The process is like crack but for photographers Once youre bitten its impossible to stop,,Theres a few wet platers around the country doing the odd workshop every once in a while or helping others out (Im doing one at the side gallery in Newcastle upon tyne in July) there is John Brewer who does the odd week end workshop mainly in manchester but does visit london form time to time to hold one there.....
Mine was £200 (though needed some love) came with a 450mm F8 lens and two plate holders with adapters to shoot film and smaller sized plates...for practicality in wet plate you want a lens of at least f5.6 and must be uncoated (process relies on UV light and a coated lens will add a stop and a halve to exposure times) The lens I use for most wet plates is a Laack 245mm f4.5 (cost me £30) Though be careful as there is alot of charlatins on ebay and such A pretty dalmiyer 3b will go for £2000 pounds but a one that needs some brasso and elbow grease can be had from £300 Same as cameras getting one that needs a little bit of love run from £50 but one thats been "restored" can be silly money You need to make a darkbox Materails for mine was £20 for wood and paint. Then £20 for black out curtains.. Chems are cheaper than film A bottle of ready mixed collodion £30 (500ml enough to do about 50 halve plates) One shot dev is £12 (2 liters enough for the 500ml collodion) Silver nitrate is running at 70 pence a gram (you need at least 100 grams to make a bath, This is the heart of the process and needs nurturing and will last forever if well looked after... top up with 25grams of silver nitrate per 500ml of collodion use)
Glass depends how friendly you are with youre supplier but Im paying £10 per 50 sheets of halve plate pre cut...and £20 for 30 sheets of 10x8 (glass can be cleaned and reused if you dont like the photo)
Ilford rapid fix is about £11 per liter mix this at least 300ml to 700ml of tap water
All in all for a 5x4 or slightly bigger Halve plate (cabinet size) set up you are looking at a budget of £500
Its tempting to start bigger but even with a weekend workshop it still takes about a year of regular practice to get proficient at...(quicker if mentored by a local wet plater)
Having looked a little closer at the process I'm even more impressed, particularly given the time constraints. The intricasies are truly fascinating and I love the idea of developing an image on glass plate. And how warm vs cool tones render. And the detail...
I have a feeling my weekend will be spent investigating further.