Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

Posts Tagged ‘Portrait Photography

Topshit photographer’s journal – July, 2015

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Dear topshit readers,
Here are some updates. I’ve just came back from family vacations and I don’t have a habit to post that my house is empty. Not that is anything to steal from it, but still.

What do you do for a living people are very frequently asking me. Hm… Not so easy to answer. Well, I do have two regular clients that all together make three to four monthly salaries per year but everything else is freelancing. I’ve been fortunate enough that I’m freelance photographer from 1998 and ever since I have burned only handful bridges, so people know me and I do not need to promote myself as a commercial photographer. The other Friday it was a crazy day. Three clients wanted to do the shoot in one day. Good, three flies in one stroke.

In the morning it was Janez Bršec, a poet. He wanted that I make a portrait of him for a cover of his book. I’ve done as he imagine it, but then I’ve made one more as I’ve understood it. He picked my version :-)

Next it was Corcoras quartet with and without actor Branko Jordan and then a solo portrait of Branko Jordan. At 3pm it was really hot, but we’ve met beside a river that offered some fresh breeze. I didn’t had any problems, aside some oyster stains on the edges, which I like in the first place.

The last shoot was in Ljubljana, that’s an hour drive from where I live. We started at 7pm and finished at 11 pm. Maja Smrekar is a contemporary artist dealing with futuristic visions of humanism. Or at least that’s my interpretation of her work. Nevertheless she explained me her new project. It’s a survival kit for 21st Century. It has many features, it could be a weapon, a tool, or protective gear. So my task was to illustrate her using the set. I was using Balcar studio flashes, a Profot Flash Feeder, some “nothing special” gadgets, excellent Nikon D4 and three lenses. Interesting thing is that the last picture was taken almost at midnight with full moon behind. I had to illustrate that the kit has also a feature to offer a shade, so I’ve used the moon as futuristic sun. I was asked if I could have a workshop on these kind of creative lightning, but with – pardon my French – digital photography. Of course we will, stay tuned.

Written by Borut Peterlin

14 July, 2015 at 00:17

Making portraits at Art Market in Ljubljana, Slovenia

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Last weekend was an Art Market in Ljubjana, Slovenia, and I’ve decided to give it a go. I set up my darkroom, lights, camera and brought few examples of my work. The Art Market was lasting four days and first two days I’ve made maybe four portraits, but then an avalanche of orders came in and I was working from 10.00 to 20.00 with a 15 min break for a snack. The plates were coming out great. Even my wife who can hardly be impressed by a collodion plate, was amazed how good it turned out.

My secret is the following. I’ve made my collodion wo days before the market, based on standard Osterman’s collodion (3gr CdBr, 4gr KI, 220 collodion, 140 alcohol, 140 ether) the only modification was that I replaced ether with the same amount of alcohol. I was working indoor so I couldn’t afford that the whole building would be smellin ether. I used 99% fine-grain alcohol. The collodion didn’t ripen yet, when I was start using it, but that’s OK if you don’t overdevelop. So my collodion was very young and super fast. I was getting great contrast, because contrast of the plate it does not relate to the age of collodion, but it relates to exposure & development time. If you overexpose and under develop you will get a soft low-contrasty image and vice versa. Because the young collodion I’ve mentioned is about 2 f/stops faster then the old one, photographers usually over-expose the collodion, cut the development, get low contrasty plates and claim that’s collodion fault. It is not. You can see the contrast I was getting with my two days old collodion.

I was using two flash lights, Balcar Source 6400Ws, but I’was using only one flash, that’s 3200Ws and my aperture was 6,7. Pretty cool numbers, right?

Last but not least, a big thanks to Grega Cokan and Anže Grabeljšek for their generous support!

The portrait session was exceptionally good accepted and I’m intending to repeat it on the last Saturday of the January, at the studio in downtown of Ljubljana, beside Ljubljanica river. More about that later. This experience gives me an idea. In August 2015 I’m invited for artist’s residency in Norway, Sunnhorland Museum, and I will travel by car to the north stopping on the way, giving workshops, demonstration and portrait sessions. Travelin photographer as they’ve done it 150 years ago!

PS: Here is a quick video from a couple of years ago, just you can see how I was working then.

And Now For Something Completely Different – Topshit Fashion in Wet Plate Collodion

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Alenka Slavinec, portrayed by Borut Peterlin in wet plate collodion technique.

