Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

Posts Tagged ‘tips&tricks

Kaolin, the best friend of a wet plater and his wife

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This post will be more Tips&Tricks kind of content, but I’m already uploading new video, so although my audience are not only wet platers, please bear with me.

This tip is not the basics of wet plate collodion photography, it’s a tip that might save a month of your life and potentially a lot of money. It’s a technique that you do not need to use very often, but if you do need it, it’s your only friend, it’s an emergency exit. What do you usually  do when your silver bath is contaminated and it fogs like English morning? You sun it, right? If that doesn’t work, you add baking soda and leave it for a long time to settle down, I prefer not to wait that long and I rather add baking soda so the pH is about 5-6pH and then I boil it, so 2/3 of water evaporates. Then I add water, filter it and sun it again for a day or two. Then I have perfectly pure silver bath with which is a joy to work.

Last week I’ve done all of the above, but after filtering silver bath still looked muddy. Strange, strange, very strange, I thought. What do you do when you see something like that? I know what you’re thinking and you are WRONG, you do not publish it immediately on FB with a caption: What’s that?!? NO, that it’s not how you do it! You go back and investigate what went wrong.

I cleaned the pot to see if the coating of the pot chipped off somewhere and UAU, it was a massive corrosion and the metal part of the pot was in contact with my silver bath. Do you know what metal is a developing agent in a wet plate collodion developer? It’s iron, a sulphate of iron! So that means the silver bath reacted with the pot and it contaminated throughly!

In this case, all the sun in the world will not help to clear the silver bath, so you need to call special forces, you need a bad-ass called Kaolin! It’s a fine powdered clay, that is used for china making. It is known to bind on itself all sorts of stuff, but in our case, it will clear the silver bath.

So I’ve added few spoons of Kaolin and the cleansing started immediately. After a minute it was much much better. I left it sunning for a day, so all the clay sedimented down and clear silver was ready for more wet plate photography. The contamination of the silver-nitrate with iron took a fat toll, but at least I saved the remaining silver. If I wouldn’t had kaolin, I would have to dispose it.

Talking about disposing silver-bath. Mark Osterman told me, that when he started with the wet plate collodion process in 90’s it was a habit that photographers were using silver bath until it got contaminated and then they disposed it and mixed it fresh! He have learned from ancient books about sunning, baking soda, boiling, kaolin and all this witchcraft that we do today. I can imagine that us wet platers hurts the thought that we would need to mix new silver-baths every month or so, but there is one nice method how they’ve disposed the silver bath. They used it for painting of wooden fences and apparently it offers fantastic protection! I also read in Osterman’s Collodion Journal that silver nitrate was popular for dying hair. Imagine how permanently black hair were! My hair is getting kind of gray, I might spare some silver nitrate 🙂

Back to the topic. Kaolin can be used also to clean your silver bath during wintertimes, when there isn’t much available sun, I use it to cleanse my silver bath for albumen printing. The only way to get albumen out of your silver bath is, you guessed it correctly, Kaolin! I also used a table spoon of kaolin with some baking soda to help my digestion problems. Seriously, it really helps! This is pure classic medicine, it’s not alternative mambo jambo! But all the methods above are alternative usage of Kaolin. Today it’s mostly used in beauty saloons, for facial masks, since it also cleanses skin. So the bottom line is the same as the title:
Kaolin, the best friend of a wet plater and his wife!

PS: Last but not least, this blog is supported by crowd founding. Thank you for the support. My page is HERE.

Written by Borut Peterlin

19 November, 2015 at 17:58

Video about split toning with sulfide and selenium toner

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Ciao tutti,
As I’ve announced last week, I’m going to publish more videos about my workflow and list more prints on ebay. It takes so much work to do a video, make a print, edit the video and everything that comes along. It took me the whole week to do this video and that’s why I’m listing three prints. Perhaps the price will not reach as high as it would if I would sell only one print, but I am a professional collodion artist and I will try to make a living out of this! Plus my storage room has about half a ton of prints in boxes. I know, because I was moving it recently and it was too heavy for a car transport. I’m printing since age 11, so in 29 years you can imagine how many boxes piled up.

Anyway, here are new prints. I’ve explained everything on video. I want to add that this split toning technique I’ve learned from Mark Osterman and he is the best address if you want to dive into alternative photography. And oh, you must check this out, George Eastman House published their program of workshops for year 2015! I’m going to take at least two of them!

