It's been just over three years now since I started shooting in the alternative process of wet-plate collodion. This intensive chemical heavy photographic process is not for the absent minded soul. With so many procedural elements, if you don't stick to strict protocols, you can find yourself in a tail spin moments after pouring your first plate. But when it all comes together (what I call the aligning of the moons, i.e. all of moon in our solar system in alignment), you will be rewarded with the PERFECT POUR, which equates to smooth evenly coated plate, clean silver nitrate sensitized coat, properly lit and exposed image, smooth clean developer pour and evenly coated stop bath (no dirt, dust or ripples),  fixed and washed. No artifacts and perfectly clean blacks!

The Perfect Pour with Tori Lyon -

 TORI LYON - 14" x 14" alumintype.  One light (14" Mole Richardson fresnel w/Ascor strobe) 6400ws, no PHOTOSHOP retouching or cleaning.

 TORI LYON - 14" x 14" alumintype.  One light (14" Mole Richardson fresnel w/Ascor strobe) 6400ws, no PHOTOSHOP retouching or cleaning.

Here is my procedural preparation check list before every shoot.

  • All tanks and bottles cleaned with denatured alcohol
  • Denature Alcohol (squirt bottle)
    • 300-500 mL
    • Constantly wiping down all surfaces (minimizing cross contamination)
  • Collodion (300-500 mil. per 8 plates)
    • Check age  or mix fresh (film speed critical)
    • Check viscosity (ease of pouring emulsion)
  • Silver Nitrate bath (4 liters)
    • Correct specific gravity for dilution %
    • corrected ph
    • maintenance (sunned to remove organic matter)
    • filtered x3
  • Developer (500-750 mL per 8 plates)
    • freshly mix per shoot
  • Stop bath (distilled water 8 liters on hand)
    • 1 quart per plate. Bath discarded, tray cleaned and refilled for every plate
  • Fixing bath (4 liters)
    • freshly mixed per shoot
  • Circulating wash tank (12 liter)
    • Refilled with clean water per shoot
  • Wet Storage/wash tank - THE CELL (24 gallons)
    • Refilled with fresh water per shoot.

That is just for the chemical side for a wet-plate shoot. The electrical/lighting check list is also just as long. Look for that post in the future.

Found in the archive - "Sonny" Barger of the Hells Angels

While fishing around in my archive, I came across this rare chrome from one of those assignments you were not sure about once you read the subjects name.

Ralph Hubert  "Sonny"  Barger  -  ©1988 Peter DaSilva

Ralph Hubert "Sonny" Barger - ©1988 Peter DaSilva

Ralph Hubert "Sonny" Barger, who was a founding member (1957) of the Oakland, California, U.S. chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. It was to make a portrait of Barger on his 50th birthday back in 1988 at his custom motorcycle shop in Oakland, CA. At first I was hesitant, especially during the walk from the entrance of the shop to the counter to ask for Sonny. I think it was the searing stares I got until Barger came out and advised his crew I was OK. The shoot went smoothly and he was gracious and pleasant to work with. But shortly after that shoot, Barger was found guilty of conspiring to blow up the clubhouse of a rival motorcycle club, The Outlaws in Louisville, Kentucky and spent four years in a federal prison in Arizona.

As I look back, I realize how special this opportunity was and glad I got to meet and photograph such a major figure in the history of the Hells Angels.