Tuesday, December 1, 2009

V Revisited

This is my second shoot with Ms. V.  She is such a delight to work with and has such a unique look, that I couldn't pass up the opportunity when it knocked.

As we're entering the low cycle of UV light, otherwise known as winter, the exposures and development times are getting corresponding longer. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

View Camera spread

I'm happy to report that View Camera magazine published some of my pictures and an essay, in its Sept/Oct 2009 issue.   It's still a bit of an ego stroke to see them in print!  And I hope the essay is helpful to at least one soul out there thinking about jumping into the ether world....

Meghan's Hair

Hair.  It is not often that I find the pinnacle of a woman's attractiveness to be her hair.  But it happens.  And it happened in spades with Meghan.  I think I've come a step closer to understanding the force that Jane Morris had over each of the greats, William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Here is my hommage to Meghan and her hair....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

From the Archives, II

Well, it is a rainy late afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware.  And there isn't much to do here besides visit the Delaware Art Museum, which has a wonderful collection (the largest outside Britain) of Pre-Rafaelite Brotherhood paintings.  It is a superb collection of one of my favorite genres.  Other than that.... not much to report from the corporate state.  So, badly missing my either fix, I return to the archives.

I've tried about five times now to shoot away from my home and its (well-lit, fairly spacious) darkroom.  The difficulties with wet plate mount, I might add, when shooting "in the field."  The portable darkroom is great in concept, but in practice it is a MUCH more cramped environment in which to work, ventilation is horrible, the wind can be a real annoyance and problem, and it takes a good bit of effort to pack it all into the car, unpack/set-up, shoot, pack back into the car, then unpack back into the house.  Which doesn't mean it isn't fun, just that it is a lot of work.

But sometimes it is great to get out and try shooting in new environments.  With this model, we went to the local park in my town.  Fortunately, this park is not well travelled during the week, and it has some very remote spots, off the beaten paths.  And, my model was absolutely fine with being naked in public!  She's from Italy, and is a real charmer with her accent and enchanting demeanor.  Fortunately, only a couple people came within 100 yards of us over the course of the day, and we had absolutely no issues -- it worked great.

I had noticed a wall of ivy, and thought it would make a nice backdrop for some shots.  I like this first shot -- it is a bit of a mash-up between Julia Margaret Cameron and Madonna.  The last shot was a "mistake" for a number of reasons, including leaving it in the cyanide too long, the effect of which is that the cyanide starts to dissolve away the image, which you can see starting to happen at the lower left.  But when I got home and scanned it, I liked it!  Also, I'm throwing in the third shot because it shows well the effect of the "petzval" swirly lens signature.  I don't get much swirl in most of my images because I usually use a backdrop that is pretty close to the model (in my small home "studio").  But with an expansive background, especially of plants, the swirl is readily apparent.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


This gal is the last of the Jewish Persians, exiled from her home and land by the righteous ones.  And now a resident of East Oakland.  Talk about a change in scenery!  At any rate, I adore her disposition and her looks, each au natural.  Truly, one of the things I most like about my hobby is the opportunity it provides to meet such interesting people.  And the Yahudi (a term in farsi for persian jew) has been a special treat.  I hope to shoot with her again soon.

Fortunately, there isn't much to report on the technical side.  The day went well.  These are all full (or whole) plates (6.5" x 8.5" inches) at 14 second exposures.  You can see in the bottom image the effect of the depletion of alcohol in the developer (as the 190-proof alcohol fumes out of the bottle over the course of the afternoon) -- without the alcohol, the developer beads up, as it is, how would you say, chemically adverse to the composition of the collodion.  You see it happens in the bottom-left of the image, which is the far side of the pour (I pour from the top right), showing that the effect is compounded by the time the developer makes it across the plate.  I don't mind the effect it has in this image, as it doesn't interfere with the optical focus of the shot, and gives that unique hand-made look. 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Angel de Managua

This seniorita recently moved to San Francisco from her home city of Managua, Nicaragua.  And I think she speaks better english than I do!  A delightful and beautiful young woman is she. 
For this shoot I hooked up an angel wing that a friend gave to me from out of his dusty prop closet.  Up close, the wing is pretty nasty, although it is made of real feathers.  So I tried to keep it just beyond crisp view.  I have both wings, actually, but I'll save the double wing job for another shoot. 

From a technical side, the shoot went smoothly.  However, I did get one plate that had a million "comets" on it, which I've posted below (second one).  Also, the winter is upon us.  These exposures were 14 seconds (down from a high of 1 second in mid summer in central California), which gives you an indication of the drop in UV light through the seasons.  Such long exposures really test the model to keep still, and inevitably you get movement on most shots.  c'est la vie (a nod to cafe selavy there ;) 

I wish I could relate how great these look in-hand -- nothing beats a solid layer of silver for visual impact (screw ink).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Derelict

The Derelict could either be a reference to the grounded boat in the image below, or it could be to the roommate who punched in the chest the woman who was supposed to model for me yesterday.  Seriously, the model had to cancel on me because her housemate, while drunk and high on mushrooms, punched her in the chest hard enough to give her a big nasty bruise.  What a derelict!

