TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

Archive for the ‘Alternative photography process’ Category

Wet Plate Collodion Safari

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Video Collodion Journal, Vinica, Slovenia, 2.7.2015. This time I didn’t had perfect plates. They were OK, but it could be better so I finished the day in the river :-)
PS: One more space left for Collodion Photo Safari, 29th of Jully – 2nd of August 2015. http://borutpeterlin.com/WORKSHOPS/Advanced—Negative-&-Printing/1/

Topshit photography journal 16th of June 2015

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Tomorrow is a big day. I’m almost finished with my preparations for Vienna Photo Book Festival . I’ve cashed in all my chips and now it’s time to go. I’m going to Vienna with a Land Rover, my old-timer. Today I’ve bought Hi-Lift Jack and I’ve sorted the bed in my Land Rover. As a huge fan of Top Gear, I’m planning to do Topshit Gear Special and I’m planning to record my trip as I do, with emphasis on photography and art. The book Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is my inspiration.

I’m not doing this just for the fun of it, but I’m celebrating a new milestone in my photography path. I finally reached the destination after four years of intensive work. Six years or so I’ve seen an exhibition of Sally Mann in London Photographer’s Gallery and I’ve decided there on the spot I want to learn this witchcraft of collodion. It took me more then a year to find Miša Keskenović, who introduced me into the craft and another year to have met Mark Osterman in person. At George Eastman House I’ve seen original albumen prints of Eadweard Muybridge, France Scully Osterman, Mark Osterman and many others. I knew that I want to make a project with it. Albumen print process is in principle very simple process, but if you want to have rich tonality with clear white highlights and deep blacks, it’s very difficult. On top of everything I see my future artwork only in wet plate negative, that is much more difficult to do, then ambrotypes or tintypes.

Practitioners of wet plate collodion process know that the most difficult thing of all is the workflow. It’s one thing to make a good plate (either positive or negative) and it’s completely another thing to be able to do it in whatever situation it is. I bought the Land Rover so I could perfect my workflow and master the process so well that it becomes intuitive and I can focus on the photography itself not thinking on the process.

In the road I’m taking I’m celebrating that. I’m celebrating the past four years of learning and tackling the process and now I feel the process is very natural to me, I’m relaxed and I have plenty of energy to focus on the aesthetic and art. In this road I’m celebrating the fact that I’m making prints that are the best prints I’ve done. I love them so much, I can’t stop looking at them. I know I’ve reached the milestone of learning the craft. Now I can fully focus on my art, on the concepts, on ideas I want to share through the medium of photography.

Here are some random images I’ve done lately. Captioned.

Vantage point in photography / Wet Plate Collodion & Salt Print Process

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Salt print toned with gold, format 10x12" (25x30cm).

Salt print toned with gold, format 10×12″ (25x30cm).

In this video I’m presenting my creative process how am I approaching a motif conceptually and also physically. Wet plate collodion is so slow process that an hour or two of thinking is nothing in comparison how much it takes to make one photograph.

Before I start making an image I always play a devil’s lawyer with myself asking myself annoying questions; Why are you photographing that? Who have done that before you? Are you adding something new and fresh? What would Ansel, Edward, Josef, Sally, Mark & France and others would say if (when) they will look at it? Is it worth it? Don’t you have something better to do?

If I successfully manage to defend a concept, only then I start with preparations for the shoot. And this was the case also with this tree trunk. I’m running every day trough this forrest and I have a long list of trees, valleys and few roots that I need to photograph.

In the video I haven’t talked about technical details, although I did left few educational tips. Like pouring collodion. Please take a look three small details. First when I pour collodion, I tend to make a perfect circle in the middle. That means my plate is levelled and I can pour a lot of collodion on the plate. Then I slowly, very slowly move collodion from edge to edge and on the end I slowly pouring collodion off. Yes, you got it, the key word is do it slowly, no need to hurry. This is the speed I usually do it indoor. Outdoor it’s usually drying faster, but that day was pretty cold and my collodion for negatives has more alcohol solvent then ether solvent ratio, because alcohol opens collodion pores and allow more silver to bind, causing denser negatives. That’s just the opposite that you want for ambrotypes.

