© 2012 Fourtoes JamMark

Wet Plate Jamboree 2012 – Dundee, New York

Firstly I’d like to thank everyone that made us feel so welcome at the Jamboree. We had a great time. And a special thank you to the Juliet Gompert Trust for providing funding for my travel expenses, without it I doubt I could have attended.

Heres a quick summary of the weekend.

Home for the three days… the teepee was surprisingly comfortable if not exactly watertight.

Johns cabin…



Harold arriving in his Ford Model T, I think, maybe one is a Model T and the other a Model A, someone will soon let me know I’m sure, cars aren’t my thing. Although they did prove very popular with some as wet plate subjects.


Heres the main wet plate tent that contains everything one could ever need to shoot wet plate.





Wayne Ayo shooting on one leg while John Coffer takes a more casual stance…

There are seven cameras in this shot and not one photographer, must have been lunchtime…

One photographer I really enjoyed watching work was Greg Martin. He was shooting some really great plates, on glass and on coloured aluminium, yep coloured. They looked fantastic.

Here he is moving his huge self made camera around camp…



Not bad for a first plate of the day….



Setting up to shoot Lucious. Who, along with his brother Vysion, proved popular subjects for plates.


And shot on purple aluminium, the resultant plate was amazing.



A glass negative of Emma Powell.

And a cyanotype she made from it a little later on. Emma had brought along her portfolio of alternative printing, I’m not a great fan of cyanotypes but her tea toned prints were really something else.

Another great plate…



This is Paul Elter. Although he had a lovely Scovill 5×8 camera with him at the Jamboree, here he is using his homemade cardboard camera. Paul was given a lens that he didn’t have a camera big enough for, so he built his own to suit…..out of cardboard. Its a sliding box design with a clever ground glass combined plate holder.





The camera itself worked a treat although there were some issues with fogging and contaminants on the plate which Paul found was to do with the lining of the plate holder. Just goes to show you don’t need fancy vintage gear to shoot wet plate.

Jesse shot some great clean sharp plates on the Saturday and then whizzed around shooting everyone one of those new fangled digital camera thingys with a multitude of fancy lenses. I look forward to seeing the results.





James & Maria Weber enjoying themselves on the Saturday.


Daniel Afzal. I’d not seen Dans work before and he was mentioned on Johns website in relation to his portraiture photography. Over the weekend he made some truly unique and fantastic plates. The reflector he was using bounced a tremendous ammount of light back into the subject area thus reducing his exposure times considerably. I look forward to seeing these when he updates his website.




James Spinks at work. Jim and Dans almost matching darkboxes made by Blackart Woodcraft.


It rained heavily the Friday night and Dan and Jim returned to a quagmire of mud and ….. well you know what…. farm animal stuff! It didn’t stop them for long.


Tom DeLooza and Eddie Gunks. Eddie was running around like a man possessed with his digital video recorder shooting as much action as possible. I’m sure there’ll be a “Hello everybody” vid on youtube in the near future. Take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

Bruce Schultz, Andy Richmond and Mr & Mrs Claude Levet discussing Claudes latest camera project. Claude makes great head rest and plate racks unfortunately too heavy for my luggage for the flight home.

Vysion and Lucious checking out some nude stereoscopes… such enthusiasm.

Richard Mellor posing for me. It was after this plate I decided I need my eyesight testing as the focus was way out.


Over the weekend people kept turning up, some shooting and some just stopping by to say hello. It was difficult to keep track of everyone that was there.If anyone can put names to faces then please let me know.





Richards huge studio camera that he moved several times around camp, not surprising that he was found asleep with his head in it at one point. Must have been the fumes.


There was even a raffle with a real mix of prizes from a John Coffer tintype, Claudes plate racks, Artcraft vouchers to cds and processing trays. Needles to say I didn’t win. I wouldn’t want to break a habit of a lifetime.

John judging the Sally Mann award…

An unintentional collodion lift… Sadly (maybe) unable to be repeated. I’m looking into collodion lifts at the moment.

