Saturday, November 6, 2010


For wet plate photographers, at least in the US, there are really two high points in the history of the craft: Matthew Brady's civil war images and Carleton Watkins' Yosemite images.  Living not too far from Yosemite, I decided to give it a try.  Of course, one can never walk in the footsteps of the great Watkins.  Watkins and his assistants traveled by a wagon pulled by 12 mules, over what must have been very rudimentary wagon trails.  In the wagon he carried his 18x22-inch camera, glass plates, portable (tent) darkroom, and chemical and food supplies to last weeks.  My trip consisted of my Toyota FJ Cruiser, pulled by its reliable V6 motor, carrying me and my 8x10-inch camera, dark box, and chemical supplies over paved roads.  And I ate and slept at Curry Village in the valley (mmm... pizza!). 

Anyway, it was a rewarding trip for me.   Here are a few of the plates I took.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


A gem of a man, my friend....

This was taken with a Ross Cabinet No. 3 (petzval lens, designed for whole plate).  This Ross lens is new to me.  And it is a beauty!  It feels like a small canon.  Very heavy brass.  Did  I mention the perfect glass?  Perfect brass?  Like just off the shop floor.  12--inch focal length, with f3.5 aperture.  I guess most people don't get excited about lenses.  I do.  This thing is beautiful.  And it dates from .... 1882!    I just bought another Ross (1874!!) for my planned trip to Yosemite.  More on that later.  Anyway, I love this shot of Noel.  I hope you too like it.... 


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Discovering Josephine Baker...

...Cwen made this banana skirt!!!

And I love this one -- Hemingway meets JB!   



Monday, August 2, 2010


I've become friends with Alex LaMarsh.  In addition to being a delightful person, she is a professional hair stylist and make-up artist.  This past Sunday, she came over with her colleague-stylist, Heather Sansky.  We'd invited the lovely Nekole Kemelle over for a shoot.  I've shot with Nikki a couples of times previously, and she is a pro with the stunning good looks and work ethic to prove it.  Anyway, we had a very good day.  Here's just a couple of the large crop of good results....


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rachel Abby

Because wet plate was invented in the early 1840s and came into the mainstream later that decade (overcome in large part in the 1870s by dry plate), it seems that in America at least the process will always be associated with the Civil War, as soldiers got tintype portraits of themselves and photographers made ambrotypes of some of the battle locations.  I'm not aware of any "pin-up" type plates that may have been made, but had they been made I'd like to think they may have looked something like this... 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Rock n Roll, aka Robert

I was sitting in my house, thumbing through old albums, when I came across a live Doors record that I bought used a while back for a buck.  I wasn't sure I'd ever played it before, so on it went  OMG, the "break on through" track was awesome!  WAY better than the sanitized radio version.  This was Jim Morrison yelling wacky weird shit in the mic.  Like jump outa the stuffy chair, pump the Krell, and hop around the room with the dogs looking at you funny, kind of awesome.   Wow.  It brought me back.  For some reason, it reminded me of sitting on the garage floor getting good-n-drunk with my buddy Robert, listening to a little piece-o-junk boom box, smoking camel lights, seriously rocking out, and ogling our motorbikes talking about where we'd take `em tomorrow.  So, here is a picture of Robert, in honor of that good memory.  While not a particularly "handsome" shot of the man (who looks a lot more like Daniel Craig, in his better moments) you'll note that he looks good-n-healthy here.  That's because he was smart enough to cut the booze and start endurance training.  So, he runs 100 milers, while I run 3 milers!  Oh well.  At least we still ride motorbikes together!  He's a good man, and one of my best mates....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Here is a close-up of Marina that I really like.  The eyes came out beautifully, as did the slightly down-turned head, with fall-off of focus.  Also, the overall gradation of dark-to-light, top-to-bottom, gives it a nice dramatic effect.  This is a full plate.  I'm finding that the full-plate dimension, 8.5 x 6.5 inches, is a nice size with which to work (trying not to dangle my prepositions, Mom!) and also to view in-person.  The slightly smaller 5x7, being a bit taller in dimensional size, is also nice.  Anyway...

Friday, July 16, 2010


I've had the good fortune to have two photo sessions with Ms. Mylen, and you can likely appreciate why I'm much looking forward to the third. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Yankee Pin-Up

A few weeks ago Amy and I headed out to Pt. Reyes to make some plates.  I found an old barn and we started pouring away.  I think the old barn gives a nice background.  And with the torn lace top, it just seemed right to put the Union hat on her!  We got a few good plates in ... before Johnny Law showed up and chased us off.  Oh well.  It was a beautiful day, finished with bbq'd oysters and cold beer at the coast.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


May 1st is World Wet Plate Day, in honor of Frederick Scott Archer who invented the wet plate process in 1848.  Why May 1st -- Archer died on May 1, 1857.  He was buried in an unmarked grave in his local cemetery in England.  Some fellow colllodionistas raised some money to buy him a tombstone, which they set just yesterday during a ceremony.  On this day, collodionistas around the world shoot in Archer's honor and post-up their plates here:

On this celebrated day I had the great opportunity to shoot with Samiha, who has such gorgeous features that I suspect a monkey could get some pretty good plates shooting with her.  In any event, the following is the one I liked best. 

I note that this plate shows very well the attributes of the curved-field petzval-design lens.  As you'll see, her eye is very sharp, but not much else in the picture is.  Indeed, toward the bottom of the image the background almost melts into her skin, nearing the periphery of the curved field where the spherical aberration is strong.  At f3, and a long-focal length lens (10 inches?), the depth of focus is very short indeed, probably not much more than an inch.  This was a 14 second exposure taken on the side of my house.  I used a small plastic pill jar to try and hold her head steady, and it appears to have worked.  Also, there was a slight breeze, so the gray cloth in the background was moving a small bit, as was her hair, all of which I think adds to the softness of the background, drawing the viewer's attention to the detail of the eye.  I love it!  Thanks for looking.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Meghan and her hair.  We went to Point Reyes for this shoot.  It was a lovely day.  Six pack of beer, bottle of collodion, and a stack of plates.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010

At the lake...

...well, reservoir to be exact.  But lake sounds nicer to me - more natural.  Anyway, here are a few shots I took with Nikki (the knife).  She was a super trooper and even got in the water repeatedly!  I really like shooting in nature, but it is hard to find spots that aren't "private property -- no tresspassing" and that are relatively private and that aren't too far from the vehicle (all the gear is heavier than you might think).  Anyway, this spot at Nicasio Reservoir fit the bill.  SF photographer Julia Comita came along to learn a bit about the process and she was very helpful throughout the day.  Thanks for looking.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Golden Gate Bridge

It has been far too long since last I shot.  With a break in the rain, I loaded the gear and headed toward the iconic shot of SF through the Golden Gate.  The plate below wasn't the cleanest of the day, but I liked the mood of it the best.  Shooting among tourists was kinda fun -- no shortage of people with whom to explain what I was doing.  And I realized that when (not if) I lose my job, I'm going to head here to sell some plates!  Anyway, I hope you enjoy this one....