Seeing things differently since 1894

Collodion Saga

By on Mar 8, 2020

I fancied having a go with wet plate collodion. I’ve had a go previously making tintypes using the slightly easier dry plate gelatine process. But I’ve wanted to do wet plate for a while, so last week I ordered silver nitrate, pre-mixed collodion, developer, sodium thiosulphate and Sandarac varnish.

The collodion process was invented in 1851 by Frederick Scott Archer. The process was able to combine the sharpness of a Daguerreotype with the reproducibility of a Calotype – ultimately rendering both of the previous processes redundant.

I set my 1890’s half-plate camera up facing a still-life I assembled on a table in my greenhouse. I coated the glass plate with collodion and in my darkroom, sensitised it in silver nitrate. Once sensitised, I took my plate holder to my camera and took a shot (5 second exposure). When developing the picture I saw the most on the image was missing although I did get a partial image which was encouraging.

I tried for a second time but this attempt was on an aluminium sheet. Again, the plate was only partially exposed. I’m not sure what the issue was, but I think the it may have been the plate not being properly submerged in the silver nitrate.

I persevered until the sun went down, but unfortunately didn’t a decent picture; I either got really washed out pictures or half a picture or no picture at all. I celebrated my failure with a take-away and will try again next week…

    4 Comments

  1. If at first you don’t succeed……. cheat!

    Avatar John Dadley

    08/03/2020

    • Next time I’ll just use a digital camera, much quicker!

      Daniel Firth Daniel Firth

      08/03/2020

  2. Congrats on having a go we had a good lecture and demo at the monochrome group a while back which was very good,I think think there are instruction courses still available and that maybe you’re best route to take.It really lends itself to portraits and if you get it right the results are truly beautiful don’t give up I find it very refreshing to see a young man trying something different and challenging. Best wishes Vic

    Avatar Vic Bouch

    26/03/2020

    • Thanks Vic, I might just try that. I’ve had a few more successful attempts since and will post an update soon.

      Daniel Firth Daniel Firth

      26/03/2020

Post a Reply