Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

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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!



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.


  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)

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.

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!!!

I think Janez Puhar would like those portraits

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I bet majority of my readers has never heard about Janez Puhar and his invention of photography on glass. He lived in first half of 19th Century in Austria-Hungary empire, in the region that is now known as Slovenia. He was fellow Slovenian. He was a priest by his profession and obviously a genius.

Apparently he spoke dozen languages and his letters in six different languages are preserved. He received an acknowledgement for his excellent knowledge of Hebrew. Obviously he spoke also French since it’s written that in 1840 he already made his first daguerreotype. Because he could not afford materials for daguerreotype, he soon started to innovate his own photography process. First records are that in 1841 he already had some successful experiments of photography on glass.

His story is very well presented at the dedicated site Just let me highlight three facts about his career. His problem was that he was not a scientist and his job a priest made him move several times. His invention was introduced to the world too late. In 1851, about ten years after he invented the photography on glass the The Academy of Sciences in Vienna publishes his report on the invention and in the same year his photographs on glass were exhibited at the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London. He was presented as “Pucher Johann, Veldes, Upper Carniola, Inventor”. It was accompanied by an explanation that he was displaying photography on glass created with a new method. He was awarded the bronze medal. Year later in 1852 he received an invitation to send his photographs for World’s Fair in New York in 1853. he send several. In year 1852 Puhar received the title of honorary member, and a diploma from the French “Académie nationale agricole, manufacturiere et commerciale”, recognising him, although somewhat late, as the “Inventeur de la photographie sur verre” (the inventor of photography on glass).

So the world heard about Puhar at the time when Fredrick Scott Archer already invented wet plate collodion process that was widely accepted by photographers throughout the world, because of that nobody repeated the process aside Puhar and the invention was forgotten.

Bellow are some images from the exhibition about Puhar with exhibited originals. Few weeks ago there was a symposium about the work of Puhar. I was there with my collodion gear and I made few portraits on glass.

I think Janez Puhar would like them.

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Written by Borut Peterlin

8 September, 2015 at 23:19

Two book covers by your favourite topshit photographer

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Here are two book covers I’ve done last month. OK, the philosopher Slavoj Žižek I photographed in 2008 (the blog post), but Danish publisher Samfunds Letteratur recently bought my portrait of Slavoj for the cover of Den nyttige idiot book.

Založba Goga hired me to make a cover of the newest book of rewarded writer Tadej Golob. I had completely open hands. The story is about a recreational boxer that is beaten by life, but he refuse and does not fall. It’s not a book about a champion, it’s a book about a fighter who fights in a ring called everyday life.

My concept for the cover was it has to look raw. Not brutal, but raw. Very raw. I do Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) and I have two pairs of boxing gloves, but mine are modern King boxing gloves, so it took me a while to find one that fited my idea. Of course I’ve done the cover in wet plate collodion technique with an old petzval lens on 4×5″ format to achieve the beautiful rawness.

With the same concept I’ve made the portrait of a writer Tadej Golob.

A cover page of a book Ali boma ye by a writer Tadej Golob, published by Založba Goga

A cover page of a book Ali boma ye by a writer Tadej Golob, published by Založba Goga


A cover of a book of a philosopher Slavoj Žižek by publishing house Samfunds Letteratur

A cover of a book of a philosopher Slavoj Žižek by publishing house Samfunds Letteratur

The Great Depression, a wet plate collodion documentary project by Borut Peterlin

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I’m inviting you to the opening of my exhibition The Great Depression. The opening will happen on 4th of October 2013 in Gallery Photon in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

With the project I’m trying to document the state of bankrupt companies with emphasis on the things that workers left behind. I’m known as a portrait photographer and although this time there are no people on my images, the human presence is very evident. I hope you will enjoy the video and hope to see you at the opening!

Dearest readers, one more thing. This is the 1000th blog post on my blog! I’ve been blogging since September 2006 and here we are at the 1000th post! A lot of things changed in this time and I’m happy I was blogging about it. I was thinking hard how to mark this anniversary. Due to the occasion, let’s call this week an artist to artist week. If you send me something that you’ve done I’ll send you back something that I’ve done. It’ll probably be a gelatin print, but who knows… If you make a good marmalade, I’ll exchange a print for a jar of marmalade. Or for whatever, just please keep in mind that the offer stands only for a week, so if you are really up for “Creation 4 Creation” deal, please send me before 7th of October 2013 on the address Cviblje 40, 8350 Dolenjske Toplice, Slovenia, EU. And don’t forget to write your address 😉

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.

