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I like to do things myself. I hate being dependent on others, on companies, on hidden black box knowledge. More and more black and white photographic materials are disappearing. Every time I find an interesting film to play with, it is gone the next time I try and order it. Seawater Plates shows how to make your own glass plate negatives using only seawater, gelatin and silver nitrate. I also go over how to use photographic paper in film holders to simulate the look and feel of glass plates.

Developers are notoriously nasty. Hydroquinone used in most developers is a known carcinogen, especially in powered form (if you make your solutions from scratch, that means dealing with the powder). The vitamin C developers do use Phenidone, which is somewhat hazardous, but not in the same league with HQ. Mixing my own means I have control over characteristics. In this way variations can be used to develope paper, film, glass plates or even paper at a much lower contrast so it can be used as the 'film' in the camera at ISO 2 or lower.

I am fascinated by SLOW film speeds. At ISO 2 to ISO 0.05 time slows down. Exposures can take minutes even in full sunlight (F64+). People disappear, waves mist out, everything takes on a dream like quality. No shutter needed means I can experiment with my own lens combinations (scrounged from dead digital cameras to be poetic).

I have film cameras from 1880 that still work just fine. How long will your digital camera last?

Chris Patton, cpatton@stanford.edu