Fogging

All is not well in tintype land. Since the first three plates I shot, things have gone downhill. I’ve sought help on the forums and I’m very lucky to have a very experienced teacher helping me troubleshoot (via email) but this is keeping me awake at night.

One problem was solved thanks to his basic list of questions: “What has changed from the last time you made clean plates? Location, temperature, chemicals, water?” My images were disappearing; the silver silhouette is visible at certain angles, but would fade as it dried. I don’t think it’s a very common problem.

Turns out it’s the water.

This is a great example of what I mean. Ignore the blue patches, that’s from not washing the developer off properly. The faded silver that you see is as the plate is drying. Yes, the plate is horribly overexposed but the image shouldn’t be disappearing.

The first three plates I made were using kitchen tap water; I switched to using outside tap water, which I think is reclaimed water from our local lakes meant for watering the plants, and I got this problem. Here’s an overview of some the plates I’ve shot that have turned out poorly:

They actually look much better on the photograph than in real life!

So, after switching water, I shot an exposure test plate yesterday:

No fading, but check out that cloudiness! Developer problems, maybe? Ok, I’ll mix up a new batch, this time with 151 proof grain alcohol instead of denatured alcohol (you can’t get the recommended 190 proof alcohol in FL without shipping it in):

This was shot for 3sec at f/11 at a different time of day than the first. The cloudiness on the left hand side is simply appalling. I’m expanding my troubleshooting range now, but first I have to shoot a test plate in my darkroom to check if it’s a chemical problem or if light leaks are to blame.

I will fix this. But there are a lot of things that could be to blame.

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5 thoughts on “Fogging

  1. Monika says:

    You poor thing. If I didn’t know how it ends I would join you in shedding tears. As you say the real plates are worse than the ones on the photo but that is maybe because they faded even more. You are doing a great job in eliminating the various problems.

  2. Gayle says:

    Looks like you are over developing. How long do you have the developer on your plate before washing?

    • Amber Maitland says:

      Hi Gayle,
      I think it was a combination of overexposure and overdeveloping on different plates. I seem to have things under control (gulp–I don’t like to even say it!), and I wonder if some of my “bad” plates were caused by the trophy aluminum I was using. It’s possible that I got a batch that was coated badly and it was causing reactions. But yes, in most of them I was developing too long.

  3. Carmen says:

    Great blog! I’m on my third day of trying tintypes and I’m having this same problem of the plate fading as it dries. I think I will try a different water source. The plates you posted in March are wonderful. Keep posting!

    • Amber Maitland says:

      hi Carmen – also check your exposure time. I really think some of the “fading” was because the plates were grossly overexposed. I’ve since also learned not to panic if good-looking plates start to look a little weak because varnishing them makes them look the same as when they’re wet. Let me know how it goes!

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