Projects - Antarctica Glass Dry Plates

For the last few years I've been interested in large format 4x5 photography. I started with shooting Ilford FP4+ film and Fuji Velvia 100 and 50 film stocks and really enjoyed learning the curve of shooting large format film. About a year ago I found out about another medium that is available for large format cameras which is a late 1800s photographic technology - the dry plate. Fortunately, for the less-chemistry inclined folks like me, you can purchase pre-made dry plates from a company called Pictoriographica. Since I had an Antarctic trip coming up I thought, wouldn't it be cool to take some photographs on dry plates with my 4x5 camera when I'm in Antarctica? The idea stuck and I reached out to Jason Lane, the owner of Pictoriographica and he very kindly provided some plates for me to use on the trip. 

While on the trip, I very quickly realized using a 4x5 camera in Antarctica is no simple task. Often times the wind will be howling at anywhere from 20-50 mph! For anyone that has used a 4x5 camera you understand that wind and these cameras do not get along at all! Add to that, the typical ISO for a dry plate is 1 or 2 ISO (or if you're lucky and get one of Jason's fast plates you get an ISO of 25). What this means is that your shutter speeds are very slow for plates. Needless to say, the wind does not agree with this process! So, long story short, I didn't get to shoot the plates nearly as often as I had hoped. In the 42 days I was in Antarctica, I did manage to get a number of days that were not so windy and managed to capture some of the sights.

As another bit of history about shooting dry plates, the photographer on the infamous Shackleton expedition with the Endurance photographed with dry plates. Frank Hurley captured some absolutely remarkable photographs of the sinking of their ship the Endurance which was caught in ice for over a year. After seeing many of his photographs, I had inspiration to try this myself. 

 

Special thanks to G Adventures for the trip to Antarctica and to Jason Lane of Pictoriographica for providing the dry plates for this trip.

Half Moon Island - South Shetland Islands, Antarctica

Whalers Bay, Deception Island - South Shetland Islands, Antarctica

Whalers Bay, Deception Island - South Shetland Islands, Antarctica

Grytviken - South Georgia Island