News and Information from
Camp Tintype

Contents and What's New

   2017 "All-Around" Workshop Information  <<< Only a couple of seats left. Register now!
   2017 "Just Tintypes" Workshop Information  <<< Register soon before all seats are gone.
   The Case Making Workshop is back  <<< Totally one-of-a-kind opportunity.
   Introducing a NEW Workshop: "Black Japan Day"  <<< One day only! See info below.
   Presenting: "The Uncommon Common and the Uncommon Uncommon" Tintype Workshop  <<< Huh?!?
   Free CFL Light Bank Primer  <<< To anyone enrolled in any workshop or tutorial.
   Get on Board for Model T Wet-Plate Safari Mondays!  <<< A rare opportunity for a few lucky workshop students.
   Private tutorials offered  <<< Perhaps it is time!

   2017 Jamboree - Aug 4, 5 & 6  <<< 2017 dates are announced and John's round-up of the 2016 Jam
   Portraiture At Camp Tintype again in 2017  <<< AMAZING OPPORTUNITY!! You must read this!

   More of John's artwork is now offered for purchase  <<< Do not delay on these rare pieces.
   Gear for sale at the WET-PLATE Gear Sale Barn  <<< Very rare items.
   Manuals and DVDs Now Available  <<< The newly revised and updated typeset Doer's Guide is ready to ship!
   Wet-Plate Collodion Follow-Up Kit

   Brief Overview of the Wet-Plate Process  <<< Scan of a letterpress handout
   Contact Information
   Biographical & Camp Tintype Information  <<< Including 21 reasons why Camp Tintype is unmatched!

John & Brownie

John Coffer and his old traveling horse, Brownie, at Camp Tintype.

Albumen print from a wet-plate collodion negative.  ©2001 by John Coffer.


    Portraiture at Camp Tintype continues in 2017

Due to the overwhelming response and unprecidented demand for true 19th century authentic wet-plate collodion photography, we are offering our totally unique portrait weekends again, but with thrice as many as ever before. Don't miss this "found nowhere else" opportunity while it should last! This service will continue to be offered by John at Camp Tintype in 2017. For a detailed description and pricing, click here for the info.

    Some of John's rare artwork is now for sale to the general public:

    Rare gear for sale at the WET-PLATE Gear Sale Barn:

    The New FREE CFL Light Bank Wet-Plate Demo and Wet-Plate by Enlarger Projection Pre-workshop Primer:

The late afternoon and evening of the day before the All-Around-Wet-Plate or Just Tintypes workshop starts, we will be demonstrating the basic wet-plate process using, currently very popular, electric CFL lights. Also, you’ll get a chance to see how a wet-plate print is made under a common film enlarger using a color slide. This should suffice to give the student at least the basics should they want to go down those paths at some point in time. We’ll go on the next day to the more challenging, historically amazing, and useful in the field all things wet-plate when the workshop kicks in. Camp Tintype is and has always been the place that likes to cover all the bases, bring it down to earth, and especially likes to clear the air of all the smoke and clutter that pervades the wet-plate world today. And one more thing, we don’t have big archival ink (inkjet) prints “eye candy” from scans staring down at you at every turn. Here at Ol’ Camp Tintype, we only have the solid analog made stuff that you may have to go out of your way for a look at, or perhaps hold in your hand in a hand crafted Super Fine case, or peer at in 3D in the old stereoscope viewer, just like they did in the real deal wet-plate days.

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2017 "All-Around" Workshop Information

NOTE: These regular, all-around workshops fill quickly. Often over a year in advance. Do not delay in registering for one of these popular classes. There are now only two seats left. You will not be disappointed.

