Everybody knows that I work exclusively on collodion wet plate portraits. So what’s the reason for food photography now? Let me try to explain. Many of you guys will remember that I bought a Cambo studio stand some while ago. A little bit later I bought a used tray for it on eBay. The seller was very friendly and somehow we started to talk about photography
Long story short, a month later we decided to do a project together. After months of planning, Hans Gerlach (a well-known food photographer and columnist) drove over to my studio and brought his tools and some delicious food with him.
Additional food for this shooting came from my garden, this way I could bring a bit more into the project besides my wet plate photography. During the planning period, we discussed different dishes, their colours and how they would appear on a tintype (the wet collodion process only sees blue light and therefore red colours will turn black and blue-white).
We saw this come together as kind of a first test and wanted to see what we could create. For me, it was very interesting to have a chef working in my kitchen.
I suggested the 13x18cm format, because the camera is not too huge and can be easy mounted over head. We can get a bit more depth of field because of this smaller format. And I have a beautiful 250mm Zeiss Tessar lens that I can stop down to about F16 without having to long exposure times (two Hensel generators with 9000 w/s together helped to archive that and remember, its called wet plate, because the plate needs to be wet the whole time and can not dry). I mounted this beauty of a lens on my 13x18cm Mentor camera.
Even though the studio Mentor camera and the tripod are meant for that kind of work, it felt funny to see my tools in that position.
While I prepared everything in my darkroom, Hans Gerlach did his magic in my kitchen. We were very excited to work on the first plate. And after we saw the result, we were even more excited, the outcome was gorgeous. So we worked very long on the first day (I think I went to bed at 4 am). But it was not all glory. We shot so many plates, that at some point my silver nitrate bath went bad. First I thought it was the collodion, the fixer and the developer, but after I changed all of that(I am always good prepared for important shootings and create everything twice or even three times) and still got funny looking plates, I know I need to change the silver nitrate bath.
After I changed the bath, everything was fine again and we could go on with the shooting.
We shot many different styles of sourdough bread until we were happy with the outcome. This is one of our favourites plates. To hold it in our hands after months of planning and all the work we put together was wonderful. If you are interested in a print of this plate or any other, check out my store.
But this little setback should not be the only thing that kept me busy this day. After shooting many plates, my modified wet plate holder made my life a bit harder. Sometimes the plate won’t stay in place and the end result of that was a scratched plate….
I quickly solved the problem with a little redesign on the plate holder and from that on I was able to shoot without any problem. Before capturing every new dish, we were excited to see how it will turn out.
And most of them turned out great, I really like the beans and the spoon with chocolate mousse. The sheer amount of detail and texture of these scans from the wet plates are just incredible. They will look amazing on a big print.
To get as much done as possible, I scanned all 13x18cm (about 200mpix) and 18x24cm (about 300mpix, I decided later to do two bigger plates too) plates at night and also varnish them afterwards. So this night was quite short.
I shot the bigger plates with a 150-year-old Dallmeyer 2b Petzval lens to mix this delicious bread with the beautiful swirly bokeh from this old lens. I really like how this plate turned out and how the out of focus areas look like.
After these intense shoots, we were always rewarded with great looking plates amazing tasting food.
Hans also created amazing tasting handmade pasta.
To give you guys a much better idea of this shooting, I tried to captures as much footage as possible to bring you behind the scenes with this video
On thing is sure, we enjoyed our work together a lot and will do more like that in the future, but that needs again lots of planning. I am very happy that I met Hans and his work inspired me (yes there is also a inspired portrait coming up). I really look forward to our next shooting together (and yes, I also look forward to eat everything!)
Because I get asked very often about the tools I use for the wet plate process, I created a shopping list.
About the Author
Markus Hofstätter is a professional portrait, events and sports photographer based in Austria. He has a passion for analogue and wet plate photography. He loves travelling to visit new places and meeting new people. You can find out more about him on his website or blog, follow his work on Instagram or Facebook or reach out to him through Twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.