Silver emulsion on glass rediscovered

A forgotten stash of glass plates leads to some pinhole and vintage playtime.


When I prepared a batch of SE1 Emulsion coated dry glass plates back in June/July last year I also had a small supply of microscope slide glass that I coated with the left-over emulsion.

Without a definite plan for how I would expose the coated slides I wrapped them up and put them in the back of a drawer. Meantime I spent the summer exposing the batch of 4×5 and 3×5 plates, experimenting with exposures and development regimes as I went. Some of the results have been the subject of earlier blogs.

Thinking that all I had left of that batch of plates was the bundle of microscope slides and with thoughts to expose them in a regular 35mm camera, I went to the drawer and was surprised to find I still had a couple of 3×5 plates and four 1/16th plates cut from larger microscope slides all wrapped up too.

I decided to put the microscope slides in a 35mm camera to one side for another blog and another time. Instead I would expose the 3×5 plates in the home-made pinhole they were prepared for and the 1/16th plates in The Countess that they were cut for.

First, the pinhole plates:

Monday. Quayside. Low tide. Calm.


Friday. Harbour wall. High tide. Stormy.

Then at the weekend Murphy the dog and I took The Countess up the hill for a walk in the snow for some handheld shots:

Looking south.
The top in sight.
Setting sun.
South again.

There’s a fair mix of imperfections from the presure marks left by the baking paper used to separate the plates when they were packed away (perhaps I could have dried them more thoroughly to avoid this), to frilling due to poor adhesion of the emulsion to the glass and uneven development due to varying coating thicknesses. There are also dark spot-like marks which I suspect are due to deterioration of the gelatin and possibly to poor original cleaning of the glass. But from the outset of my dry glass plate journey I have always maintained that imperfections are to be enjoyed and celebrated as a part of the imag. My view on that has not changed.

Of the images here I think ‘Setting sun’ is my favourite … at least for now.

So I have just nine or ten glass slides left to expose. They are 25mm wide and the guide rails to transport film through a 35mm camera are 24mm apart. I have an idea to create a holder that will fit into the back of the camera to hold one slide securely and aid loading and unloading in a dark bag. More on that and how I get on with them, in another blog!

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