Dry Plates in the Woods: Using 19th Century Photographic Processes to Capture Letchworth State Park

Submitted by Guest Post,

Waterfalls, gelatin dry plates, large format cameras and Hiking. They all go together like peas and carrots. Which is exactly what we were thinking when we put together our first  “Dry Plates in the Woods” workshop at Letchworth State Park three years ago.

Dry plates are pieces of glass plate that are coated with a gelatin emulsion that when exposed to light will capture an image. It was a revolutionary photographic process in the late 19th century, and gave photographers the opportunity to take photographs anywhere they wanted. George Eastman himself played a critical role in making this type of photography cheaper and more accessible. Since dry plates gave photographers the freedom to travel away from their darkrooms, it is only fitting that our workshop take these 19th century processes to Letchworth State Park.

This year marked our third adventure to the grand canyon of the east coast and we are already looking forward to next year. Unlike many of our other workshop which are focused on teaching techniques and skills necessary to crafting your own photographing materials, this workshop allows you to create your own dry plates from scratch and then spend several days carefully selecting the scene for your photograph. Students spend the mornings and afternoons searching for and capturing their favorite images. After each session we return to camp where students develop their plates on site in our portable darkroom tent. All while snacks, beverages and camp fires are provided. This year we had a mix if different weather ranging from warm and sunny to very chilly and windy. But we didn’t let the weather slow us down. Letchworth state park provides some extremely breathtaking views and long shots. But some of the most beautiful aspects of the park at the subtle things you notice along the way.

If I had to pick just one workshop on our schedule to recommend to someone who has been bite by the photography bug, this would be it. Be sure not to miss this workshop next year. See you on the trails. We leave you with some fantastic examples of dry plate photography taken by this year's participants at Letchworth State Park.

Nick Brandreth
Historic Process Specialist

Wednesday, June 29, 2016