    The Fun Begins long before workshop time with a “Camp Tintype” Workshop
It is our policy to send the celebrated Doers Guide to Wet-plate Photography manual with 3 ½ hour wet-plate instructional DVD set to each student soon after they sign up and send in their deposit. They can study this and get a great leg up on the process long before they arrive. Many are actually shooting and gathering their own equipment and chemicals months before setting foot on Camp Tintype. But, wait there’s more! Some even gather up another really fun thing and that is “Hobo Tin”, as we like to call it. Because we get into black japanning our own plates in the workshops, we can black japan a variety of materials. That can easily be thin sheet steel or aluminum salvaged from metal cans such as cookie tins, popcorn cans, gun powder cans, etc., or even your favorite beer or soda pop cans. With this you can make tintypes with a wet-plate image on one side and the artwork and logo that is on the can on the back side. This will send your work over the top from being just a wet-plate image to being a genuine Americana Folk art piece. Only at Camp Tintype can you do such fun stuff with wet-plate!

Hobo Tin - front

Hobo Tin - back

******************   Now in our 22nd year of teaching wet-plate workshops!   ******************

Featuring three solid days of hands-on training in the making of:

2017 Regular All-Around Workshop Dates:
Only one spot left! June 22, 23, 24 Only one spot left!
FULL! July 20, 21, 22 FULL!
Only one spot left! August 24, 25, 26 Only one spot left!

$950.00 per student...No lab fees!
A $250.00 deposit is required to secure enrollment.

Policy on Deposits for the Workshops:

The usual $250 deposit is required to hold a workshop spot for a student. It is refundable only if I can fill that spot with another student before workshop time. Absolutely no exceptions. Also, full payment of the rest of the tuition fee must be made 30 days or sooner before the workshop scheduled date by check, money order, or cash, just like the deposit. And also, just like the deposit, it is not refundable unless the workshop spot can be filled before workshop time. I regret this hardcore approach to the business side of the workshops, but after a couple of student no-shows, a no-show demanding his deposit back, and a rubber check in '09, I have no choice. You can only write so much off to the cost of doing business and I'm not the kind to drag people to small claims court or haggle over the filthy lucre.    -JC


If you send in your $250 deposit before April 1, 2017, you will
receive a 10% discount on any workshops offered in 2017.

Full price after that.

Includes a comprehensive manual with instructional DVD set.
All materials and equipment provided.

Each student will receive "The Doers Guide", a complete, 165 page, fully illustrated workshop manual covering the entire wet-plate process, including the making of albumen photographs. Manuals can be purchased separately for $75.00 ppd. USA, refundable toward workshop tuition, and includes DVDs (4 hours total). The DVD set is available separately for $45.00 ppd. Contact John Coffer by regular mail for details.

Don't delay - class size is limited to only 4 students

For details and registration, write:
DUNDEE, NY 14837-9443

NOTE: Private tutoring is also available for $550 per day as to your schedule and individual needs. I have more than 34 years experience as a professional wet-plate collodion portrait photographer and am well prepared to teach you the correct time honored methods that work consistently and the best.    -JC

EXTRA! EXTRA! Free Play Day!

For those taking the above beginner/intermediate wet-plate collodion in-the-field workshops, you are invited to stay at no extra charge an extra day! You may shoot wet-plates with our gear and supplies to your heart's content. We have found over the years that after the third day of the workshop, all the students have the routine down pat and are chomping at the bit to keep right on shooting fun images around the farm. You may even shoot plates as large as 8x10 (limited in number) if you like.

Also, remember that students are encouraged and welcome to check in the day before the workshop officially begins to settle in if they are camping, but also to look over the wet-plate gear we will be using, or have us look over any potential wet-plate gear they care to bring along for evaluation or would like to try to shoot with. Further, be it known that workshop days are very full at Camp Tintype. When the sun shines we make wet-plate hay, and after supper we usually varnish plates and mix some chemistry into the night. In short, if you are seeking as much wet-plate bang for your buck as you can get, look no further than Camp Tintype!

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2017 "Just Tintypes" Workshops

NOTE: 2017 dates are now available! See below.
Be aware that these workshops often fill up well over a year in advance, so don't delay to register.

