Markus Hofstaetter's blog » nature

Archive for the 'nature' Category

Monday, May 20th, 2024

I nearly missed the Aurora Borealis in Austria, but then it blew me away.

It all started when a friend texted me that I should go outside and capture today’s auroras. We call them Polarlichter here in Austria. Honestly, I would have totally forgotten about it when she wouldn’t have notified me. I had a look outside my north facing window ant did not see anything. I told her, that there is nothing to see here. She insisted (I am grateful for that) I must go. So I packed two cameras and a tripod and walked slowly to the Danube. On the way I met a woman who approached me (because she saw me with my camera) and told me that there is nothing to see. I was tempted to go back, but because I was already close to the Danube, I just kept walking. Finally I arrived at the Danube and I saw nothing. I set up my tripod and did the first exposure for about 5 seconds aaaand I saw nothing. I looked again on the screen of my camera and magnified the image. Wait, there is something there. So I changed the camera and used a wide angle lens and did a 30 second exposure.
And there it was, my first ever captured Aurora Borealis. This is very exciting, because we don’t normally see them her ein Austria. So I started with a panorama.

My first capture of an aurora borealis, this was just the start.

You can imagine, that I was hooked after I saw the first little greens and purples in the sky.
Because the light pollution was a bit to much where I was, I moved to a different place and set up my tripod again. It was past midnight already and nearly pitch black at my new location. A very loud splash scared me for a second, but then I remembered that I was standing close to a beaver’s lodge. And behind me there was a lot going on coming from the forrest. I guessed that there were some deers back there. After getting comfortable in the dark I focused back on capturing the sky. And with that I captured my second panorama.

More and more colours were popping up and I got more and more excited.

Right after I captures this wonderful happening, my waiting was rewarded. A fully illuminated cruise ship passed by. I rubbed my eyes and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In this moment I knew, that I had to act fast, or I miss this opportunity. So I set up my camera, pressed the shutter button and waited for the exposure to end. I felt like these 25 seconds took forever. The outcome was a wonderful capture that looked like something from outer space.

I love the outcome of this exposure.

As lots of you know, that I am very passionate about my wet plate portraits. But this image got me very excited and happy as well. It really paid out that I moved myself from my living room to the Danube.
At this moment it gets better every minute. The sky turned from pitch black to red, purple and pink. Now the aurora borealis was here with its full glory. I was so happy, excited and amazed. Please remember, we don’t ever see this happening in our latitude. So I set up my camera for the next camera and kept shooting.

At this moment the sky was bright red. I could see and capture all these beautiful colours in the sky.

After that, I shot some more panoramas and single images of the forrest and the water (check the gallery bellow) At about 2:30am I just sat there and enjoyed the show. Sitting all by myself there, it felt like I got a private aurora show just for me.
On my way home I passed a little project from our community. We called it Nützlingswiese, I think the English term is beneficial insect meadow. Just a home for insects. We have lots of them on our fields as well, but this one was on my way home on a playground. I set up my camera again and tried to light it with my phone. That was a bit more complicated than I imagined. For sure, I could have just used the first capture and edit myself out of the image, but thats not who am I. So I wanted to capture it again in camera. Now thinking of it made me lough a lot. Just imagine a guy running around for about 30 minutes with a flashlight on a playground at 3am in the morning. After changing my angle of view for two times, this effort also paid of.

My last capture on my way home.

For me this was a one in a lifetime moment. I am so glad that I went out there to capture the sky above my hometown and gor rewarded with something that may not happen again here. My Facebook posting got a huge amount of interactions and lots of people around my area wrote that they regretted not leaving their home. I also did a short video of my captured, so you guys can enjoy it on your big screen.

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  • Posted by Markus | Filed in nature | Comment now »


    Wednesday, July 12th, 2023

    It’s time to say goodbye – a story about an end and a new start

    In todays post I’ll use photography to make memories for my cherry tree that I grew up with since I was a little boy.

    Many years ago I renovated the house of my grandma and with that came also a big garden full of trees. Every year I am lucky to harvest fresh raspberries, apples, pears, cherries and many other fruits. It’s so wonderful to wake up in the morning and get yourself some fresh breakfast from the garden.