Alenka Slavinec is my friend and colleague photographer, but she is also film producer. Lately she is fully engaged as an editor of Fashion Avenue Kuwait magazine. She is globe trotting all the time, but a week ago she called me and expressed that she would like to have a portrait in wet plate collodion, so she came to my house and on Sunday. All three portraits are ambrotypes format 8×10″. On the first plate I realized that although it was a bright day, green leaves were filtering all blue and UV light (that’s their job), so exposure was taking too long. Luckily in my past life I was an incarnation of a digital photographer and all expensive equipment is still in Da Houze, so I pulled out my Elektrona’s Flash Feeder and two studio flashes of joined power 2250Ws.

The second plate was perfect. Really perfect. Black dress is defined against black background and if you do ambrotype or tintype process, you know how contrasty this medium is. It has a dynamic range of a cat after a massive meal. Then we made another one and we went for a lunch at Kolesar restaurant. It was really cool Sunday.

Side note: I know how to do fashion photography, I’ve been assisting Oliviero Toscani (UC of Benetton) among other things, but the truth is I don’t have a talent for fashion – that’s fashion as how to dress and mostly (!) care how you are dressed, as is evident on behind the scene pics. Perhaps I’m making a mistake. Am I?

An article in DELO magazin on reviving Studio Pelikan

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In yesterday’s issue of Delo, the most important Slovenian daily newspaper, a huge article was published about the project of reviving skylight Studio Pelikan. It was a joy to see again Jure Eržen, a colleague photojournalist and of course he made fantastic pics of me working. He is one of the best if not the best Slovenian photojournalist. Saša Bojc made a lovely article and by luck also Božena Pelikan joined us. She is 91 years old youngest daughter of Josip Pelikan and you can imagine her contribution to the article was very interesting indeed.

On this blog I’m publishing the negative I’ve done that day. It’s digitally inverted wet plate collodion negative, format 10×12″, that’s 25x30cm. I had big problems with dust, but I’ll retouch the negative before I’ll make a carbon print out of it. I’m learning how to retouch a wetplate collodion negative and with the help of Mark Osterman, I’m on a good path. More about that later. For now, just a quick note, if you missed the article.

If you are in Vermont, USA, you can see one of my salt prints that was chosen for the exhibition of handmade photographs. It’s exhibited in Vermont Center for Photography. These images are done by Terri Cappucci. THANK YOU!!

Headrest for sale

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Dear readers,
more then a year ago, I’ve ordered a headrest from a master blacksmith, Miha Krištof and he made an astonishing product. In the post from December 2012, I even published links of the bleuprints that I gave to the blacksmith with intention that everybody can take this blue print to a local craftsman and order a headrest. I was receiving several requests if I can order one more headrest, but the blacksmith was clear that if I want to make a new order, I need to order four at the same time. It happened that few months ago I did received three orders at about the same time and I did order four more headrests. So for now, I’m selling one headrest and gathering orders for more headrests. After I submit the order, it takes about a month time that blacksmith finishes his masterpiece. So the price for the headrest is 500 EUR, free shipping. If you’re interested to become a keeper of one of this sturdy headrest for a century or so, please send me a private mail on

I’m also coming to European Collodion Weekend so I can bring you one. Or two. Month of May is not that far and remember that it takes a month to make it.

From my exhibition in Pula, Croatia, with love ;-)

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The video and about the show photographs done by Markele Zid

Last few weeks too much stuff happened. But let me share them on my blog chronologically. On 13th of February I’ve opened a solo show in Slovenian Association Club in Pula, Croatia and it will be open for a month time. On the show I’m exhibiting 39 pieces of my series Family Album. With resources that I had, I was using different kinds of frames, so I conceived the show in a dynamic manner. Different walls, different frames, different emotions,…

A selfportrait with my daughters. Done in wet plate collodion negative, format 8x10". Assistant Markele Zid

A selfportrait with my daughters. Done in wet plate collodion negative, format 8×10″. Assistant Markele Zid

Yesterday I’ve made a great self-portrait with my daughters. Do you know the story of Janus? Wiki: In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus (Latin: Ianus, pronounced [ˈiaː.nus]) is the god of beginnings and transitions,[1] thence also of gates, doors, passages, endings and time.

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!


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