My last creative portrait for Mladina weekly

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Zora Stančič, an artist

Zora Stančič, an artist

Today is an important day in my career. After almost eight years I finished my regular collaboration with Mladina weekly. I mean I will still be doing a cover here and there and some special issue, but the collaboration on weekly basis has ended. The main reason is that my work for Mladina involves travel expenses from my home to Ljubljana and back and when I started the job as photoeditor in year 2006, fuel was half the price. I resigned the desk job in 2011 (if I remember correctly. Maybe was 2010?) to work and earn my living as an active photographer. At the time I was desperate to recalibrate my career to go back to photography. I mean have I study photography in Prague, Italy, UK and payed for it a fortune, just to sit behind computer and edit images that I knew I could have done better? It was fun to ride the camera, but the travel expenses grew whereas photojournalistic salary is much lower then editor’s, so at the peak of recession I’ve realized it’s just not worth the money anymore.

That’s one out of the three reasons.

Second one is that I got in love with photography again, processes that were practiced in 19th Century, Wet Plate Collodion and Salt printing process to highlight just two. Intimately I feel this is the path that I need to take, but with day job in Ljubljana I just couldn’t find enough time to pursue the path.

Third reason was fear. I feared that I will finish my career at Mladina in some car accident. In 7,5 years on the road I avoided many accidents and witnessed many many more. Although I’m safe driver in about 18 years as a driver I had only one accident and even that wasn’t my fault! But still I was afraid this was destined to me. Now I finished the job and I’m so happy that I was wrong about that.

What’s next? The bad news is that I’ve jumped out of the plane without a parachute. I have no safe employee in my sight, that’s for sure. The good news is that I think I know how to fly. Well at least I should know! If who, then I should be the one to know how to earn a living from photography! I have many business ideas! One is about to be tested in 6h 26m 27s (Jun 27, 2013 15:25:38 PDT)! On ebay I’m auctioning a print. When I put this print on auction I didn’t know that week later I will finish this chapter of my life and it’s very symbolic that it’s ending today!

And now to the image above. Zora Stančič is very successful Slovenian artist recognized widely and she’s expressing herself mostly trough graphic arts. When I look back to my first creative portrait in Mladina weekly, that was Melita Zajc in year 2006, I look back with a content on the path I’ve taken and the work I’ve done.

Tomorrow’s a new day! I so much look forward!

I’m alive and kicking!

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My dear readers,
I wasn’t blogging last month since an avalanche of obligations was collapsing on me from all sides. So chronological order:
19. April 2013, Group exhibition Materialnost in Kibla Portal, Maribor, Slovenia. I was presented there with one huge print that works really good! Exhibition is open until 15th of September 2013.

Group exhibition Materialnost in Kibla Portal, Maribor, Slovenia

My piece on group exhibition Materialnost in Kibla Portal, Maribor, Slovenia

Then Mladina magazine issued a special issue and I had to make 24 portraits of renown Slovenian opinion leaders. I was tempted to do it in wet plate collodion technique or at least on film, but under the time constraints I decided to go for digital and furthermore to find a visual concept that would be feasible in any location and would produce the same kind of portraits. I wanted to make studio portraits although I knew I will not have a studio. But since I graduated at FAMU, Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts and that also means I’ve earned a PhD in improvisation, so I resorted to improvisation. I’ve made a set up that I could apply anywhere and I could transport it on a bicycle. I wanted to get uniform kind of portraits either it would be taken in offices or outdoor location. I’m attaching the most wild behind the scene location 🙂 The issue looks fantastic and I received compliments by editors, because they are aware how much I needed to bend my back backwards to pull this out. Technically I was using Nikon D3, Nikkor 105mm macro lens, one Nikon Speedlight 900, a firefly softbox and two reflectors.

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Behind the scene on location shooting.

Behind the scene on location shooting.

Chronologically looking then I had solo exhibition opening in Krka Gallery. I’ve blog about that already. LINK. By the way, today is the last day that you can see the show.

Myself and Misa Keskenovic, doing chameleon thing, blending with the landscape.

Myself and Misa Keskenovic, doing chameleon thing, blending with the landscape.

Group photo of participants at European Collodion Weekend by Alex Timmermans

Group photo of participants at European Collodion Weekend by Alex Timmermans

Then we went to European Collodion weekend in Eindhoven, Nederland. The event was great, organized by Alex Timmermans. The concept was that we gather and make some plates together and hang around. We were about 37 artists from countries like UK, France, Belgium, Germany. Even Gerald Figal, President of Collodion Bastard association came from USA, although if you ask him, he will claim that he arrived from Tenesse. Also East side of Iron curtain was well represented by artists from Bulgaria, Slovakia, Czech, Poland and of course Slovenia. I’m sure I missed some country, but you get the idea, pretty good group of creatives.

I learned a lot of small, but super important things. Like Kal Khogali showed me how is he redeveloping wet plate collodion negative and his method is much better then mine. Furthermore he used his gold toner to tone the salt print and I loved the effect. I would never buy a toner that cost 70 EUR if I would not see the effect that it makes. I showed him my little tricks, that I’ve mentioned on my blog already. Oh, the best thing that I’ve learned from Kal is how to seal a tent Eskimo Quickfish 3 to be 100% light proof. I will make a video about that. It’s simple and super efficient!