    This was the garden when I inherited it, you can see parts of the huge cherry tree in the background

    The biggest and probably oldest tree of all is my cherry tree. I remember climbing it when I was little. It brings a wonderful big shade during the hot days and it’s fruits are so delicious.

    you can see how big my cherry tree was many years ago
    The recent years thunder storms and heavy rain hit really hard on the tree. Its missing about half of its branches on one side.

    I always thought this giant beauty will outlive me for sure. But after the last visit from a gardner I learned that the tree is probably completely hollow already and it it will be soon not save anymore to walk under it. That really made me sad, because I have so many memories with this tree. That was the moment, when I realised, that I want to capture a last memory on an ultra large format ambrotype. I captured already a tintype of some cherry blossoms of this tree many years ago. and I am really glad that I did.

    For this project I brought my 12×16″ wooden Ultra Large Format came into my garden. Lenswise I decided to go with my 360mm Voigtländer Heliar universal.

    I did a similar plate with the same setup last year, when I captured the rebirth of one of my apple trees.
    The tree looked like It was dying, but it grew out of it self again. When I thought it was dying, I gave it another year. And exactly in this year it grew new branches. And yesterday I had the first of its apples again for breakfast.

    I exposed the apple tree ambrotype for the trunk of the tree to get a bright look. With that I get lots of solarization where the branches touch the sky and I think this looks great on glass plates.

    But for the cherry tree I wanted to do things a bit differently. Thats why I used a very old collodion, old developer and a stronger fixer. With overexposing again, this should give me a warmer look with again lots of solarization.

    The wet plate process is mostly seeing blue light and thats why the sky is easily overexposed. I really love how this turned out.

    Maybe you ask yourself why I exposed for the tree trunk on both of these images. If I would have exposed for the green leaves or thin branches, the ambrotypes would have been much more contrasty you may think. My thoughts are, that the trunk is one of the most important parts of the tree. If it gets hollow, there is a great chance, that the tree will die.

    As always I did a scan of the plate, to have kind of a copy of it. If you want to know more about this huge scanner, have a look here:
    I always try to get the scan as close to the real thing, but to see the light reflecting on the silver when it hits the glass plate is not is something you can not replicate in a scan.
    This will be a memory that lasts forever . To see these two plates side by side, please check the end of my video, a photo or scan just won’t do justice. For me the apple tree plate stands for a new beginning and the Cherry tree p late for the end.
    I am really sad that the tree must go. But where life ends there will be a new one. After it is gone, I will plant a new cherry tree there. And for sure I will do some plates of it. portrait (c) Michael Liebert

    I chose these portrait of me here, because it fits in perfectly into this story. Some time ago I booked a portrait session with Michael Liebert. He knew that I am connected to my garden and to this tree, thats why he choose to take my portrait there. And now this portrait is the prefect fit for my story today.

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    Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021

    a 170 year old process and high end food photography

    everybody knows that I work exclusively on collodion wet plate portraits. So what’s the reason for food photography now? Let me try to explain. Many of you guys will remember that I bought a Cambo studio stand some while ago ( ). A little bit later I bought a used tray for it on Ebay. The seller was very friendly and somehow we started to talk about photography. Long story short, a month later we decided to do a project together. After months of planing, Hans Gerlach (a well known food photographer and columnist) drove over to my studio and brought his tools and some delicious food with him. Additional food for this shooting came from my garden, this way I could bring a bit more into the project besides my wet plate photography. During the planing period we discussed different dishes, their colours and how they would appear on a tintype (the wet collodion process only sees blue light and therefore red colours will turn black and blue white). We saw this come together as kind of a first test and wanted to see what what we could create. For me it was very interesting to have a chef working in my kitchen.

    I enjoyed it a lot to watch a chef doing his thing

    I suggested the 13x18cm format, because the camera is not too huge and can be easy mounted over head. We can get a bit more depth of field because of this smaller format. And I have a beautiful 250mm Zeiss Tessar lens that I can stop down to about F16 without having to long exposure times (two Hensel generators with 9000 w/s together helped to archive that and remember, its called wet plate, because the plate needs to be wet the whole time and can not dry). I mounted this beauty of a lens on my 13x18cm Mentor camera (check this article for my renovation of the beauty: )

    Even I know the Cambo tripod and the Mentor camera is made for such operation, it still looks a bit scary

    Even this studio Mentor camera and the tripod are meant for that kind of work, it felt funny to see my tools in that position.

