IGGYBUG: Blog https://www.iggybug.com/blog en-us (C) IGGYBUG (IGGYBUG) Thu, 16 May 2024 00:28:00 GMT Thu, 16 May 2024 00:28:00 GMT https://www.iggybug.com/img/s/v-12/u50223334-o9708470-50.jpg IGGYBUG: Blog https://www.iggybug.com/blog 90 120 Muse Collaboration: Suicide Girls Style 1970s Shoot with Mrs. Wilders https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/5/muse-collaboration-suicide-girls-style-shoot-with-mrs-wilders DSCF3499DSCF3499

I was privileged to collaborate with one of my favorite models, Mrs. Wilders, on a Suicide Girls-style shoot. I've been a fan of Suicide Girls since ~2005, and it has been a longstanding goal to get published on there. While we've decided not to submit this set to Suicide Girls, I'm really proud of how it turned out. The photography part of this photoshoot was the least challenging thing about it -- Mrs. Wilders and I put a lot of work into her costumes, and it was a big cash investment to rent an awesome 70s set. I was particularly proud of finding the *perfect* avocado & orange minidress for Mrs. Wilders to wear, along with a new old stock pair of 70s glasses frames.


I've written about this previously, but it's so good to have found a few local models who are real creative collaborators. I still love booking the occasional traveling model who passes through my area, but it's a lot more work to come up with a shoot theme, find a location, procure some good outfits, etc. than it is to do the "naked lady standing somewhere and turning in a circle" thing.


We ended up shooting three photosets with three different outfits during the two hours we had rented the studio for. Mrs. Wilders has posted the first set on her Patreon, and will be posting the other two sets there in the future. If you'd like to see these full sets, please visit Mrs. Wilders' Patreon page and become a subscriber! I subscribe myself, and it's a lot of fun to see other photographers' work with a model I love.


I may be revisiting the 70s set with another model in June or July -- the outfits are so good it'd be a shame not to use them again. In that event, I *will* be trying to submit them to Suicide Girls!

DSCF5288DSCF5288 I spent a lot of time trying to get the perfect look with these photos. If anyone is curious, I got this warm/soft/grainy/vivid look by using Fuji's Velvia film emulation mode on my X-T5, changing the white balance to give it a warm vintage feel, and adding grain to make the shots look like they were taken using daylight negative film with indoor tungsten lighting. All things being equal, I'd still prefer to shoot film exclusively. All things are NOT equal, however, and I have no regrets using digital exclusively on this shoot.

(IGGYBUG) 1970s digital model photoshoot set studio Suicide Girls https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/5/muse-collaboration-suicide-girls-style-shoot-with-mrs-wilders Thu, 16 May 2024 00:22:37 GMT
Muse Collaboration: Suicide Girls Style Shoot with Alice Crowe https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/4/suicide-girls-style-shoot-with-alice-crowe DSCF1933DSCF1933

Alice Crowe, my favorite model, and I decided to try a "Suicide Girls" style shoot. Suicide Girls pretty much invented the "alt-model" genre, and it has been a goal of mine to get a set published there. (Foreshadowing: There's more on this to come in the future.)

Suicide Girls has a pretty distinctive look: Soft even lighting, razor-thin depth of field, and a progression of shots that has a theme of some sort.


I rented a neat location through Peerspace.com for the shoot based on some really amazing photographs of the location's interior. Unfortunately, I realized as soon as I got there that there were several neat shooting spots, but each of them had a different type of lighting. The best lighting in the location was in the stairwell: it was north-facing light into a dark interior, which leant itself to chiaroscuro. The best looking furniture, etc. was lit by a mixture of natural light and dim tungsten bulbs. Ah so.


I classify this as a Good Problem to have: I had two distinct looks with gorgeous lighting, but no way to put them together for a unified-theme set of 30 or 40 photos. So, they weren't suitable for a Suicide Girls set. So it goes. They are, however, wonderful photographs on their own. I just need to present them as two separate sets so that the lighting differences aren't so obvious.


In any event, I've been so frustrated lately with wet plate (blog entry forthcoming) that it was really fun to just "Push the Easy Button" and use my digital rig: A Fujifilm X-T5 with Fujinon 50mm f/1.0 and 35mm f/2.0 lenses. This is a great setup for my photography, although I am really starting to lust after the Fujinon 18-55mm f/2.8 zoom. I spend a lot of my time scooting around on my knees and butt, fighting with my tripod, and tripping over furniture on shoots. Having a zoom lens would make life a lot easier ... but it'd be hard to go from f/1.0 and f/2.0 to f/2.8, especially on my X-T5's crop sensor.


I've always wanted to have a Muse: A real creative partner who would bring her own inspiration and ideas to our collaborations. 

I've shot Alice Crowe three times now. I'm having so much fun collaborating with her -- together we're working on a shoot concept that I'm really excited about. She's a really cool person with great taste in music, too. This is all to say that I'm having more fun with my art now than I have in years. I've found my Muse, and I'm delighted.

Don't get me wrong: I'm still stoked to have good relationships with Morgan Wilders and Lorna Lynne, and I'm still planning on booking other freelance traveling models as they pass through the Sacramento area. But there's something pretty special about having a trust relationship with a Muse!

(This is an example of an image that was only possible to make because of trust between photographer and model.)


(IGGYBUG) digital model muse photoshoot https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/4/suicide-girls-style-shoot-with-alice-crowe Sat, 27 Apr 2024 16:23:48 GMT
Cyanotype Experimentation https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/4/cyanotype-experimentation img20240409_13045268Towers of Ivory. House of Gold.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to take a dedicated Alternative and Historic Photography class from the world-class Cosumnes River College photography department. I had always been fascinated by alternative photographic processes -- there was something exotic and exciting about all of the chemistry and process names I just loved. While I experimented with several different processes, I really fell in love with cyanotype.