At European Collodion Weekend I tried to organize a Harlem Shake video, but people were not up for it, so I’ve made this video 🙂

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On Saturday it was really hot. In our darkroom tents it must have been like 30C. Because of the temperature there was a plague of fog. Plates were fogging like it’s English morning. There was a polemic what is going wrong. I solved the issue to cut down time in sensibilisation AgNO3 bath from 3 min to 2:15 min and I had no problem with fog. It was harsh sun light and people were blaming too much UV, but I’ve made this plate in direct sun, just to prove it’s temperature and excessive silver on the plate that ‘s causing the fog. There was a polemic about it on FB, but that ended by the comment of Mark Osterman: “Yes, the sensitizing is by inspection, not by time. So in heat it happens much faster… Otherwise you can get fog in hot weather”.
I went to Holland with Grega Cokan and we drove about 2500km (both ways). When I got home I got a commission from Mladina and had to go next day to Vienna (444km x2) and a week later I drove to Poland 980km and few days later to Novi Sad, Serbia 800km and then home 600km. I had another exhibition in Poland and another in Serbia, but more about that in the following post. Before going to Poland I had to finish photoediting for Global monthly magazine and also preparing everything for exhibitions. And in that week I got also two commercial jobs to be executed that week and since I was not only exhausted physically, but also financially, I had to do that as well. I’ve made great stuff though, I’ll publish it later.
Last month and a half was the most intense time in my career and I wasn’t sure if I will pull everything off. Actually I was just trying to keep my nose above water and not be suffocated by the avalanche of everything. To make things worse I didn’t had time for sport (running doesn’t count) because of all obligations that I had, but yesterday I’ve played in-line hockey for two hours. I’m not yet friend with hockey stick and puck doesn’t like me very much, but nevertheless I feel like million EUR! Full of oxygen. And I’ve done it! I pull everything off with a success! There is nothing better then a victory in a month long battle! More about it already tomorrow.

PS: The making of a group photo:

A giant leap in my Wet Plate Collodion process / negative and ambrotype

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I’m still working hard on Wet Plate Collodion process, but negative on glass, not positive – an ambrotype. Two days ago I gave myself a challenging task. To do a nice wetplate negative in challenging conditions. I set up my darkroom tent in a park near my house, choose one motif, two view cameras and devote eight hours to make a good ambrotype and a good negative. It’s still winter in this corner of the world (Slovenia,EU), so I mixed my chemicals for -1⁰C temperature, but in my tent there was + 5C, so developing was quite demanding. Nevertheless it was a good day. Very good!

Print for sale. Size 30x40cm, FomaBrom baryt paper, toned with sodium sulfide and sellenium toners. Bidding auction on ebay. [/caption] Today I’ve printed the wet plate negative, format 5×7″, on a classic gelatine photographic paper. I was doing tests what combination of paper, exposure and toning works best. I decided to go for split toning with sodium sulfide for highlights and selenium toner for shadows. The toning increases stability of silver, so it will remain like this for at least a century. This print was done on FomaBrom fiber based paper, size 30x40cm (12×16″). All process were done by museum archival standards. I’m selling this print on ebay – LINK. Still learning how this ebay works, so I’m opening a bidding auction. This goes for the first print in edition of 12. Rock and Roll!

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Head Rest for Wet Plate Collodion portraits

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Finally I have a good and solid headrest for my wetplate portraits. I was looking for a headrest and in USA they costs about 600 USD + shipping + customs. I tried to use a microphone stand and that’s useless since it’s not solid enough. Some time ago I was doing a portrait of a traditional blacksmith Miha Krištof from Maribor, Slovenia and I knew he was able to make a good headrest. It’s really good, solid and it looks slick! I payed 300 EUR, which is not cheap, but when I saw the result I was very happy. It’s an excellent investment! I’ve made this videolog to show it to you. If you want to order it as well, I can give you a contact, his wife speaks perfectly German and his apprentice speaks English as well. On the click HERE you can download patents for Head Rest from 19th Century that were gathered by Miša Keskenović. With this plans and pictures of my head rest you can find a local craftsman and order it locally.

Miha Krištof, blacksmith

Miha Krištof, blacksmith

head rest for wetplate portraits made by Miha Krištof

head rest for wetplate portraits made by Miha Krištof

Zebra Dots, music band photoshoot

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Few weeks ago I’ve made this shoot of a band Zebra Dots. They are fresh electro acoustic sound from Ljubljana. After I’ve done digital pics, I’ve shoot few more images with my new old Mamiya C330. Asistant was Luka Gorjup. THX!

2012-10-10 borut peterlin and mamiya c330 luka gorjup

Written by Borut Peterlin

25 October, 2012 at 11:35