Results to be seen post exhibition (8 weeks)

Mastic fittings in MDF box.


6 Compact fluorescent bulbs within box.

The results:


Steel rod welded: stand.

Two steel runners on either side of stand to manoeuvre myself from above head height to ground height.

Apologises for the bad image (bad darkroom lighting!) Pulley system at the back of box for self adjustment.

The effect: Cant wait to get started and using the new technology! WATCH THIS SPACE.


After checking throughly that my portable darkroom was not light leaking, I decided to do two tests to make sure that the images did not show signs of streaking.

I also got rid of the ruby lith. in the window as I was worry that as a safe light it was not particularly ‘safe’. So I Have now blacked this out and I am using small battery LED safelights within the van.

Here are the results:



Above: 5×4 Glass ambrotype, f 8 9 seconds

Unfortunately due to ‘rough’ washing the image was ripped midway, a reminder that the collodion ‘skin’ is fragile.


Above: 5×4 Glass ambrotype, f 8 7 seconds

1) New Collodion

2) New Developer

3) a)Re calibrated silver bath, added a 12% solution of 100ml and an extra 18g of silver nitrate crystals to get my bath up to 0.69

b) Also filtering and ‘sunning’ silver bath.

4) Trial Ilford highspeed fix and Potassium Cyanide.

5) Portable darkroom permanent adjustments (see below)

6) a)Control variables and lighting by literally going back to the darkroom to create images. (see future blogging for details)

b) New lighting equipment and reflectors to control and shape light.

7) Another problem that I encountered was the some of the inserts for the 12×10 camera were too small for the exact size of glass at 10×8 etc. so I have had to file them all down to fit.

8) After consulting professional I have realised that some chemicals can be kept in a cool box as the do not function at all well in heat e.g. the developer. So i have installed some cooling compartments in my van.

9) Re painting and cleaning 12×10 double darkslide.


10) THE VARNISH! still not exactly sure what is going on but I have been advice to add 15ml to 500ml and I have acquired some new varnish so both will be tested on plates very soon.


Portable Darkroom Update: The Black-out curtain.



Sealant, a more permanent light tight solution (above)

Filtering silver bath :

Double darkslide re-adjustments:

This is to help prevent light leak and creak cleaner plates for final project.


Adjustments to portable darkroom:


Sitters areas and floor space for next project (above)

                  Sealed removable window area

12th July.

After my long journey from Scotland I deceived that the most important thing to check before messing around with chemistry is that one my cameras and darkrooms are light tight, if I rule these out then I should start making other assessments of what needs to be changed.

I used the same chemicals, same fixing agent and varnish in my studio darkroom in Essex (which has been full light proofed) to rule out this variable as an issue. I tested both my MMP 5X4 and Large format camera with a 10×8 plate to also rule out if it was a particular camera that had an issue.

The results lead me to breathe a sigh of relieve they both came out very flat and but overall they were not bad, unfortunately however there is still an existing problem with the varnish that needs to be addressed as explained below.


Below: 5×4 Glass negative (also inverted to see image) F8 @ 7seconds.



Below: 10×8 Glass negative F8 @ 7sec. The image was perfectly clear until varnish was poured over it.Image


1)Varnish, consult a professional and possibly use a new batch to trial differences.

2)Need DEFINITELY to find a more permanent way to light proof the portable darkroom as when travelling on location duct tape will not keep the van safe.

I have also been informed by Professional John Brewer that simply one layer of ruby lithe in the van may not be suitably light safe, and so for the time being i can going to completely black out the van and use a separate safe light source.

11TH July,


I was determined not to give up after my initially attempts with collodion in Scotland, as the process is so temperamental something basic but essential could have slipped my mind..

Unfortunately this was not the case I followed my notes step by step I started the morning but mixing the fix and filtering the chemistry.

I attempting to go over light leaking (possible) areas in the portable van with duct tape, but the heat that formulates in a dark van leaves the tape peeling off in hours.

I even tried using a different camera (12×10) to see if it was the dark slides of the MPP that were light leaking. Unfortunately non of these amendments solved the problem.

And whatever streaky (fogged/ chemical or light leak?) image was there initially later that day when the image was dried was destroyed by the varnish.

Some serious troubleshooting would need to be done, and for this I returned to my base studio in Essex.

Results are below:


10X8 Glass negative, f5.6 @ 4 sec hear you can see the streaky quality across the plate that I can only image is a light leaking and the image itself is faint and flat.



10×8 Glass negative, here is an example of the effect of the varnish under heat, at the moment I really fail to explain what has happened here and so I need to return to essex to discover more..



Trouble Shooting:

I have decided to test all variables that could have gone wrong in order to get to the source of the problem.

1) Add 15ml water to 500ml varnish// Also try new Varnish (for image disintegration)

2) More permanent solution for light tight portable darkroom// Trial indoor darkroom to see distinction (for light leaks)

3)Try other methods of fix: Potassium cyanide and Ilford Hypan fix

4) Re calibrate Silver bath

5)Indoor and Outdoor testing : Back to the darkroom

From the 8th of July to the 11th of July I travelled to the East Coast of Scotland to test my portable darkroom further, because I has received images from my initial  testing in Mundon (very local to my studio) I was at the time confident that I would be able to perfect this on-site… I was wrong.

Collodion as I was aware was a temperamental, but when taken on location you are adding to the amount of variables that could go wrong, making everything a lot more unpredictable. And as I still have yet to gain the knowledge and experience for simply exposure times this may have been a radical decision, but one I have learnt a lot from..

From the first two days I spent collecting digital images and data and scouting an ideal location for wet plate working, as I need my car to be roughly 10 minutes away in remote areas this could become an issue. Also the weather in not only Scotland but all over the UK in July has been awful, wet over cast and at time very windy. Not ideal at all for a wet platist!

I began working at Dunotter Castle on the 10th.

There image I got were unexposed but still apparent, it was when it came to the varnishing stage of the working that the images disintegrated into a blur.

Some of the images completely disintegrated and all are documented in my ‘collodion journal’ however for the purposes of the blog I am loading the images where disintegration is visible so you can see where the image blurred and disappeared.

Images shown below:


5X4 Clear perspex, f 5.6@  9 seconds. 


5X4 Clear glass, f 5.6@  7 seconds. 


5X4 Clear glass, f 5.6@  5 seconds. 

Even though the images developed before they were washed out by the varnish they still appeared dull, flat and streaky. I was unsure at this point whether it was a chemical fault (on top of the varnishing fault) and also if the portable darkroom was light leaking.

My second trial in Scotland explained more…


At the beginning of the month I was fortunate to attend the Land/Water research conference in Plymouth. With Key notes speeches from Per Bak Jensen and Deborah Bright who were both enlightening and inspirational.

I very much enjoyed listening to Per Bak Jensen have nordic heritage myself, listening to a Danish artist speak of ‘Sense of Place’ was very emotionally stirring for me.


Per Bak Jensen ‘Vandresten’ / ‘Wandering Rock’, 2008

Talks I also enjoyed and took inspiration from where Liz Wells: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mqlFxzXOZ8
Who curates, writes and produces work involving notions of landscape and a sense of place.

  • The Derwent Project