The Light Farm

Dry Plate Photography, p.2 — More Possibilities

Handcolored Emulsion Transfer.

This is a contact print of the same 4"x 5" plate on paper emulsion-coated 'Yupo' synthetic watercolor paper. Yupo is wonderful stuff and I highly recommend a tablet of it in your "toolbox." It's invaluable in a number of roles, but here it acted as an excellent surface for coating and exposing. During processing, however, the emulsion slips right off in a whole sheet. In the wash water it swells until it's almost half again the dimensions it started. After you finish washing (handling the sheet of naked emulsion very gently at all times) carefully slip a clean sheet of Yupo under the emulsion and lift it out of the water. Using your clean fingers, push and pull gently on the emulsion until the dimensions are the way you want them. Lay the Yupo and the emulsion somewhere flat and clean to dry. The emulsion dries tight to the Yupo. I set the transfer print on a light table, emulsion side down, and colored the backside of the print with watercolor paint. The process is a lot of fun and not near as fussy as I've made it sound here. One of the great things about Yupo is how durable it is. A sheet can be cleaned and dried and reused many times.

Encouraging Halation.

Again, the same plate, but this time I scanned it in a flatbed. There was no halation produced during the original exposure but when I scanned it (rather than photographing it on a light table) the light from the scanner bounced around inside the sheet of glass and created haloing around everything — a rather ethereal effect. It's good for a stand-alone virtual image or inkjet print or enlarged digital negative. It could also be printed on transparent or translucent inkjet film and handcolored on the back just like the Yupo emulsion transfer was. It's a technique crying for a creative person who would shoot the right subject matter and apply just the right coloring.

Non-Silver Prints — The "Alternative Processes".

This is the same carbon print that is in the 'Troubleshooting' chapter, 'Matching Technique to Process'. A dry plate is just a negative and given that the variables of density and contrast must be tailored to a particular process, dry plates can be printed in many, many ways.

A Magic Dragon Wrap-Up.

I could place this image in any number of categories. The plate quality is horrible (too-thin coating, fogged emulsion, over-exposed and on the verge of tipping toward solarization, and almost certainly poor developer choice). It would be nearly impossible to make a decent print with either traditional contact printing or enlarging. It took serious time with the Photoshop burn and dodge tools to "rescue" the plate, but it turned out to be one of my favorite images. So, is the plate a failure or a success? It depends, of course, on one's own personal metrics for such things and that's all that matters.

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