Jonathan A Lewis Photography

Archive for the 'Plates' Category


January 25th, 2009 | Category: Daguerreotypy,Plates,Troubleshooting

DagWell the first image taken on one of my new plates was less than a masterpiece. It was overexposed, underdeveloped, fogged, and out of focus. At least there was an image… and the framing was close to what I intended. I’ll just go down the list of problems:

These plate are significantly faster than the pure silver plates I was using before. I had somewhat anticipated this and reduced the exposure by a little over a stop but it wasn’t enough. Reciprocity also might have something to do with it. I have yet to find a reciprocity curve for dags and I’m sure it’d be a rather onerous task to produce one. The amount of UV might be yet another problem.

This bit of info was given to me by John Hurlock on the DagForum. I was a somewhat surprised but it makes sense now that he pointed it out.

This is also a product of the new plates. They’re much thicker than before and thus absorb much more heat during development. When I took the plate out after 3 hours under the light, it was so hot I couldn’t touch it. To fix that I’m going to make a heat sucking apparatus that I’ll talk more about once it’s complete.

The thickness of the plates causes the surface to move out of the focal plane of the lens when I have it taped to the back of the film holder. This is especially a problem since the depth of focus is so small when the lens all the way open. I suppose I could stop down but then my exposures would get much longer. I’ll have to think about this one…

There are lots of things to change and fix but that’s all part of the fun. Plus, this was only my 14th exposure…

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Inaugural Plates and the New Era

January 23rd, 2009 | Category: Plates,Resources & Links

I’ve been very busy with all things daguerreian the last few weeks. Unfortunately a lot of it is only indirectly related to my daguerreotypy. Alan Bekhuis, Andy Stockton, and I launched the redesigned and revamped resource for contemporary daguerreotypes: We took and and combined them into one, well organized, ever expanding website. In addition to the galleries, resources, and forum, we’ve added a wiki which promises to be an invaluable addition to the site and daguerreotypy in general. Check it out, it’s well worth a visit!

The copper plates I was polishing in the previous entry were sent off to the platers on Tuesday and I just got them back today. My very first silver plated copper daguerreotype plates! No more of those tiny pure silver plates, these are beefy 16 gauge copper quarter plates plated with a 1/2 mil. of fine silver. You could take someone out with one of these plates! Can you tell I’m excited? Anyway, I’m very pleased with the results. The plates look beautiful and with a 4 day turn around time (including 2 days in transit!) I just can’t complain.

As for cost, I have figured that they run about $20 each (excluding shipping). The copper cost me about $7 per plate and the plating came to around $13 each. Looking at the prices that people sell plates for on the forum I think it’s a pretty good deal. Mike Robinson was selling his clad sixth plates for $27.50 a piece and Eric Mertens was selling quarter plates for $35 a piece. Though if I had the extra money to spend I would certainly consider buying pre-made plates. Polishing the copper takes quite a bit of time and effort as does wrangling all the various materials and services together. Also, the plates that have been pre-made come from people who really know what they’re doing. My plates can’t make such a claim.

Thinking of people who really know what they’re doing, Jerry Spagnoli managed to get an amazing daguerreotype of the presidential inauguration! The screen capture above shows it but you really must see the larger version here.


A New Year

January 04th, 2009 | Category: Daguerreotypy,Miscellaneous,Plates

DagThe holidays are finally over and the new year has begun. The image on the left is a daguerreotype taken during the last sunset of 2008. The fancy circular mat was made with a circular paper cutter on some heavy black paper. This is the fourth keeper of 2008 out of eleven exposures. It is also my first successful outside shot. ‘Successful’ being defined by the fact that I’m keeping it. It could have used a little less exposure but I like it none the less. I especially like the backwards numbers. Life always looks better in a mirror, doesn’t it?

My goal for 2009 is 100 keepers but I hope it ends up being more. On New Years Day I made two more keepers, that’s 2% of my goal. I took one of my girlfriend for me and one of me for her. They have yet to be scanned but I think they came out well. Only a minute exposure and I just couldn’t stand still. I got two more 2 3/8″ square plates from Santa Fe Jewelers supply for the shoot. According to their computer I had gotten 26 gauge fine plate silver but they sure seemed a lot thinner to me this time around. Perhaps I’ll get 24 gauge next time. My dad gave me 50 cents to try a sterling silver plate. We’ll see where that goes.

I get paid on the 16th and I hope to have my copper quarter plates polished and ready to plate by then. While my girlfriend was in town the weather was good enough to polish but now that she’s gone it’s gotten cold again. Perhaps I’ll polish a plate a day in the cold. I discovered that there’s a cellar type place beneath my apartment that has a couple of benches and has electricity. My girlfriend is convinced there are zombies but I’ve been down there a couple of times now and have found no evidence of their mischeif. I think it’ll be a good place to polish since I can do so after work when it’s dark out.

I got some new buffing wheels while at SFJS. They’re muslin wheels like I had but this time they’re 3″ instead of 5″ and they’re more gentle on the silver. I got a green compound that I’m using after the rouge for a final polish which also seems to help. I’m trying to keep it simple and not get too caught up with the millions of compounds and wheels. I did get a sample pack of polishing paper that range from 400 to 8000 grit. I haven’t played with any of it yet but perhaps they’ll be of some use.

Another 2009 goal is to start selling daguerreotypes. That’ll help alleviate some of the financial strain that comes from such an absurd (yet divine) form of photography. Naturally I live in one of the few places where there is already a daguerreotypist operating. I’ll have to come up with a way of differentiating my dags from his and hopefully make a little money.

In other news, Andy Stockton, a fellow daguerreotypist in the making, has posted a day by day list of his activities and acquisitions in the pursuit of daguerreotypy. It’s a fantastic resource and I need to go though day by day and see what I can learn. If only I could have been so organized…


Real Plates

October 31st, 2008 | Category: Plates

Mirror Image It’s time for real plates. Originally I got 4 6×6 plates of pure silver and in the course of my trials I have used 3. The fourth plate has a big dent in it and since I’m not fond of dents in my images I’m going to put it aside… for now.

A while back when I was in New York visiting my girlfriend I was lucky enough to be introduced to an old daguerreotypist by the name of Harvey Zucker. During the course of our meeting (of which I’ll talk more about in a subsequent post) he gave me a couple of his old quarter plates to play with. So far I have just used them as an example of a good polish with the exception of one plate. I exposed that one for my normal amount and it came out very over exposed. I’m guessing it’s because his polish is so much better than mine… or I sensitized it differently… or the moon was on the wrong side of the sky. It’s hard to attach an absolute cause to a bad plate. Though I solely attribute luck to my good plates.

So instead of using all the plates I have been given, I want to make my own. Harvey’s plates work very well and I want to keep them unused until I can duplicate their perfection.

Last week I got some copper from a local jewelers supply to polish and have plated. Easier said than done. The copper was so rough that I used my father’s buffing machine, which is much more powerful than mine, with a rubberized wheel to try to smooth the plates out. After about 5 or so hours I packed them up and brought the home for some more buffing. Upon closer inspection they still had major scratches and lots of little holes across the surface. I put those plates aside as well.

Today I ordered new copper plates from a print making supply company (suggested by daguerreotypist Jonathan Danforth) that are supposed to be fairly polished to begin with. I’m hoping this will alleviate my copper woes. If all goes well I should have some brand new quarter plates in a couple weeks!

Happy Halloween!

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