Nevertheless the negative that I’ve got was very thin and almost an ambrotype. I’ve done everything correctly, but the day was cloudy and in the forrest there was very diffused light. I’ve exposed the plate correctly, meaning that my blacks didn’t had any information, but although I developed for three minutes, the negative was still very thin, almost ambrotype like. This is what Mark Osterman calls a foundation negative.

The mistake photographers often do is that they add another one or two exposure values and when they develop a plate, the negative looks much better on the first glance. Whites are dense, middle tones are denser, but blacks are gone! If you overexpose a negative, blacks are not empty, but they have information, meaning that blacks aren’t black anymore but they are dark grey! Now, if your blacks aren’t black, you can’t redevelop! Let me explain why.

Redeveloping is a process that is done at home and it’s done after fixing. Let me describe the process in plain language. When you develop a wet plate collodion negative you get three things. Glass plate, collodion layer (a binder) and you have a thin layer of silver on top. This silver is not mixed with collodion, it’s suspended on top of the plate. That is the condition that you can treat the silver with iodine, making it sensitive to light once again and then you apply developer containing fresh silver that will be bound on the foundation silver that is already bounded with collodion. What happens now? Highlights that have a lot of silver in the foundation negative will attract much more silver then middle tones that have less silver then highlights. Blacks do not have any silver and therefore will not attract no additional silver. Redeveloping process is building silver layers and that means that you are gaining contrast and density of a negative. This redeveloping process can be done for very long time and you can build a bullet-proof density of a negative.

And that is what I was after! All my wet plate collodion negatives have a bullet-proof densities. It took me literally two hours of redeveloping that I gained the sort of density I wanted. Usually it takes between 10-30 minutes, but this is an exceptional case. The foundation negative was very thin, so it catches only little silver from the redeveloping and the second reason was that I wanted to make this right, so I was adding very little silver and slowly and gradually building up the contrast. If you do it too fast, you may get pinholes in the negative. Second version of this negative I’ve done it faster and it took me only half an hour.

The end result, presented here, is a salt print toned with gold. Salt Print process was invented by Henry Fox Talbot in year 1833 and publicly announced in 1839. In principle it’s very simple process, but if you want to make it right it’s very challenging indeed. Salt print process is the printing process with huge tonal scale. Correct me if I’m wrong but only carbon printing process has a wider tonal scale. And this wast tonality range is the cause that the process demands a negative that could match the same tonality range. By my humble opinion wet plate collodion negative is far far the best negative for print-out-processes (POP). Digital negative simply can not match the density necessary for full tonality spectrum. Simply, a thick layer of silver has much better quality in blocking light then a layer of inkjet dye. Salt print process is like a train, you can lean as much as you can toward left or right, the train will go where the tracks are laid. And the salt print process is the same, it will be as good as the negative is.

Anyhow here is my salt print and you be the judge of my vantage points on the photography, either is that conceptually, aesthetically or technologically.

The print and the ambrotype is for sale, please email me on borut@borutpeterlin.com for more details. Thank you for your attention!

Book dummy The Great Depression by Borut Peterlin

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Huh, I’m really happy today. I’ve shipped my book to The European Publishers Award for Photography . This is one of the most important photography awards in Europe and I’ve sent my dummy books before, but this time I’m really happy, because I know I’m sending something I truly believe in and furthermore I know I can not make it better. I, personally, did my best in making this book. I was contemplating a lot and I’ve made several versions, changing design, changing format, printing materials, rhythm of the images in the book, number of pages, select out certain images that I really love and so on. Now I feel very content with it. I can not make it better. I am not saying it can’t be done better, but I can not do it better. You may compare this version of the book with the version I’ve brought to Arles Festival and you will notice the difference.

This project The Great Depression was also shortlisted for European Month of Photography Arendt Award! It’s huge honour to be short-listed among few hundred photographers that exhibited in different capitals of Europe. The short list of only five photographers was chosen by the jury of curators and it’s not the kind of competition that you can apply to. I will be exhibiting in the exhibition space of Arendt & Medernach’s headquarters in Luxembourg from 22 April 2015 onwards.

Let me take the opportunity to announce few more news. A week ago this blog reached 500 followers on wordpress.com platform and this week is already 535 and if I count several thousands followers on Twitter and Facebook, it’s huge crowd, so I don’t want to waste your time, so I will write more information in one post.