John Coffer at work… I would say this was a test shot for the group shot but if my test shots looked anything like this I’d be a very very happy wet plater indeed.


Every year John takes a plate of the group, this year I think there were 35 people in the shot, heres a quick grab shot whilst its in the wash, I’ll see if I can get a decent scan of it eventually…


In my correspondence with John I’d mentioned that it would be great to make some plates at the Jamboree but obviously I couldn’t take my own chemistry with me. I’m sure the US customs would have had something to say with all those poisonous explosive chems in my suitcase. Luckily John had offered the use of one of his darkboxes and would provide me with chems to shoot some plate. Thanks also to Gary for the offer of some collodion and dev.
I did take my 5×7 camera, lenses and some cut aluminium plates although John was willing for me to use one of his cameras if I hadn’t brought one.

In the UK we tend to use a Quickclear collodion recipe but here I was using something called “‘Ol Workhorse” a verison similar to “‘Ol Reliable” you’ve just got to love these names. I’ll be trying out this recipe on my return to the UK. It seems to hold better midtones and seems not so fragile as the Quickclear.

Heres the darkbox I was using, the tarp is for when it rains as it looks like this darkbox is kept in place and not packed away.


I was surprised that the interior of the box didn’t get too hot especially as it was painted black with a black cloth (double thickness fabric). Plenty of workspace and it had an integral red window in its ceiling which folding into the box along with the cloth. Great idea.

No I’m not that short that I had to stand on a box. The wash tray had a drainage hole and pipe that came out of the bottom of the box and drained into the ground. So the box was there to stop my feet getting all muddy….honest.
You can see the drainage hole on the front right tray. This is something I’d thought of using on my next mobile darkbox now I’ve seen it working so well. I’ll have it so it drains into my waste bottle that I carry around.


In contemplative mode. I’d been having some problems with collodion peeling off my drying plates. This shouldn’t be happening with aluminium but what I found was where I had cut the plates to size back home to save on time, there was a raised rough lip/edge to the plates where they had been cut with the craft knife blade. Where edges had been cut with the guillotine there was no issue. The next day I had no further problems as I spent an hour flattening each edge with a borrowed tin opener? Thanks Heather.

So here are my plates:

Anne – First test plate for exposure. Quarter plate 6 seconds f4. A little overexposed.

Bruce – Darlot cone lens f4 for 2 seconds, turned out to be my main exposure for the weekend.










Mark – This plate had a few peel issues. A shame as I really liked this plate.

Mark – a crop of the peeling plate.



I shot mostly quarter plate but I did shoot a few 5×7’s. This one with the Dallmeyer f8 RR lens.

This one of in the Woods was taken with the Darlot cone lens, it just about covers the 5×7 plate with some darkening in the corners, which I dont really mind. I also wanted to see how much it swirls.

Johns cabin through the trees. I really like this plate especially as I got the cabin exposure spot on.

These all need varnishing this week. I’ll then mail out the plates to the sitters as I tend not to keep portraits of other people. I’ll keep a high res scan for future use though.

Trick of the Trade… the plate below was the first exposure test plate on the Saturday. It was overexposed by a good three stops. I’d fixed it and put it in the wash and left it as a lost cause as you could only just make out the chap standing next to the tent. Gregg and Paul both mentioned something from John Coffers manual called “Trick of the trade”. Its a version of Farmer’s reducer that uses Sodium Thio, Potassium Ferricyanide and distilled water. Gregg carries small tubs of of the main chemical which we just mixed with water from the well. Paul then showed me how its used. With the properly mixed chems theres no need to fix again you just wash the chems off. In this case we poured the chems on the plate, washed and then fixed. Each time the shadows became more noticeable. After the fifth application the figure in the image looked great but by now the highlights had begun to change colour and look a little muddy. Paul mentioned that localised application is possible and its very useful for slightly over exposed areas of plates. I was really impressed by this method even on this greatly overexposed plate, maybe I was asking a little too much. I’ll be giving this a go in the UK as I’d not seen anyone using it here. It obviously has a limited usage but its definitely worth giving a go.

