TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

Scouting location in Croatia and Bosnia on a theme Yugo Nostalgia

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We’ve made scouting location around Petrova gora on the border of Croatia and Bosnia. In the future we might make adventure tours and photo-workshops with a theme “Yugo nostalgia”, visiting monuments and other fascinating locations from the time of Yugoslavia. If you’re interested, send me an email and check my site TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY.

The inspiration for the trip was a work by Jan Kempenaers and his project Spomenik 2006-2009 (Monument).  If I quote his description:

These structures were commissioned by former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito in the 1960s and 70s to commemorate sites where WWII battles took place (like Tjentište, Kozara and Kadinjača), or where concentration camps stood (like Jasenovac and Niš). They were designed by different sculptors (Dušan Džamonja, Vojin Bakić, Miodrag Živković, Jordan and Iskra Grabul, to name a few) and architects (Bogdan Bogdanović, Gradimir Medaković…), conveying powerful visual impact to show the confidence and strength of the Socialist Republic. In the 1980s, these monuments attracted millions of visitors per year, especially young pioneers for their “patriotic education.” After the Republic dissolved in early 1990s, they were completely abandoned, and their symbolic meanings were forever lost.

In the video I’ve included a well known speech of Tito: ” We’ve shed a sea of blood to create this Brotherhood and Unity…” which explains the importance of those monuments, but even more true and far sighted was the next quote “None of our republics would mean anything if standing alone, only if we stand together we can write our own history!”

How true that turn out to be! Now in Slovenia it does not matter how deep in shit are we, as long other former Yugoslav republics are one tiny step deeper, so we can say that it could be worse and we are happy! I’m not Yugo-nostalgic, but there are many statistic facts that are very Yugo-nostalgic, I must admit. To prove the point, let me repeat the most repeated sentence of my life: “No, I’m not from Slovakia, I’m from Slovenia!!!

If you would like to have a tour around these and other sites, send me an email and we’ll talk. It is certainly only appropriate for individual tours.

PS: In April finally a movie of my friend Žiga Virc will be premiered at Tribeca festival. We all are waiting for this great movie that  will be distributed by HBO Europe, among other TV networks. I’m mentioning this in a line of Yugo-Nostalgia that will become a trend, for sure!

Wet Plate Collodion at -9C, plus carbon print process!

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So I’ve received a request if I’m selling also ambrotypes. I don’t because ambrotypes are unique, there is only one and once it’s sold I will never see it again. But I’ve replied that I do sell pre-ordered ambrotype. So when I will go outside next time, I can make an additional ambrotype for a client. If the client likes it, he or she buys it, if not, no problem at all, no questions asked. And pre-ordered ambrotype is also sold for much less I would usually charge.

So here is the result. The client asked if he can buy it in wooden box and so I’ve done some research, I’ve made a boxe from pine-wood and even blast-sanded it. It’s massive wood (not glued wood boards) and pine wood is known for it’s tensions, so it bended. For  the next box I’ve chosen cherry wood and this was much better. The final touch is the trophy plate with engraved information about the plate and my signature. How do you like it?

In this video I’m making carbon prints. I love carbon  prints. I think it’s the best that photography as a medium can offer. Of course this is a subjective opinion, but please object only if you have seen a good carbon print on glass – in person. It’s translucent silkiness of carbon prints can not be compared with any dot-on-paper principle printing process. It’s unique.

To fund my work I have to sell these babies. The carbon print on paper is listed HERE and the carbon print of glass is listed HERE.
I have a stupid anecdote to share. We had an attempt of burglary in our house. The attempt failed, since I had my German Shepherd – Mike in the house and that convinced the thief to retreat. After that I thought, shit I’m keeping all my savings in a drawer! I must hide it somewhere. And I did. And the very next day I didn’t remembered where I’ve hide it, now I’m totally without any cash whatsoever. Luckily I have some money on my paypal, so I can fill up the gap and pay the bills, but

imagine how stupid do I feel! Plus I searched the whole house again and again, but without success. Anyway I’m telling you this because I do feel stupid and I want to “enjoy” the suffering so much that I will never repeat it again!

Screenshot 2016-02-24 11.04.29

Listed on ebay for 7 days!

Screenshot 2016-02-24 11.09.24

Listed on ebay for 5 days!

