Scattered light

I have read that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to master a craft.

So if you work at you passion for ten hours a day every day, then in three years you should become proficient. This does not mean you will be good or creative, just proficient at what you do, playing the piano, painting or, in my case, photography.

From 1969 through to 1983 worked as a professional and artistic photographer, so I have already done the thousands of hours of practice in studios, darkrooms, film sets, in exotic and horrid locations so I have served my apprenticeship of thousand of hours of practice and I was beginning to get recognition for the use of my skills with publications and exhibitions. I taught photography for an American a university and lectured on photojournalism

Then I stopped and packed my stuff away

Three years ago I started to learn gain, the hours I spent at college and working have helped me to feel and see again. I found my world had changed, equipment had got bigger and is totally dependant on batteries, it was also much more expensive and was obsolete the moment you bought it.

I found the quality of the image I was seeing was weakened by a dependence on colour and electronic manipulation. Images are made to be looked at mostly on a screen, not held or seen by reflected light.

This is all good, now anyone, with no need for thousands of hours of learning and practice, can record a good image, which is correctly exposed and framed to remember an event or a place they visited. The is no need to adjust the apparatus, there is no need to consider the variables or to use these to interpret the scene, the computer chips will do this automatically to pre-determined visualisations.

I tried for a while to adapt to this new world, but I found that too much had been lost, so I thought I would go back to where I left off, working with large format analogue cameras and printing with high quality papers and processes. But this had all disappeared, the pares and chemistry has been replaced by digital processes and ink printing. Cameras using chemical films and sensitised silver salts were not being made, lenses were using electronics to decide exposure and focus and the instruction books only talk about the technical resources in their hundreds of pages, most say nothing about visualisation of the techniques of photography. Camera manuals were once only five of six pages and half of this was depth of field tables.

By accident I went on a wet plate collodion workshop in London, run by John Brewer. I had planned to go on a platinum printing workshop in Cambridge and flights were booked, but the instructor was ill, so as I was I the UK, I went to the london workshop.

Wet Plate is a technique which dominated photography in the 19th century, it was still in use commercially in some graphics applications until the middle of the 20th century, due to the high quality it allows. It is a simple process, but like many simple things, it needs a lot of practice – a lot.

It was refreshing to be a complete beginner again and I thought it would be a good way for me to get back into traditional photography.

So – three years later, I have started again.

It has meant a total immersion in learning and practicing. I wa not sure where I would find my ‘niche’, so I have experimented with a wide range of techniques and a large selection of equipment.

I already had a lot of stuff from my earlier work and I found that equipment which was once beyond my budget, was selling on ebay for pennies – so I bought a lot of cameras, lenses and equipment to experiment with.

I found that most cameras had not used for taking photographs, but were bought for collections – nearly all had problems, especially the ones over 100 years old. I have had to repair and replace parts, adapt film holders, . I also had to find the types of equipment I was happy with and which lenses I could use to give the “feel” I wanted for my ideas.

So,I now have a lot of stuff I will not be working with and will be putting back onto the market.

John Brewer has become a friend, he has come to our place in the South of France several times now to give his Wet Plate Collodion workshops.

I have built new darkrooms in our accommodation in Villa Roquette, I have also put a mobile darkroom on the road (essential for local landscape work with wet plate photography)

I have a selection of classic wood and brass cameras for sale, these are all adapted to work well for wet plate photography, all are complete, are ready to take photographs immediately and all have been used by me. I will give a collodion plate which I have taken with the camera.

All the cameras have a lens which is suitable for the format of the camera.

Prices depend on the size (half plate, full plate or larger) and the lens or lenses supplied, the prices start at 250 euro.

If you book one of our residential collodion workshops, you can choose a camera to work with and if you like it – keep it and we give you a discount of up to 50 percent off the price of the camera.

New Wetplate Workshop at VillaRoquette

Wetplate collodion photography workshop at VillaRoquette

John Brewer using a 19th century camera at Villa Roquette

Our next workshop at Villa Roquette wetplate collodion workshop september 2025 will be on the weekend of September 26/27 2015.

It is run by John Brewer wetplate collodion workshops.

The cost of the two day workshop is £325, or £475 which includes two nights full board accommodation. All materials are included and there is a wide selection of cameras and equipment for your use. Payment can be made in UK Sterling or euro

The accommodation includes a double room so you can bring your partner, there is only a small extra charge of £25 if the second person wishes to join us for lunches and dinner on the two days, breakfasts are included already.

Students on the course can come earlier and stay later, as many days as they like. All darkroom and lab facilities are available and our cameras can be used. There would be a charge for extra materials and chemistry used

An interesting feature of this course is the availability of a fully equipped mobile darkroom designed for wetplate work.

Wetplate collodion workshop at villaroquette with mobile darkroom

Mobile Darkroom camera on roof

Students on the collodion course can get into the beautiful local countryside and make wet plate collodion work. We use both tin and glass plates.

On The Road

Not Kerouac, not Dorothy and not Mandalay, although I guess there is a little “Oz” in the Ruby lights.


Our mobile wet-plate darkroom is “on the road” after a few days fitting out. The main work has been the insulation, light-proofing and getting plenty of efficient ventilation. It is designed for three people to work inside and needs a good light trap, so with the ether, alcohol and other chemistry, fresh air and temperature control is uppermost in my mind.

In summer temperatures reach the the mid 30s centigrade most days, so it would get uncomfortable and affect the chemistry so cooling it is very important.

There is so much to see in Languedoc, I have a list of “projects” I plan to make into a series of portfolios, most of these ideas are within an hours drive from Villa Roquette and look like keeping me busy for several years (I hope).

I took the darkroom van on a short trip today, just outside our village to a spot in the vineyards overlooking Montblanc. I will use this as the first test for a wet-plate next week. But today I just wanted to see that everything stood the test of bumpy farm tracks and steep hills – so far, so good.


I expect to be using the rooftop camera platform a lot, it gives me a great advantage from the roadside for a lot of the landscape work I am planning – the platform is a strong steel grill, which the feet of the tripods fit into perfectly and safely.


Inside I have just fitted work surfaces and plenty of storage – I have ideas about pumping water for washing plates and securing the silver-boxes etc. I will make haste slowly, most importantly I want to get out and get some plates made