Reflections on glass

Having exposed the last of my silver emulsion glass plates, it’s time to reflect on what’s been learned and what comes next …

On a visit to New Lanark World Heritage Village at the weekend, I exposed the last of the 5×4 SE1 emulsion dry glass plates I made a couple of months ago. The final plates of the batch have been stored in an opaque black plastic bag, separated with baking paper since the hand-poured emulsion was dried so I was interested to see how they would perform after the period of storage.

I think they performed rather well. While I accept it is subjective I rather like the marks left by the baking paper on the surface of the gelatin emulsion which appears to have ‘sweated’ a little during storage, although I would like to work out how to avoid them if I could!

New Lanark: Falls of Clyde
Falls of Clyde – 1
New Lanark: Falls of Clyde
Falls of Clyde – 2


New Lanark: Mill Number Three
Mill Number Three


New Lanark: Caithness Row
Caithness Row
New Lanark: Owen's House, New Buildings and The Bell Tower
Robert Owen’s House and The Bell Tower
New Lanark
New Lanark

So with my supply of plates now exhausted I have to make some decisions what to do next. Being involved in the process from preparation of the glass through pouring the emulsion to exposing and developing the plates has been insightful and enjoyable. I’ve exposed them quite successfully in The Intrepid large format field camera and in home made pinhole cameras.

There’s some room for improvement in the adhesion of the emulsion to the glass. Some of my plates show signs of frilling around the edges so for any future batch I’d want to pay particular attention to glass cleaning and the proportions of gelatin and hardener in the subbing solution.

So far, all that I have done with the plates has been to scan them as digital files, or to contact print them. As I have no other means at present to make larger darkroom prints I rather think that I would like to prepare for exposure in pinhole cameras, a batch of larger plates that could be contact printed.

There’s a whole range of alternative print processes that I could experiment with: Salt printing, cyanotypes, van dyke browns and so on. I feel that the unique character given by the inevitable imperfections of hand-poured plates would blend well with the serendipitous nature of pinhole images and plates up to about 10″x8″ would be good for contact printing. Maybe pinhole plates are the way forward, keeping The Intrepid for regular sheet film exposed through a lens.

I’ll have some time to think about that though as I have other things coming up that need my attention: A talk and presentation about pinhole characteristics to the Democratic Camera Club in October and prints to prepare for submission to an exhibition in December. More on these to follow!

A Brownie Outing

My first outing with the fifty plus year old Brownie 127 camera.

Following on from my nostalgic eBay win of a Brownie 127 Camera Outfit, as reported in my previous post A nostalgic find on eBay, the natural thing to do was load it with film and get out to take some photographs.

It so happened that the Edinburgh Lo-fi Photography Group, of which I am a member, had arranged a timely meetup for a wee jaunt along the Fife Coastal Path between Dysart and West Wemyss last weekend. What could be more lo-fi than a Brownie 127 camera? I took the Brownie with two rolls of Rera Pan 100-127 film and my Intrepid with six sheets of Fomapan 100 just for a bit of alternative interest.

The snaps taken with the Brownie came out rather well in my opinion, with just the one (accidental) double exposure!

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The Intrepid didn’t do too badly either but I messed up one sheet, due to forgetting to replace the dark slide after taking the shot. Oops! The ultra-cool Autoknips mechanical timer release that I also found on eBay got a wee outing too and performed magnificently for the group shots.

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 The Techy Stuff

On my return home I discovered that I had only just enough Ilfosol 3 developer to process the two 127 rolls and the six 5×4 sheets.

The Brownie is just a simple point and shoot camera with no settings to worry about as long as the light is good and bright. The day started bright and sunny but increased cloud cover as the day progressed reduced the light level considerably but I carried on taking pictures regardless, not knowing how the film would perform. The Rera Pan 100-127 is quite new on the market, produced by a Japanese manufacturer. There is little information available as a guide to developing times and none that I could find for Ilfosol 3, the only developer I had available! However by comparing the little information I could find for Rera Pan and comparing it with information available for other film/developer combinations, I eventually settled on 6 minutes at 20C in 1+9 dilution. The results are OK but I think I’d like to have a bit more ‘punch’ to them so I will probably make changes next time.

To give a wee contrast boost and to make the most of the clouds, I used a yellow filter on the Intrepid and consequently made a one-stop exposure correction on each shot. Developing the Fomapan was quite straightforward in Ilfosol 3, diluted 1+9 for 5 minutes 30 seconds at 20C using a MOD54 in a Paterson tank. The results are pretty much as I expected.

A nostalgic find on eBay

The auction item that recalled Cristmas morning 1962, my first camera and a competition win. I just had to have it!