IMG_0268Digital Negative on Paper Coated with Cyanotype
Here's the beginning of the print: a digital negative on top of paper coated with cyanotype prior to exposure.

IMG_0268Digital Negative on Paper Coated with Cyanotype
Here's the exposed cyanotype prior to development in water. I think this stage always looks cool.
IMG_0268Digital Negative on Paper Coated with Cyanotype
Here's the finished print with added gold leaf.

Cyanotypes are, in my opinion, underrated: They're gorgeous in blue but flexible enough to tone, relatively non-toxic, inexpensive, and fast. Especially after banging my head against wet plate, it's a relief to be able to produce prints using a process that Just Works.

Here's a cyanotype print split-toned with tea (earl grey, hot) and gilt with 24k gold leaf.

I had been curious about using gold leaf to accentuate prints for some time -- I was actually planning on teaching myself the "platinum/palladium on vellum with gold leaf" process. I actually bought all of the chemistry and supplies back in 2019 right before I went into the creative coma from which I've only recently emerged.

Applying gold leaf feels sort of like magic. It's fun to work with real metallic gold hammered thin. The process for applying gold leaf to a print sounds relatively straightforward, but it's definitely one of those "harder than it looks" skills.

IMG_0243St. Cricket

In a nutshell, one:

  1. Applies a gold leaf size to the print where one wants the gold to stick.
  2. Waits for the gold leaf size to dry.
  3. Gently applies the gold leaf using a brush.
  4. Gently brushes off all of the extra gold leaf that didn't adhere to the glue.


Here are my tips for gilding a print -- maybe they'll help someone.

  1. I use "Aqua Size water-base Gold Size" from L.A. Gold Leaf Wholesaler in Azusa, California. I apply it in a single coat using a size 000 miniature paint brush. A second coat of the size is usually not required, and it can actually detract from the image if it makes one's gold lines too thick.
  2. Wait for the gold leaf size to dry. Seriously, it takes longer than it looks like it should to get to the correct level of tackiness. The size instructions state that "Proper tack will develop in 25 minutes at normal humidity and hold this tack for 24 to 26 hours." I'm not that patient, so I've found that 10-seconds with a heat gun gets the size to the correct level of tackiness quickly.
  3. Gently apply the gold leaf using a brush. The key here is being gentle enough. I first tried rubbing the back of the gold leaf paper firmly with my finger, but all that will do is mash the gold into sticking to the subtle texture of the unsized paper. I use a large soft drybrush (like a makeup application brush) to apply the gold leaf. I do it firmly enough to ensure that the leaf has been pressed into the tacky size, but not so firmly that gold adheres to incorrect locations. This is definitely something that takes practice.
  4. Brush off all of the extra gold leaf that didn't adhere to the size. Here, I'm less gentle. I'll actually "scrub" the extra gold leaf off of the print. This makes an unholy mess, but the end result is worth it. This video shows the process: Removing Excess Gold LeafVideo depicting the removal of excess gold leaf from a print.
  5. I've been having so much fun printing cyanotypes that I've reorganized my portfolio to feature them more prominently. I'm still enjoying the wet plate process, and I still dig shooting psychedelic 35mm film, but I feel like my gilded cyanotypes are the "Best" creative work that I've been producing lately.
(IGGYBUG) cyanotype gold leaf technique https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/4/cyanotype-experimentation Wed, 17 Apr 2024 21:47:28 GMT
Alice Crowe: Kolor & Monochrome https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/4/alice-crowe-kolor-monochrome actrichromeAlice Crowe Trichromie No. 2

While I've been really enjoying learning wet plate collodion, I haven't stopped shooting 35mm and digital. I don't plan on stopping any time soon. For 35mm, I still adore using my ancient Minolta SRT-101 body and Minolta Rokkor 58mm f/1.4 lens. I've owned the slightly faster 58mm f/1.2 before, and I don't think that its extra weight, price, and speed justify its significantly higher price. I also find it hard enough to focus at f/1.4 -- shooting at f/1.2 was frustrating as hell.

For nudes and portraiture, my longstanding preference was film over digital. It still is, but I've been shooting more digital lately. This would have been Big News in 2012, but I can confirm that Fuji's film simulations are pretty solid. I can't make myself shoot JPEG exclusively, but I have found that my X-T5's in-camera rendering in the Astia and Neopan Acros modes is at least as good as my manual RAW processing. Specifically, I've actually been blown away by my camera's "Neopan Acros + Green Filter" film emulation mode. It's fucking incredible. It's so good that I don't see myself shooting black and white 35mm again. I'm less impressed by the camera's Astia mode, but it's still at least as good as my "vanilla" color RAW processing. I just don't like shooting "vanilla" color as much as I do shooting either black and white or the psychedelically wonderful Revolog Kolor film. I've programmed in a "JPEG recipe" for Kodak Portra 400 that I'm looking forward to trying in good light.

Here are my favorite shots, and some notes, from my recent second photoshoot with Alice Crowe. 

img20240331_08210142Alice Crowe Revolog Kolor 1
File this under serendipity. I missed focus on her eyes, but the soft effect gives the image a dreamlike quality I like.

img20240331_13180936Alice Crowe Kolor No. 2
Sometimes the Kolor film is wild, and is exactly what I'm looking for.

DSCF0181DSCF0181 This isn't film, but it's at least as good as real 35mm monochrome film. And my Fuji X-T5's eye detection autofocus makes this a hell of a lot easier to shoot with a 50mm f/1.0 lens!