    The popular "Just Tintypes" workshops are a continuing favorite
If wet-plate tintypes are what grabs you the most, this is the workshop for you. If you are an experienced wet-plate photographer but want to specialize in tintypes, this workshop will put you on the right path. If you are a total beginner but don't see yourself doing anything but tintypes for the foreseeable future, there is no better way to start off with learning wet-plate than with making tintypes.

    THE MAMMOTH PLATE OPTION is back in 2017 for "Just Tintypes" workshop students only!
Yes, it’s true! Take any of the 2017 "Just Tintypes" workshops or tutorials and get a chance at shooting a 20”x 24” MAMMOTH! I have found that after the third day of my tintype workshops that a significant number of my students are ready and able to take on a Mammoth. All that you will have to provide extra is a $400 lab fee. This will allow you to shoot two 20”x 24” plates. So, how do you know you are ready? If you can shoot a decent 8x10, you can do this. Personally, I have been shooting 20”x 24” wet-plate collodion Mammoths since 2002. The first ever Mammoth Ferrotype Tintypes were shot here. Since then my Mammoths remain unchallenged and have been exhibited by prestigious galleries from coast to coast. So, you couldn’t have a more experienced Mammoth plate teacher. We will work together in and out of my new walk in darkroom booth to ensure you will perform all the steps properly. For this first Mammoth Plate experience, we will be using the extremely easy and convenient Black Trophy plaque aluminum plates (AKA aluminotype or alumitype). With these ultra easy beginner plates it becomes mere child’s play, except for using lots and lots chemicals! It’s a great way to top off an unforgettable Camp Tintype workshop experience. No other workshop in the world could or would dare to offer this incredible opportunity!   -JC

Note: You are responsible for the packing and transport of your Mammoths. I will not pack them and ship them for you. I suggest that you send a suitable box and packing materials ahead of your arrival if you plan to do this exciting option.


    The Pretty Big Plate Option
If Mammoths seem just too big a leap or you would like a stepping stone up to them you’ll love this option. For only an extra $150 lab fee you can shoot two 11x14 Aluminotype Tintypes. 8x10’s are an option for any student who cares to try that pretty dang big plate size at no extra charge.

    "Just Tintypes" workshops dates for 2017

2017 Just Tintypes Workshop Dates:
June 8, 9, 10
July 6, 7, 8

Tuition for 2017:
$900.00 per student...No lab fees!
A $250.00 deposit is required to secure enrollment.

EXTRA! EXTRA! Free Play Day!

For those taking the above Just Tintypes Workshops, just like for the All-Around Workshops, you are invited to stay at no extra charge an additional day! You may shoot wet-plates with our gear and supplies to your heart's content. We have found that after the third day of the workshop, students have the routine down pat and are chomping at the bit to keep right on shooting fun images around the farm. You may even shoot plates as large as 8x10 (limited in number) if you like.

    This class is sure to be productive and exciting!
We will be shooting both authentic Ferrotype tintypes, as well as the popular peel and pour, non-authentic (but great for practice) aluminotype tintypes, in sizes up to 8" x 10". Everyone will get a chance to black japan their own plates by the original baked on asphaltum paint method. Hand coloring will be practiced on plates of your choice for spectacular image results. Stereo tintypes and round badge tintypes will also be a couple fun options. Without a doubt more plates will be shot in this workshop than any other!

    FAQ - Can I make a couple of ambrotypes in the "Just Tintypes" workshop?
Glad you asked! Sure, you can. Lots of students have and you can, too. And at NO extra charge! After you get the hang of making Tintypes, it's just a matter of a few minutes of further instruction on how to prepare a glass plate. Then you'll be good to go to pour an ambrotype.

    Class size is limited, so register soon.

To sign up for this unique class, write to:

John A. Coffer
1236 Dombroski Rd.
Dundee, NY 14837

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Case Making Workshop

    Case Making Workshop Supreme: September 7, 8, 9, 10, 2017 only!

