TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

borut peterlin, slovenia, ambrotype, Portrait photography, Wet Plate Collodion, Analog Film photography

Posts Tagged ‘Portrait

Sunday is a good and dry collodion day

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A scan of a dry collodion negative. Exposure 25 minutes at f/5.6.  (I could make it faster by 1.5 f stop)

A scan of a dry collodion negative. Exposure 25 minutes at f/5.6.
(I could make it faster by 1.5 f stop)

Today it was Sunday. It still is, but concerning the the speed of my writing it will take me two hours and it will be past midnight. Again… So where to start. Basically I’m using this free time that I have during holidays for researching processes, equipment and aesthetic. Very soon I’m planning to go to Bosnia for a test shoot on a new project I’m preparing. In 2015 there will be 20th anniversary of the end of the war in Bosnia and I want to prepare an exhibition on the topic.

OK, let’s start with the new member of my family. Please read captions of my images, this post will be more in telegraphic style.

Charconnet Petzval:
I bought a petzval lens! Gasc & Charconnet Paris Vintage lens is less known and less expensive than Dallmeyer or Hermagis but it’s in the same quality range. Made in years around 1860′s. So now I’m playing around, see what the baby have to offer. Please read the captions and you’ll see what images are done with the lens. Most of them.

Carbon Printing
I’m so much in love with carbon prints! it’s amazing! I love it.

Dry Preserved Collodion Negatives
As much as I love the idea of not carrying all the chemistry and a darkroom around, the dry collodion is not a shortcut. You spend ten times as much time to process one plate. Just developing of a single plate that I’ve shot today it took me literally an hour! That being said, it’s very useful tool to have in my assortiment of expression.

PS: That chopped down tree was cut by a beaver. It’s amazing, that this animals that are almost extinct are living literally in downtown of Dolenjske Toplice! Look carefully the last image, you’ll see that the beaver chewed whole trunk! So cool!

Vintage studio backgrounds of Josip Pelikan, dated about 1930′s

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Vintage background from skylight studio Josip Pelikan, MNZC museum, Celje, Slovenia.

Vintage background from skylight studio Josip Pelikan, MNZC museum, Celje, Slovenia.

Vintage background from skylight studio Josip Pelikan, MNZC museum, Celje, Slovenia.

Vintage background from skylight studio Josip Pelikan, MNZC museum, Celje, Slovenia.

Astrid asked me if I could take a picture of fantastic vintage studio backgrounds that were using Josip Pelikan, so after I got a permission from the museum I’m publishing them on my blog. On Flickr you can download a hires file of the image, just click all sizes. Vintage backgrounds are dated about 1930′s. The skylight studio was built in 1898 and bought by Josip Pelikan in 1922. Nowadays Josip Pelikan Photographic Studio is a branch of the Celje Museum of Recent History. If you going to use the files to make your own vintage look studio background, just leave a note in the back that it was done on the basis of backgrounds from Josip Pelikan Studio, Celje, Slovenia, EU. A lot of people from MNZC museum worked hard to renovate the skylight studio and we owe them at least a credit. THX.

I’ve been thinking. My friend ordered a painted movie poster from India and if you know a painter’s service like that, share the info and good luck! Perhaps we can make a group order and get a discount. Just a thought…

Yesterday I was portraying in the studio and I’ve made this plate. Also a colleague photojournalist Andraž Purg came by and made a portrait of me.

Portrait by Borut Peterlin in wet plate collodion technique in skylight Studio Pelikan, Celje, Slovenia, EU.Borut Peterlin in Josip Pelikan Studio

A photography project on fears and delights being a parent

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Dear topshit readers,
I’m awfully proud on the following book I’ve made. I’ve joined an excellent workshop with Klavdij Sluban. Klavdij Sluban is an extraordinary photographer and won so many prestigious photography awards. One of the most important award was certainly European Publishers Award 2009 and this year he was one of the juror for Leica Award 2013. It’s fortunate for us that his parents were Slovenians and although he was born in Paris, he spend his childhood in Slovenia, so he speaks fluently Slovenian (among other half a dozen languages). He made a generous offer to make a whole year lasting workshop and we would meet six weekends across the whole year. His only condition was not to advertise the workshop internationally, but invite only Slovenian photographers. Last week we had an opening of exhibition as the final stage of our workshop.