(IGGYBUG) analog digital photoshoot https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/4/alice-crowe-kolor-monochrome Wed, 03 Apr 2024 19:46:31 GMT
Wyeth & Testorf, Sontag & Burroughs, and the Three Biases https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/4/thoughts-on-art-nude-photography loverslovers

Andrew Wyeth & Helga Testorf

When I was ten years old, my mother purchased a book of The Helga Pictures. She admonished me not to read it, because it was "dirty." So, of course, I read it as quickly as I could. The Helga Pictures are a series of "268 paintings and drawings of German model Helga Testorf created by American artist Andrew Wyeth between 1971 and 1985." What is so fascinating about these pictures is that Andrew Wyeth kept them a complete secret from everyone, including his wife, until he was ready to release them into the world. They're clearly intimate studies of Helga Testorf's form -- more than just her body, they show her soul. Many assumed (and probably still assume) that Testorf and Wyeth were lovers, but both deny this. In a short film about her experience, Testorf states: "There are many ways of making love, you know." This statement nails it for me; Wyeth's nudes of Testorf transcend objectification, but instead study/celebrate/love/symbolize her in a manner that was secret, furtive, erotically charged, but not physically consummated. I believe that Wyeth and Testorf were not sexual partners, but that they loved each other as muse and artist, goddess and supplicant.

Susan Sontag & William S. Burroughs

"To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as a camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a subliminal murder - a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time." ― Susan Sontag, On Photography

"There is in fact something obscene and sinister about photography, a desire to imprison, to incorporate, a sexual intensity of pursuit." ― William S. Burroughs

These quotations are tough ones. I see truth in them, but not the complete picture. Sontag's statement that photography "turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed" juxtaposes well with Burroughs's "desire to imprison, to incorporate". What makes these quotations difficult for me is that there's a negative intent, or a negative effect, assumed in both Sontag's and Burroughs's statements. Put differently, Sontag's symbolic possession and Burroughs's incorporation are both violent acts -- an objectification that belittles and renders the photographer's subject a victim. So, what's the difference between the negative objectification of Sontag and Burroughs, and the positive glorification of Wyeth?*

In Wyeth's nude portraits of Testorf, I see a celebration of her. I agree with Sontag that Wyeth saw Testorf "as they never see themselves," but that this didn't result in Testorf's "symbolic possession." It's my opinion that Wyeth's objectification of Testorf instead resulted in a symbolic apotheosis -- a glorification of Testorf as a female figure, a muse transcending her body into a timeless symbol yet rooted in a furtive, erotic-but-innocent, intimate, and very real exploration of Testorf's form over years. Objectification through art is not inherently diminishing. Objectification through art can be celebratory. It can elevate the subject into a powerful symbol, though perhaps not as easily as it can degrade the subject into a specimen.

Conclusion & The Three Biases

In a recent conversation, my mentor wrote something that more concisely addresses some of the ideas I've explored above. I'll apologize to her in advance for quoting a phone text conversation, but she wrote:

"One thing that students have a hard time wrapping their brains around is that anything photographed is a symbol. It’s the context that makes all the difference. It can change the symbolism from good to bad, from comfortable to uncomfortable. It’s all about context. There are also three biases in photography. The first bias being the type of equipment you use. Everyone can choose any type of equipment, but it does have an effect on how you create images and what they end up looking like. The second bias is your eye. Everyone sees things differently, and if given all the same equipment, 30 people will photograph the same object in 30 different ways because of their own experiences. The photographers eye is made up of their own experiences in life, and how they have perceived and experienced the world. It’s kind of like an eye made up of history. The third bias is one that the photographer cannot control and that is the viewer. You can create most incredible image, but if your viewer is not ready to view the image, or does not have the background or interest to engage in the image, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s not that it doesn’t mean anything to everybody, it’s just that it doesn’t connect or anything to that viewer. So I told my students, they have two things they control, and one thing they can’t."

For my own art, my first bias is in my equipment and processes. I prefer a more abstract and symbolized photography than a sterile or neutral photography. On the spectrum, I'm much more of a pictorialist than I am a student of the f/64 group.

My second bias is my eye. My intent is to celebrate the beauty, the mystery, the sensuality, and most importantly the power of the female form. There's a reason I title the nude art section of my portfolio "Anima." I am compelled to do this. The secret intimacy and trust of a nude photoshoot are powerful drugs, but they're not sinister. I'd be lying if I didn't experience some of Burroughs' "sexual intensity of pursuit," but the pursuit itself is not sexual, prurient, or belittling. If it were, I would not allow myself to photograph nude women. Diane Arbus wrote: "I always thought of photography as a naughty thing to do — that was one of my favorite things about it, and when I first did it, I felt very perverse." I get this. I feel it. There is a thrilling covert naughtiness in the intimacy of nude photography. If there weren't, I wouldn't need to use a pseudonym. I also probably wouldn't enjoy it. If I found myself using my cameras, lenses, and overcomplicated processes to photographically leer at or violate a woman, then I'd throw everything away, burn my negatives, and delete all of my image files.

Which brings me to the third bias, that of my viewers. Sontag and Burroughs bring a negative bias towards photography. Whether this is from their lived experience or their intent doesn't matter -- as an artist, I can't control my viewers' biases. What I can do is try to influence who my viewers are by sharing my photographs only in venues where people expect to see nude art. I certainly don't want to offend, and I'm not looking to shock.** I can also write long-winded essays that try to explain why I am compelled to create the art that I do. Finally and most importantly, I can reward my subjects' trust and time by making the best art that I'm capable of.


*     Here, I'll acknowledge that some might not see a difference. I'm sure that some will see Wyeth's nude portraits of Testorf as exploitative objectification. And I'd agree that that opinion or perspective are just as valid as mine. The "simple" solution here is to avoid objectification by photographer by refusing to be photographed, while also avoiding exposure to imagery that one finds exploitative. The latter is much harder than the former, and I empathize with the frustration of those who feel bombarded by unavoidable sexual objectification in art, media, and life. Exposure to nude art should be "opt-in," and I'll freely admit that my own art isn't for everybody. This should go without saying, but none, especially the marginalized, should have to deal with any of this shit if they don't want to.