At the end of the May I’m visiting also Photography festival in LODZ, Poland where my project The Father’s Tale is a finalist for the Grand Prix Fotofestiwal 2015 award.

If you are from USA, you can see my work on two locations.

As I was posting already, a triptych The Different Same is exhibited in the Mariani Gallery from January 20 – March 4, 2015. The address is University of Northern Colorado, Mariani Gallery, 501 20th St, Greeley CO 80639, USA

From 21st of February until 4th of April, you can see the albumen prints bellow in Los Angeles, that’s St. Tammany Art Association, Antiquarian Image Exhibition, 320 North Columbia St., Covington, LA 70433.

Great Depression – a project by Borut Peterlin from Marcos Núñez Cid on Vimeo.

Exhibition of Wet Plate collodion landscapes

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In September 2014 I had an exhibition in Cankarjev dom in Ljubljana. I’ve enjoyed that period of life a lot, taking wet plate negatives, photographing river, defeating summer heat by a swim in a river together with my kids. What a privilege to be alive! I’ve recorded a lot a videos to pass on the knowledge I’ve generously received from Mark Osterman and the Collodion community. I’ve enjoyed the work so much I never found time to edit the video material and unfortunately the material just piled up. In the last few months I haven’t record any videos, because I knew I must edit the old material first and yesterday I’ve started at 9pm, finished at 3am and 12 hours later it’s live on youtube. I hope you will find some useful information and some inspiration in it.

The exhibition represents a path that I walked through in the last two years, while learning the process. But the exhibition started with the tintype of frozen river Krka, that I’ve made two months after I’ve started to do wet plate collodion at the temperature of -17C. HERE is the post from February 2012.

The exhibition is devoted to a painter Božidar Jakac and the concept is inspired by words of a poet Tone Pavček, engraved in his gravestone:

You’ve remained part of the landscape, its pain and its beauties.

And this concept is mirrored in the images, I wanted that in every of image there would be a presence of beauty and pain. I’ve designed the exhibition to be dynamic. I’ve exhibited original tintypes, ambrotype glass plates, toned albumen prints, salt prints, carbon prints, toned cyanotypes and also some toned silver-gelatine enlargements and ink-jets from wet plate collodion negatives.

The most important result from the two years walk, it can not be shown directly, but it’s the most important result. I’ve learned the process, I have no open questions and I can make a good image in (almost) any conditions. I’ve learned many different processes and those tools will play a crucial role in my future art career.

Last but not least, if you want to learn some of that hands-on photography processes, I warmly recommend workshops in George Eastman House with Mark Osterman. It’s one thing to learn the process, but it’s something different to get an access to one of the most interesting and rich collection of photography and feel that you are a part of it.

I can not offer that, but I do offer individual workshops, so if you’re interested in buying a print from me or a workshop, please send me an email to borutpeterlin@gmail.com

The Different Same triptych that will be exhibited at Wet Plate Collodion Juried Show in Mariani Gallery, Northern Colorado, USA

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An albumen print, double coated with albumen and twice hand coated with silver, toned with gold, contact copied from a wet plate collodion plate, format 10x12".

An albumen print, double coated with albumen and twice hand coated with silver, toned with gold, contact copied from a wet plate collodion plate, format 10×12″.

A carbon print on glass, contact copied from a (manipulated) wet plate collodion plate, format 10x12".

A carbon print on glass, contact copied from a (manipulated) wet plate collodion plate, format 10×12″.

An ambrotype, a wet plate collodion plate, format 10x12".

An ambrotype, a wet plate collodion plate, format 10×12″.

This work is a triptych. It’s a study of a medium of photography, so I’ve photographed the same tree in two different occasions. The scenery is like that only when the river Krka floods and red alarm for floodings is declared and that was on two occasions in the 2014 year. This three images were from three different glass plates. An ambrotype and two different negatives. Just look closely and you will notice how different this images are really. I’ve made a video on the first occasion and you can find it on the bottom of the post. I also came up with few new solutions how to frame glass plates, especially very heavy plates like 3+3 mm glass plates size 30x40cm (12×16″). The details are described in captions.