I started off browsing eBay auctions for a rangefinder to use with my Intrepid field camera. Having found what I was looking for and adding the auction to my ‘watch’ list I carried on browsing. It wasn’t long before I spotted a clockwork timer release that would come in handy for the occasional ‘selfie’ with the Intrepid so I added that auction to my watch list too.

My interest in what else I might find was aroused and I carried on browsing the vintage photography section. I was stopped in my tracks when I came across a Kodak Brownie 127 Camera Outfit, complete with its box and instruction leaflet. My mind went back to Christmas morning 1962 and excitedly tearing open a parcel to reveal a box and contents the very same as I was looking at on the computer screen, and the Boxing Day walk with my Dad as I shot both rolls of film that came with the outfit. This was an auction I had to win. There was no escaping the sense of ‘must have’. It was the third auction to be added to my watch list, and I had over a week to wait before the auction would close.

Each day I checked but there were no bidders. Perhaps the seller’s mis-spelling of ‘Kodak’ as ‘Kodac’ meant the auction was missing from searches, perhaps there were others like me who were biding their time before bidding. Whatever it took, I had to have this camera.

The rangefinder auction was first to close. I was lucky – three last-minute bidders but I won the auction and for less than I’d been prepared to pay! The Intrepid has no focus scale but I reckoned I could use the rangefinder to find the distance to what I wanted to focus on and then use tables to find the depth of field for the aperture I wanted to use.


Not long after the rangefinder came the timer and this time I was the only bidder. Second item won and the big one to come. The omens were good!


I logged on a good half hour before the auction was due to end. No-one had yet placed a bid. I couldn’t believe it. The fact that this was a complete boxed set and looking to be in very good condition was surely the sort of thing collectors would be keen to have. As I settled down to watch and wait I was clocking up silly money figures in my mind for what I’d have to bid, just in case. I waited until the last remaining seconds to put in my sky-high daft bid but it seems nobody else wanted to spoil my party. I was the only bidder and got it for the opening price. I just couldn’t believe my luck. More so when a few days later the parcel arrived in the post.

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The camera, box and instruction leaflet were as near pristine as a fifty-plus year old camera could be. There are a couple of small chips in the bakelite and a previous owner, probably the original one, had written their name and address in marker pen on the inside of the case. But the shutter mechanism, the only moving part of the camera was perfect. Now all I had to do was get hold of a couple of rolls of 127 film.

127 size rolls of film went out of mainstream production years ago. There have been occasional revivals but never for long. I searched the web and discovered that a Japanese company had started producing black & white 127 film under the name of Rera Pan 100 and it was available through UK retailers. I bought two rolls, each costing about three times the price I’d paid for the camera but who cares when you’re on a nostalgia trip like this one!

That same Christmas I’d been given some book tokens and one of my purchases was “The Boys Book of Photography”. I have no idea what fate befell my first camera but I do still have that book. It taught me all I needed to know and more, about using a camera, framing a picture, developing the film and making prints.

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Less than a year after getting that camera I entered a photo in the ‘action’ section of a school photography competition. It was a photo of my young sister on a slide in a now long-gone playpark in Edinburgh’s Saughton Park. It won first prize – the only prize I’ve ever won in a photography competition so not something I’ll easily forget.


Happy memories. And all because I lingered a little on that auction site!

(And I’ve been out and about with the ‘new’ camera – more on that to come).

Memories of a time gone by

It’s taken a couple of weeks to get the ambrotype plates I made at the St Andrews Photography Festival workshop finished off for final viewing.

It’s taken a couple of weeks to get the ambrotype plates I made at the St Andrews Photography Festival workshop finished off for final viewing.

The plates needed to be fixed for a bit longer and then rinsed again before applying a coat of Liquitex varnish to protect the images. These final processes were not without their problems with the collodion emulsion partly lifting on one plate while rinsing, and ‘sausages’ of varnish collecting along the bottom of the plates where I’d laid them to drain and dry. Some minor damage to the collodion was inevitable in scraping off the ‘sausages’, but these are lessons to be learned should there ever be a next time!

I have three plates: the first is spoilt by the emulsion lift but the other two seem to have worked out pretty well for a first time. I scanned all three as positives, i.e. with a black background in the manner that they would normally be viewed.

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I then removed the black background and rescanned and flipped the second and third plates as negatives. The results on the computer screen at least are more pleasing.

Group Shot
Group Shot. L-R: Brittonie, Fiona, Donald and Paul


Selfie, with a little help
Selfie, with assistance from Fiona

The workshop and the processes we used were discussed in my previous blog post