This is the workshop that will show you how to make my unrivaled, correct to the finest detail late Ambrotype/early Tintype era super fine cases for the display and protection of your finest Ambrotypes or Ferrotype Tintypes. This workshop is not about making cheap spray painted modern day antique plastic polymer resin cast, gaffers tape hinged factitious cases that look good on line or at about six feet. No! No! This workshop is all about the making of a real deal embossed leather covered wood frame with true metal mat and preserver, embossed velvet pad early 1860’s style cases. You’ll find that these babies look and feel right even upon close inspection and handling. Each student will make one of these exquisite cases in the popular quarter plate size. You will also learn about the restoration of original cases and tips on making cases from salvaged original parts. We will be working out of the letter press print shop as the presses are used to make dies and do embossing which will be demonstrated. This class is limited to only two students. It is important that students be highly motivated, of the Handy Andy type with good eye-hand coordination and used to working very hard for the finer things in life. It is a fact that very few in the wet -plate community have any desire to make cases and even fewer go on with it after coming here and learning how. Not many have what it takes, and this workshop isn’t cheap either at $1,200 per student. But, if you have what it takes, we’ll see you in September! Like the other workshops, a $250 deposit towards the tuition fee is required to hold your spot.

Case    Case   
Case    Case   

    Another Camp Tintype exclusive

      Cost: $1200.00.   Two student limit.    $250 deposit.

Sign up today! Just write to:

John A. Coffer
1236 Dombroski Rd.
Dundee, NY 14837

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Model T Wet-Plate Safari Mondays!

    Get on Board for Model T Wet-Plate Safari Mondays!

Yes, that’s right, “Lula” our 1923 Model T Ford touring car will be all packed up with dark box, cameras, chemicals, plates, and other needed gear, all set to go on a truly unique wet-plate shooting in the field adventure. See yourself riding high, going down the back roads and by-ways of the Finger Lakes farm country, weather permitting, on one of the most unique in the field wet-plate adventures ever offered. This will take place on the Mondays following the "All-Around Wet-Plate" and "Just Tintypes" workshops. This extraordinary finale to an otherwise unmatched workshop weekend is limited to only two students. We’ll range out in the morning, park and shoot and then return to base, take a short lunch break and then head out to another location, shoot and return to camp by late afternoon. You will be shooting 5x7 and 5x8 glass or tin plates, landscape or stereo views. We will be using the glycerinized developed plate method that was pretty much universally practiced in the field during the 19th century. Using this quick easy procedure, far more scenes can be recorded in a day’s time than by any other way. Plates will be fixed and finished up back at base camp, just like Mathew Brady and his men did during the Civil War. Remember, we only have room for two students, so make your reservations soon!

    Be one of the first to experience this rare opportunity.

      Cost: $275 per student.   Two student limit.

To sign up for this one-of-a-kind class, write to:

John A. Coffer
1236 Dombroski Rd.
Dundee, NY 14837

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Private Tutorials with John

    Perhaps it is time for a PRIVATE TUTORIAL day or two or more.

The price is right! At $550 per day it is the lowest in the wet-plate and alt photography instruction field. Factor in that you are welcome to camp here in your own tent or RV or in one of our own classic tents or teepees for FREE and it becomes dirt cheap. You will always get more for your buck at Camp Tintype and a private tutorial is no exception. Be prepared for a solid ten hours of instruction. We start at 9:00AM and go till noon, take a quick half hour lunch break, continue shooting and working till 5:30PM, have a two hour dinner break, and then work till 10PM.

    Customize your tutorial experience as you like!

Are you a first time wet-plater? No problem, we can get you pouring fine plates the first day, lickity-split. Been at it for awhile but have hit some bumps in the road? It might only take one day to get you on the right track and smooth things out. Have you been wanting to go really big or exotic? How about 20x24 Mammoths? These monster size plates will require an extra lab fee of $300 per day. There are no extra lab fees for anything else. You can learn to make relievo-variant ambrotypes, do wet-plate by projection, get into letter press printing your own card mounts, move on up to negative and albumen paper making and printing, make your own Collodio-Choride Aristotype POP paper, and other numerous options and combinations, many of which would be only open to you as a tutorial student. Just let me know what your interests and priorities are and when you’d like to come out. The warmer half of the year is preferred, and also times not conflicting with workshop and Jamboree dates.

