Plate Collodion group on Facebook brought up a shot I made last year of the moon. Yes, that moon, in the sky – on a wet plate. At ISO 2-ish.

I figured if I could do it at all, I needed the help of the big guns. My 400mm f/2.8 lens would have worked nicely, it would allow me to zoom into the moon to fill the frame and still let plenty of light in to give me the best chance of a capture. I ran into two problems. First off, doubled – the 400mm 2.8 lens goes to 800mm f/5.6. Then, the more zoomed in you are, the more the movement of the subject in the frame. I had settled on a 1.4x extender which would get me close to 600mm with just a one stop penalty to put me at f/4.  Continue Reading →

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Black Powder Pistol Stand

Why didn’t I get into Black Powder Pistols sooner?

Pistol Stand, Version One

Pistol Stand, Version One

I bought a Black Powder Pistol (Pietta 1851 New Army, All Steel) to take with us to New York for John Coffer’s 2013 Wet Plate Jamboree. On Saturday John set up a bunch of water jugs for people to shoot at. About six of us had black powder pistols. A great time was had by all. I always wanted a flintlock rifle, and kind of overlooked pistols. I’m glad I decided to correct that problem. But this post really isn’t about black powder pistols. Maybe I’ll write something up later, it’s about CNC Woodworking and the thought process on creating a custom, multitasking tool. Plenty more photos after the jump! Continue Reading →

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Maryland Heights on Ambrotype

Used with permission, © Michelle Barkdoll

Harpers Ferry from Maryland Heights

It’s no secret that my favorite historic home away from home is Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. To me it’s one of the most interesting spots of the Civil War and I’ve met some outstanding people that live, work and teach in Lower Town. I’ve shot numerous plates around Harpers Ferry for personal use, demonstrated the technique to the masses and in October will be teaching a two day Living History Workshop on Wet Plate through the Park.

Though, high above Harpers Ferry was the Holy Grail of vantage points. At the end of a 4.5 mile hike up 1600 feet of elevation was a beautiful view down on Harpers Ferry. I wanted to make that hike.. With 70lbs of wet plate gear.

Continue Reading →

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Camera Design: Update 8, Holder Door

Just a quick update regarding one side of the plate holder. We’ve already made the plexiglass plate ‘tray’ which is what holds the plate inside of the holder (Link). I decided that I wanted to do the door next, I made a frame to go around the plexiglass tray and the door fits perfectly. Well, I put a little extra room on the pocket of the door for whichever way I use the hinges to swing it out of the way.

This photo is a terrible and suddenly condensated cell phone shot, if you look carefully you’ll see the frame on the left with a lip around the inside edge. The door on the right has a recess to take this edge. When painted flat black (and possibly fitted with felt somewhere around the door) it should be pretty light-proof. The door itself needs a leaf spring cut that will apply pressure to the back of the plate. That will be a milled piece of aluminum sheet screwed to the inside back of the door.

As these are only prototypes, in the future I will change the thickness of the door, the thickness of the frame and instead of a large piece of plexiglass the size of the holder, I will put a lip inside the frame to take plexiglass inserts. Quarter plate, sixth, ninth and custom sizes. This will also make it easier to attach my hinges with screws.

Plate Holder Door, Dry Fitted

Plate Holder Door, Dry Fitted

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Camera Design: Update 7, “The Plate Tray”

Template Sketch

Plate Tray Sketch

Life has calmed down a bit and now it’s time to get back into building this camera. Title changed to Camera Design since it’s no longer a challenge for the most part. My next logical step is to start working on the plate holder. Get that designed and then I can work with getting those pieces attached.

When I designed the holder I started with the quarter plate, so I might as well start milling that first.

The plate tray is what the plate will sit on while in the holder. It’s purpose is to hold the plate steady for the photo while minimizing the area where the two touch. Because sometimes you can accidentally cut a plate a mm or two smaller or larger than exact Quarter Plate size, I wanted to make sure there was room for error. The holder door will eventually swing from the back and apply pressure to the quarter plate making sure it won’t come out of the tray or slide around and damage the corners of the collodion any more than necessary.

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Darkbox Construction and Usage

Wet Plate Darkbox

Wet Plate Darkbox

The darkbox, it’s such a simple thing but so important. Wet Plates need to be coated, exposed and developed in a darkroom within 10 or so minutes, so unless you want to shoot plates in an area near your darkroom all the time, you’re going to need something mobile.

So how are you going to prepare and develop plates in full sun outside? Easy – a light proof box. Well, maybe not that easy. Let’s look at a few things we need to consider.

1. Light proof box. Even though plates are a little on the slow side (ISO 3 if you’re counting) you still need to prepare and develop them in the dark. And by dark I mean no outside light, the emulsion on a plate is orthochromatic which means it can’t see reds. That means we can use red light inside the darkroom and darkbox. There’s one problem with the lightfast-ness of a darkbox, it’s got a huge hole in it for the photographer. This is usually resolved by a few layers of material that wrap around the darkbox and then the photographer, bunched up to prevent light leaks.

Continue Reading →

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Camera Challenge: Update 6

Unfortunately, I failed the challenge. But it’s not going to deter me from continuing the project.

All week I had a bunch of items to build and I didn’t really even get the camera on the mill table until Thursday night (for a scheduled update Friday morning). Considering that I finished a full darkbox (post to come) and tripod head down-time for the mill was few and far in between. I had to make a sign first, and had mill problems with the bit staying in place.

So, give me some time to unpack from the reenactment weekend, get my home, office and workshop in order and the camera challenge will resume!

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