The trees are dying, at least here in Virginia it seems that way.  From trees around my house, to those in the park across the river, and those along the highway west of here seem to be dying off.  If they are not dying standing from drought, disease, or insects they are being clear-cut for paper.  I would say that it’s a local thing, but having been around I have seen the thousands of acres of evergreens turning red out west because of beetles or turned to black ash by fire.  And although I have never been to the Amazon I have heard my whole life about it being cut and burned.  All of this has been weighing on my mind as I wonder why nobody else seems to notice or care.

For a while I had wanted to use one of my old Kodak box cameras to make small wet plate tintypes but just have not got around to it.  While I cleaned up the darkroom last weekend I noticed that I had a batch of collodion well on its way to being about too old to use so I thought that I would make some small plates.  I had modified the box camera a while back so all I had to do what get the chemicals out and thing of a subject to point the camera at.  A few hours earlier I had been watching some birds in the trees of my backyard.  It seemed a great subject to waste some aging material on for the sake of “testing”.

Sometimes the simplest act or intention can lead to something pretty profound.  The triptych above is comprised of three 2.5×3.5” plates exposed in a small Kodak box camera.  I discovered a great joy in making wet collodion images with the camera.  With no need to focus, worry about movements found on LF cameras, or tripods I amassed a pretty good size collection of small, intimate images with little effort.  Working with the smaller sized plates took a bit of pressure off trying to make each exposure count because of the amount of material used.  I felt free, loose, and very rapid for making collodion images.

Two days later I am still playing with my trees and box camera, the smell of collodion is in my clothes and table covered with trees.  Sometimes when the weight of life starts to strain the body it is important to remember the simple pleasures that can be found around us.  For me it has been a simple small box and the wind in the trees.  As for the trees, I don’t know how long they will be around but maybe by celebrating the ones I have, others will notice the ones in their world too.


~ by Phil Nesmith on March 11, 2009.

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