Markus Hofstaetter's blog » ultra large format

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, May 10th, 2023

    Shooting a HDR tintype with a super fast lens (and get them on Ebay)

    When shooting wet plates, you deal with a very light insensitive process (about iso 0.5). So most wet plate artists wants to get their hand on a fast lens. Wolfgang, a former participant of my wet plate workshop got his hand on a very fast lens and sent it over to me. For the first time, you can get the plates from this project on eBay, starting from 1 Euro –

    tintype portrait of Wolfgang
    Wolfgang, an Austrian based photographer who made this video possible – thanks a lot!

    This Delta HD-6C ML lens is pretty huge and was used in vintage HD protectors many years ago. If you want to know more about this kind of lenses, check this blog post:

    Here you can see how big this monster (a Delta HD-6C ml) is compared to a 35mm film canister. At the bottom you can see my self designed lens mount that I printed. A “very professional” 😉 solution.
    A professional lens mount needs a “professional” lens support. For that I used plate holders and other stuff that was laying around in my studio. I looks a little bit like a Frankenstein monster build. But it grew on my and I like it that way.
    The dreamy outcome with this wonderful bokeh makes it to my new Bokeh Monster

    See the full transformation in my video

    The yellow part of the flower absorbs a lot of UV light and thats the reason it appears dark when I exposed the plate normally. Thats why I did this series of 4 different exposures. I think every single one of them has something special in it. Just for fun, I created a digital HDR image out of them

    Silver and light. Four exposures that are very different.
    My digital HDR conversion of the tintypes. Next time I will try a combination of glas and metal.
    I love this one a lot and will have a hard time to let it go on Ebay
    If you hold this 18x24cm tintype in your hand, you can see the sling of all the little silver particles. This plate of this series will go to one of my Patreon supporters. Join here, if you want to be part of the raffle as well, join my supporters here:
    This lens has a razor sharp depth of field and therefore it’s not easy to handle. But if you get it under your control, you can archive unique and very dreamy results. I look forward to use it again.

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  • Posted by Markus | Filed in 3d print, alumitype, analog, collodium, Gear, tintype | Comment now »


    Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023

    Traveling with an Ultra Large Format Camera for a Wedding Wet Plate

    With todays video I want to give you a glimpse how it is to travel with an ultra large format camera. This time I didn’t bring my darkroom tent, because I could use the shop on the farm. Traveling with my big camera is always a hassle and can bring some troubles with it. But this time it worked out great.

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    Wednesday, March 8th, 2023

    Shooting an ultra fast lens (140mm F1.0) with an ultra large format camera

    In short words “this lens is something else”. It’s extremely fast, huge and has a strange focus distance. It was used in Sony CRT Projectors from 1997. I bought it some years ago from a very interesting guy. He had so many more great stuff in his shop and I regret that I did not buy more. It took me some time to find the right opportunity to use that lens. But I think it was worth the waiting. I am glad my friend and former workshop participant Alois Stingl came over with is wonderful ultra large format camera.

    Before I could use it, it needed some cleaning, I used a cloth that was soaked with water and just put it on the lens without wiping to avoid more scratches.

    with some patience I could clean it.

    I measured the lens at infinity to calculate the F-Stop. I measured 135mm and the front element was 145mm That is about a F0.9 lens. But a document I found on the internet told me its more an F 1.0 lens. Still crazy fast.

    You can see here how short the focusing distance is. That makes it hard to focus un an ultra large format camera.

    When I saw the yellow coating on the front element of the lens, I thought about Mathieu Stern’s video about radioactive lenses. If it really is made of Thorium, it is indeed radioactive, but only for a very small amount. Watch Mathieu’s video to learn more about this Material

    Thorium was used to get more light into the lenses back then.

    Because the lens is very fast it is still dangerous. If it focuses the sun on something, it will start to burn immediately. That’s the reason you should not put the lens near a window and always put a lens cap on it.