The presentation of my art zine and a single photograph at Gallery Simulaker, Novo mesto, Slovenia

The presentation of my art zine and a single photograph at Gallery Simulaker, Novo mesto, Slovenia

The book I’m presenting is a fruit of collaboration at the workshop. I’ve learned hugely by just watching Klavdij going through images, picking one, the other, changing the order, putting it back on the pile and so on. We called it Sluban’s magic, because although sometimes images that were on the table were not impressive at all, but his selection of just say 8 images and juxtapositioning them in certain order, did made a huge difference. You can not understand if you don’t witness it. I’ve been at workshops with many many famous photographers, from Martin Parr, Duane Michals, Joel Peter Witkin and many others, but I haven’t seen anything like it. I knew from our first meeting that all I need to learn at the workshop is to tap on his frequency of thinking and the result is evident here in this book. Mark Osterman gave me a great comment. He loved that I used different camera formats (6×6, 4×5″, 8×10″) and also different processes (b&w film, wet plate collodion – ambrotype and wet plate negative) and I blended them all together in a book almost seamlessly. That’s Sluban’s magic, I tell you!

As I’m describing in the video I was aware that the story about the most beautiful children in the world is not enough. I shaped my concept around my fears and delights of being a parent. When I was a child, ten years old, I burned myself with a gasoline and almost died. When I became a parent I experienced fears for my children and one day I was strucked by a thought, what my parents had to go through at the time of my accident!

The book is on ebay (LINK) if you want a copy. If you want a print as well, I’ve just put two prints on ebay and link is listed below.

A link to the gallery of images on my website.

The book on ebay.

The print no.1 listed on ebay.

Print no.6 listed on ebay.

Twist Wet Plate Collodion process at 30 °C

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A week ago the Fotopub Festival finished. I was a founder of the festival in 2001 and was running the show for seven years and today I’m proud to say that the level is so high I gladly enrol as a participant to one of the workshops. This year I enrolled in a workshop with Diana Lui and I was photographing river beaches in wet plate collodion. Heat is a nightmare for wet plate collodion process, but I rethought the process, made few tests and here we go, I was doing wet plate collodion process at 30°C almost business as usual at 20°C.

I’ve made several changes to the process.
1) I lowered the pH of silver nitrate bath from 4pH to 2.3pH by adding few drops of nitric acid into it (about 3 drops per 500ml should be enough, but check yourself)
2) I added more alcohol in my collodion mixture. I have alcohol on the spot and if I see it’s drying too fast I add some more solvent.
3) To my usual developer I added 25% of water and added 5 drops of nitric acid per 100ml of developer. I could add also 5gr of sugar per 100ml, but I didn’t have to.
4) when sensitizing plate in silver bath I reduced the time from 3 minutes to only 2 minutes. Mark Osterman is emphasizing that the sensibilization should be done by observation and not by time, but on the field I observe only the first plate then I do it by time. You can see when a plate is ready for exposure. If you leave it too long in the heat, you will get too much silver on your plate that will become fog during development.
5) I used water as my stop bath, but I’ve added a spoon of table salt to a liter of water. Salt will react with silver and will stop the development process immediately. It’s important to stop development fast if you work without running water and in the heat.

And that’s basically it. If the plate is perfectly exposed it should be developed for 20 seconds. I’ve learned this from Mark Osterman’s manual where he explains in details what does what in the process. I rethought and made lots of tests, wrote him a lot of questions and on the end I came up with results that are satisfying. Last but not least I owe Miša Keskenović lost of gratitude for all the knowledge he shared with me.

Have you seen my video about wet plate collodion at 0°C? HERE is the link. The same logic is behind, only fashion changes. When you understand the process you adjust the process freely to the conditions. Twist and shout the process out!

PS: This will be a supplement to my exhibition on 5.9.2013 in KKC, Dolenjske Toplice, Slovenia.
PPS: All those five steps aren’t probably necessary to deal with heat. Step number 1 makes about 60% of the effect I reckon, but with it you lose at least 2 f stops of sensibility of your wet plate collodion plate.

Klemen Slakonja, wet plate portait

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Portrait taken on 4x5" camera with petzval lens, exposed on wet plate collodion plate. This is retouched version, I retouched his face from the film negative I've recorded.

Portrait taken on 4×5″ camera with petzval lens, exposed on wet plate collodion plate. This is retouched version, I retouched his face from the film negative I’ve recorded.

Klemen Slakonja is an actor and rising star of TV show business in Slovenia. Few weeks ago I had to make his portrait, but it was raining. I decided to do the portrait in wet plate collodion just the same. Under rain, no sweat! OK, it was just sprinkling rain, but on the end of the shoot I was all wet. I got used to that, actually. Wet wet plate photographer, why not! I arrived half an hour before the shoot, mix the developer and prepare first plate. We exposed it, but when I wanted to develop it I knock the glass beaker off the table and it crashed in front of us.

