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Neil & Candace :: Engagement Session


I know, I know. It is evidently clear that it was fall when we took these pictures. So, yes. I am super behind. Better late than never I suppose. Last year I posted pictures of Neil’s marriage proposal to Candace, which was so much fun! Neil was one of my photo students when I taught at Lenoir Community College, so it is of course, a pleasure to be able to photograph for these two. In the fall we traveled to the mountains of North Carolina so we could photograph Neil and Candace in one of their shared loves, which is nature. Neil is an avid nature and wildlife photographer as well as a portrait and wedding photographer. So, be sure to check out his website:

We had such a good time and the weather was perfect! And as you will see in the images below, Neil could not contain himself and had to photograph too! So, here they are….Can’t wait for the big day in October!


Shannon (my husband…the guy in the blue jacket) tolerated me that weekend. Thanks for dragging the equipment around!!!


Is that a lens, or a weapon. That lens put my little 70-200mm to shame.


Modern Tintypes with FMU Students


Yes, it has been many months since I have made a blog posts. I can list a million reasons why, but the excuses are not good enough, so I won’t. So, I will just get back to blogging!

One of the great things about working (and attending!) Francis Marion University is the University’s commitment and emphasis on experiential learning outside of the classroom. Last year, I wrote and received a grant to take students to the Outer Banks of North Carolina so they could learn the modern tintype process as well as build and use a portrable darkroom. Part of the grant included the students exhibiting their work on campus, which they did this past March. It was a great experience and we all learned so much, mainly because we made a lot of mistakes, which seems to be a wonderful way of learning a new process.

For those not familiar with this process, here is a brief explanation:

There are 2 approaches to making a tintype. One is considered the classic or authentic method, while the other is called the modern tintype or gelatin dry plates. The authentic method grew in popularity during the American Civil War because they were cheaper and more lightweight than photographic methods that preceded the tintype. American soldiers and their family members could have their portraits made for less than 25 cents allowing them to possess a priceless memento while separated during the war. Even with the introduction of digital technology, there are photographers who still enjoy the results of this process. The authentic tintype methods involves coating an enameled metal plate with a solution of gun cotton, ether and alcohol. The plate is then dipped into a silver nitrate bath to sensitize the plate. The coated plate is then loaded into the camera and the exposure is taken. The plate is returned to the darkroom where it is developed in a ferrous sulphate solution until the image appears. It is then “fixed” in a bath of fixer so that it is no longer sensitive to light. While the classic tintype method is authentic to its creation, the chemicals required are toxic, quite expensive and highly sensitive.

The alternative to the authentic process is the modern tintype or the gelatin dry plate process. It is the successor to the “wet-plate” process, is less expensive and requires chemicals that are less toxic. A light sensitive liquid emulsion is coated onto a black metal plate. The liquid emulsion contains silver-halide crystals suspended in gelatin. When the emulsion has dried on the plate it can be loaded into the camera to make an exposure. The plate is then returned to the darkroom where it is developed in a special developer which makes the image a positive. Both tintype methods result in “first generation” prints, which eliminates the need for a negative used in conventional analog photography. Because the negative is eliminated the prints or plates come out with an image in reverse. This is especially noticeable if there are words in the image.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of photographers practicing these two tintype methods. Many would argue that these results could be created in Photoshop. Perhaps image makers reviving this process are searching for methods that show more of the artist’s hand in the final print.

In November of 2012, a group of FMU students traveled to Asheville, North Carolina to learn the wet-plate process (the authentic process). In the Fall of 2013, a group of FMU students traveled to the Outer Banks to experiment with the modern tintype process. One of the limits of these processes is that you must have a darkroom near by. To combat this, students created a darkroom (light tight box) portable enough to fit in the back of a van that was used on location in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Students photographed the large sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park and then traveled historic HWY 12 to Ocracoke Island, where they continued their tintype experience.

For part of the exhibit, I collaborated with the students and made a modern tintype portrait of the students who went on the trip using a Bourke and James 8×10 camera…what a beast!


By the way, this is what happens when you try to do this process when it is hotter than 75 degrees. The emulsion melts off the plate, so it is definitely a tricky and tedious.

Tintypes_Caress028Tintypes_Caress027TintypeKathleen001 copytintypechelsea

Some of the images in this collage were contributed by FMU students who went on the trip. Thanks Tari Federer, Elizabeth Kinser, and Chelsea Avant!


The image at the top was not done in camera, but in the darkroom. I placed the leaves on top of the coated plate and exposed it to light using an enlarger.

