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Playing tourist in NYC

It all started as a simple trip to the Statue of Liberty. My wife Chris and friend Michelle have never visited and it has been a long, long time since I had.

Being in Baltimore, we assumed a simple day trip would get us to Liberty State Park in New Jersey to catch the ferry to Ellis and Liberty islands. Grab a bite to eat and make it home in time for dinner. And boy were we wrong.

On Monday September 18th the plan was made. Leave 3am, arrive 6:30am and have a sunrise lined up with the Statue of Liberty by around 7:15. Working on 45 minutes of sleep that night, and a mere few hours of sleep from our previous weekend at Antietam/Sharpsburg battlefield (Re-enactors are quite keen on firing cannon and playing drum and fife on time, even if it’s at 4am) I was thankful that I was the navigator, not the driver. But the few winks I managed to catch in the car never really help.

Note: Nearly all photographs in this section are clickable to see a larger version.

Foggy, Cloudy morning of New York City from Liberty State Park

No such luck, but it was still a nice morning to grab a few photos of the city line for a few upcoming projects. Once we wrapped up here we traveled to the nearby Liberty Diner, had a terrific breakfast and traveled to Liberty State Park to catch our ride to the islands, but left my phone at the diner, had to rush back and they had it waiting for me. Crisis averted.

Empty Sky Memorial

At Liberty State Park we quickly grabbed our tickets at Will Call and ventured around the grounds to make some photos. We didn’t get to spend much time around the station, but it’s certainly a Macro Photography paradise. I was drawn to the Empty Sky Memorial and hope to make it back one day with some experimental film cameras and maybe even some nighttime long exposures. The simple lines of this solemn memorial didn’t obstruct the real reason this piece was here. To memorialize those who had lost their lives on September 11th, 2001.


Hatch to Nowhere

Fog was rolling into the city minutes before our departure. Not a good thing for making photos. By the way, I’d like to think this hatch somehow led to an underground tunnel to the city. It didn’t, it was filled with dirt. Womp Womp.


We had about two hours before our scheduled Crown access tour in the Statue and decided to visit Ellis Island first. Tried to look up ancestors who might have walked the same floors as I was, it was a dead end. I think we came in through the port of Philadelphia. It was a silly attempt as we have a family member who has completely mapped our ancestry as far as is possible. Maybe I should read that sometime, I just know the basics. Either way though, it was interesting looking up others with my name and seeing photos of the boats, manifests, etc..

There are lots of great historical photos in the Ellis Island museum. Drawings, art and other media of a country struggling to allow immigrants while battling the problems inherent with so many. This isn’t a political piece and because of that I highly recommend you check it out yourselves.

Statue of Liberty

We arrived at the base of the Statue of Liberty in time for our tour. There weren’t many people there, security was tight (as was security before getting on the ferry from Liberty State Park) but they didn’t seem to know what was allowed and not and I’ll just leave it at that. Oh well.. A rented locker and we were on our way. We zipped past the line waiting for the elevator and walked up the pedestal stairs. If you can’t make the pedestal stairs, don’t try to climb to the crown!

Once at the top of the pedestal it was a quick ticket check and we were on our way up the steep, small and tight corkscrew to the crown. Plenty of sights to see but most people try to just focus on not freaking out on these seemingly impossible stairs. They mark out the ‘floors’, I think around 9 was the top. You’re reminded that some people need to be evacuated, at every floor but the last few there’s an emergency elevator. The ranger there said it needs to be used a few times a year.

Crown Access

I remembered this climb, but with crown access being on a scheduled basis (and you need to schedule this months in advance) it was a rather easy ascent without a line of people behind you being impatient. It also means it’s a long, painful ride down if you fall. I noticed air conditioning, something we certainly didn’t get treated with the last time I was here.

You do get the occasional few feet platform to stand on if you need a rest. Don’t get used to them, they get smaller the further you go up!

The sight is still a thing of beauty. Two rangers were at the crown to make sure you saw what was important, to take a photo of you with your camera and remind you to look at the inside of the statue’s face ‘twelve steps down’. I had asked a few questions and they were friendly and very knowledgeable.

We walked through the museum and took some snapshots around before boarding the next ferry to get back to our car.

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We still wanted to catch one more monument before leaving and that was the Teardrop Monument that was given to the United Stated by the Russian People and Vladimir Putin after the September 11th attacks.