**    That's not to say that shock isn't a valid artistic objective. That's another conversation.






(IGGYBUG) artist's statement navel-gazing philosophy https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/4/thoughts-on-art-nude-photography Wed, 03 Apr 2024 17:31:41 GMT
Second Photoshoot with Alice Crowe: Wet Plate & Serendipity https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/4/second-photoshoot-with-alice-crowe Alice Crowe Tintype No. 2

I had the privilege of collaborating again with the amazing Alice Crowe. She's rapidly becoming one of my favorite models to work with because of her professionalism, patience with my slow photographic processes, and great conversation during shoots.

For this shoot, we split our time between my living room and my garage studio. I'm still trying to dial-in my wet plate collodion process and garage studio lighting, and that'll be the subject for a blog entry of its own.

Based on the advice of two wet plate photographers I trust, I decided against using Old Work Horse collodion from UV Photographics for this shoot. UV Photographics makes a quality product, but given my struggles with lighting I decided to try mixing a different collodion recipe called "Old Dead Bride." Old Work Horse uses cadmium bromide, ammonium bromide, and ammonium iodide. Old Dead Bride uses cadmium bromide and potassium iodide instead.

John Coffer's Old Work Horse Recipe

240 mL USP Collodion
200 mL Grain Alcohol (190 proof Everclear)
200 mL Ether

1.6 g Cadmium Bromide
1.4 g Ammonium Bromide
5.0 g Ammonium Iodide

Old Dead Bride Recipe

120 mL USP Collodion
80 mL Grain Alcohol (190 proof Everclear)
80 mL Ether

1.7 g Cadmium Bromide
2.0 g Potassium Iodide

Well, I can say that the Old Dead Bride collodion does appear to be somewhat faster than Old Work Horse. But I found that it poured "funny" -- dried thicker and with waves. I'm attributing this to my errors in mixing and/or pouring, not the recipe itself. Regardless, the plates that I made have problems that look like development but are actually related to my collodion pours. I've actually been making a lot of progress in my developer pours, and can get really even development most of the time now.



I believe in embracing serendipity, kismet, or simple dumb luck in my photography. I don't set out to make mistakes, and the previous sentence shouldn't be read as excusing poor technique. To the contrary: I try to learn from my mistakes and avoid making them where I can. That said, some of my favorite photographs I've made over the years have been flawed; I've just gotten lucky some of the time in making mistakes that are interesting or beautiful.

I also think that it's important to remember that my art is hand made. Because it's hand made, and mostly analog/film, it's going to be imperfect. If one is looking for sterile perfection, one can shoot with the latest and greatest technology. And, increasingly, one can forego the photographic process entirely and just ask an AI image generator to make a beautiful picture. Flaws and imperfections can sometimes be pretty, but they're always valuable when they show that an image is genuinely hand made. There's value in hard work, and in working hard with one's hands.



(IGGYBUG) 8x10 analog photoshoot serendipity troubleshooting wet plate https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/4/second-photoshoot-with-alice-crowe Mon, 01 Apr 2024 19:06:58 GMT
Wet Plate: A Workshop and a Breakthrough https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/3/wet-plate-a-workshop-and-a-breakthrough

Two weeks into learning the wet plate collodion process, I'm delighted with my progress. I've had a breakthrough regarding my chemistry and varnishing, and I had a wonderful workshop with a talented wet plate photographer over the weekend.


I intended to start teaching myself the wet plate collodion process back in March 2023. I ordered and mixed my chemistry, and then Life happened. Because of a variety of factors beyond my control, I wasn't able to start teaching myself wet plate until March 2024. Most of the chemistry I had mixed was just fine with this delay, with one exception: the collodion itself.

To elaborate: My silver baths were fine waiting in the dark for a year. I did notice that their pH had risen to 6, but this was easily remedied with the addition of a few mL of glacial acetic acid. Their specific gravity was perfect, sitting at right around 9.5-10% silver nitrate. My developer was old and stale, but developer is so cheap and easy to mix that it was no big deal to just make a fresh batch. The Old Work Horse collodion, however, was just too stale to try to use effectively. It was really old, really low contrast, and super fragile. Seriously, even staring at wet plate harshly was enough to cause some of the collodion to peel off! (Well, maybe not, but it felt like that.) I was getting crepe marks even on my "good" plates, and the circular white blotches were I was starting my pour were really discouraging.

I received a fresh batch of Old Work Horse Collodion from UV Photographics, and almost all of my issues have disappeared. The stuff is much faster: where my stale collodion required a 25 second exposure, my fresh collodion needs only 8-9 seconds of exposure. It's far less fragile -- I'm able to physically wipe off those horrible circular blotches, which means that they were caused by veiling. The old collodion was just too fragile to even think about trying this. And my images are much higher contrast now. I'm delighted.

I'm looking at this as a blessing in disguise: It was so hard to get a "good" plate using my stale collodion that I was forced to really work on my technique. I learned how to be extraordinarily careful handling a wet plate and how to develop them evenly.

When I shot my first plate using fresh collodion, it almost felt easy. The results were so much better than I had been seeing before! I still occasionally see white blotching on imagery when I put it into the fixer, but its actually possible to wipe those blotches off gently now.

I like how my plates are looking. Don't get me wrong: they're still far from perfect, but they're perfect for me right now at my stage of learning. And, this may be blasphemy, I actually don't mind subtle imperfections in my pouring and development. I want my plates to look handmade; if I wanted perfect and perfectly sterile imagery, I'd be shooting digital.


With regard to varnishing, a photographer in the amazing Collodion Bastard Facebook group suggested that I try something different than the standard Sandarac Varnish. Specifically, I've tried -- and had amazing results with -- the Light-Shellac Lavender Varnish sold by UV Photographics. This stuff doesn't need to be pre-heated, and it flows more gently and easily onto plates. Varnished plates do themselves need to be heated, but the shellac dries very quickly. It's just a lot easier to use than the classic Sandarac Varnish recipe. It looks slightly different, since it's thinner and slightly lower gloss than Sandarac Varnish. I like it.


