Reno Cowboy-Con 2017

When I was 1st invited and heard about this event I wasn’t sure about it. Was it really going to happen?  Was I even going to attend this event? When I was originally invited, I said I couldn’t afford the booth fee’s and was then promised to be setup as an exhibitor, which was then left there without any further contact from the event coordinator.  if it hadn’t been for the efforts of the folks who coordinate Tanner’s antiques and craft show, who invited me in the end, and provided me space with basically the same deal that they’ve done for me at Tanners, I wouldn’t have attended, this too was basically however last minute.

needless say, I was able to pull things together at the last minute while recruiting my daughter to help.  I borrowed a wonderful 1870’s military saddle, some chaps, a couple of whips, some lasso rope, that in the end was unfortunately never used, if I use the saddle again, I would like to make a saddle stand for it. I also bought some other items, that I normally have available.

I’m pleased to state, that the majority of those who had a tintype taken where re-enactors, who kept me busy on Saturday.  and had it not been for them, I wouldn’t have been able to pay my booth fees, and other incidentals for an event that had little to no advertising and was held at the Reno-convention center who charges everyone $10.00 day for parking, plus extra for an extension cord plugged into the wall behind me.

on the upswing, while my lighting is adequate, I’ve decided for these events I would like to upgrade the lamp fixtures on my continuous lights and drop my strobes, hopefully bringing my exposures from 10 seconds and a strobe pop down to about 6 seconds without the strobe.

granted I did like having the curtains and the tables with their covers, and I think adding the borrowed wire grid work to display and try to sell some of my framed photo’s added to the overall look.

I am also pleased to state my chemicals and gear worked flawlessly the only retakes were ones where I didn’t get the lighting adjusted correctly which caused weird shadows.


This is one of my more favorite photo’s that I took of one of my fellow Comstock Civil War Reenactors, he portrays Allen Pinkerton.

It’s sad, the event has a lot of potential, however as a small antique dealer or a starving artist. The booth space, the incidentals, travel & room cost of the Reno convention center and the Alantas Casino/hotel has caused a great number of the vendors vowing that if the event occurs next year, they will not be attending. For me, the jury is still out. as to Tanners Antiques and crafts show. I’ll definitely be setting up there again.  Some of the framed photo’s will be traveling to a gallery in Carson City Nevada while the others will be returning to the Churchill County offices, and if the smoke ever clears enough to let me get out, I’ll be able to do some work on the O’Sullivan project. now that I have a better idea of the collodion recipe that O’Sullivan was likely using.






Because you know I’m all about that light! The Portable Dark Room

Working with a lot of the public at different events, with a focus on living history/reenacting. I’ve set myself up more as a 19th-century itinerant photographer.
As part of that I carry a lot of items, that are designed and built to be reasonably historically representative and functional.  My Darkbox or portable darkroom is no-exception.

H7Historically, there are many different designs to choose from as exemplified in catalogs, photographs and a small handful remaining of historic examples.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that too many people have watched too much television, leading to the most common assumption that my darkbox is my camera, along with many other questions based upon myth created out of the silver screen.


My Darkbox is simply a wooden box, with a window and some tenting added, that provides a dark area, with limited light, that does not affect the collodion film. a safe-light. and while I have given my dark box a nice finish, which is very Victorian. these items were commercially available or were crafted for the photographer based upon their specifications.

When designing my darkbox, I looked at historical and modern examples. with the basic caveat that it needed to be light enough for me to move and setup by myself, it also needed to have enough working space for a 5×7 sized silver bath, plate holder, and trays.

fortunitly, it’s also big enouph that I can with some careful manipulations work with an 8×10, it is however a tight space. leading to eventually updated to something more portable. but with more space












Not being terribly flush in money to invest in purchasing a crafted darkbox, with the stand and tenting. I opted to talk to a local woodworker to craft the box for me.  The basic design was is similar to some of the modern crafted darkboxes, in particular, Steves of Black art Woodcraft who makes wonderful period style cameras, and point of fact is the same person who originally crafted my camera.


Black Art Woodcraft Darkbox and stand.

The following year of use I crafted the tripod stand. based upon plans from Ty Guillory for his platform tripod.  The tripod stand was a vast improvement making the whole thing more stable as well as being more historically correct.


darkbox tri-pod


I suppose, because I often set my darkbox up towards the front of the camp and that it’s on a tripod stand that this also adds to the confusion, but again people seemingly are fascinated by it, wanting to see the inside, take pictures of it, and so on. again to me it’s not particularly special, other than being finished box. that’s been stained a dark color, and painted yellow on the inside, it now proudly displays silver stains all over the inside.

the next question, why is it painted yellow inside. the answer is actually very simple, it’s a bright color that allows us to see more easily while tucked inside, plus collodion film is basically blind to color, again one of those safe colors. additionally, the majority of the wet-plate dark-boxes were also painted yellow on the inside



Finally, I would eventually prefer a cart, allowing me more space along with the ability to be more mobile at events, and I just recently learned who designed and crafted this cart, that was sold to another wet-plate photographer located in the northwest. and have asked him for his basic designs. 10535714_711931188856886_46888564588958569_o.jpg