Finding the Wet Plate Collodion Darkness in Malaysia

The mixing den

It has been 8 months since I had left the UK and made my way back to Malaysia. Since then, it has been an uphill struggle to re-build a fitting darkroom to suit the workflow of my found passion for the 19th Century process.

Of course in essence, there isn’t much different to the design of the traditional print darkroom, though this time around it requires more space (well, a work bench) to mix chemicals and lab glasswares.

Many of previous months, I have been building mini-workshop area for woodworking and dabble small fixes to the camera and studio gears; re-do the water pipes as there was a major pipe breaks for the darkroom, the list could go on of problems met, the delays in resolving them…

However, the last part would be finding the chemicals and sorting out a good deal and the right material. Some of them took really long to reach me (3 months of wait!), and I was not pleased with the anxiety and the amount of grief I had to go through.

Given with the limited resources, and available chemicals in hand, I have been going through some of old literatures and contemporary practitioners’ methods in creating a good collodion mix. As it is a tropical climate and the humidity fogged up most of my plates. Some even to some extreme warped my camera!

All that struggle, I had dealt with, at the least had given me lessons on how to deal with the temperament of the wet plate and I know it should be manageable before I start lugging around the darkroom on-field.

I had tested so far 5 different classic formulas, which most of them came up disastrously fogged plates, and some produced contrast that I go “meh…”.

I had to tweak the ratios of the ether, alcohol, and the collodion itself, which almost took half of my stock just for me to reach what I think is close enough for me to begin and work on the field.

So far I have been doing this indoors since I got back to Malaysia and been at a consistent 31 degrees weather (with constant fluctuation of humidity), which gave me some notes to ponder.

Finally, today, I found out a suitable formula & its ratio for proper working collodion, which only costs me a couple of days of wait after a mix. Though more tests will be needed and I am pleased where this is going now…

Coriander, table study
Coriander – other Collodion Salts

The latter of the image above was one of several types of collodion salts (from Waldack to Trask) which had unwelcoming contrast, though I could tweak more of the developer which might be able to receive this collodion salt, which I might since I got half a bottle of each left from the mix.

More image-making to come….


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