Anyway, without a model I decided to head out to the coast with camera and darkbox.  This spot is just up the road, in Inverness, CA, from the "Launch for Hire" spot where I shot previously.  It was a bright fall day.  I don't like bright images, however.  I prefer moody images, which is one of the reasons I think I'm drawn to collodion -- it seems to render moody images very well.  Anyway, I exposed this one for the highlights, such that the foreground went virtually black.  More importantly, it rendered the sky dark (which under a longer exposure would have gone basically bright white).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Performer

I've been excited to shoot with Babette for some time, and today it finally came to pass.  And I couldn't be more thrilled with this shot -- I love it.  Babette is a circus performer, and I just knew we'd be able to come up with some cool shots.  She brought some great attire, a super limber body, and a fantastic attitude.  It was an overcast day, but I was still holding the exposures to 8 seconds, for fear of losing too much visual impact to movement, and extending the development times to nearly double normal.  I don't like to do that, but as you can see here the resultant images didn't suffer too much for it.  Not much more to say, other than I can't wait to shoot with Babette again -- she's a bundle of photographic possibility!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Sheltering Sky

This image evokes for me Paul Bowles' classic novel, The Sheltering Sky.  I love women in confident poses, and this shot hits the mark with its north-african-meets-bohemia look.  The woman, originaly from Bulgaria, is a lovely model, wife, and mother.  I very much enjoyed our shoot.  She had more of what I might call a classic vision for the shoot, and I always like the slightly different.  We settled in the happy medium you see below.  The dynamic with a model is always unique, and I always enjoy shooting with confident and collaborative women. 

From the technical side, there isn't much unique to report from today's shoot (and I think that is a good thing!). 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Madam Wushu

This gal is, among many other things, an accomplished practitioner of wu shu:


The presumption of her ability to kick my butt with two arms tied behind her back is a sound one.  Anyway, she was a delight to be around, let alone photograph.  I have a mongolian sword (or maybe machete) and it seemed to fit her very well.  All in all, it was a great day of shooting wet plate.

On a technical note, I should add that about midday I tried adding a few drops of nitric acid to the developer, which is supposed to add a bit of "brightness" to the silver.  And, by golly, I think it worked great!  I'm going to use it going forward.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Joker

I've been looking forward to this shoot for weeks!  Melissa Jean had a harlequin top, and she MADE the collar piece and hat to go along with it!  Wow.  She is a master of wardrobe.  So, she and her beau, Matthew, drove up from LA for a shoot.  And shoot we did.  We got some great shots.  And Mattew is a photogenic lad himself!  So, I include one of him too....


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

V's New Look

I've wanted to shoot with V for quite some time now.  She's got a great figure and her portfolio had lots of cool artsy shots.  So when she made it to the area and said she wanted to shoot with me, I was stoked.  And, lo and behold, she'd just shaved her head!  Wow.  Opportunity Knocking!  The top one below vaguely reminds me of the famous Avedon shot of the (Davis) guy with bees, but mostly because I just saw his show at the SF-MOMA (mixed bag in my view, great shots but too much of the same -- American West shots by far the best of the bunch). 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Flyer

The Flyer is named Melissa.  It was the end of a rather hot fall day, and the developer was beading up, having lost a good portion of its (190 proof) alcohol to evaporation.  But I was starting to like the blotchy effect.  I mean, who wants a totally clean plate?  Might as well shoot film!  So, we have the blothcy foxy Flyer....

Friday, September 18, 2009

Col. Scott W. Adams, III

My buddy Scott Adams came over for a quick portrait session.  I recently acquired a replica civil war hat, and I thought it would look good on him, espcially with his recently sported goatee.  A suitable shirt was the next problem, and we settled on nice wool one that almost looks the part.  I used my smaller mahogany box camera, as it shoots 1/2 plate size.  I thought the 1/2 plate size would look more authentic for a civil war shot, in-hand of course, even though half plate sizes were quite rare at that time, from what I gather.  I think most were 1/4 plate or less.  Also, I wanted to incorporate my groovy headbrace, as I think it looks cool (though photographers of the bygone wet plate era strived to hide them from view).  The brace is actually very useful to keep the sitter's head still.  I've found that, generally speaking, if the eyes are sharp it greatly improves the impact of the image.  Anyway, we had a good time.  Colonel Adams is a good family man, and a notorious slayer of rebs....

Sunday, September 13, 2009

From the Archives

Sunday morning.  Black coffee.  Looking through old plates.  I like this one.  The exposure is off.  I've used the pants/suspenders too many times.  And there is a big thumb print on it.  But it still works for me.  This gal is one of the few I know who looks good in a bowler.  And I don't know what caused the fall-off in the lower-right corner --maybe went into the silver bath too soon-- but the overall effect I like, a lot.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I Shot A Gal From Reno...

...but not to watch her die.  No, Katie is from Reno, and I shot her in wet plate.  It was one of my first wet plate shoots.  And, almost a year later, I continue to think that this is one of my best plates.  This is such a classic look and she does it so so well.  I've been waiting a year to shoot her again and hopefully my time will come again soon....


One of my best mates, Jon Terra.  We've been buds since grade school, and he's aged very well, don't you think?  Jon had come over one day and I asked him to quickly sit for a plate.  I only had a bit of collodion left in a jar, and most of the ether had already escaped from it.  So it was much more gooey on the pour than it should have been.  Also, you'll notice here, and on the other plates, that there is one "pour off corner."  The pour off corner is, literally, the corner of the plate that you choose to pour off the excess collodion.  The pour off corner typically has lines of excess collodion coming down into it.  When this collodion is not fully "fixed," and it often isn't, these lines come out blue in color in the end result.  In the plate below, they are more like blobs than lines, because my collodion was so think.  Actually, I didn't think this plate would come out when I shot it, but it did.  yeah!  Finally, I usually try to place the pour off corner in the lower part of the resulting image (though everything is reversed an upside down in the camera, so mistakes happen).  Here's one of the few where it is on the topside....


Ashton Miyako put herself way into this shoot, thank goodness for me.  She got the reproduction hair piece and gown in SF's Japan Town.  Her housemate came with her (all the way from Santa Cruz) and spray-painted her face white.  It was a great day, and we got some great plates out of the day as well.  This one is my fave....

J and Zack

You'll tire of reading this, but I love this shot.  I have had a number of shoots with J in film, and gotten many great shots.  This time she brought along her man, Zack.  Zack has what I would call the fresh-off-the-boat look, like he just (circa 1890) got here from Sardinia or someplace.  I envisioned him as an young immigrant to New Orleans, enjoying the pleasures of a local girl and, likewise, she of him....


This is the most painterly plate I have, and I love it.  You may notice that the edge of the toes are clipped.  I actually like the result, because I think it gives the image neat/hard vertical lines at the bottom edge, flowing upwards to softness and total lack of lines at the top.  On this shot, as will all my others, I don't have a fixed visible boundary line on the ground glass to show me where the actual boundaries will be.  My camera, wide open, is 10x10.  So when I'm shooting something less than that, say 5x7 like the shot below, I'm approximating on the big ground glass screen where the edges of the plate will be.  And I'm pretty good at it now.  There is a fix to this problem, but I haven't done it yet (which fact gives you a glimpse into my mind).  Anyway, I think this shot is simply gorgeous. 

Nikki the Knife

This shot is one of my all-time favorites.  I love the old-London style with the sex-appeal twist.  And you gotta love those eyes!  In my prop closet I have a lot of hats that I've picked up over the years.  This tophat I got in Sydney.  I prefer this one to my other tophat, because this one has nice curves in it.  See the curve in the brim?  Also see the curves in the top portion?  I think this shot works well with these lines running into the edge of the plate.  The coat is an authentic US Navy pea coat, which was originally issued to a friend's dad back in the WWII era.  The bra is well, nice on Nikki.  Speaking of, I also have this shot without bra.  But it isn't as good.  I must be getting old! 


This shot is a bit risque.  But I like it.  C Kudos, the model, is so calm and self-assured that it was a just a great pleasure to work with her.  We were looking at some of my photo books (I have a lot) and decided to take as a launching-off point a shot by Robert Maxwell.  (Robert Maxwell has some gorgeous wet plate work, and is a top fashion and portrait photographer).  We took a number of different plates of this pose.  I like this one best.  We spent a long time trying to get the hand just right over the knee.  I think this shot has a nice combination of a classical pose, modern props, and of course the tintype aesthetic overall.  You can also see the effect of using a focal-length lens that is shorter than for its intended plate size, i.e., the blacking-out of the perimeter, which I think works well with this image (and has the added benefit of putting into almost-obscurity the modern seat she is on).

The Czaress

This photo of Nikki --gorgeous model, as you can see-- is one of my favorites (though I have a lot of favorites).  She is wearing a fox hat I picked up in Russia, along with a tattered lace blouse I picked up locally in San Anselmo.  Her pose here just evokes for me a concept of a beautiful Czaress....

Dead Man

I can't look at this plate, which I like a lot, and not recall the movie Dead Man.  This plate also illustrates the phenomenon that wet plate photos are sensitive to only blue (UV) light, not the full spectrum.  Accordingly, blue tints become lighter (more silver) and red tints go darker (less silver), while greens remain about the same to our normal vision.  For this reason, wet plate shots of the sky are virtually always just a big blank white space.  Also, tattoos tend to get very very light.  The tattoo on this model had a lot of different colors in it, including red, so it came out a bit better than most....


The model, Dominique, is great to work with.  She comes from Germany and thus has zero to do with the American Civil War, other than wearing it so well!   

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Alee Cat

Alee is a great model with whom I was able to shoot this last weekend.  She has a great look and disposition.  Lucky me!

This shot I like, notwithstanding its flaws (including a hair from my pouch, Max).  But that is one of the benefits of wet plate -- some of the flaws add to the appeal!  Who can't fall in love with a process with that benefit!