I spent all of Saturday with an amazing wet plate photographer named Kathryn Mayo. She's a friend, and she was my Large Format Photography and Alternative Processes professor at my local (excellent) community college. Kathyn is, to put it simply, The Man. She's kind, patient, encouraging, and an amazing photographer. I've considered her a mentor for a few years now: She was the person who introduced me to the Lumen Printing process that I love so much.

I was able to watch Kathryn make some tintypes and an ambrotype. I was struck by the deliberate smoothness of her movements. I'm emulating her, and my plates have already gotten better as a result. She had great tips of process-hygiene -- how to efficiently and effectively clean one's glassware and equipment to prevent contamination issues. And finally Kathryn had some great suggestions about affordable studio lighting that was compatible with wet plate.

I had been relying on a couple of books and a video workshop by Quinn Jacobsen. These have been great to get me started. But there's no comparison between watching even the best video workshop and seeing a skilled wet plate photographer work with her hands.


Finally, I'm ending with a truly horrible plate. There are so many things wrong with this plate that it's almost futile to list them. But I still love it. I'm posting this as a reminder to myself to embrace serendipity and to appreciate one's mistakes. Rather than just getting frustrated by them, it's possible to find joy and a fun image even when I've really blown it.


(IGGYBUG) 8x10 technique troubleshooting wet plate workshop https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/3/wet-plate-a-workshop-and-a-breakthrough Mon, 18 Mar 2024 19:40:40 GMT
More Wet Plate Progress: Even Development at Last! https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/3/more-wet-plate-progress-even-development-at-last ReneeReneeVoigtlander Petzval 364mm f/4.7 (1865) 15 second exposure

Yesterday, I had a breakthrough in how I develop my wet plates. Before yesterday, I was using an 8x10" tray under my plate when I poured my developer. This caused me to spill and to be hesitant with my development pours, for fear of spilling. I switched to a 16x20" tray, which makes me much less concerned about spilling. This allowed me to focus really intensely on getting a steady and even developer pour on this plate. It worked! The second tweak to my process involves the amount of developer. Previously, I had been using ~20mL of developer, which just wasn't enough for me to get an even pour at my current skill level. Now I'm using 50mL of developer and sort of "brute forcing" an even steady pour with more than enough developer. This is something I'll want to tweak as my technique improves, but for now I'm totally content to "waste" a lot of developer.

Why am I not at all troubled by wasting developer? Because I've switched to homemade sugar positive developer instead of the more expensive pre-made developer I had been using previously. It's dirt cheap and easy to make, and so I totally don't mind that my current pouring technique is wasteful. Here's the recipe I'm using:

Sugar Positive Developer

  • 1000mL Distilled White Vinegar
  • 20mL Grain Alcohol
  • 30g Ferrous Sulfate Heptahydrate
  • 40g Sugar
  1. Pour 500mL of the vinegar into a mixing vessel.
  2. Dissolve the ferrous sulfate heptahydrate into the vinegar.
  3. Mix in the grain alcohol.
  4. Mix in the sugar and stir until dissolved.
  5. Add the remaining 500mL of the vinegar.
  6. Filter (!!!) and use.


This plate required a 15s exposure with my Voigtlander Petzval 360mm f/4.7 lens -- my collodion is ancient, as I mixed it back in March 2023. I'm *really* looking forward to getting fresh collodion (I use the Old Work Horse formula) in the mail: my exposures should be significantly shorter, the contrast should be higher, and I'll stop getting these horrible white splotchy marks around the site of my collodion pours.


Also, I need to stop injuring the image by inadvertently touching it. I accidentally rub off the *extraordinarily fragile* wet collodion on many of my plates. There are so many places in the process where this can happen -- lifting the plates into and out of the silver bath and fixer bath, putting the plates into my plate holder. This process requires *a lot* of care. As a big clumsy oaf, I'm finding this challenging.

(IGGYBUG) 8x10 plate technique troubleshooting wet https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/3/more-wet-plate-progress-even-development-at-last Wed, 13 Mar 2024 16:01:02 GMT
Lorna Lynne https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/3/lorna-lynne

I was privileged to be able to collaborate with the delightful Lorna Lynne on a photoshoot.

My plan for our shoot had been to work in one of my favorite outdoor locations. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of assuming that having an overcast sky would allow me to shoot in the middle of the day. I seriously underestimated how bright the light would be, and consequently was unable to shoot 35mm film. I would have been able to shoot with my beloved Minolta SRT-101 & Minolta 58mm f/1.4 combination if I had remembered to pack a neutral density filter. So it goes.

Lorna and I took a few shots using my digital camera -- my exposure was 1/8000s at ISO 200 at f/1.4 to give y'all an idea how bright it was -- but I just wasn't digging how they were looking. I sincerely underestimated just how harsh the light would be, even fully overcast.


We decided at that point to travel to my house so that I could try to make some wet plates.

Finally, we shot a few more digital shots after finishing several tintypes. For these, I used a mirror prism which gave the shots a dreamlike / absurd feel that I enjoy. I still do prefer the real look of film though!


What did I learn from the shoot?

Don't underestimate the light. There's a reason that I normally prefer shooting in open shade!

Don't forget to pack everything you'll need. Make a damn checklist.

Don't forget to enjoy yourself, even if things aren't ideal. 


(IGGYBUG) digital mirror prism photoshoot trichromie https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/3/lorna-lynne Tue, 12 Mar 2024 17:50:34 GMT
Channeling Ed Ross: First Photoshoot with Wet Plate https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/3/channeling-ed-ross-first-photoshoot-with-wet-plate Lorna Lynne 2Lorna Lynne 2

I'll do a full post on him someday, but Ed Ross was a wet plate photographer who inspired me greatly. He was also kind, and when I reached out to him a few years ago asking some (in retrospect) stupid questions about his wet plate photographs he answered me with patience and encouragement. I regret that I was not able to meet him in person before he passed.

Today, a whopping seven days since I've started to shoot wet plate, I shot a model. These plates are objectively bad, but I can see the *potential* for my wet plate photography to be good with further practice. I'm not going to dwell on the problems (comets from a dirty silver bath, black patches from mishandling, a nice white blotch from letting my collodion dry too much before sensitizing it, subject motion from having really old slow collodion and long exposures, forgetting to recheck focus before exposing, uneven development, etc.), but instead I'm going to focus on what I love about these pictures:

1. Switching to a sugar developer formula from the normal positive developer formula, combined with being really, really mindful about my technique has made my development significantly more even than it was even a couple of days ago.

2. I didn't scratch any of these coated plates getting them into and out of my plate holder. I feel like I've mastered this thing that sounds like it should be so simple, but which is deceptively challenging for me.

3. Shooting against my house's stucco, which is what Ed Ross told me he did, has produced a lovely background.

4. I was able to varnish these evenly and without setting anything on fire.

5. Making these plates has made me even more in awe of the 19th, 20th, and 21st century masters of this photographic process than I was before. I used to appreciate a beautiful wet plate image for its aesthetics alone. Now I can see, and appreciate, the technique that goes into a quality tintype!

To reiterate, these are objectively bad plates. But they're *less* objectively bad than my work earlier this week, and I can see the potential in them -- I see that, with more practice, I'll be able to produce plates with the look that inspired me to want to start this incredibly challenging photographic process in the first place.

Lorna Lynne 1Lorna Lynne 1


I have fresh collodion on the way from Bostick & Sullivan. These exposures were 20-25 seconds each, and fresh collodion should be much faster than my stale stuff.

I've blown through something like 30 8x10 aluminum plates this week. I need to research the cheapest and easiest way to make more.

This is a really low priority, but I'd like to start thinking about using strobes for faster exposure wet plates. I know that really intense strobes (~3200 ws?) are required, and it's going to be a long time before I'm able to afford them. It's just fun to think about.

Lorna Lynne 3Lorna Lynne 3

(IGGYBUG) 8x10 photoshoot technique wet plate https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/3/channeling-ed-ross-first-photoshoot-with-wet-plate Sun, 10 Mar 2024 00:40:39 GMT
First Steps with Wet Plate Collodion https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/3/first-steps-with-wet-plate-collodion Stained Fingers from Silver Nitrate Back in 2004, I fell in love with a photograph by Luther Gerlach that appeared on the cover of View Camera magazine.* Here's that image:

January/February 2004 View Camera

My mind was blown. At the time, I didn't own a view camera. I didn't even own a digital camera -- my only camera was a 35mm Canon rangefinder. But I knew that I wanted to make photographs like Luther Gerlach's. I bought the magazine and learned about this exotic thing called "wet plate collodion" that made these fancy-sounding things called tintypes and ambrotypes. I set a goal for myself that day to learn wet plate photography.

Well, it has taken almost twenty years exactly but I finally have the means and space to start teaching myself the wet plate collodion process.

Boy howdy, is this a humbling undertaking. I didn't appreciate how many variables were involved, how many delicate steps required manual dexterity, and just how many ways it was possible to screw up a tintype.

I started making my first plates about a week ago. On day one, I couldn't even get a visible image on my plates: I was seriously, seriously underexposing them.

On day two, I learned how difficult it is to coat, sensitize, and load a plate into my plate holder without scratching it to hell.

On day three, I learned what happened when a coated plate is placed into the silver bath before it has had a chance to dry sufficiently.

On days four and five, I learned that letting a coated plate dry too much before sensitizing results in really ugly marks on the photograph.

I'm currently struggling with finding the correct exposure time (a relatively easy problem to fix) and figuring out how to develop my plates evenly.

On day six, I learned just how easy it is to set one's plate on fire (and nearly set oneself on fire) whilst varnishing.

This is a difficult, difficult process. I'd rate it as more challenging that gum dichromate color printing, which is notoriously difficult. There's a really high amount of physical dexterity required to coat a plate, sensitive a plate smoothly, load a sensitized plate into a plate holder, and develop a plate evenly. In my experience, no other photographic process has been as challenging. I'm an experienced darkroom printer. I'm skilled at producing cyanotypes, Van Dyke Brown prints, gum dichromate prints, Polaroid transfers, Polaroid lifts, lumen prints, and challenging macro photographs on large format film. Nothing has kicked my ass the way that wet plate collodion is kicking my ass.

And I'm loving every second of it.

Here are a few of the best plates I've produced so far. They're all objectively bad. But I am so very proud of them!

Uneven development, comets, and a bad collodion pour.

img20240306_16061813The big white circular blotch on the mask is a result of letting the coated plate dry too much before sensitizing it.

img20240307_19453418img20240307_19453418Scratches on the plate incurred whilst loading it in the plate holder. Uneven development.

*RIP to a wonderful publication. I wish I had had the courage to submit some of my photographs to it before it stopped publishing.

(IGGYBUG) 8x10 collodion tintype wet plate https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/3/first-steps-with-wet-plate-collodion Sat, 09 Mar 2024 01:08:42 GMT
Revolog Film Pt. 2: Alice Crowe https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/2/revolog-film-pt-2-alice-crowe Alice Crowe I wrote a while back about how much I enjoyed shooting Revolog Kolor, an analog special-effects film. I recently collaborated with Alice Crowe, and I was delighted to be able to process and scan the several rolls of Revolog Kolor I shot with my ancient Minolta SRT-101 SLR.

I've learned that, to get the most out of Revolog Kolor's color effects, it's best to underexpose the film by 1-stop. Overexposing washes out the color background, and defeats the whole purpose of using this special (and expensive) film.

I don't have much to add about the shoot itself: It was a delight to collaborate with a model again, and I can't wait to shoot Ms. Crowe again.

Here are a few of the better Revolog Kolor shots from the shoot:

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(IGGYBUG) 35mm analog photoshoot revolog revolog kolor https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/2/revolog-film-pt-2-alice-crowe Thu, 29 Feb 2024 21:31:43 GMT
Alice Crowe https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/2/alice-crowe DSCF0459-2DSCF0459-2

The last time I collaborated with a model was back in 2020, so I was delighted to have the chance to work with the amazing Alice Crowe last weekend. I had two main objectives for this shoot: (1) get the rust out of my system and remember how to shoot a model; and (2) start building a collaborative relationship with a good local model for future wet plate work.


Ms. Crowe was an absolute delight to shoot: She was professional, communicated clearly, and was willing to brave a chilly and rainy February day with a smile. It was great to brainstorm the shoot concept with Alice, and I chose a few props and accessories based on our conversations. 


In my experience, I break at least one piece of photographic equipment every time I shoot. Last weekend's shoot was no exception, and I was bummed to realize that my trusty Minolta SRT-101's meter wasn't working. No problem, since I tend to prefer using a dedicated incident light meter. I also discovered that the eye-viewfinder on my Fuji X-T2 was no longer working. This was more of a problem, since I rely on the excellent focus-peaking aide on the X-T2 to nail focus with my fast 58mm f/1.4 Rokkor lens. I simply could not see the main LCD well enough to reliably focus my manual focus lenses, so I had to rely on the (excellent and affordable) Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 R autofocusing lens instead of using my preferred manual focus vintage lenses. A new Fuji X-T5 is not in the cards for me right now, so I'll be looking for a viewscreen hood to make using the X-T2's back panel easier in bright light.

trichromie2trichromie2 trichromie-1trichromie-1

I am delighted with how the digital shots turned out: the trichromie shots look cool, and I've really found myself enjoying the look of the X-T2's Neopan Acros + Green Filter and Astia film emulation modes. Don't get me wrong: I still prefer shooting film for people, but the X-T2's film emulation modes do a decent job taking some of the "cold and clinical" digital look out of my photos.


So, what's next? I can't wait to collaborate with Alice again! During our brainstorming, I had some ideas that we just couldn't execute last weekend. Ms. Crowe was wonderful to work with, and so I know we'll have a chance to try out more looks and concepts in the future. Working with a talented model really made me wish I were up and running with my wet plate setup, so this shoot lit a fire under me to get confident enough with that process to be able to use it on "real" photoshoots!

DSCF0331DSCF0331 DSCF0577DSCF0577

In addition to using my digital camera, I also shot several rolls of Revolog Kolor (a special effects film I enjoy using) with my 35mm camera. I'll be processing and scanning those photographs over the next couple of weeks, and I'll be sharing them in a future blog entry.




(IGGYBUG) digital model photoshoot trichromie https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/2/alice-crowe Wed, 21 Feb 2024 21:46:25 GMT
Coming Back to Shoot 8x10 Wet Plates https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/1/coming-back-from-a-hiatus-to-shoot-8x10 IMG_1309Kodak 8D & Voigtländer PetzvalKodak 2D 8x10 & Voigtländer 364mm f/4.7 petzval lens. So, I haven't seriously make photographs since ~2019. I started a new (stressful and all-consuming) job, then COVID hit, then I had to dismantle my darkroom during a move, etc. etc. etc.

I missed photography, but it wasn't until 2023 that I was ready to start photographing again. Unfortunately, more personal drama and another job switch happened.

Now, it's 2024 and I'm back for real.

I'm going to use this blog to document my return to photography and switch away from 35mm to 8x10.

1. Why aren't you shooting 35mm any more?

This is a tough one, since my "best" (or at least my favorite images) over the past few years have all been taken with vintage 35mm gear: My beloved Minolta SRT-101 ($15 at a thrift store) and my cherished Minolta Rokkor 58mm f/1.4 lens ($25 at a thrift store).

I still love my 35mm gear, but I just cannot bring myself to pay $15 per roll of Kodak Porta or Revolog Kolor (when it isn't sold out). I also no longer have a quality film scanner. Most importantly, I can't believe that the manufacturers will continue to manufacture the emulsions I like. My heart was broken by Fujifilm FP-100c, which was discontinued shortly after I started using it almost exclusively to create emulsion lifts, recovered negatives, etc. on my Mamiya RZ67.

I've shot 4x5 extensively in the past, and I had always wanted to learn the wet plate process. I've decided to start over and build an 8x10 system that will allow me to shoot wet plate in a large enough size to be meaningful and use inexpensive paper negatives. I have no intention of shooting E-6 or C41 color on 8x10 because of cost constraints and the fact that I can no longer scan 8x10 negatives without spending $1300 on a new Epson V850 scanner. (My super cheap Epson V19 works perfectly for scanning wet plates and paper negatives!)

2. What is your 8x10 system?

Since I love shooting portraiture and nudes on location, and since I no longer have a large darkroom in my garage, I've purchased a car-portable darkroom. It's snug, but it works really well.

My camera is a ~1920s Kodak 2D 8x10. It's definitely got some miles on it, it's not super stable, and some of the controls are janky. But the price was right and it's nice looking.

My lenses are the really fun part.


The all-star is a 364mm f/4.7 Voigtlander Petzval lens dated to 1865 or 1866. It weighs almost five pounds, so it's not the most stable on my Kodak 2D camera. I had to upgrade my tripod just for this lens.

I also have a ~1900s-1910s Ross Universal 400mm f/6 petzval lens.

