THE PHOTOGRAPHIC NEWS Vol. 1, No. 13, December 3, 1858
THE COLLODIO-ALBUMEN PROCESS.
If this beautiful and very certain process were in danger of being buried and forgotten in the more recent discovery of Mr. Fothergill, the late report of the Manchester committee must at least induce those who have the and opportunity to try both, and draw their own inference as to the results. I have, myself, worked every process--if not every modification of every process, and my old faith is yet unaltered, that the best results of each are almost, if not utterly, indistinguishable, and two good photographers would be of different opinions as to the kind of negative from which some prints are taken. I know that many will differ from me. I will, however, mention one instance to support me, and that is, Leverett's waxed paper views, which were at the Exhibition of the Art Treasures last year. Generally this process has the least decision and sharpness of any, yet his "Stutton Park," and many others, were not less beautiful in any way than the very best glass pictures there. With this faith, the question of what process to use seems to me to appeal for its answer to ease of preparation and certainty; in the latter, at least, collodio-albumen cannot possibly be excelled, and if the preparation appears to be complicated, and to take a longer time, I think that, if we examine both, we should come to the conclusion that at least it is quite as convenient as Fothergill's, if not more so. Doubtless a thousand voices will be raised to contradict this statement; but they forget that all the preparation of Fothergill's must be begun and finished at once. Now in the other process a man, even after business hours, might prepare thirty or more plates as far as the first stage, and leave them in this state until dry, when they would keep any length of time; and then it is, easy to prepare twenty for the camera, whilst another man using Fothergill's prepares five or six. Is not this an advantage that has ever been overlooked? I, myself, generally have sixty or eighty large plates ready for the last bath, and I have never found the last used any way inferior to the first. One advantage, and one only, I have observed in Fothergill's, and that is indisputable--the time of printing is slightly reduced, as the light is made less powerful by the albumen Coating being rather thick in the other. As this description is intended for beginners as well as photographers, the latter must excuse the minuteness of the directions, which naturally range themselves as follows
1st.--The glass, and how to clean it, is the first stage of the operations; and here I must caution the operator against being persuaded to go to the expense of "patent plate," or other extravagant description of glass. I know the glass-trade well, and if a man asks for good "16 ounce sheet" at any respectable dealers, he will have a flat plate quite good enough for any description of negative, and the price is not one fourth of that which he must pay for "patent plate."
The new sheets need no cleaning, but well washing with soda and water--of the strength of one ounce of common washing soda to about a quart of water; but if the plates have been used before, put any quantity of them in a vessel of hot water and soda of the same strength as above, leave them from one quarter of an hour to an hour, and then the film will readily come from the glass. After this, with a little bunch of linen, dipped first in a strong (say one part to four or five parts of water) solution of cyanide of potassium, and then in rotten-stone prepared for the use of the kitchen, rub the plate well, throw it into a large vessel of water, and when all are in this, well wash and wipe. I feel a little unwilling to recommend this mode, as it involves the use of the deadly poison cyanide of potassium; but as every man who photographs must necessarily use what we call dangerous chemicals, I can only caution the beginner. And this method involves less trouble, and is more certain than any other that I have ever tried. When used the plates must be perfectly dry, otherwise blisters, or the leaving of the film, are inevitable.
2nd.--Part of the process is the choice of collodion, and the preparation of the albumen. As to the collodion, I have tried but few makes; my experience is, that with many of the kinds sold as positive collodion it is utterly impossible to work, as they crack when dry, or the film leaves the glass in developing. Those prepared for the dry process alone should be used. I recommend no particular makers; I have never had but one blister out of many hundreds of large plates.
The albumen should be taken from as fresh eggs as can be procured. The germs being removed, it should be prepared as follows
Dissolve these salts in the distilled water, and add to the solution a minute portion of iodine, so that it may have a decided yellow tone (this is advisable, as sometimes' there is free potash in the iodide, which causes minute holes in the blacks of the finished picture); then add to the albumen, and beat well with a silver or wooden fork, or by any other of the numerous methods used. That which I find the simplest and perhaps the best method is, to take a handful of small gravel, very well washed, and to put it, with the albumen, &c., into a strong bottle, shaking it well for ten minutes or a quarter of an hour; by this means the albumen is beaten enough to flow easily. Let it stand twelve, or, if not wanted, twenty-four hours; then filter through fine muslin, and it is fit for use.
This will keep a long time. I have had it for months, and my pictures were as good with it as with the newly-mixed. To keep, however, it should be in a stoppered bottle with a lump of camphor floating on it; and when about to be used, it should be filtered through fine muslin as at first. The next stage is--
3rd.--To apply both, a plate-holder is indispensable--the Globe pneumatic holder is decidedly the best and most easily used. In this place it is as well to describe the method of making the silver bath, as but one is used for both collodion and albumen:--
To saturate this with iodide of silver, which must be done, the most ready method seems to me to be coating a plate with collodion and leaving it in the bath a few hours; it is then fit for use. Take up the plate with the "holder," and pour into the centre a body of collodion, so that it may flow freely over the surface, and pour it, off at the corner nearest you back into the bottle; then move the plate a little to and fro in order to erase the streaky look which it would otherwise have; let it set well, and lower into the bath without a stoppage, else a line, at that part, will be inevitably formed across the plate; leave it a minute; then lift up and down once or twice to wash away, as it were, the streaky appearance of the iodide surface, which will seem greasy; take out; let it drain a little into the bath, and then wash well. My method is as follows:--I have two or three large vessels of water, and put the plate in the first; whilst another plate is in the silver bath I remove the last plate from the first to the second; and if I use three (as I do for large plates), so into the third; then with a jug of water I wash the plate well; lay it to drain for a minute; wipe the back, just to take off the little spots and drops of water which settle there, and pour on and off, three times, the prepared albumen. I must also explain how I do this. Many operators say that, for my size of plates--9½ x 7½-- an ounce of albumen must be used to each. Long ago it seemed to me, that the expense for a great quantity of large plates in albumen alone would be half as great as in collodion--as an ounce of collodion will coat three or four plates, 9 x 7, if not more; so I tried using, say two ounces of albumen for two plates; then in another vessel I put two ounces of fresh; and on each plate I poured, first, the used albumen, which carried off most of the water, and then I used the fresh quantity twice; so I did for five or six plates, and then I threw away the first used, and in its stead put the other two ounces, and poured out two from the unused albumen to use last again. By this means a great saving is effected, and the results, in my hands, are as good. Most operators, however, use fresh albumen each time-an ounce to each plate, 9 x 7 or 10 x 8. After this, the plate must rest on the corner, if possible, to dry, and should not be moved until it is dry, as this causes waves and uneven marks upon the surface. When quite dry--and not before--the plates are ready for,
4th--The bath, &c., when preparing for the camera. The same bath as before is used when exciting for the camera, but this part of the process may be deferred to an indefinite time if time plates are kept dry, and light does not affect them in this stage if they have been washed well. When, therefore, the plates are wanted for use, they must be again immersed in the bath for at least one minute, but not longer than two or three, and washed as before. Again they must he dried before using; as, if they are dried in part only, the development will be uneven and in dark patches; however, in a warm room they dry very readily, especially if we wipe off the wet from the back. When dry they are fit for the 5th stage--The exposure.
(To be continued.)
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