Earlier this year I was able to take a wet plate collodion workshop with Ray Bidegain. I got to use Ray’s 8×10 Calumet (with a 4×5 converted for wet plates). It started at about 9 in the morning and we didn’t finish with the dried plates until around 4pm. Ray’s darkroom was cool and we had plenty of good conversations to boot. It was great fun.
The wet plate collodion process, also commonly called Tin Type, was invented around 150 years ago and uses a metal or glass plate as the base for the emulsion to create a positive. It is capable of incredibly fine detail and I understand, from wiki:-), it was used for special applications right up through the 1960’s. Today it has become very popular again in the US, particularly with portrait photography. In Japan almost nobody knows about it, however I did meet one photographer here named Hiroshi Homma that does brilliant work with it.
It takes a bit of skill to pour the collodion onto the plates properly, and you have to be careful not to let it run back over the plate making run lines when you carry it and put it in the camera. Furthermore, the chemicals can make you pass out, and they can blow up your house if you don’t take adequate precautions. If you do take the right precautions however, and aren’t in a hurry I’m sure you will have a great time doing wet plates. I really enjoyed it. It is hard to think of anything more custom than making the “film” yourself before taking the photograph.
Here are a few plates I really like from that day. I didn’t get to do any portraits unfortunately as I didn’t have anyone available, and I didn’t think to ask Ray at the time darn it:-)
You can see some of Ray Bidegain’s amazing work here. I think his photographs have a quiet peaceful quality. His speciality is platinum printing which is another quite involved process. He holds large format and studio photography workshops as well. I highly recommend him!