I’d put the plate one side to dry and on return found it had begun to peel extensively. Not sure if this a side effect of the nature of this chemical rescue.


And heres a japanned plate made from an old gunpowder tin, thanks to Mark C Richards for this kind gift. Japanning is not something I intend to try but its really nice to see one first hand.

Another thing that I appreciated as a result of the Jamboree is that some wet plate photographers don’t have a web presence, with little or no interest in Facebook, Twitter and online forums.

Heres some links to people that do…

Thanks again to everyone for a great weekend and experience. Oh and also thanks to Wayne for the hat. Without it my head would have burnt to a crisp on the Sunday.



  1. Sam Cornwell
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 10:57 AM | #

    This is so amazing it makes me wat to cry! Please invite me along next time.

  2. Tricia Woodhouse
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 12:29 PM | #

    Tony, what a fantastic, fun and informative weekend you must have had…I loved the images – loved them, and want to give it a go…..and the names of some of the subjects….so amazing…..so American. Just brilliant xx

  3. Robert Durn
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 3:20 PM | #

    Tony, What a great event. Looking at the cars,cameras,plates etc it looks almost timeless.
    I really like the images on the purple anodised aluminium plate and your portraits.Looks like large quantities of KCN was used!
    Hope to catch up with you in Manchester.

  4. Posted August 21, 2012 at 8:04 PM | #

    Greetings Tony,
    Nicely presented, so glad you did this so I won’t have to – I was so busy Jamboreeing that I forgot to take any digital shots besides images of other peoples cameras (mostly Greg’s). Although one evening I managed to take two videos one of Lucious and Vysion running with giant flaming sparklers, I use the word “sparkler” loosely and one of John spinning a yarn in the tent. Very unfortunate about the peeling action on the plate we treated. I have never had that happen to me and I use trick-o-the-trade all the time (I am not too proud to admit that I overexpose regularly) This process was used with silver nitrate prints as well as an burning in effect , very effective although very easy to wipe out highlights in the blink of an eye. Your blog is inspirational and perhaps (but not likely soon) I might get around to doing some to. Superb portraits, I kind of like Richard out of focus. Was great meeting you and all the best in the future. Take Care.
    Paul e

  5. Posted August 21, 2012 at 8:09 PM | #

    Hi Paul,

    Good to hear from you, I popped your plates in the post today, so should be with you in… a few months!

    Keep in touch and would love to see those vids.


  6. Posted August 25, 2012 at 5:21 AM | #

    What a wonderfully done synopsis of the Jamboree. I hope u can make it two next year’s Jamboree. Enjoyed meeting U and ur “better” half ..(:-)). Please besure to keep in touch with me!

    FYI,just yesterday when I went to get my mail from my PO Box, there was a note to pickup an international mail package. So tomorrow. Morning. I go to counter to get it..po

  7. Steve Hulett
    Posted August 28, 2012 at 5:43 PM | #

    Great photos and story. You had asked for names. The two scruffy looking guys looking at Greg developing a mammoth plate of the two of them was me and my son Sam. John’s Jamboree is great fun and all the people are top notch. Good to meet you and hope to see you there next year.

  8. Posted August 28, 2012 at 6:18 PM | #

    Thanks Steve, was good to meet you both, if your ever over this way just drop me a line.


  9. Posted September 19, 2013 at 7:21 AM | #


    Great Blog! Wish I knew how to create a blog. Missed you at this year (2013) Jamboree, Hope you can make it for 2014 Jamboree. Say Hi to your better half….Stephanie for me please.

  10. Posted September 19, 2013 at 8:12 AM | #

    Hi Jim,
    Blogs are easy enough, plenty of free websites/themes etc. I use WordPress.org
    Going to try and make next years Jamboree, fingers crossed.


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