Mods, DIY & Lens Adapting Tutorials & Guides

Wet Collodion Geekery – Some Tips and Tricks – By Markus Hoffstätter

October 12, 2021

I have recently produced a series of videos that geek out on and provide various tips and tricks about various elements of the wet plate photography process, so thought I would bring them all together with a little intro and description of each here on 35mmc.

Mobile Darkroom: Advanced Eskimo Quickfish modification

With the wet plate process, I need to setup my darkroom where I shoot. I had a grow tent as a darkroom before and liked it a lot, but the setup took some time and was done best with a second person. So after I tried the Eskimo Quickfish 3 at the Camera Obscura Festival, I was fascinated. I loved the quick setup and the huge space inside.

By the way, I think this would also make a good indoor darkroom if you have enough space and don’t want to, or maybe even can’t darken your room. There is enough space for development and an enlarger.

To make this tent light tight, it needs some modifications. I talked with others how they modified their tent to make it light tight and got lots of great feedback. But I wanted to go for a more final solution, so I started digging. Lots of people use normal acrylic spray to close the little holes in the tent. Others use paint made for rims. To cover the zipper, people use a black reflector or a big towel to cover it. But these things are always in my way and I have to take them with me.

After talking with professionals, I figured that screen painting ink should be a final solution to cover holes, because it is designed to grab onto the structure of a fabric. A call with Siebdruckladen was super helpful and brought me the final solution – thanks a lot to them for that.

For the zippers, my girlfriend had the idea to get some kind of zipper cover, like you have it on your jeans. For that I went to a shop that sells tons of different fabric, Textil Mueller, and got some stiff ones. First I was thinking to sew it somehow to the tent, but then I went for glueing. There is so much different glue for fabric out there, most of must be ironed and that was something I did not like to do on my tent. So I called Henkel and asked what glue would be the best. They forwarded my question to a technician. He called me back and explained in detail what to use and how I should use it. What a great support, thanks a lot guys!

There is no sponsored content here, I just show you guys what worked well, so you don’t have to figure it out by yourself. Check the video for a more detailed explanation how I did everything:

Scratched Wet Plates

People who work with the wet collodion process have to overcome many different obstacles. Most of them become a routine, but some of them bother us a lot more.

Some month ago I varnished many plates with Sandarac varnish, and as always I heated them up and let them dry and cure for some weeks. After that I put them in acid free paper bags and stored them away. Many of them were part of my inspired series. Some month later I discovered, that they had been damaged through the structure of the paper in the being imprinted into varnish.

I was devastated at first, but then remembered that a customer told me some years ago, that something similar happened to him too. He also told me that he could fix the issue with spiritus fumes, so I developed my own solution and set about solving the issue. I let the varnished plate breath alcohol in a closed container, and then after about 15 minutes (you will smell the lavender again), the varnish will get sticky again and then because of that small scratches will disappear. After I was happy with the result, I heated the plate to cure the varnish again. I covered the plate as well as possible with a tray or something else, to avoid getting dust on it. And dadaaa – the plates looked great again. If you are unsure about my description, I explain everything step by step, here:

How to create Waterhouse stops for antique lenses

Large format photographers who work with antique Petzval lenses know the hassle. You get a pretty new brass lens, but there are no Waterhouse stops included. “Hey I don’t care, I shoot wide open all the time” some – including me – might say.

But then you find yourself on a very sunny day and struggle with doing a very quick exposure, like here, and you will end up with an overexposed image, even with the not so light sensitive wet plate process. Oh yes, and there is also the creative point of stopping down your lens – but wait, who really does that if you can have a dreamy, swirly Petzval bokeh, right…?

Just kidding, I have needed these Waterhouse stop more often than I thought. That’s why I finally 3D printed them and did a tutorial for you guys, so you can make them too without having to much trouble.

I also decided to make carrying case for them, to have them in a safe place. If you don’t want to make them by yourself, check out gear.mhaustria.com – where I will make them for you. Dallmeyer 2B and 3b Waterhouse stops are available right now, but you can contact me here, and we will figure something out for your lens) I also started to create a database for waterhouse stops here: http://waterhousestops.mhaustria.com. You can find the whole process of how I made them here:

 

So, is the wet plate process dangerous?

That’s a question I get asked quite frequently. Sometimes a new wet plate photographer is scared because he got silver nitrate on his skin, and then the next one drains developer down the sink, or exposes himself to ether without the right protection. Because of that I explained the very basics of this beautiful process in this short video. As always, the more you know, the easier life gets:

About me:

I am a wet collodion artist based in Austria. My work is focused on portraits. I really like to take my time to create. You can find more of my work on my website: mhaustria.com and on Instagram @mhaustria. If you are interested in a workshop about portrait photography or the whole process, have a look here: ws.mhaustria.com. More geekery stuff is on my blog: blog.mhaustria.com

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