One last, but very important note. I’ve you’ve seen this video after the auction is finished and you would want to buy a print from me, check my EBAY SHOP or if you want to buy that exact print, copy number 5, you certainly can, just send me an email. As a professional collodion artist I have a motto:


Ebay listings:
Edition 2/12, a silver gelatin photograph, from a wet plate collodion

Edition 3/12, a silver gelatin photograph, from a wet plate collodion negative

Edition 4/12, a silver gelatin photograph, from a wet plate collodion negative
Ebay Shop / Borut Peterlin

How to locate a leaking problem in a view camera

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My camera had a leaking problem and I’ve successfully locate it and fixed my camera. Now it’s working perfectly again! I lost lots of time with fixing my camera, but the hardest is to locate the leaking problem. I hope this video saved some time for you and for your camera’s leaking problem.

Darkroom topshit tricks – split toning with sulphide and selenium toner

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I’ve done a video upon my experiment on split toning technique with sulphide and selenium toner. I’ve also record myself doing a selenium toning, but that part is recorded with such a bad English that I’ve decided to klip it out. When you have a split toned print with sulphide toner, you can either keep neutral gray of normal silver or you can dip it in selenium toner and get purplish tone in shadows. Again, with Foma Tone paper, selenium works as witnessed, with Ilford warmtone paper works in chocolate brown and with Efke Varycon paper goes into cold blue tone. It depends.

Concerning the purchase of the print, I’m selling this one in edition of 36 prints for 50 EUR each, so if you need a gift for someone, send me an email.

Katarina Avbar – creative portrait for Mladina weekly

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katarina avbar 20110207_3679

Katarina Avbar is a singer-songwriter and I made this portrait for Mladina weekly. Yesterday morning I got an assignment and in the afternoon we met and I decided that I’ll do a portrait right away. Today is a holiday in Slovenia and I was reluctant to go to Ljubljana again. We met in chambers of Slovenian Writers Association, since she is collaborating with them. So here we were without a good concept how to make a picture. I like the room, since it looks like a room from The Shining film at Timber Lodge Hotel. So first I took a picture as a sketch and I loved the symmetry of the room, just there were way too many elements. I wondered how can I get rid of everything and focus only on fabulous sculptures of Slovenian writers and on beautiful Katarina.

20110207_3647Screen shot 2011-02-08 at 6.27.19 PM

I’m publishing work in progress pictures. You can see the first picture with initial view of the room. I decided to flip the table, but composition was way too predictable and sculptures didn’t play a meaningful role in the picture. I took a picture then I tried to even more reduce the elements on the picture and focus on only four sculptures with Katarina behind. When she stepped behind the sculptures the doors were not seen and as you can see from the first picture I loved the doors and I wondered how can I keep them in the picture. I asked Katarina to stand on a chair and hold a guitar. The guitar didn’t had a strap so she just hold it by her legs. P.E.R.F.E.C.T. That vertical position of a guitar goes perfectly with a perspective. On the end all I needed is to light it accordingly with a composition, so I used two flashes Nikon SB 800 and SB900 triggered by SU-800. Flash above sculptures had a softbox, flash lying on the floor in front of Katarina was set on 35mm zoom, since I wanted to have shadows going along the perspective. You can also see how I was playing with the light above the sculptures figuring out what combination of shadows works best.

I’m really pleased with the result. I’m describing all this because many photographers are discouraged to start doing a photography since they don’t have a clear, detailed concept. Let me tell you a secret. Even God doesn’t have a concept, so stop worrying and just do the picture.

Flashing like Joe McNally

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Few weeks ago Joe McNally was in town and today I tried out few of his tips. I bought a small Firefly softbox for my flash SB900 and I quite fancy the diffusion of the light from 1,5 meters away from subject. I usually use a 70 x 50 cm softbox with Balcar 1500Ws flash and of course the bigger the better, but also heavier…

Then I tried out a real good tip from Joe McNally. I illuminated our dinning room with a flash from outside the house and trigger it with airsync radio triggers. COOOOOL! Can’t wait to use this technique on next interview for Mladina weekly!


To get a proper morning light yellow color cast I just set white balance to 6500K.

Written by Borut Peterlin

17 May, 2010 at 22:03