    In the video I will show you how easy you can start a fire with that lens

    I thought it would be interesting to calculate the crop factor of an 40x50cm ultra large format camera. If you use the common formula to calculate crop factors you will see that this plate size has a crop factor of 0.0067 compared to a full frame sensor. With that you also can calculate the comparable depth of field F-Stop. This would also be F 0.067 compared to F 1.0 on a full frame camera. When I tried to focus on the ground glass, I could barley find something in focus. Thats why you see me focusing for a very long time.

    it took quite some time to focus with this very fast lens.
    I think this shows pretty well how sensor and plate sizes compare

    But there is more. a 140mm lens is a tele lens on a full frame camera, but it’s a wide angle lens on an ultra large format camera. This is because of the bigger plate size of the ULF camera. listen to my full explanation in the video.

    My drawing shows in a simple way that the subject needs to be farer away from a full frame sensor the get the same angle of view as the close setup of the ULF camera.

    To “connect” the lens to the camera, I designed and printed a basic flange in Tinkercad. It needed some pool line and tape, but eventually it worked out.

    I think Tinkercad is one of the most yeas to use tools for 3D printing.
    a very basic part, but incredible helpful
    No screws, just tape, pool liner and my 3d print. Sounds funny, but worked wonderfully

    The next issue was the fact that my darkroom was not made for 40x50cm plates. only for 30x40cm ones. After some tests with smaller plates, we only had one cup of developer left. Beside that, everything starts to get unpleasantly expensive if you pour on plates with this size. So my goal was to make it work with only one attempt. I did some dry runs to get comfortable with everything. Not only the dark room work was something I had to prepare for, but also the camera. These old beauties all have some quirks. Besides that, Alois made a beautiful plate holder by himself. These holder needed also some special attention. But as explained in the video, I love these challenges. It makes the result at the end even more sweet.

    To calculate the strobe power I needed, I used my wet plate strobe calculator that I created for my Patreon supporters. Since I made it, I use it all the time for myself, because it makes life much easier with the wet plate process. If you are a fan of analog photography and the wet plate process, have a look at our wet plate conversation magazine on Flipboard. Besides many great stories about our favourite process, you’ll wind there also work from other wet plate artists.

    I really like how this portrait turned out. As expected it is very abstract because of the F-Stop and the wide angle lens.Here you can see again how huge that tintype is.

    But this is not the end, because of some kind of funny coincidence, a former workshop participant sent me a very similar lens over. I am thinking to do a still life plate with that one. What do you guys think?

    Two very similar lenses. Funny how sometimes things turn out.

    But there is more, I got also a very tiny lens. I guess I need to build a camera for this one

    A full functional lens in the size of a thumb. I haven’t seen such a thing before. What a cutie.

    I hope you enjoyed that journey. It took me a long time to finish everything, but I am again glad that I worked through it.

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    Wednesday, December 14th, 2022

    Bringing a Cheap 24 Year Old High-End Scanner Back to Life – It’s mind blowing

    It all started when we needed to scan some slides. With my Screen Cezanne 5000 scanner I would get an amazing quality, but it would be exhausting to do. I have an old Epson scanner that could do it, but it’s also not a very comfortable task. So I had an eye on a Agfa Duoscan Hid scanner. These scanners scan film without the need of a glass. That makes things much easier. They are also great flatbed scanners. With that I take more care about my valuable Screen scanner. The lamps of it are not longer available, when they break its over. But as always it was more difficult to get this scanner up an running than I thought. It needed lots of cleaning and my first idea about a fitting computer was also not my best one.

    The Scenic Mobile 800 was ahead of its time back then, but now to slow to work as a scan server.
    Overhead projectors are obsolete since a long time, but back then it was amazing what that laptop could do.
    Scanning without the need of glas – a great benefit of this scanner.
    The scanner was very dirty and in the need of many cleanings. I cleaned it 4 times until it worked as expected. Whenever you open the scanner, you must be very careful. First of all disconnect power and SCSI. The Manual mentions also high voltage inside the scanner, I guess they’re mean capacitors or something like that. I already tried to clean the “bottom scanner” that takes care of the film scanning. I could barley see it with a little mirror, but not reach it. And dismounting the main scan unit was way too risky. I think I would never get the scanner calibrated again.
    I was very happy for the SilverFast support. I had some issues, that were very specific to my configuration. Also the software is great for scanning film. Check out their website here :
    This scan of one of my moste favourite portraits (Phoebe) was done with the Screen Cezanne and is very similar to the Agfa, see the video for more details

