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Wet-Plate Collodion Photography with Christpher Erin and Stephen Johnson

Marin Headlands. Christopher Erin.

Marin Headlands. Christopher Erin.

Cost: $650

(plus $50 Lab Fee) Limited to 6 Students

or by phone 650 355-7507

Join us for this two day intensive photography workshop exploring the historic wet-plate collodian process. This is the same process used in the 1860s by such noted photographers as Carleton Watkins in making his mammoth-plate Yosemite photographs. You'll learn the basic process, including chemistry, plate coating, exposure, development and viewing.

One day will be spent at Stephen Johnson Photography learning the basics and experimenting. The second day will be spent out in the field on the San Mateo Coastline making your own original 19th Century technology long exposure photographs. Requires at least 4x5 view cameras, of which a limited number can be supplied.

We will also discuss digitizing the plates after the fact for digital distribution.

Chris' chemicals on plate.

Chris' chemicals on plate.

Chris washing a fihished plate.

Chris washing a fihished plate.

Christopher Erin

I have been photographing using large format cameras since 1987. From then until 2013 I used a 4x5" format camera, and black and white film. Then I discovered the wet collodion process (1850-1878) which came before dry film. It is a labor intensive, fluid, always changing process. The collodion is sensitive to UV light, and not sensitive to green or red light, so light meters don't give accurate results. One must use intuition and experience to make the plates. Lastly, the plates must remain moist, and be processed in an onsite darkroom, else they will dry and be rendered unusable.

Why, you might ask, would I give up film or digital in favor of this ages old process? Because it is difficult, challenging, completely unforgiving, and made with one's soul. I can honestly say I am one of a very small handful of practicing wet collodion photographers on the planet. As one wet collodion artist said of the process, it is like photographic crack. And I'm hooked.

Chris' Wet-Plate Website


Stephen Johnson

A photographer, teacher and designer, Stephen has been teaching and working in photography since 1977. His books include At Mono Lake, the critically acclaimed The Great Central Valley: California's Heartlandand Making a Digital Book. He runs his own photography, publishing and design company--scanning and designing his photographic books using a Macintosh computer and since 1994 photographing in the field with digital view cameras.

Current projects include With a New Eye, his groundbreaking and historic all digital national parks project, a new book Stephen Johnson On Digital Photography for O'Reilly, ongoing portfolio development and extensive lecturing.

Stephen's pioneering work in digital photography, desktop color separations and digital imaging has included software and product development for clients such as Apple, Adobe, Eastman Kodak, Leaf, Ricoh and SuperMac. His work with Adobe includes the creation of the duotone curves shipped with their Photoshop software

His photographic clients have included the Ansel Adams Publishing Trust, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the Friends of Photography. Johnson's photographs have been widely published and collected internationally.

In 1999, Folio Magazine declared the publication of Johnson's digital photographs in Life Magazine to be one of the Top 15 Critical Events in magazine publishing in the twentieth century. Stephen Johnson was named as a 2003 inductee into the Photoshop Hall of Fame, recognized for his achievements in Art. Canon named Steve as one of their Explorers of Light in 2006. In 2007 X-Rite named Stephen as a founding member of their exclusive Coloratti group of photographers and educators honored for their skills in color management.

Photographic clients have included the Ansel Adams Publishing Trust, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the Friends of Photography. Johnson's photographs have been widely published and collected internationally.

In 1997, Life Magazine described Stephen Johnson as an artist that "...applies science to nature and creates art." His images create " intimacy that brings subject and viewer close in ways conventional photographs cannot." 

The Photographer’s Gallery wrote in 1998: “Stephen Johnson's photography rides on the "bleeding edge" of photography's transition to a digital media. Schooled in the traditions of fine-art western landscape photography, Johnson has taken his understanding of traditional photographic processes and brought those skills to bear on the emerging technologies and aesthetics of digital photography. He has pushed technology companies to rise to the best of what imagemaking can be, and pushed his own vision of how we see and record light in the natural world. This has led him to conclude that the way we have traditionally captured images with silver-based photography has been a poor and distortive view of the real and rich world before our eyes. His photographs look almost "unphotographic" in their clarity and purity of color. He shows us a world we know, but rarely see on paper. His is a truly remarkable vision.”

Stephen Johnson Biography
Workshop Testimonials

see Stephen Johnson Biography
see Workshop Review


Registration fee must be paid in full to secure a spot in the class. Additional information will be sent upon registration.

or by phone 650 355-7507

Photography Workshops with Stephen Johnson

Overnight accommodations in Pacifica

Refunds and Cancellation (note changes)

This workshop is financially dependent on adequate class registration. Where minimum enrollment requirements are not met, the class will be canceled, and a full refund given. You will be notified at least one week in advance if a workshop is not going to take place. Student initiated cancellations received prior to one month before the workshop will receive credit for a future workshop of similar value, a 50% credit will be given for notice received at least 2 weeks immediately prior to the workshop (a full credit less a $50 overhead fee will be given if another student is able to fill the spot from a waiting list). No credit will be given if cancelled less than 2 weeks prior to the workshop. Credits need to be redeemed within one year.