At this year’s Palm Springs Photo Festival, photographer Ian Ruhter held a workshop on how to do wet plates with Profoto strobes. All these shots were created by his students (including a famous face you’ll all recognize) on the second day. And here is how it all went down, in Ian’s own words.
It was almost a decade ago that I picked up my first camera. I took my first photography class and my eyes were opened to something that my senses had never felt before.
Shortly after, I realized that I was holding a new passport to the world in my hands and that this craft was one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me. Since this time the camera has led me around the world– a couple of times. Along the way, during this great adventure, I learned from many different photographers. Today, I am happy that I am able to share this gift with others.
In late April, for 4 days, I had the pleasure of teaching my first workshop at the 2014 Palm Springs Photo Festival to a group of eleven individuals who ranged in skill level from the photography enthusiasts to professionals. I was blown away that people from overseas to attend this workshop. One individual who traveled from Turkey–whose own personal collection of photos–left me with inspiration to now take my wet plate photography project abroad.
The overall objective of this workshop was to teach a 19th century photography process, called wet plate collodion with 21st century lighting. Wet plate collodion film has an ISO rating of one. So, my challenge and goal of this project was by the end of the class to be able to do the following: Use our Profoto Pro-B3 1200 packs with ProTwin Heads and Magnum Reflectors, which would produce a tremendous amount of light that would allow us to create candid images with this process. These lights provided us with enough power to make images in a way that had been deemed impossible.
Why is this significant and challenging? Historically, wet plate photography portraits are known to be stiff or stoic. The subject would be sitting still for 3 to 30 seconds with their head tightly braced – no movement. All this would be done using natural light. However, for our class I wanted to step away from this and focus on the candid image.
The workshop started off with my assistant Will Eichelberger and I preparing the camera truck in order to make a photo of the class. I wanted to show them this entire process, start to finish, and how this one of a kind camera works on the first day. Together, as a class, we created one of the largest wet plate collodion images. With this gigantic camera and our Profoto lights we introduced our new friends to the world of wet plate collodion photography.
The next day, I taught them how to make their own wet plate collodion film, developer and fix by hand from raw materials. For this workshop I provided each student with a Holga camera. They learned loading the camera, sensitizing the plate, exposure, the developing, fixing and varnishing the plate and applying the modern lighting techniques with our electronic flash.
By the end of the workshop I was pleased to see my students be able to make their individual plates by using the process from start to finish within the required 5 to 7 minute time period for which each plate needs to be made.
I was quite amazed by the images that each student was coming up with throughout the day. It was a very enlightening experience, one which I was actually learning from my own students. I was very impressed with their creativity and the direction they had taken while making their own images.
You can see more of Ian Ruhter’s work here.
You should also check out his website.