How to capture fog in photography. Literally.

October 12, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Again and again, I'm fascinated, amazed, enchanted by wet plate photography. Making of photographs was for me never before so physical, handmade experience. Shooting film was more sterile and flawless and with digital, you know, you are just pushing the button and sitting behind a computer. 

Wet plates capture more than light. The whole process is fragile and can react in an abrupt way. And it reacts not only to the environment or weather conditions but even to the state and the mood of a photographer mind. 

Autumn is for me the best season of the year. The foggy forest is full of tranquility, but, as the hum of electric power lines, there is always in the background the feel of an impendent end. 

Fog is by Wikipedia a complex atmospheric phenomenon, a visible mass consisting of cloud water droplets. These droplets in contact with a metal change to water drops. I noticed it when I built my tripod and I had observed it when I coated the first plate with collodion. 

Water and collodion are a bad combination. Just for curiosity, I sensitised, exposed and developed the first plate. Water drops resulted in small black dots scattered on the final picture.  With some plates more and bigger, with some less and smaller, maybe how the density of the fog had been changing from the plate to the plate. 

I found a way how to deal with it. Water drops disappeared when collodion was poured on the plate in a closed dark box. Inside of my portable Ikea box it is a pretty tricky operation, but it can be done. But, what I can't stop to think about is, if, by this hunting for technical perfection, I didn't kill something more important. 

If I would be a conceptual artist it would be simple. Black holes are, obviously, a very interesting part of the experience, a clue of the reaction of the process with an environment.  And it is perfect, that they are captured on the plate. As a conceptual artist, I would make a series of plates without pictures, just to show how tintypes react to fog. 

But I'm not a conceptual artist, I'm a photographer. Landscapist. Hunting technical perfections is carving soo deep in me, that I have to fight with myself if I don't want to have the technical perfection as an imperative of my work. And I don't want. Because there are two things which are more important - authenticity and expression. 

How does it work for you? Do black dots on the final plates disturb you, or, do they add something? Are they destroying or boosting the image? Let me know.



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