    Don't miss this exciting opportunity.

You are welcome to arrive and settle into camp or check in in the afternoon of the day before, and make a leisurely departure the following morning after your last tutorial day. Lastly, there is something to be said for having studied under the man who kicked off the modern wet-plate movement.

Mammoth camera   

Matted Aristotype print by JC

    This is a learing experience like no other!

      Cost: $550 per day.   Only one student - YOU!

Sign up today! Just write to:

John A. Coffer
1236 Dombroski Rd.
Dundee, NY 14837

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Black Japan Day Workshop

    Introducing a unique, new workshop for 2017!

BLACK JAPAN DAY will free the experienced wet-plate maker of tintypes from trophy aluminum plate bondage! Be a part of the revolution (or perhaps the counter revolution) to bring back the real deal iron plate black japanned Ferrotype Tintype, whose history and tradition stretches back over a hundred and sixty years. Make the great American Tintype great again!

In this one day plus workshop you will learn to produce authentic, warm tone, deep black, japanned finish Ferrotype plates, equal to any produced in the 19th century. You will also be introduced to 21st century artistic twists and turns only possible with the ability to properly japan your own tin. You’ll be surprised to learn how easy, and even cheaper in the long run, black japanning tin (an asphaltum based paint coating baked on thin mild steel) can be. Also, you’ll see for yourself how unobtrusive the procedure is when done the Coffer way. If you can grill burgers in your back yard without annoying the neighbors, you can black japan there too. Black japanning your own plates will open far more doors of creativity and add that much more hand made uniqueness and value to your tintypes. Now that’s truly exciting, and yes, liberating!

But no, they aren’t as easy and convenient as just buying pre-cut to size, beginner’s choice, only in it for the scan, simple simon, “peal and pour” trophy aluminum plates that are now available from a multitude of sources. But, since when did enduring excellence, individuality, greatness, and photography as art object, follow the wide, effortless, digitized, and thoroughly trod paths of this world? To make your work real and a cut above the rest, be sure to sign up for this wet-plate-life altering experience today!

    This class is sure to fill quickly.

      Cost: $385.    Date: June 3, 2017.    Six student limit.

Each student will make at least four Ferrotype plates to shoot real deal tintypes with when they get home, or bring your own wet-plate in the field kit and shoot them here, if you like. You are welcome to camp FREE the Friday night before and talk wet-plate with me and your fellow students into the night. Class will start 9:00 am Saturday and run till 6:00 pm. Bring your own lunch. All are welcome to camp over Saturday night and make a leisurely departure Sunday for a safe trip home.

To sign up for this unique class, write to:

John A. Coffer
1236 Dombroski Rd.
Dundee, NY 14837

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The Uncommon Common and Uncommon Uncommon Tintype Workshop

    Presenting: The Uncommon Common and Uncommon Uncommon Tintype Workshop.
This is the second in a series of “uncommons” where we teach, and students do, historic photography as it was really done, plus more. Read on for the full details.

In this one we’ll be making authentic Ferrotype Tintypes in their most common 19th century presentation, and also the most obscure Tintype of the 19th century. By far the most common Tintype of the first wet-plate era was the palm-of-your-hand size Carte de Visite {CDV} card mounted small plate Tintype. They went by names such as: Bon Tons, Gems, and Lettertypes. All could easily be slipped into an envelope and mailed safely. Billions were made using the newly invented “multiplying camera,” just like ours, capable of shooting multiple images on a single plate which was then cut apart yielding a small stack of plates that were then mounted in embossed or printed paper mounts of the 2½ x 4 CDV size. The portraits almost always had some degree of hand coloring on them as well. You’ll get the skinny on that and be able to do some hand coloring on the plates you shoot.