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  • Posted by Markus | Filed in collodion, diy, Gear, scanning, wetplate | Comment now »


    Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

    Bringing a 73KG High End Scanner Back to Life

    Sometimes I ask myself, how do I get myself always into these enormous projects. Maybe this is how everything is supposed to be in my life. Or somebody putting these big pieces of work in front of my and tries to find out if I will ever give up. But thats where I a have to disappoint, I hardly give up on something.
    I was looking for a bigger Scanner for many years, because I wanted to be able to scan my ultra large format wet plates. In the video bellow you can watch my full story. Underneath the video I will go into some details. Find out at the bottom of that post how you can support me and my work to make this postings/videos possible.

    Here are some details about the Screen Cezanne Scanner:

    • 53x34cm (13.4″ x 20.9″) reflective & transparency scan surface
    • 5300dpi
    • 32-bit CMYK, 48-bit RGB, 8-bit grayscale
    • Interface SCSI II
    • supported formats TIFF; DPS; DCS; SCITEX CT; JPEG; YCC
    • 73kg heavy
    • Software: Color Genius 2.1 and 1
    Still smiling – didn’t know back than what I got myself into again

    Picking it up and bringing it home was a bit of a challenge. But somehow we managed to get it into my studio. Please be sure if you get yourself such a beast, that you put it into lock position before you transport it. Then you can also unmount its wing. Check the Maintenance guide here
    Get as much information as possible from the large format forum thread

    unmounting the wing makes life easier

    Yes, I could have just used the Power Mac (433mhz) that came with the Scanner and it would have been all over. But, then I had to use the use Firewire hdd, or USB 1 connections. Did anybody of you guys ever tried to copy large image files via usb 1.1? So USB 1.1 transfers with about 12 mbit, thats little under one megabyte a second. Believe me, you don’t won’t to copy many gigabytes over that connection. Other than that, the original Mac was pretty slow wit MacOs 9. All tools I describe here are listed here

    There cam a working Power Mac with the scanner – but it was pretty slow

    Thats the reason I got a used Power Mac G4 Quicksilver with dual 1.2 ghz and 2gig (I said wrongly 4gb in the video) of ram. You can see in the video how cool it is and that it came with an Apple Cinema Display in its original packaging.

    picking up the new (old) Mac at night
    what a beauty

    While I set everything up, I got a scary surprise over night, luckily nothing was damaged. More about that in the video.

    lot of broken things, but nothing really broken

    Even it was much faster, I needed to upgrade it with an USB 2 card (be sure to get one with a specific new chipset – (links to it at and everything else here, an ssd, a Power Domain 2930 SCSI card (I got a sealed one, check it out in the video) and an PATA/SATA Adapter. This made the Mac really quick.

    felt like a little kid with all this original sealed packaging

    Long story short, cloning (with carbon copy cloner) everything on the ssd, did not bring any success. Because the old MacOS 9 would not run on the new Mac and the preinstalled Mac OS X would not support the SCSi controller.
    Thats why I installed and MacOS X 10.3.2 Panther from the apple website. MacOS creates easily a multi boot when you install one OS after the previous one. To connect remotely with screen sharing form Mac OS X to Mac OS X you just have to enable the feature. For Mac OS9 install this one:

    you can use screen sharing on your Mac, but sometimes I had the feeling vnc is quicker

    As you can se ein the video, coping files over 1gb ethernet connection is great. I can get about 60 Megabyte a second out of it. that is more than 60 times faster than usb 1.1

    Now everything was setup and ready, I worked on a ultra large format wet plate. That was a great opportunity to see what the scanner can do. This is a 30x40cm collodion wet plate. Shot on an ultra large format camera with a Voigtländer Heliar Universal 360mm F 4.5 Lens

    my 30x40cm ultra large format camera
    The portrait wet plate portrait session with Roman was great.

    Now it is time for the first scans. The results are amazing. Just a little hint for reflective scans. Always try to use a black background, otherwise you get light bleeding into your image. The files this scanner produces are beautiful. There eis not much need of any post processing. That saves so much time. I love it.

    For wet plate workshops (Nassplattenworkshops) check For portraits or (German/Deutsch) and if you want to see more street portraits check

    Also the negatives and positives look great. Check out the Gallery for more impressions

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