Photographing a rock band on wet plate with 7500Ws of strobe power

Oct 18, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Photographing a rock band on wet plate with 7500Ws of strobe power

Oct 18, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Photographing a group of people on large format wet plate needs a lot of power. Even with a relatively wide f/5.6 aperture, with an ISO of around 0.5 that still needs a lot of light. How much light? Well, around 7500 watt-seconds to be precise.

That’s how much power photographer Markus Hofstätter used for this group portrait of Austrian rock band The Black Proteus. Although, surely being photographed on wet plate makes them a metal band now?

Despite using a 100-year-old camera to record the image, the lighting Markus used was anything but old tech. His key was a Hensel Tria 6000 pack with an EH Pro 6000 head for maximum power output. A Hensel Integra 1000 Plus was then bounced off the ceiling for some fill, along with a 500Ws compact strobe to light up the background.

One particularly interesting thing about this shoot was one of the subject’s tattoos. Wet plate collodion typically removes any evidence of tattoos from skin, as illustrated perfectly by the Puaki project. In this instance, however, the tattoos needed to remain.

Although not quite as contrasty as in real life, the tattoos haven’t been completely eliminated. Markus’ technique for this was essentially the same as that used when pushing film to a higher ISO. You underexpose the shot and then increase the development time to compensate. As Markus explains…

Wet Plate Collodion is mostly sensitive to blue light. That means that this spectrum gets brighter on the plate. Tattoos (especially black tattoos) seems to have a lot of blue and green tint in the color and appear pretty bright on a tintype. With the technique mentioned above, I’m able to increase the contrast and so you are able to see them.

The wet plate tintype measures 23×18 centimetres (9″ x 7″), but contains a whole lot of detail. To give you an idea of just how much detail, here’s a close up of that tattooed arm.

I always find it interesting to see Markus’ work, as well as to watch him work. I’m fascinated by wet plate anyway, but he films his videos using an Insta360 ONE. He’s the only person I know who uses a 360° camera in this way consistently. It’s a unique insight into his working process where you really get to see everything important that goes on behind the scenes.

The band seemed to enjoy the process, too.

You can check our more of Markus’ work on his website or blog, follow his work on Instagram or Facebook or reach out to him through Twitter. And if you want to check out The Black Proteus and hear some of their music, then head on over to their website.

Images used with permission.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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5 responses to “Photographing a rock band on wet plate with 7500Ws of strobe power”

  1. Tj Ó Seamállaigh Avatar
    Tj Ó Seamállaigh

    Awesome

  2. DPJ Avatar
    DPJ

    I love the wet plate process. And the images it produces are just sublime.

  3. Frank Nazario Avatar
    Frank Nazario

    video completely anticlimactic… cool the fact you did wet plate thats about it… waste of time sorry.

    1. Robin Avatar
      Robin

      The climax was the finished image, from an amazingly difficult process, what were you expecting?

  4. Aankhen Avatar
    Aankhen

    Looks okay. Cool song, though.