 

 


ON THE WET PLATE COLLODION AT -9C
OK, I’ve done three videos on the subject how to do wet plate collodion at cold temperatures and none of them covers the all aspects. It’s impossible to cover all the aspects because everything needs to be reevaluated. Ditch the timer, you don’t need it. For instance in collodion manuals it is usually written that sensibilization time is 3 minutes for ambrotype. The truth is that the sensibilization time varies on the working conditions, the acidity of the silver bath, the strength of silver bath, the freshness of the silver bath, the level of iodine in silver bath and so on. What I learned from Mark Osterman is to evaluate the sensibilization visually. Do this tests and you will appreciate his wisdom.

Sensitizing

  1. pour the plate and dip it in silver nitrate bath as you usually do.
  2. after 40 seconds, in safelight conditions, take the silver-plate out and look at it, then immediately dip it back in siverbath.
  3. repeat after 90 seconds, 120 seconds, 180 seconds
  4. observe how the surface of the plate is changing. You will notice the following pattern. At the beginning silver will be on the plate in drops, very oily kind of pattern. Then longer it will stay in the silver-bath, collodion will accept more of the silver-nitrate, more smoother the silver will flow on the surface of the plate.
  5. when there is no more silver drops on the collodion  plate, when silver nitrate flows smoothly, the plate is ready to be taken out.
  6. In some cases, when I had 9% solution, that was freshly boiled and working in temperature of 25C and I was agitating a bit, the sensibilization times were less then a minute! In times when it’s cold, times might be 6 minutes. Of course judging visually!

Pouring collodion
So this is the most important advice I want to give you. Of course take special attention to poured on plate, if collodion has set. Touch the pouring corner and if finger-print is overflown by collodion again, then wait few more seconds and repeat the test and when you can see that the collodion does not flow anymore, then dip it in silver nitrate. You might make a collodion that has solvents in ratio 65% of ether, 35% of alcohol. It will dry faster, but I work with my usual 50:50 ratio. During summer I do change the ratio to 30 ether : 70 alcohol. Plus more ether makes better ambrotypes, more alcohol makes better negatives. (More in the Collodion Manual)

Developing
I can not tell you the time of development, nobody can, you have to judge it visually. Of course if you’re an avid collodion photographer you do this routinely. If you are not, let me say few words. When you pour developer, observe the plate, count seconds loudly. So when the highlight will start to appear, multiply the time with three. So if the highlights are there already at 4 seconds it will be around 12 seconds. If the highlight will start to appear at 10 seconds, the developing time might be more like 30 seconds. OK, when I say highlight, it can be highlight of a face or a sky. Of course sky will appear much faster then a highlight patch on a nose, so take my advice on seconds approximately.

Developer
At freezing point I usually have 10 gr of ferrosulfate in 100 ml of developer. If it’s hot I reduce it down to 3,5 gr.

Heating plates and chemistry
I don’t recommend it. If you do not have a camper with permanent heating, then I don’t recommended. Because the heating will cool down, so you will not have a steady temperature and your results might be all over the place. My advice is that you do not heat up anything, so you will have steady temperature, which might be -5C, but at least when you will figure it out, you will have steady working conditions! The worst is that you get a good result, but then the temperature of your chemistry has dropped and you will have different results and there are so many variables, that it’s very likely you will get many problems. The only heating I recommend is long underwear and double socks.

Freezing water
In the video I forgot to put table salt in my water. One teaspoon of table salt will prevent water from freezing even at -6C. I’m adding salt even during hot temperatures, because salt will react with silver-nitrate and stop developing process immediately, thus clear blacks.

That’s about it! Enjoy making ambrotypes or better ambroice, a term coined by Scott Anton.

About this
Last but not least, I thank you for supporting my videos, blog posts and my work on general. You can do that by becoming my Patreon, bidding on my ebay auctions, buying work from me directly, taking my workshops or even sending me a tip on paypal directly. My paypal address is borutpeterlin and every cup of tea is welcome. As I confessed I developed a habit – being an artist…

Again I’m making an Ebay auction and again I’m listing prints that are by my opinion perfect! I hope you like the making-of-video and if you think it’s worthy don’t forget to subscribe, like and share.

And as always: TOPSHIT HAPPENS!!!

