Saturday, February 28, 2015

First Stab at Tintype Photography

Took the plunge and bought a Rockland Tintype Parlor Kit for my 4x5 large format camera. There is something magical about old time photography and I have been looking at the wet plate process for awhile but decided to try this dry plate method first since it seemed a bit easier to try out and did not involve owning a bunch of darkroom equipment to start with. I have minimal film processing equipment for daylight development but with this tintype kit I was going to need a minimum of a safelight and some kind of darkroom. I did the usual and put a towel around the bathroom door and setup everything  there, it worked fine for the most part.

The process is pretty straight forward

1. Trim the included 4x5 metal plates to fit your camera. In my case it was the 4x5 film holders. I trimmed about 10mm off of one edge and clipped a corner to simulate an actual piece of cut sheet film. This helped me remember to use a single side for the emulsion coating.

2. Warm the emulsion gel in hot water until it become fluid enough to pour and spread onto the metal plates.

*** Start steps that need to be in darkroom with safelight ***

3. Pour and spread the emulsion onto your metal plates.

4. Dry the plates in a completely dark place for about 24 hours. I used a military ammo can since it was the only light tight box I could find.

5. Put the plates in the film holder

*** End steps that need to be in darkroom with safelight ***

When the emulsion was dry and the film holders where ready to go it was just a matter of finding a suitable subject and exposing as normal except for using a blue filter in front of the light meter. Seems the emulsion is only sensitive to blue light. Once exposed you go back into the darkroom with a safelight and process according to the directions. This step is pretty simple, even I was able to do it without too much trouble.

My first try resulted in images that I think are over exposed. I rated the emulsion at ISO 1.6 and probably should have been ISO 3. I have some more plates drying that I will test out this weekend.

Here are two scans of my best photos from the first batch.

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Any comments or suggestions about this process would be much appreciated!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Impossible Railroad & Carrizo Gorge Solo Backpack

Spent a few days hiking and backpacking around Jacumba and Carrizo Gorge with an emphasis on trying to find some of the old railroad construction camps. Inspired by the book The Impossible Railroad I backpacked out into the Gorge battling the Tamarisk and ticks and found several of the camps, train wreckage, historic artifacts and even more interest in this fascinating story of a railway that was jinxed from the beginning. I encourage you to read this book if you want to learn more about the history and see many unpublished photos of the railroad as it progressed from 1919 to our present day fiasco it still is.

I will post some of my favorite photos of the trip here but you can see many more in my photo gallery here

The railroad tracks are completely blocked off as of 02-14-2015 at the De Anza resort. The old train cars that have been off to the side for years have been pulled up onto the tracks completely blocking access to railway vehicles. You can see in this picture that whatever large vehicle it took to move those rail cars have dented and smashed down the actual tracks. The picture is deceiving, it looks like the rail car is on the tracks normally but they are actually laid cross wise on the tracks, like a big tractor or such just dragged them up and onto the tracks at an angle.

Tracks are closed off near De Anza resort. Tracks are also looking pretty smashed up from whatever vehicle was used to move that rail car onto the tracks

Young & Crooks Camp 1 down in the gorge
Young & Crooks Camp 1

Most of the construction sites built up tiered foundations on the hillsides. They were very elaborate and quite impressive
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Debris from the construction camp

The May 1965 derailed Coors Beer trailer
Coors Beer Trailer that derailed in May 1965

The wheels wedged into a dry fall

I found several small rooms dug into the hillsides that must have served as offices or temporary shelters
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Or perhaps they were the supply rooms for the important stuff
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Plenty of beautiful blooms starting to happen now
Cleveland's Beardtongue,  Penstemon clevelandii

Fishhook Cactus

Most of the tunnel bypass roads were clear but some had landslide debris covering them or worse cholla land mines, this one I did not win, I took heavy casualties, even my hiking pole got several stuck on it!

Here is a nice view down the gorge towards the Seven Sisters and in the foreground is the original tunnel 15
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A bit more old debris in some other construction sites
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About the only graffiti I wasn't discouraged to see

Total Mylar Balloons this trip - 5 (no pictures sorry..!)

More photos in my gallery here