Modern Tintypes with a 4×5 Camera

It’s been a few weeks, well maybe months since I have posted on the blog. Outside of teaching I have been experimenting with the Modern Tintype (also called Gelatin Dry Plate) Process using a 4×5 view camera. Last semester I received a grant from the University to take build a portable darkroom with my photo students. In a few weeks we will be testing it out in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In order to get the students going I had to do some initial tests myself. I have worked with the modern tintype process in the past using color slides in the enlarger as well as contact printing the image onto the plate via digital negative, but I had never tried to expose an image onto a plate using a 4×5 camera. I will be posting more detailed results soon, but I will give you a quick breakdown of what we will be using. I ordered a 4×5 converted plate as well as the pre-cut aluminum plates from Lund Photographics. I ordered the Tintype reversal developer from Rockland Colloid and I ordered the Kodak Fixer and Ag-Plus from B&H. You can make the developer yourself. Jill Enfield’s Alternative Process book has a recipe for the special reversal developer as well as an entire chapter dedicated to liquid emulsion applications. I got off to a bit of a rocky start because my images kept coming out as negatives. I was really frustrated. I experimented with quite a few variables to try and resolve the issue, but came to the conclusion that the developer just need an extra day or two to “ripen”. I used my sister and my niece as guinea pigs. My niece Bree actually took a few exposures of my sister Jill and I. You can tell we just aren’t very excited about being in front of the camera. Bree however…right at home. So, more details about the process to come, but here are a few initial tests.




There is a little monkey in the tree if you look closely…


New Image Based Media :: Empirical

Over the summer I worked on a new body of work. Normally, my type A personality likes to over-plan my bodies of work, so I decided with this body of work I would at least try to loosen up a bit and just start making images and let what happened happen. This body of work really is about how I operate as a photograhper, some of the characteristics I see that are inherent in image based media and about how I choose to interact with my subject matter. The images shown below are the images before the final process. I chose to use the White Marble Fresco Image Transfer technique. I will be photographing the final works and will display those images in a future post along with more information about the process. Two of the images below were  transferred to a grid of used tea bags, I will have those images up shortly as well. If you are interested in the complete artist statement read on….

Artist Statement :: Empirical

By definition empirical evidence is evidence based on observation and experience. These evidences come from sources such as the senses, memory and testimony. This body of image based media compares the image making process to gathering empirical evidence. In this case, the images are evidence of how I experience my nearby environment, particularly the home, family and the objects connected to them that are both man made and organic. I believe a defining characteristic of photography is that the image-maker, in many instances, has to physically be in a space to expose the image, which requires observing what to include and exclude in the viewfinder as well actually experiencing the space (through the senses and direct or indirect interaction with the subject). Another characteristic that defines photography is a desire to create environments that exist only in ones mind. This desire existed even in the early days of photography. The establishment and influx of digital photography has aided in the creation of surreal or partially real environments through the use of photo manipulation. This body of work connects the above characteristics. The process of gathering objects and scanning them aided in creating a new environment for objects while the images from the camera allowed me to directly experience certain places, spaces or people.

Many images from this series are placed in groups of two of three. Placing images together, whether related or seemingly random, allows the viewer to make their own narrative connections. Even though the images represent personal memories of places and people, the viewer can still be connected to them by filling in the gaps. When we see something non-distinct, whether it be an abstract work of art, or a patch of clouds, it is our natural desire to want to see something concrete. The process of layering images and varied materials lends itself to how memories exist, sometimes futile, sometimes clear, and more often that not, incomplete.

Collectively, my work centers around symbolic objects, the spaces they inhabit and the people connected to them. Most often these spaces and objects are re-contextualized by taking them out of their original environment and re-building a new space for them to inhabit. I have always been drawn to natural objects but have never really been drawn to photographing them in their original environment or in documenting them in a realistic manner. The act of collecting things from nature and joining them with other elements such as papers or found objects has been a fascination and a practice since childhood. My childhood practice of this process included finding leaves and flowers and gluing them to a piece of paper to make a formal design. This practice resurfaced in my artwork but has grown to utilize a flatbed scanner and image manipulation software.

Bodie Ghost Town Night Photography Workshop

My topic for summer research at Francis Marion University was night photography. I surrounded my study on Lance Keimig’s book titled: “Night Photography: Finding Your Way in the Dark”. I attended a workshop on the topic taught by both Lance Keimig and Scott Martin (of Onsight) at Bodie Ghost Town last month. The workshop started out with an optional Lightroom course (which I highly recommend) followed by 3 days of lecture, image review and shooting at night. For those not familiar with Bodie it is a “ghost town” left over from the late 1800s and as described as “a town frozen in time in a state of arrested decay. Bodie is maintained by the California State Park System in a way that allows it to stay in its current form. Rather than picking up the old cans, bed springs, car parts, etc, they leave it as is. The left over objects and buildings is what creates the charm of this place.

When the sun went down we were free (with a park ranger and a special permit of course!) to photography until 2am. I was a bit freaked out the first night when I heard coyotes in the distance, and even more freaked out when I walked up to a structure and something moved inside. But, my excited overpowered those feelings so I kept on photographing anyway.

I have said repeatedly that I am not a traditional landscape photographer and I think that holds true with these night photographs. What has drawn me to this topic is the ability of the camera (with the photographer’s vision of course) to make a representation of a place or object in a way that the human eye cannot. During the workshop we learned all about star trails, star points, a wonderful shooting workflow, as well as a lot of helpful and fruitful post-production techniques.

If you are looking for a workshop that will be a great investment I highly recommend attending one of these workshops! And look out for Lance’s second night photography book coming out this Spring!

For information about these workshops please visit The Night Skye!!

Here are a few works from the 3 nights at Bodie:

Group Shots by Scott Martin: