The most challenging part of the wet collodion process is the problem-solving. Quite often, everything is going swimmingly and then your image quality takes a turn for the worse, and you have to work out why.
Ray Spence visited at the weekend and unfortunately the chemistry wasn’t behaving too well. The plates lacked contrast with weaker highlights than I’m used to seeing, although this improved a little as the day went on and we made more images. This was a clue to one possible problem; I recently boiled-down the silver bath and reconstituted it with distilled water, but I didn’t re-iodise the solution by leaving a plate in it overnight. This never occurred to me before, but it seems pretty clear that it would need to be done, much like you would when making up a silver bath for the first time. Secondly, the batch of collodion was a new one (obtained from John Brewer) and very yellow; it probably needed some time to ripen. Another lesson learned; I had disposed of all my very old, red collodion so didn’t have any to help ripen the new solution.
Still, towards the end of the day I got a pretty decent portrait of Ray. Collodion adds a few years to sitter, I find; Ray is actually a sprightly 28 year old (well I’m guessing there, but he’s certainly younger than he looks in the picture). The lens was the first outing for a newly acquired brass Petzval for my full plate camera, which turns out to have nice bokeh and a bitingly sharp centre.