Southern Cemetery – Dallmeyer 4D Test – Wet Plate Excursion

Headed out early for a morning of outdoor photography.  A friend of mine took me to see this incredible cemetery a week ago and after returning for a bit more scouting about last Friday I made the decision to head out today to shoot a few wet plate negatives.  I have a Dallmeyer 4D lens that I’ve never taken out of the house and I really wanted to just take a few test shots with it.


Kodak Folmer Schwing 8×10 with Dallmeyer 4D ready to roll.

Now I know that I risk stating the obvious for those who know, but if you’re not a wet plate photographer let me just say that the logistics involved are substantial in comparison to any other type of photography.  You’re basically bringing a dark room with you and doing all of the processing on site.  Honestly, that’s half the fun for me, but, you need to have your ducks in a row and your process nailed in order for it to be enjoyable.  I found a nice spot under a nice tree to set up.


Wet Plate Collodion in the field can almost feel like camping.

The Eskimo is an ice fishing tent very popular with collodion photographers and perfect when you’re venturing out into the woods.  It sets up in a snap and the same is true for breaking it down.  A little gaffer’s tape is all you need to really make it light tight.

This place has to be one of the coolest places I’ve been in sometime.  The cemetery is on a hillside and rolls right down to the shore of the Tennessee river.  Just beautiful and way off the beaten path.  I had an incredible morning there.

I intended on making four glass plate negatives.  The first one I poured was crap.  I mean things went wrong dramatically.  I still don’t know why.  I chunked it immediately and my second go was spot on.  Of the three plates I had left, two of them came out fine and one clouded.  I know the reason for this.

The lens performed exceptionally and now I know that it’s my number one lens and I’ll be putting all my energy into working with it.

Here’s the first test shot.  It’s a Woodmen of the World gravestone.  I had never heard of these nor had I any familiarity with the organization.  My friend told me all about them.  The shot is nothing special, but, I’m very pleased with what I see from this lens.  I was very conservative in the high contrast scene and underexposed by about 50% in my opinion.

Cemetary 3

Woodmen grave.  Underexposed this a bit but happy with lens.

Here’s the plate that clouded.  I inadvertently moved the dark slide open just a hair when I was heading to take the shot.  I had someone walk out of the woods and start talking with me and I was just a bit distracted as I explained what I was doing.  Cool thing is, she ended up hanging around quite a while and filled me in on even more history of the cemetery.  I will go back and try and take this same photo as I love the scene.

Cemetary 2

Fantastic setting but I unfortunately exposed the plate on accident and clouded the image.

And finally, the shot of the day.  I see in this all the elements that typically float around in my mind when I’m visualizing a photograph.  I’m going to make a couple salt prints with this negative for sure.

Cemetary 1

This is what I was looking for.  The lens shines in all the ways that I desire.  Very happy with this image.

All in all, a brilliant morning.  The weather was incredible and the location mesmerizing.  It’s worth noting that the cemetery has grave sites that reach back to the late 1700s!  I’m going to spend a ton of time here over the next few weeks.  In addition to the cemetery itself, there’s incredibly interesting plant life and landscape to focus in on.


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