    While I prepared everything in my darkroom, Hans Gerlach did his magic in my kitchen. We were very excited to work on the first plate. And after we saw the result, we were even more excited, the outcome was gorgeous. So we worked very long on the first day (I think I went to bed at 4 am). But it was not all glory. We shot so many plates, that at some point my silver nitrate bath went bad. First I thought it was the collodion, the fixer and the developer, but after I changed all of that(I am always good prepared for important shootings and create everything twice or even three times) and still got funny looking plates, I know I need to change the silver nitrate bath.

    A lot of troubleshooting was involved to make this go away

    After I changed the bath, everything was fine again and we could go on with the shooting.

    sourdough bread with butter and welsh onion

    We shot many different styles of the sourdough bread until we were happy with the outcome. This is one of our favourites plates. To hold it in our hands after months of planing and all the work we put together was wonderful. If you are interested in a print of this plate or any other, check out this link:

    But this little setback should not be the only thing that kept me busy this day. After shooting many plates, my modified wet plate holder made my life a bit harder. Sometimes the plate won’t stay in place and the end result of that was a scratched plate….

    this is something every wet plate artist have to face from time to time

    I quickly solved the problem with a little redesign on the plate holder and from that on I was able to shoot without any problem. Before capturing every new dish, we were excited to see how it will turn out.
    And most of them turned out great, I really like the beans and the spoon with chocolate mousse. The sheer amount of detail and texture of these scans from the wet plates are just incredible. They will look amazing on a big print.

    green beans with whipped goat cheese and fennel flowers
    This will look great on a big canvas

    spoon with chocolate mousse grated chocolate

    To get as much done as possible, I scanned all 13x18cm (about 200mpix) and 18x24cm (about 300mpix, I decided later to do two bigger plates too) plates at night and also varnish them afterwards. So this night was quite short 🙂

    I shot the bigger plates with a 150 year old Dallmeyer 2b Petzval lens to mix the this delicious bread with the beautiful swirly bokeh from this old lens. I really like how this plate turned out and how the out of focus areas look like.

    sourdough bread with welsh onion and radishes
    It amazes me again and again how sharp these old lenses are

    After these intense shoots, we were always rewarded with great looking plates amazing tasting food.

    I am still dreaming f that desert

    Hans created also amazing tasting handmade pasta

    culurgiones – sardinian ravioli with wild herbs

    To give you guys a much better idea of this shooting, I tried to captures as much footage as possible to bring you behind the scenes with this video

    On thing is sure, we enjoyed our work together a lot and will do more like that in the future, but that needs again lots of planning. I am very happy that I met Hans and his work inspired me (yes there is also a inspired portrait coming up). I really look forward to our next shooting together (and yes, I also look forward to eat everything 🙂

    Because I get asked very often about the tools I use for the wet plate process, I created a shopping list here:

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    Thursday, July 15th, 2021

    The First Analog Photography Festival After The Pandemic

    This was such a great experience! It was not only great to meet people again at the Camera Obscura Festival, but it was also awesome to meet artists that are interested in an analog workflow. Another great thing is, that this festival is not an exclusive “wet plate event” it is also for people who work with the analog medium in any way. That was so cool, with this option you will experience things you may not have seen before. Like Large Format Cameras build from Legos. It was so nice to meet all of you guys finally in person another big thanks to Stefan, Christian and Denis for organising this great event! If you want to be notified for the next Camera Obscura Festival, register here:

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    Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

    I used Readyload film which expired 20 yrs ago for peaceful swan portraits

    Shooting wildlife with a large format camera.

    Because I know this swan family for two seasons now, I am fully accepted and can come very close to them and their nest. They even trust me so much, that they sleep in front of me. It’s such a wonderful feeling for me to spend time with these guys.That’s also the reason I wanted to shoot large format portraits of them. My first idea was to shoot a collodion wet plate, because the swan mum was most of the time in her nest breeding her eggs. But because of the lockdown back then, I wasn’t allowed to stay outside that long. So I decided to shoot large format film with my Linhof Technika camera and a borrowed 400mm Tele Xenar lens on 4×5 Kodak Readyload film. I have my own fridge for them, because most of them are about 20 years expired and some of them are very unique for me, like the Kodak Ektachrome E100S or the Portrait 160VC. Because I like one of a kind photographs, I shot also Fujifilm FP-100C peel a part film (also expired) to get kind of a wet plate experience 🙂
    I documented the whole story, inclusive a bad blooper and the outcome of the breeding in my latest YouTube documentary (I guess after 3,5 months its not just a vlog anymore). If you are interested in prints, check out – there is also one limited hand enlarged (Title “I am beautiful”) print series available.

