View Full Version : how to make a wet plate pinhole holga

03-04-2007, 06:58 PM
Hello Members!

I am working on getting a wet plate camera ready for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, April 29th. The camera a Holga' whose shutter never really worked was just sitting there asking for a nudge into productivity. I heated up a push pin and burned some black paper to make the lens. This was then taped into place. I wired a found switch to trip the Holga’s flash, wet plates are a slow emulsion. I also used a lot of twisted fluorescent bulbs in a series of ganged light fixtures. Some black leather is used as a shutter.

I coat the plates just before use. And develop immediately after exposure.This attached image is the camera and next I will post one of the tintypes.


eric nelson

chili, wisconsin usa. Attached files http://f295.f295.org/uploads/pinholgawet_1146.gif (http://f295.f295.org/uploads/pinholgawet_1146.gif)

03-04-2007, 07:11 PM
Here is the image:

This is my first attempt with the pinholgawet camera. The person in the clipping is William Burroughs, a Beat era writer. The camera was placed extremely close to the still life. Exposure was 4 minutes with 12 pops of the erratic Holga flash.

Development with regular wet plate collodion developer until the more middle tones start appearing. Like pinhole wet plate work is more by feel.

Any thoughts, ideas, and comments welcome!

Thank you for your time and energy!

eric nelson
chili, wisconsin, usa
Where there is 30 inches of snow in my front yard!! Attached files http://f295.f295.org/uploads/burroughs2_4899.gif (http://f295.f295.org/uploads/burroughs2_4899.gif)

03-05-2007, 12:16 AM
This is a beautiful, mysterious image. What a great use for a Holga.

Can you tell us a bit more about the wet plate process; where did you get the chemicals, and are you self-taught? Some of us might be interested in this process.

Also, F295 has a wet plate collodion discussion forum.

Thank you for sharing this.

03-05-2007, 10:13 PM
Hello JoeVanCleave,

Thank you for your kind words.

This summer I initially purchased a series of chemical kits and a finely illustrated book from Quinn Jacobson. He has a wonderful web site http://studioq.com/ that has many of his fine images and more about this work. I am still using the last of the collodion from the tintype/ambrotype kits. Quinn has recently taken a position over seas and it may be impossible to purchase his ready mixed kits.

I also have purchased a terrific "Doers Guide to Wet-Plate Collodion Photography " from John Coffer’s web site: http://johncoffer.com/. His guide is a legible and a hand written copy, yes, hand written and fun to follow full of period line illustrations of equipment. It includes many variations on formulas according to temperature, time of year, and the like. In the 1970's John rediscovered these working processes as a traveling tintypist. His manuals also have excellent DVD's with John doing the steps. It was extremely helpful to see him coating the plates, for example.

I have ordered chemistry components for the iron based developer, frankincense and lavender oil for he varnish, and purchased grain alcohol from the local supermarket. The acetic acid is common darkroom stuff, and the fixer is the original hypo compound. The chemistry so far is easy to find but the collodion and ether may be a tad harder to have shipped. I have purchased my raw materials from an excellent chemist interested in historic photographic processes who packs each item with the greatest care. His web site is http://www.artcraftchemicals.com/.

A BIG BIG word of caution about this process is the chemicals. The ether alone is a major concern. Also, as the collodion and ether solution ages it can become unstable. So there are risks having the stuff around. And I have not yet ordered these two components. Also, another word of caution there are also many ways to fix this type of image. One of which is to use potassium cyanide. I do not use this type of chemical though there are many who do. I feel that my images though not as “bright” are worth the trade-off.

I have just recently completed a 9X16 foot home darkroom with venting designed by a firm that works with the area schools. The venting works as designed, but was pricey. The ether portion of the process can be accomplished out of doors in sunlight if one does not live in wintery wisconsin. The ether portion is extremely brief. The sensitizing (silver nitrate bath, can cause blindness if splashed into the eyes) must be done in red light or no light.

Steps in a nutshell: coat the plate with the salted collodion/ether mixture, dunk the plate in silver nitrate bath for four minutes, wipe the back of the plate and place into plate holder, expose in your camera of choice, remove plate and pour on developer, wait for mid tones to start appearing, dunk in water, fix under white light!!, wash plate, air/heat dry, coat with varnish, and lastly label it!

Thank you for your interest, any coments are welcome,

This image is an earlier image made with a glass lens

Here is a link to my very first images and a bit on the darkroom.


eric nelson
chili, wisconsin usa Attached files http://f295.f295.org/uploads/redwhiteblue_9132.gif (http://f295.f295.org/uploads/redwhiteblue_9132.gif)

03-06-2007, 12:04 AM
Hello Eric , Thank you for your example pictures. I understood Camerons secret when ý saw Burroughs face , one taken with silver , one reproduced by wet plate.
Wet plate makes the light spread different and more mystic if you did not make the light flash on the face with a mask or printing trick.
I and many want to do this art. I am dreaming to take extreme large negatives like william henry jackson for example.
Can you share your knowledge in more detail please ? What kind of chemicals we need ? How we will prepare the mix , what about spreading the emulsion on glass ? What about development ? For example , do we still need egg ?
Please write whatever you know in a method , we cant give 75 to dvd , 40 to dvd player , 20 to airway bill , 30 to customs etc. This is hell of a money and outreach of many students here.