Klemen was kind enough to wait that I’ve mixed the developer again, but I didn’t filter it, i didn’t had time for that. Plate was fogged so his face wasn’t recognizable. I’ve repeat the portrait with the same camera, Linhof lens and I was exposing normal B&W film. At home I scanned the collodion plate, scanned the film negative and photoshoped that his face was recognizable. Lucky for me, I know all sorts of photography, so if I’m forced to, I use every possible tool to deliver a good portrait to a reader of Mladina weekly magazine. After all the stress, the picture looked fantastic in the printed magazine and it’s one of my favorites.

Perhaps you might wonder why have I portray Klemen as a cowboy. Let me quote Andy Warhol: “I don’t know.”

PS: In less then two hours an auction for my salt print is finishing on ebay. LINK.

Severa Gjurin portrayed in wet plate collodion technique

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Severa Gjurin portrayed in Wet Plate Collodion technique by Borut Peterlin

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Severa Gjurin portrayed in Wet Plate Collodion technique by Borut Peterlin

In today’s Mladina weekly my portrait of Severa Gjurin is published. Grega Cokan was assisting me and I’ve made a step test before Severa arrived. Expousure goes from 2 seconds strip to one minute epxposure strip.
PS: How much gay can a step test be? ha, ha…

Elvis Halilović, his wooden Camera Obscuras and my wet plate portrait of him

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Elvis Halilović, portrayed with my ShenHao 4x5" camera on wet plate collodion process

Elvis Halilović, portrayed with my ShenHao 4×5″ camera on wet plate collodion process

Elvis Halilović, portrayed with his camera obscura.

Elvis Halilović, portrayed with his camera obscura.

Few days ago I’ve made a portrait of Elvis Halilović.
In his words: “I’m a passionate lensless photographer. For the last seven years, I’ve been photographing using pinhole cameras that I’ve made myself. Through the years, I’ve constructed and used extensively about 40 of them; the largest produced images measuring up to 3 x 4 metres while the smallest could fit inside a person’s mouth. I’m also an industrial designer and a carpenter….”

He designed super slick camera obscuras and made them from wood. They look super cool. He started ONDU Pinhole Cameras project on Kickstarter, aiming for $10.000 USD of backing and three weeks before the end of kickstarter project he has already pledged for $63.000 USD. Check his project and back him. For now, that’s the only way how to get the camera, but he has many worldwide offers for his product.

I’ve done his portrait with his camera, but since I didn’t had a clue what angle of view is, I totally missed the framing. In tomorrows Mladina weekly it’ll be published his collodion portait. At European Collodion Weekend I bought one old brass Petzval lens and check the results. I suggested Elvis that with this cameras also wet plate collodion process could be done, since it uses ordinary 4×5″ film holder. He will lend me one for a ride. Can’t wait!

Reviving skylight studio from year 1898, Josip Pelikan Studio

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Dear_readers_I’m_so_honored to announce that in collaboration with Museum of Recent History Celje we will revive portraiture sessions in one of the best preserved skylight studios in Europe. The glass studio was build in 1898 and from 1920 Josip Pelikan was working there. After his death in 1977 his youngest daughter Božena Pelikan took over the family busnis and when she retired in 90′s, the studio was donated to the museum that renovated it with great care for details.

In the following month of February we are planing to revive public portrait sessions in the studio in a noble manner of portrait photography of 19th and 20th Century. Well not every day, but on certain days. I was working really hard to achieve sufficient technical and aesthetic level. First step is to revive the studio, so people could enjoy the nobility that once portrait photography had.

Next is to have workshops on photography techniques of 19th Century and finally my greatest goal is to have a festival of Alternative Photography. I imagine that exhibitions and lectures on the topic would resonate perfectly in this space. I already founded Fotopub festival of documentary photography and I was the Art director of Fotopub during first seven years and the festival continues to thrive, so I’m confident that if I could do it at age 26, I could do it even better 12 years later! Especially because I have huge support in my mentor Miša Keskenović and wonderful people of Museum of Recent History Celje.

But step by step. And first step, first foundation stone is of course photography. Do you like it? Would you like to have a portrait of you in this manner? This is not my whole portfolio, this is just the beginning. Beside ambrotypes the studio will offer also wet plate collodion negative, printed on either salt print, albumen print, cyanotype, gelatin silver-bromide print and so on. But more about that in the following post. Josip Pelikan Studio is located in Celje, Slovenia, EU.