    all images are copyright protected

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    Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

    Family and Architecture Wet Plates on location

    click or scroll down for the English version

    Diesmal wurde ich beauftragt Architekturaufnahmen auf Nassplatte von einem historischen Haus zu machen. Zusätzlich waren auch Familienaufnahmen gefragt. Mit der Hilfe von Alois Stingl gibt es dazu auch ein Making-Of video. Vielen Dank dafür! Natürlich hatten wir auch viel Spaß dabei!

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    English version

    For this assignment I was creating architecture wet plates of a historic house. Additionally I did also a family portrait. With the help of Alois Stingl I can show you a Bits video – thanks a lot for that! And of course we had a lot of fun too!

    For private wetplate workshops contact me here:
    Or book other ones here

    Fine Art Shop

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    If you guys want to experience yourself how a tintype is made and own a one of a kind wet plate, please contact me via my website

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    Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

    4th Corona Project – A Duck and Swans

    A different kind of corona project where I explored a nearby forrest.
    I had time to capture a duck, snails and a swan family. More in the video and the gallery.

    They are getting bigger and bigger (video from yesterday):



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    Posted by Markus | Filed in coronavirus, nature | Comment now »


    Thursday, March 15th, 2018

    I used two cameras and lots of light for this macro shot

    scroll down for English Version
    Ein Macro auf Kollodium-Nassplatte zu fotografieren, hat mich schon seit längerer Zeit beschäftigt. Da langsam der Frühling vor der Tür steht, gibt es schon Schneeglöckchen in meinem Garten. Genau dieses kleine Gewächs habe ich mir vor meine Holzkamera gestellt.
Damit der Hintergrund interessanter wird, habe ich dafür zerknüllte Alufolie ausgewählt. Diese vielen Reflexionen ergeben einen wunderschönen Bokeh-Hintergrund. Damit ich das Schneeglöckchen füllend auf die 18x24cm Platte bekomme, habe ich einfach zwei Kameras miteinander verbunden. Somit bekomme ich genug „Auszug“ um diesen Vergrößerungsmaßstab zu bekommen.
    Large format cameras
    Dabei ist natürlich auch noch zu bedenken, je weiter die Platte vom Objektiv entfernt ist, desto mehr Licht wird benötigt. In meinem Fall löste ich meine Blitze mit 7000W zwei mal aus.(Die Platten haben eine ASA Empfindlichkeit von ca. 0,5)

    Ein Vergleich, damit die Dimensionen hier ein wenig besser zur Geltung kommen.
    Diese Grafik zeigt die aktuelle Platte und die Platte vom Steampunk Shooting im Vergleich zu einem Vollformatsensor einer modernen DSLR.

    Und hier nochmal mit dem Bild als overlay:

    Ich hoffe, mit diesen Grafiken ist der Vergrößerungsmaßstab besser zu verstehen.
    Eine weitere interessante Geschichte ist die Darstellung der Grüntöne auf der Platte. Ich erwartete mir, dass die grünen Teile der Pflanze heller auf der Platte erscheinen. Aber das Ergebnis war fast schwarz. Bedeutet also, dass diese Teile wenig des blauen Lichtspektrums reflektieren.
    Diese Platte steht hier zum Verkauf.

    Mehr Infos findet ihr im Video.

    Meine kommenden Workshops: NassplattenWorkshop
    Ich mache auch Workshops auf Anfrage ab einer Person, dafür schreibt mir bitte einfach hier eine Nachricht: Hier klicken







    Benutzte Tools:
    Stativ, Hensel Tria 6000 Generator, EH Pro 6000 Blitzkopf, Hensel Grand , Hensel Integra 1000 Plus Kompaktblitz, 12″ Reflektor EH, Wabenset dazu
    Vertrieb Österreich:
    Vertrieb Deutschland:
    Vertrieb International:
    Tragt euch in meinen Newsletter: ein, um mehr davon zu sehen.