Best ,

Mustafa Umut Sarac

03-06-2007, 12:34 AM
Salted collodion ? Is this egg ? And ether , is it for surgeons ? ýt is illegal here. is there more friendly chemicals for to use ? no cyanide also .

03-06-2007, 01:19 AM
Hello Mtumut,

I am new to the process myself. I do not sell any of the materials. Or have any expertise on this process. This process is not one that i would reccomend for teaching a class of students. It is more like a one on one type of learning process. I have only worked with the manuals, note taking, trial and error, some wonderful advice from fellow artists on different web forums, and by sending tintypes to fellow tintype artists and asking for advice.

I have not yet ordered the ether or collodion to make my own solution. From my limited understanding of ether there are two major types. One is petrol based which is not used photogrpahically and the other unknown type is used. Like there are two types of alcohols. One is the kind for consumption and the fumes are less toxic than the other which is primarily for fuel/solvent ( can cause blindness).

I personally took a workshop in Van Dyke Brown/Cyanotype contact printing to work my way into feeling comfortable with mixing the chemicals into photgraphic solutions. I explored this type of printing for three years before beginning wet plate this last august.

I would reccomend getting John Coffer's Doers Guide if you are considering working with this medium. I seem to recalll in his notes that there are alternatives to ether in the collodion. I cannot comment on this because I am still working with Quinn's salted collodion at this time.

The collodion itself is not an egg product. It is made with an acid and cotton. It is rather dangerous to make for oneself. I would not attempt to make it from the raw ingredients.

I am new to this forum forgive me mtumut, what type of medium is your current vehicle of expression and which part of the world are you in?


Attached files http://f295.f295.org/uploads/bowler_2878.gif (http://f295.f295.org/uploads/bowler_2878.gif)

03-06-2007, 01:07 PM
I can't think of the name right now for the chemical property that allows flame to propagate along a vapor trail back to the source (open container), but I learned in high school chemistry ether, or at least SOME ethers will do this...and we were to consider it one of the more dangerous types of inflammability.

03-06-2007, 01:10 PM
There is a guy near me who does Daguerrotypes and that is another toxic, dangerous process.

Say, Mustafa, coffee should be in abundance, right? It's not illegal (yet) ;D...Caffenol (4x strength coffee with Sodium Carbonate) gives a poor man's (myself included) Pyro staining developer...

03-06-2007, 09:16 PM

The "flash back" if that is the correct term was a concern for me. When in use there is really not much "open" time for the bottle. Even when I spill there is not much vapor. But one should err on the side of caution. I keep the stoppered bottle outside the house when not in use. One cannot be to careful around this stuff. Another concern was house gas hot water heater and the gas furnace with their at times open flames to consider.


03-16-2007, 10:49 AM
There is quite a bit on the web about wet-plate collodion. Some good, some bad, some is complete nonsense. One of the best places to prowl around is the forum at www.collodion.com (www.collodion.com/forum).

Quinn's book as well as John Coffer's "Doer's Guide" are very complete (if a bit rough around the edges). John's DVD is a good investment.

Also Sulley and Osterman have a nice guide.

Artcraft sells small quantities of the appropriate stuff. Ray Morganwick (posts on the Collodion forum) sells equipment or you can make/adapt your own.

The most important thing is be careful with this stuff. The chemicals are a bit more hazardous than good-ole Dektol and Hypo. When in doubt, take a workshop first. Lots of good ones, again refer to Collodion forum.

Cameras (as you have seen) can be "made" by conversion. A relatively "simple" method is to convert a sheet film holder by cutting out the center of the septum and fixing in four small pieces of silver wite across the corners to support a plate. Then add a small spring to the back of one dark slide. This presses on the back side of the plate to hold it steady. The front dark slike is left unmodified. Consider also using a backing plate if you use very thin tin or aluminum for tin-types. This will keep the spring from flexing the plate.

The other common modified camera is a box brownie or other 6x9 box camera. You may need to varnish the inside (carefully) to make it a bit more waterproof so the runoff from the plate doesn't destroy the camera. And rig up some clips on the inside of the back to hold the plate in place.

05-25-2007, 07:21 AM
Eric Nelson is one of the artists in a Pinhole Photography show curated by Tom Miller at IFP in St. Paul until the middle of June. On May 12 we had an artists' talk at the gallery, and Eric showed us more of his wet plate tintypes. They have an impressive tactile quality in person that you can't see on a monitor. They are a bit like dagguerotypes in this way - they are better experienced holding one in your hands than just by looking at pictures. I am not sure that I want to go this far into messy and dangerous chemistry, but there is no denying the beauty of the images.

10-31-2008, 05:45 PM
Cool I will try this !:)

Tom Persinger
11-02-2008, 08:12 AM
i love it when old threads surface like this!
let us know how it works out Gustavo!