Large format wet plate portraits with affordable ‘bokeh monster’
Famous wet plate photographer Markus Hofstätter recently bought an old wet plate camera, put it back in working order, and added two lenses to it using his 3D printer.
Austrian photographer and educator, Hofstätter likes to bring together old and new. In his photography, he specializes in wet collodion plate, which means he regularly works with decades-old equipment that may require parts to be restored. He recently bought a Mentor wet plate camera at the Camera Obscura festival auction and had to spend some time repairing it to bring it back to life, in the same way he repaired a damaged Linhof tripod he not long ago.
In his latest YouTube video, Hofstätter shows that it’s possible to put damaged equipment back into perfect working order, even if at first glance old cameras like these could be overlooked and forgotten. First, he had to fix the slide lock before fixing the wobbly plate holder – which could otherwise lead to light leaks – and the cable unlock. Although the bellows – which is the accordion-pleated stretchy part of a camera – was not broken, it made a cracking noise, so Hofstätter decided to tear it up and glue it on himself.
In order to be able to film a wet plate with this camera, Hofstätter had to modify the plate holder and was looking for a suitable lens. He eventually found a fast Leitz Hektor 200mm f / 2.5 lens, and using his 3D printer, Hofstätter made a compatible lens port. After four days of printing he had to put the finishing touches and his new wet plate installation was ready for a portrait session in the garden.
The reason Hofstätter is drawn to wet collodion photography is because the shooter gets instant results, similar to Polaroids, making it a great process for impatient analog photographers. In addition, each plate is one of a kind, making the results unique and the appearance cannot be easily reproduced digitally. Because of this excitement, Hofstätter tells PetaPixel that he remembers the plates he took for a very long time compared to the faster digital shot.
As an experienced wet plate shooter himself, Hofstätter recommends attending a workshop to learn more about the process, including the danger of chemicals, equipment, and the history of this type of photography. Even better if an accompaniment is provided after the workshop to ensure a safe practice of the wet plate. He also recommends two books: “Chemical Pictures: Making Ambrotypes Tintypes Negatives and Prints” by Quinn Jacobson or “Das Kollodium” (German language) by Peter Michels.
For those looking to buy a camera like this, he explains that a lot of wooden cameras were made by unknown carpenters, which, while not a bad thing, can mean the buyer forgets to check if the camera comes with a mounting plate. incumbents, which is necessary otherwise the chances of getting a suitable incumbent are very low. As for the lenses, small scratches are not to be feared, but it is recommended to see the equipment in person or it can also be purchased from a trusted source, like Wet Plate Dreams, which provides accurate descriptions. to buyers.
However, even if you buy from a trusted source, there are some additional tasks to undertake, such as modifying the plate holder for the wet plate process, as shown in his video above.
Other Hofstätter work, including wet plate portraits, is available on his website, blog and Instagram page, while his videos can be viewed on his YouTube channel.
Image credits: All images by Markus Hofstätter and used with permission.