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Advanced far out darkroom technique in black & white photography

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Jure Henigman, an actor, portrayed by Borut Peterlin

Jure Henigman, an actor, portrayed by Borut Peterlin


From Mladina weekly magazine I was commisioned to do a portrait of an actor, Jure Henigman. I’ve already made a portrait of him in 2008 with Zvezdana Mlakar, but I was planning to do something completely different. First of all we’ve met at the parking lot in Ribnica and my first resolution was, no background, just the face and expression. I’m always impressed how an actor can make a story (photograph in my case) just with an expression. I brought my newly made headrest stand about which I was blogging already. A friend and colleague from Ribnica Luka Ileršič show up and show started. He took behind the scene images. I’ve portrayed Jure facing a church, because I liked the light coming from behind. I used ShenHao 4×5″ camera with Rodenstock 210mm lens + a yellow filter. Yellow filter is perfect for B&W portraits I love it! The secret of series Family Album is in a yellow filter!

When I got home the true adventure really started and I’ve made a video about it. I hope you’ll like my exploration of photography down the rabbit hole.
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A new creative wet plate portrait – Milan Erič

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milan erič, an illustrator and painter portrayed by borutpeterlin.com

This is my new portrait for Mladina weekly. Milan Erič is a painter, an illustrator and author of animated feature film. I wanted to make his portrait in wet plate collodion technique, but every night before I have a wet plate portrait on a location, I have have a bad sleep. I can’t get rid questions like where will I work, who will complain about it, where will I get water, will there be a drain to waste used water and developer, will there be enough light, will the person being portrayed have enough patience and what if something will go wrong with chemistry? If everything goes well, I make a portrait in an hour and if it doesn’t… Several times I couldn’t make a wetplate portrait in the time frame or in a circumstances I was given and I had to make a digital portrait as an emergency solution.

This is one of more luxurious working place in front of toilet of Gallery p74. I know all toilets in downtown of Ljubljana and I will make a guide on toilets in Ljubljana for junkies.


We wet plate photographers are hard core stubborn oxen that will do just about everything for a good picture, but I was doing this for almost a year, almost every week and frankly I had enough of this suffer drive. The night before the portrait of Milan Erič, I couldn’t sleep more then few hours and I decided this is the end, the end of my collodion portraits in Mladina weekly! But while I was eating a breakfast I came to a good solution! I did the following.

With my ShenHao 4×5″ camera I portrayed him on a normal HP5 film. OK, it could be considered a normal film in this recession times, since it got expired in 1995. You know the book of Chase Jarvis, The best camera is the one that’s with you? Well I’m working on a book The best film is the one that you get for free!

My little ShenHao camera with Rodenstock 210mm, Linhof 135mm and Zeis 90mm lenses.


Film that got expired in September 1995 is not bad. It’s not perfect, but for who it is, good it is!


My “new” Durst 138s enlarger can blow up negatives up to 5×7″ that’s 13×18 cm in proper units.

I projected the negative on a wet plate holder with a sensitized plate.


The ambrotype in negative. I scanned it, then scratched it, then scanned it again. If you can see I removed the scratched line that goes around his head with the help of first scan.

This is the result it’ll be published in tomorrows issue of Mladina weekly. As you can see format of publication is different, so I retouched the edges of a glass plate.

Final summation. The complicated procedure of wet plate collodion process on location was starting to stressing me too much and steered most of my energy from conceptual creative process into logistic / chemical issues. I wanted to give up, until I figure out this solution. I mean it’s not an invention or something, many people are or were doing it. Now, when I don’t need to worry how and where to develop, I can devote more of my energy back to concept of the image and what is the message of it.
There are some draw backs. Collodion is sensitive to UV and blue light and not sensitive to red and orange, so the skin of Milan Erič would look completely different if I would portrayed him originally with collodion process. In principle I could skip film entirely and do the image with digital camera, but my personal resolution is that I will make the procedure as simple as I need it, but not simpler then that! (Einstein took that quote from me) I love how lenses for large format draw and I love their depth of field.

Hm… that makes me think. Do you want me to make a glass plate ambrotype from your digital file? I would charge you 50 EUR + shipping for a 5×7 plate. I can do bigger plates of course. Have you seen my new Durst enlarger? My contact.

Where was I? Anyhow, I’m not a traditionalist wet plate photographer. I embrace every tool there is to fulfill my vision in making of photographs. At the moment I’m in the period where I can see world only in collodion images and since I can not make a living from this kind of photography I try desperately to involve this noble analog process in my daily work as a professional photographer.

PS: I forgot to write that the whole procedure takes much more time then if I would shoot it originally on collodion, but it’s more reliant, which is what I need on assignment.

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