I hope everyone out there had a good Thanksgiving. Now that the holiday is over, let’s get back to the photography stuff.
Before the break, I’d tried out Rockland Colloid’s AG-Plus to take a shot at dry-plate tintype photography. When I had a complete lack of results, I emailed Rockland to find out what I’d done wrong. It turns out that, according to the emails I received in return, I was supposed to use their “special” developer to make the tintype come out. This is something that was not explicitly stated in their instructions and was not stated on their website. I still have a little of the AG-Plus left, so I’ll try it with some ferrous sulfate developer (used for wet plate) developer to see what happens.
Regardless, I’ve started looking for an alternative method for taking my tintype photography on the road. My current project is that of building a darkroom that can be quickly assembled in the back of my Jeep. Assuming that works, I can perform all of the wet-plate processes in that little darkroom, thus allowing me to take wet-plate tintypes away from my house’s darkroom.
So far, I’ve acquired five 42″ x 84″ blackout curtain panels, four of which I’ve sewn into a long tubular square. The fifth panel, I cut into a square to seal off one end. One of the good things about the blackout panels is that they are also made to insulate, a characteristic that will come in handy as the Colorado days get colder.
I did all of my sewing with my old White sewing machine that is on the last legs of it’s life journey. That is the same sewing machine that I once used to modify uniforms for deploying in the early part of the GWOT. The machine’s been very reliable, seeing a lot of hard times and earning me a lot of beers and booze from grateful Soldiers for whom I also modified uniforms.
After sewing the panels together, I found some shortcomings in the machine’s capabilities in trying to sew all the thick layers of the corners. So I now have a new, heavy-duty machine on order. Once it arrives, I’ll finish off the corners and sew on the straps that will suspend the rig from the Jeep’s roll bars.
One problem that I’m running into is that the blackout curtains don’t completely black out ALL of the light. A very little bit gets through, and that is still enough to spoil light-sensitive plates. So I need to come up with a plan for that. I may try putting a black bed sheet layer over the outside and see if that does the trick.
After I have the tent built, I’ll need to make a table that will fit in the tent while being big enough to fit two 8″ x 10″ developing trays. I have some MDF set aside to build it from.
Once the table is built, the last thing I’ll need is a carrier for the chemical solutions used for wet-plate process so the bottles and other containers can be safe while the Jeep in which they ride bounces around off road.
The final thing I’ll need is a light with which to illuminate the darkroom. Wet-plate collodion is blue-light sensitive, so red light is used for the illumination. For this, I have a headlamp with red LEDs that will serve the purpose nicely (I am an old Army guy, after all).
So there is the current status of the next phase of my tintype adventure. I’ll continue to update as the project progresses. And when the time comes to take it on the road, I’ll make sure that you’re kept well informed in the blog.