Anyway, what I love with the photography of 19th Century is that a photographer had about fifty processes and it’s variations how to make a photography and each of the processes had it’s aesthetic characteristic. Today digital photography is so standardized that a photographer have only one way how to exhibit a photograph, that’s an inkjet print.

And my triptych, entitled The Different Same is all about that. Like the famous photograph: Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967, by photographer Diane Arbus it appears at the first glance the same image, only when you look closer, you see that the three images are very much different and they are different because I – the author – decided to make it so. To interpret the reality as I please. Photography was never an objective medium. If I quote Susan Sontag (from heart), a photograph can only provide an evidence that something did happen, that something was happening in front of the lens. What has happened is an interpretation left to the photographer and the viewwer. Of if I may quote already mentioned Diane Arbus, “A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.”

Let me invite you to the event. The exhibition will be on display in the Mariani Gallery from January 20 – March 4, 2015. A Closing Reception and Award Ceremony will be held on Wednesday, March 4 from 4 – 6 pm. Juror Quinn Jacobson will give a lecture and gallery talk during the day. The address is University of Northern Colorado, Mariani Gallery, 501 20th St, Greeley CO 80639, USA.

The rule of a Cheetah

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An albumen print toned with gold, from a wet plate collodion negative.

An albumen print toned with gold, from a wet plate collodion negative.

A wet plate collodion negative. The negative was solely subbed on edges of the glass plate and after 20 minutes of redevelopment, it got torn in a surreal way. I've dried it  on heat and varnish it.

A wet plate collodion negative. The negative was solely subbed on edges of the glass plate and after 20 minutes of redevelopment, it got torn in a surreal way. I’ve dried it on heat and varnish it.


A friend of mine who is a very successful business man told me the rule of a Cheetah. Cheetah is the fastest running animal and it can reach the speed up to 121 km/h. For achieving that kind of speed it uses wast amount of energy. If the chase was not successful, if the pray runs away, the cheetah needs to rest for the rest of the day. In the next week Cheetah has two more attempts to chase down a pray. If the predator misses a pray for the third time, cheetah dies from exhaustion.

The same rule can be applied in business. You may have a wonderful product, the best one in the world, but if you don’t sell it, you will never be able to launch another one and your business will get exhausted.

This is the problem of my life. I’m passionately interested in so many things at the same time, I have a hard time to focus and limit my interests. I have a good excuse, I live in small country of Slovenia, residents of two million so to make a living in such a small market is difficult. The good side is that I’ve learned so many things and I can use them all in my expression. Like at the moment I’m writing this post fiddling with HTML code, in the afternoon I was making albumen prints and before noon I was fixing a carburettor of my car, an old-timer. Before the end of the day I might start editing a video. And oh, this is important, for lunch I’ve made a fantastic risotto with curry, vegetables and soya chunks.

I love making stuff and I have no fear in tackling things, even if I’m not successful, which happens. Like yesterday I’ve cleaned the carburettor, the engine was running smoothly I went for a quick ride, but the rust from the fuel tank got into my engine and the car lost all the power. I had to call my neighbour to winch me home again. Look at the bottom of the post.

But my new year’s resolution is to declutter my life style, to focus. I will focus my career into three branches.

  • My priority number one remains my artistic career, although I can’t live from it just yet, I expect that in 2015, this will change. It will change, I can feel it on my bladder!
  • In next few months I will crack down the woodburytype process, I’m very close, I can see the light!
  • Workshops, making portraits, building a social network.

Let me finish with the a success story of the year 2014. Brewery Pivovarna Laško is celebrating a 190’th anniversary and for that occasion they are bringing to the market a special beer made from a hundred years old receipt. My task was to portray the three experts from the brewery company as specialists. The campaign was conceived by Atelje Balant and now Slovenia is still flooded with collodion images!
At this occasion I would like to thank Anže Grabeljšek and Christian Klant on assisting me during this intensive shoot.

The digital photo by Vid Klančičar jr.

Photo: Vid Klančičar jr.

My neighbour winching me home after my carburettor was jammed with rust from  rusted fuel tank. When I came home I ordered a new fuel tank and new fuel pump.

My neighbour winching me home after my carburettor was jammed with dirt from rusted old fuel tank. When I came home I ordered a new fuel tank and new fuel pump.

Written by Borut Peterlin

2 January, 2015 at 23:54

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