Before the invention of the multiplying camera, tintypes were shot one at a time and in small sizes for fitting into the common cases of the day like ambrotypes and daguerreotypes were. You can do likewise at this workshop, if you like, with the free, original 1850-60’s case you will receive with the class. The other often used option in the cased tintype era was to simply frame the small tintype with a metal ornate case mat, also easily put in an envelope and sent to loved ones. You will get a chance to press out metal mats using dies made from an original civil war era mat to frame any tintypes you make in the class. How the dies are made will be explained. It is a fact that wet-plate collodion made tintypes were virtually never sold just as a bare plate. They were always sold matted and framed in some capacity.

    Now here’s where you will be able to play in the ink!
You will set antique lead type and print your own personalized backslaps in our fully equipped letterpress print shop. A backslap is a light piece of paper which often had the Ferrotypist’s name, location, etc. printed on it and was pasted on the back of the tintype and paper mat to hold the plate in place. You can look long and hard and you’ll never find another wet-plate workshop that will get you so fully immersed and in touch with photographic history on so many levels. Only at Camp Tintype!

    But that’s not all folks.
Students will also be given the opportunity to shoot the most uncommon of the uncommon tintypes of the 19th century - the stereo tintype. Billions of paper photograph stereoviews were made, but only a tiny scant few were stereo tintypes. The handfull of them that were done were generally shot on a lark as there was no profit incentive to them. Sounds like art to me! You’ll have the opportunity to shoot with our repro 5x8 stereo camera with matched 1860’s stereo Petzval lens pair on it or the stereo Brownie camera set up. The plates will be correctly mounted for viewing in our stereo opticon viewer or yours (there’s a zillion of them on e-bay) to the amazement of all your friends and family.

    This workshop is designed for the experienced wet-plate photographer...
...who is interested in expanding his or her horizons far beyond the now mundane modern hipster aluminum peal and pour tintypes that the thundering herd is doing by the bushel baskets full nowadays. Because of its unique nature and extra effort and diligence, few if any will take this workshop. You may be the only one in it! At any rate, class size is limited to a ridiculously small number of only three.

    This unique workshop will be held on August 10, 11, 12 and 13, 2017
This is the ONLY time this year that this workshop will be held!

    It isn’t cheap at $1,200 per student with the usual $250 deposit out of that to nail your spot.

But the experience and skills and knowledge you will go away with are indeed priceless and cannot be had anywhere, and I mean anywhere, else!

To sign up for this unique class, write to:

John A. Coffer
1236 Dombroski Rd.
Dundee, NY 14837

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Manuals and DVDs Now Available

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This manual has cost me way more money than it's made. Why? Because it’s so utterly thorough and complete. And especially so, with its three and a half hour instructional DVD set included with it! Many a would-be wet-plate photographer has bought it, taught themselves the process, then gone onto making award-winning wet-plate images without ever setting foot in my workshops or anyone else's, for that matter. That said, do keep in mind that a workshop experience at "Camp Tintype" is something beyond just a workshop. It is a life changing experience.   -JC

    The Doers Guide to Wet-Plate Collodion Photography, plus complete DVD Set
The Doers Guide to Wet-Plate Collodion Photography manual, with the complete DVD set, is now available for $85.00 ppd. (Canada cost is $115.00 ppd. and overseas cost is $145.00 ppd.) $75.00 if bought at "Camp Tintytpe"

The Doers Guide and Complete Wet-Plate Instructional DVD Set cover all aspects of wet-plate photography, including chemical mixing, managing, and maintaining.

    You have a choice between a hand-written (xeroxed, of course) or computer-typeset manual (Please specify)

** Note from John regarding hand-written version: The hand-written version of the Doers Guide will get a major re-write and update later this Fall and Winter and is no longer available until then. The typeset version will continue to be available.   -JC

** Note from John regarding typeset version: The typeset version of the Doers Guide has now been revised and updated and is for sale at the same low price.   -JC

Manual by hand             Manual by computer

    Here are some Questions & Answers about ordering manuals:

To order any of the above material, write to:

John A. Coffer
1236 Dombroski Rd.
Dundee, NY 14837

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Your Wet-Plate Collodion Follow-Up Kit

    Finally, a reliable kit for the beginning wet-plate workshop student
You are now able to take this home for an uninterrupted flow of wet-plate fun!