Finally, for wider angles and when I want to shoot something with a shutter, I have an inexpensive but high quality Fujinon-W S 250mm f/6.7.

My Gitzo carbon fiber tripod wasn't up to the task of keeping my camera and lens stable, so I finally bought a Ries wooden tripod. It weighs a ton, was really expensive, and took forever to ship, but it's a beautiful piece of equipment that is up to the task.

3. Where are you new photographs?

I'm working on it. I don't want to use the same shooting locations that I've used in the past, and I recently moved. I'm currently scouting new locations where I live, figuring out how to convert my garage into a studio, and figuring out how to shoot outside of my house in good light with a seamless paper background to fake the look of a good studio.

I have all of the equipment, chemistry, and other supplies ready to shoot wet plate. I'm currently watching videos and waiting for a workshop so that I can learn how to pour plates correctly from someone in person.

In the meantime, I have been shooting paper negatives on Ilford VC RC glossy paper. This has been fun, since it has been a great way to get back into the darkroom using supplies that don't cost an arm and a leg! I shoot my paper at ~ ISO 1, so it's also a great way for me to get used to the longer exposures I'll be working with in wet plate, practice using a lens cap and counting off seconds instead of a shutter, etc. Here are a couple of shots:

I'm happy with this portrait of my beloved. This is an 8 second exposure, and using a head brace kept it reasonably sharp. The exposure I estimated was just about spot on, and further practice will reduce the mild vibrations that are affecting this image. Bonus: The shallow DOF of the Voigtlander petzval hides my messy garage.


I'm significantly less happy with this photo of an old farm building. This was an 8 second exposure using my 400mm f/6 Ross Universal petzval. It's a boring photograph of a subject that needs a wider angle lens, and my exposure estimate was off -- this should have been a ~16 second exposure. I also overdid the rear tilt. I'm also not seeing the famous petzval bokeh in it. But at least it's sharp!


Please stay tuned. Hopefully I'll be opening a new "Wet Plate" section of my portfolio. In the meantime, I'll keep writing to document my progress learning a new historic photo technique.

(IGGYBUG) 8x10 darkroom paper negatives technique wet plate https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2024/1/coming-back-from-a-hiatus-to-shoot-8x10 Wed, 17 Jan 2024 18:27:42 GMT
Revolog Film https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2020/1/revolog-film Cupcake Kitty QueenCupcake Kitty Queen

A few years back, I started following a photographer on Flickr named PhilmFotography D. I loved his aesthetic: I could tell he was using 35mm film cameras, but I couldn't figure out how he got those cool warped colors that I really enjoyed.

After a bit of Googling, I discovered that there's a whole world of special effects 35mm film available.

My favorite manufacturer is a small partnership out of Vienna, Austria called Revolog. They hand-expose and hand-roll a line of special-effects 35mm films, and I'm deeply in love with their rainbow film called, appropriately-enough "Revolog Kolor."

DotnotrobotDotnotrobot One of the things I most love about this film is its unpredictability; I have no way of knowing what preexposed color is going to be under a given picture. The film also behaves a bit strangely; sometimes, the color is muted in a given roll, and sometimes it's wildly saturated. It's great stuff, and the little endorphin rush I get when scanning and processing a roll of it is awesome.

I tend to underexpose this film by ~1 stop while shooting, which increases the visibility of the underlying pre-exposed colors. I also like intentionally opening the back of my camera before rewinding the exposed film roll, which produces those super-fun light leaks.

Valerie ShadeValerie Shade All photos in this post were taken with a Minolta SRT-101, using inexpensive-but-excellent Minolta Rokkor legacy glass. All photos were home-developed in C-41 chemistry purchased through Freestyle Photographic Supplies. Developing color negative film at home is surprisingly easy, especially if critical color accuracy isn't required. Since I mostly shoot psychedelic color film, a little bit of color inaccuracy is totally no big deal.

(IGGYBUG) 35mm analog c-41 film kolor psychedelic revolog special effects technique https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2020/1/revolog-film Mon, 20 Jan 2020 21:28:38 GMT
Trichromatic Photography https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2020/1/trichrome-photography Sadcatzilla TrichromeSadcatzilla TrichromeTrichromatic portrait of Sadcatzilla.

I've been enjoying experimenting with the trichromy process lately.

It's an old process, dating from 1868, reproducing color using three black and white exposures filtered into red, green, and blue channels.

A "perfect" trichromatic image would involve three completely simultaneous filtered images, each taken at the exact same position in relationship to the subject. This would result in a combined picture with the red, green, and blue channels matching up perfectly, and the subject not shifting in position at all.

We live in an imperfect world, and despite my best efforts, it's darn hard to make a perfect trichromatic image. And, given that color film is readily available, what's the point of making a technically perfect trichromatic image anyway?

Audrey TrichromeAudrey TrichromeDelightfully Imperfect

What I've been really excited about, though, is intentionally playing with imperfections in the process. By intentionally adding movement & changing the relationship between the camera and subject, the red, green, and blue channels don't line up perfectly. This results in "rainbow" effects in the final, combined image.

The image below shows the three individual black and white photos taken with different colored filters in front of the lens, and how they're combined into a final "color" image. Check out the difference in skin tones the different colored filters produce. And where the layers don't line up, rainbows result. The model's hair blowing in the wind created this cool effect here.

Christine TrichromeA trichromatic photograph's component layers.

These shots are examples of intentionally messing with the process. All were taken with a $15 Minolta SRT-101 35mm camera, inexpensive lenses, black and white film, and $1.00 Chinese plastic red, green, and blue filters.

Dotnotrobot TrichromeDotnotrobot Trichrome

Several of the photographs in my Anima gallery feature this technique.


(IGGYBUG) analog historic psychedelic technique trichrome https://www.iggybug.com/blog/2020/1/trichrome-photography Sat, 18 Jan 2020 03:38:21 GMT