    Wenn ihr selber so eine Entstehung miterleben und so ein absolutes Einzelstück besitzen wollt, dann kontaktiert mich über meine Webseite:

    English Version
    Wouldn’t it be awesome to do a macro shot on a wet plate camera? This was what I was thinking for some time. Spring is slowly on it’s way and snowdrops are blooming in my garden. That was how I found my subject for the shooting. For the background I grumbled up some aluminum foil to get nice out of focus highlights. Short, I created a nice Bokeh with that. To get the snowdrop on a full 18x24cm plate I had to extend my wooden camera to the maximum and add my second camera full extended to my first cameras backside. With that I got enough distance to get the magnification I wanted.
    Large format cameras
    You have to consider that, the farer you are away from the lens with the plate, the more light you need. That was the reason I fired twice with 7000 Watt on the poor little flower 🙂
    The ISO sensitivity of the plates is around 0.5.
    I want to show you a comparison, so you get an idea what it means to magnify an image to that plate size. It’s like you have a giant sensor:

    Here the same again with the wet plate as an overlay

    The next interesting thing is the outcome of the green color shades on the plate. They came out pretty dark. That means that they don’t reflect much UV light.
    This plate is here for sale. This is a one out of two -so only one plate to buy – I keep the other one 🙂
    Find much more in the video.

    Upcoming workshops: click here
    For individual Workshop(s) starting with one person, please contact me here








    If you guys want to experience yourself how a tintype is made and own a one of a kind wet plate, please contact me via my website

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    Used Tools:
    Stativ, Hensel Tria 6000 Generator, EH Pro 6000 Blitzkopf, Hensel Grand,Hensel Integra 1000 Plus, 12″ Reflector EH, Grid for that
    Distribution Austria:
    Distribution Germany:
    International Distribution:


    Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

    Mein Nassplattenprojekt auf ServusTV (online version)


    Neuer Blogpost für das youtubevideo!
    New Post for the youtubevideo!

    Scroll down for English version:
    Hier der Link zur Aufzeichnung (ab 5:06):
    Darunter auch Fotos von den Platten, die an diesen Tag erstellt wurden.
    Mehr über Nassplattenfotografie hier:

    Hensel DeutschlandPro Digital Wien

    English Version:
    My wet plate project on ServusTV
    The link to the online version(starts at 5:06) of the broadcast:
    More about wet plate photography:
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    Monday, May 16th, 2016

    Nassplatte “Gelb-rote Tulpen” wird in China ausgestellt

    Scroll down for English Version

    Ich bin sehr stolz, dass eine meiner Nassplatten mit dem Titel “Gelb-rote Tulpen” von Li Chang Jiang (President, TCCA) für die Artron Ausstellung in Shanghai ausgewählt wurde. Die Herstellung dieser Platte war sehr interessant, da die Farben Gelb und Rot im UV Bereich sehr dunkel wiedergegeben werden (Nassplatten nehmen nur UV Licht auf). Die Platte geht morgen auf den Weg nach China, sobald ich mehr Infos habe, werde ich hier wieder darüber schrieben.
    Ein Foto, gemacht auf einer 100 Jahre alten Kamera mit einer 160 Jahren alten Technik.Nassplattenfotografie – wet plate – ganz ohne digitale Technik, analog, der „Film“ wird per Hand beschichtet und in mehreren Schritten verarbeitet. Mehr darüber (auch Videos) hier:

    Plattengröße: 18x24cm
    Kamera: Unbekannter Hersteller um 1900
    Objektiv: Voigtlaender Heliar 360mm F4.5


    Tragt euch in meinen Newsletter: ein!

    Nassplatte - wet plate - yellow red tulips - gelbrote tulpen
    wet plate camera - nassplatten kamera
    Nassplatte - wet plate - yellow red tulips - gelbrote tulpen


    English version:
    I’m proud to announce, that one of my plates with the title “yellow red tulips” were chosen by Li Chang Jiang (President, TCCA) for the Artron Exhibition in Shanghai. Wet plates are sensitive to UV light and the colors yellow and red are very dark if you would see them in UV light. That fact makes it difficult to capture this beautiful flowers.

    A photo, done on a 100 year old camera with an 160 year old technique.
    Wet plate photography – without any use of digital workflow – analog – the “film” is poured by hand on the plate and processed afterwards in many steps. Find more about it here (inclusive videos)

    Plate: 18x24cm Alumitype
    Camera: about 100year old wooden Reisekamera
    Lens: Voigtlaender Heliar 360mm F4.5

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