Funeral of Božena Pelikan

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Today is funeral of Božena Pelikan, 95 year old youngest daughter of Josip Pelikan. I was privileged to spend some time with her, listen her advices how to do negative retouching, how to do portrait photography – properly and all the stories that were embedded in the old glass skylight Pelikan Studio. I’m glad I visited her just few days before her death. She had severe dementia, but she remembered me as the one who likes dogs! On her deathbed she was telling me how photography is a noble and nice profession. It has many downsides, but on the end of the day she is happy to be a photographer! This Saturday I have a portrait sessions in this studio, next weekend I have a workshop in the Pelikan studio. Božena lives in photography on!
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Danes je pogreb Božene Pelikan, 95 letne, najmlajše hčere Josipa Pelikana. V čast mi je bilo poslušati njene nasvete kako se retušira steklene negative, kako se dela portretna fotografija, ampak ta spodobna portretna fotografija, in poslušati vse zgodbice prepojene s tem čarobnim steklenim studijom. Vesel sem, da sem jo obiskal par dni pred njeno smrtjo in kljub napredni demenci se me je spomnila, kot tistega, ki ima rad pse. Še na smrtni postelji mi je pripovedovala kako je fotografija lep poklic. Ima veliko slabih strani, a na konec koncev je srečna, da je bila fotografinja! V Studiju Pelikan, to soboto, zopet portretiram in naslednji vikend imam fotografsko delavnico. V fotografiji Božena živi naprej.

 

Written by Borut Peterlin

18 February, 2016 at 13:53

Eleven workshops in the next half a year

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Screenshot 2016-02-15 21.18.54Dear readers of my blog,
I love teaching and I particularly love teaching collodion photography in the nature, so I came up with this program. There are eleven workshops, but actually I have one more for kids and one more for college students. Please follow THIS LINK and pay particular attention to the Photography Jamboree at the last week of July. It’s open public event, free of charge, based on volunteerism. The purpose of Photography Jamboree is to raise awareness of environmentalism through photography and through direct experience. I sincerely hope that the event will grow into a festival, next year. But that said I can not do it alone, I can do my photography alone, but not the festival of photography. I will do all in my power to gather a group of volunteers and with their generous help make an event that will bring people out of this hectic mad world and experience the peace of eternal forests. Please spread the word.

How to teach children photography as it would be pure magic!

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As you probably know I have done many workshops in my life, I even started and running a festival of documentary photography Fotopub for eight years. Even now I still have a workshop at least one every month. This week I had a workshop in elementary school for 8 year olds as a volunteer. Because I had many workshops for kids of different ages and tried different approaches, so in this post I will share with you the most effective way to introduce children to photography.

For children up to age of ten my workshop has three sages. First to present photography as a kind of magic, but a real magic, not a cheap trick!  Secondly they have to do the magic by themselves and most importantly to bring something home to show their parents “the proof” they were actually making magic!

Simple? It is! There are many ways to do it, but let me show you how I’m doing it. Firstly I ask if somebody in this room has ever take any photograph? You always want to start with simple question, something that everybody thinks, oh, I can do this! The next one has to be a tricky one. Can you make your own telephone with a camera?

Then I explain that photography in its principle is very simple process, very much like cooking. And we all know that cooking is kind of magic, how else can our mothers transform carrot, that we all know it is inedible and horrible into such a delicious soup?

… and today we will do just that, we will do magic! I hand them “the magic paper”, which is basically plain silver-gelatin photo paper. They lay on it a leaf (they had a homework to bring a leaf) and press it with a piece of glass. Few minutes later they already notice that the paper is turning dark-blue colour. Of course I tell them not to touch it, we will look the lumen print on the very end! (Jill Enfield on Lumen Prints)

Then we go outside and everybody looks trough a view camera and notice that the image is flipped upside down and that although their colleagues all have right hand in the air, through camera it appears that they are waving with left arm!  How could that be?

I ask them if somebody has ever seen the inside of a mobile phone or digital camera and always there is one kid (always a boy) that has seen whole lot of wires, cables, chips and other electronic stuff.

Then I ask if they want to see the inside of my camera, the old view bellow camera? Do you want to know the secret why is the projected image on the focusing screen turned up-side down and left to right? And everybody is getting so excited, but then I cover the camera with a black cloth, take away the lens, take away the focusing screen, look under the black cloth and make a silly face, being surprised what have I found out, then I remove the cloth and reach with my hand trough the camera.

They do not understand how is this possible that small mobile phone has so much electronics, whereas my large-format camera has only empty space. I explain them that the magic force in action is called physics! And the other magic force that record the photograph is called chemistry and let me show you how it works. I pull out of my pocket a film holder, we make a group picture. In the classroom I put the film in developing tank and ask one student to pour developer and the other to wipe any leak drops and take care of the timer.

I repeat that the photography is in its essence a very simple process and I take a candy-box and explain that this is a camera. Everybody laughs, but it is real camera obscure. We go in a tent, that is my mobile darkroom, load a pice of ordinary silver-gelatin paper and expose it on the window. We develop an image and sky is black, whereas a tree is white! How can that be, I ask?

We look at “the magic paper” with tree leaf on them on their desks and notice that the paper became dark. Why did it became dark, I ask? They are struggling with the concept that it became dark because it was exposed to the light. Then I ask them if it became dark because the paper was exposed to dark? No, in the classroom, light was turned on all the time. They came to a conclusion that it was actually the light that made the paper go dark! Then I ask them to look out of the window and ask which is brighter the sky or the tree and of course in reality the sky is bright and the tree is dark, whereas in the photograph we made with the candy-box camera obscure is just the opposite. They know the answer why it is so. Now it’s time to learn the new word: A NEGATIVE!

Meanwhile we developed and fixed the film of our group photo. We anxiously open the developing tank and long and behold, the photograph is actually a negative one! I say in amazement, that this can not be their photograph, since there are only black people on the film! Of course they recognise themselves, but I ask them how come they have black faces on the film? One bright kid (usually girl) explains that we are looking the same thing as it was the tree image from the candy-box. Correct, what is the name for it? The negative!

We speed dry the negative with a hairdryer and then we make a contact copy in the darkroom. It is great because the first contact-copy photographs are either too bright or too dark, but then we adjust exposure and the last prints are perfect! Why were those prints too bright? How did we solve it later?

There is another test while exposing. I say I will time 20 seconds with my watch while they count twenty seconds quietly. When they will think the 20 seconds has passed, they say twenty loudly! Then some of them are saying twenty too soon, some are too late, some are actually exact, but the result is not important, it’s important that they have a challenge how long does 20 seconds take. And keep the focus:-)

After we develop the prints we are having a laugh how we look like. One photograph taken is a serious posture and the second one is a funny one.

At the end they go to their lumen prints that were exposing for an hour and a half and they see a beautiful photogram of a leaf. The photogram is still light sensitive, there is not enough time to fix and dry all of them, so they take the photogram home in their school-book, hidden away from daylight. At home they can show it to parents, but the photogram will eventually become totally dark. It is a magic paper nevertheless!

We finish the workshop with really hard questions for them. Like why is the paper sensitive to white light, but not to red light? I ask them if they can describe the spectrum of a rainbow, but in a correct order. On the end I say that red is at one side of the spectrum, blue and violet is on the other. I say one has more energy then the other, which one has greater energy red or blue colour? After few more suggestive questions we all come to conclusion that red light has less energy then white light, that is why the photo-sensitive paper, or our “magic paper” is not sensitive to red light. Then I ask them if they ever heard about infrared light? No, they have not. We can not see, smell, taste or hear infrared light, but we have a sense to feel it. How can we feel infrared light? (it’s heat of course) I finish with explaining that light is amazing energy and what we see is very very tiny part of the rainbow. I’m ending that there are infrared cameras that can see a person trough a wall! Just like Superman! I told you we will be talking about the real magic!

And this is how my one a half hour workshop for kids ends. That was on Wednesday.


 

In October and November I had 12 hour (six times 2 hours) long workshop for kids from 11 to 15 years. Our goal was to make 12 images for calendar that will be published in local newspaper Vrelec. I think this post is too long already, so let me just summarise how our workflow differed. First of all there was no analog photography, just digital photography with their cameras. I had one digital SLR with me, so the kid that had to photograph with a phone, suddenly had the best camera in the group. The first lesson was on observing. We walked down to the river  and observe a particular stone in the river from one side, the other side and observing how is the scene changing. Where is the sky, how does the background changes, how does perspective changes, etc. From one point of view sones were backed by branches, whereas from the other point of view we did see a perspective of a river stream in first plane, stones in the middle and sky in the back. Trees were on opposite banks, making nice framing.

About this workshop let me tell you that we learned a lot about postprocessing and Lightroom and Photoshop. Because we had only one computer, the others were bored, so I gave them a task to photograph a drop of milk. I will not explain you how have we done it, we did it very simple, that one person triggered the camera, the other person dropped the drop and with the other hand triggered a handheld speed light flash. But HERE are tons of videos on the subject.

Written by Borut Peterlin

13 February, 2016 at 13:03

Topshit Photo-Safari, January 2016

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Here is a video from last weeks photo-safari in deep forest of Kočevski rog, Slovenia. If you want to join check my schedule at my WORKSHOP site. Unfortunately all the informations aren’t available just yet, but they will be in few days. The reason why I haven’t found time to finish the site is that I have a guests from Singapore and London, so we are exploring new locations for new workshops. Please check the dates on THIS link  and see if some term is matching your schedule. As said in few days I will publish more information. Exciting information!

But I can tell you that in July we are preparing unprecedented program from the region of Kočevski rog. Visitors will enjoy the exhibitions, talks, tours down in caves or up with paragliders, hiking or bicycling tours, learn about honey, herbs, observe bears in wild and of course take photography workshops. I’m a part of initiative to gather activities that are here forever and unite them under one month lasting event! More to follow!

Written by Borut Peterlin

31 January, 2016 at 02:04

Barbed wired final frontier of EU

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Dear readers,
I’ve started a new project. I’m foremost documentary photography and ever since I got myself devoted to wet plate collodion process, I regretted the fact that I’ve parted with the spontaneity and playfulness of 35 mm photography. I desperately wanted to smooth my workflow, so the complexity of wet plate collodion process will not stand in my vision of documentary photographer, going around, taking pictures. That’s why I’ve made this invincible wet-plate mobile! If you are wet-plate practitioner you will appreciate a lot the content of this video, because wet-plate workflow has never been easier! Of course the dark-box is the key, as I’ve described in my LAST POST.

Now, finally, I can devote myself again to documentary photography I cherish so much. My theme is The Final Frontier of EU, more precisely the EU’s Schengen border. To prevent migration of refugees from Syria and immigrants from other places, Slovenian government decided to put barbed wire on our south border!

 

71WHId5NVOL._SL1500_Imagine that!?! I do not know what think and what will they solve with what? Imagine that thousands of refugees will flood across the river Kolpa to Slovenian soil and take a stand there! What will Slovenian government do then? I mean it’s not 1939, journalists are all around and on top of everything we should pretend to be civilised, so we set barbed wired fence. To stop what and who? Deers?

Most of my readers don’t know much of history of Slovenia and there is no reason why should you know, but in this context I will say few lines. Slovenia used to be part of Yugoslavia, governed by communistic regime that resist Stalin’s politic and therefore received a lot of

zica_tine

Deer that died in huge pain. Photo: Tine Lindič

sympathy from West and East. There was a very real threat that Soviet Union will invade Yugoslavia like they did to Czechoslovakia, Lithuania and others. Churchill delivered The Iron Curtain Speech in 1946 and its south-east border was actually Slovenia (that was part of Yugoslavia at the time). So what I’m trying to say is that in the past we experienced some really difficult times and inspire of being threatened with invasion, even when the Iron Curtain was being set on our borders with Italy and Austria, even in the dark times like this, our ancestors did not think of making our country like barbed wired concentration camp!

That said Slovenian nation, we deserve the finger up our asses, for being a faithful servants of our masters, support the imperialistic war in Iraq and dismantling Middle East, being quite at violation of human rights issues, buying particular arms and basically everything we supposed to do, to receive crumbs from the table. There is solely one good lesson to be learned from this refugee crisis. The whole Europe and the world has learned that whatever war happens wherever in the world, we will have in a month time refugees knocking at our door! USA is safe, they do not care, but people we have learned that you can not cross a border as a single person, but a flow of hundred thousands of refugees is unstoppable!

I say this in first person, because on the contrast to most of you, I do not exclude the scenario that I and my family might need to flea from a future war. I was 9 years old, I still remember very clearly, we had a lunch, I was being very picky and my grand father said, appreciate the food, because tomorrow it might be another war. I was laughing at him, thinking how silly he is, but not even ten years later we had a war!

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