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Simon Harbord's talk

Well last Tuesday was one of the best evenings I can recall at BPS. Simon's talk was fascinating, but the demonstration of wet plate collodion photography in the second half was absolutely brilliant. Many thanks to Simon for putting so much hard work into the evening and making it really memorable.

It is particularly of interest to Brechin Photographic Society, as it is undoubtedly a photography process employed by our founding members back in 1888.

Dennis and something spooky for Hallowe'en

Below is a couple of video clips put together to show the process of exposing the wet plate for a photograph (despite the 'portable sun' lighting, the photograph still requires around a 15 second exposure) during which our honorary member Jim Snedden had to remain as still as possible. Prior to his Simon had coated the black aluminium plate (used to create a 'positive' image - whereas using glass produces a 'negative' image) in collodion, which certainly has a distinct and strong aroma! He then took the wet plate into his mobile dark room, and sensitised it by submerging it in 9% silver nitrate. The plate is then transferred into a holder to keep the light off it.

In the video, you can see him installing the plate holder in the camera, focusing and exposing the image for 15 seconds, and then re-sealing the plate holder and removing it from the camera. The plate must remain wet through this whole process, so time is important.

He then returns to the darkroom, and develops the plate using ferrous sulphate, which stops the sensitivity to light . The second part of the video shows him 'fixing' the plate in ammonium thiosulphate (sped up 200% for the video). The image then appears almost like a poloroid.

The plate must be repeatedly washed before it can be varnished, which Simon will do back at his studio.

All in the process takes around 10-15 minutes to complete, but with so many steps and processes (some of which are quite dangerous!!), it is vastly different to the digital age of photography we have now!

Simon has a Victorian styled studio in St Cyrus, and is one of only a handful of people in Scotland who does this traditional process. He offers various services, such as portraits and workshops, and anyone who is keen to learn more or who may have missed Tuesday's talk, please check his website out at

A brilliant night, so many thanks again to Simon for all his hard work putting it together.

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