After finishing up for the day, we put our cameras away and decided to take in a local treat and found a Nathan’s Hot Dogs in a nearby mall. It was a good late lunch and something that we don’t get down in Baltimore.

After leaving the mall, we had a busted radiator hose. Luckily was towed to a 24 hour garage and was home by 3am. A full 12 hours before we started.

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.

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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.

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Our day in the Sun!

Jim Getty as President Lincon in front of John Brown's Fort at Harpers Ferry, WV.

Jim Getty as President Lincoln


We’re honored to have our new and old (style) work featured in ‘The Darkroom’ of the Baltimore Sun!

Thanks to Nick and Stokely for the great Q&A session and fantastic video work! I love how the whole piece was presented and it really captures a thought on the state of photography that has been hard to convey for many years.

The article also contains a gallery of a large range of our work both analog and digital and a video of the Wet Plate process from pour to fix.

Link here: Continue Reading →


The blog has been reloaded and updated. Expect craziness, changes, dogs and cats living together in harmony. All older articles have been moved to the ‘Archives‘ category.

What’s cheesy, baked and makes photos?

My new Cheez-It® camera of course!

Cheez-It Camera

The camera is made from 24×18″ black Coroplast, gaffers tape, black poster board and one Cheez-It® cracker. I went through the whole bag to find the one with the smoothest center hole. All the rejects were promptly eaten.  The hole was 2.5mm, at this diameter the optimum focal length (from the pinhole to the photo material where the size of the pinhole will be the sharpest) was 15 feet! Well, we were going to have to see how 18″ worked.

A pinhole of 2.5mm at a focal length of 18″ gave me an aperture of f/183. I was using Ilford 8×10″ Photo Paper which sits at around ASA/ISO 6. My Sekonic light meter will actually go to f/128 so I used that to get close. A grey card reading of the scene at ISO 6, f/128 was 2 minutes. You will need to compensate for Reciprocity Failure which is a problem when exposing silver based photo materials (like film or paper) for extremely short or long times. In this case I knew that I needed about 10 times the exposure. My exposure was 20 minutes (2 minutes x 10).

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And then there was one..

And then there was one.. One month that is, if you’ve got any Kodachrome in the freezer waiting to get used up, you’ve got one month left. Actually, you’ve got one month to get your roll in Dwayne’s hands. And even then, I wouldn’t wait until you get the last of the developing chemicals.

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Zombie Nation

Let me say it, I don’t get the most recent ‘Zombies’, ‘Vampires’, ‘Pirates’ or other imaginary creatures craze or why they’re so popular. When I was asked to shoot the opening night of the ‘Zombie Nation’ exhibit for Geppi’s Entertainment Museum – I really didn’t know what to expect.

Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is located next to Camden Yards in Baltimore Maryland right above the Sports Legends museum. I’m not a big comic book fan, I can only imagine that their huge comic book exhibit is completely drool-worthy for even the slightest fan. Not to say you need to be into comic books to enjoy the museum. There are rooms full of old toys and lots of pop culture. Movie posters line the walls. There’s certainly something for everyone!

The museum has one specialized theme room they use to spotlight interesting exhibits. From now until December 31st, that spotlight is Devin Hannon’s amazing Zombie Nation exhibit. What’s the easiest way to describe the exhibit? Pop culture after the zombie apocalypse.

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Mystery Film Baltimore (K-Mart C-41)

It’s time for another game of Mystery Film. The latest contestant is a roll of K-Mart branded C-41 film left in a point and shoot 35mm film camera won from an auction in New York.

The contents of the film? Wouldn’t you know it – Baltimore. Interesting that the film made it back to my hands in Baltimore to be rescued.

It seems as if a New York Yankees fan came down to Baltimore for a day. Took a few shots of the Inner Harbor and some at Camden Yards. Checking box scores, I was able to match up the shot the photographer took of the scoreboard with a date. September 9th, 1992. The Orioles will lose this one 5-2.

Looking at other shots we see we believe to be a self portrait of the photographer on the first frame, and a capture from a television in the last frame. Most likely burning through the last shot of the camera.

This is the first roll I had that I have a self-portrait. Even though it is underexposed and out of focus, it’s there. With every abandoned roll there is a story. I believe this roll gave us enough clues as to what most of the frames were about – and that’s all we can ever really hope for.

Click more to see the gallery.

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