    For only $400.00, this kit includes the following:


NOTE: The kit absolutely does NOT contain an alcohol burner spirit lamp, otherwise known as the "Molotov Cocktail of wet-plate photography." (Read my Myth Busters article to get details as to why it's gotten that tag.)

    This kit is only available to workshop & tutorial students at "Camp Tintype"
No other workshop or tutorial anywhere offers this extra service. Yet another reason why "Camp Tintype" workshops are the Best!

    Black acrylic silver baths also available
We will be selling sturdy, well-made, black acrylic 5x7 silver baths for only $65.00 to workshop students ... only this year!

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Jamboree 2017 - August 4, 5 and 6

     JAMBOREE 2017: Mark your calendars, pards

August 4, 5 and 6, 2017 for the 16th annual international wet-plate collodion photography Jamboree! Wet-platers from everywhere are, as always, invited.

Last year's Jam was the usual great time for all. Special Thanks! to Mike Jacobson of Artcraft Chemicals whose support has always been vital to our event. Also, to Chemenix Cameras for their donations to the raffle over the years. Wayne Aho won one of their 5x7 spring back camera wet-plate holders after trying to win anything over the years with stacks of raffle tickets bought. Mike Steinle bought his usual one ticket and got the coveted "Elvis Presley by his Viva Las Vegas Pink ‘56 Caddy" wall-mount temperature gauge. Some people have all the luck! We skipped the tee shirt thing and instead I made canning jar lid wet-plate photo-buttons of our patron saint of the year, Thomas Edison, who was there. Unlike the shirts at previous Jams, it was a sell out. Good riddance to tee shirts.

Next year’s saint will be Prof. John Towler who wrote the vital to the collodion revival, 1864 photography manual, The Silver Sunbeam. Get ready for a nice rosed cheek photo tintype button of him for your wearing pleasure. Fun fact: Towler was a long time Professor at Hobart College which is only thirty miles north of CampTintype. His spirit still walks the hills here abouts. They are extra frigid and snow crusted at the moment.

Here’s looking forward to a great 2017 wet-plate year for all and see you at the Jam!

     2016 Jamboree photos still coming in

Enjoy the photos that are rolling in. Jamboreers, if you have any photos or scans of your plates that you would like to see on John's website, please email them to the Webmaster.

For more information and authorization to attend the 2016 Jamboree, please write:

John A. Coffer
"Camp Tintype"
1236 Dombroski Rd.
Dundee, NY 14837

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Contact Information

E-mail address:

Click here to email John
Please note that since John does not have Internet access at Camp Tintype, all email sent here will be printed and mailed to John once every couple of weeks. To receive a reply from John as soon as possible, please include your mailing address in the email. It will be faster to write him a letter at…

Mailing address:

John A. Coffer
1236 Dombroski Rd.
Dundee, NY 14837

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Biographical & Camp Tintype Information

"Camp Tintype" is the best known and longest running learning center for wet-plate collodion photography in the world. It is the creation of its founder, John Coffer. Its humble beginnings started in 1978, when John hitched a bay workhorse named "Brownie" up to a 19th century style darkroom wagon dubbed the "Photographic Van" and criss-crossed the continent for seven years, plying his trade as an old time traveling portrait photographer. This was an experience as unique as the many tintypes and prints from glassplate negatives he made and sold along the way.

Having started out using commercially available, at the time, dry plate tintypes and glass negatives to make his living, he eventually was able to glean enough information from historic archives and gather up the necessary chemicals from different sources, that by 1982, he was able to do the much more desirable wet-plate collodion process. That spring, he immediately began making wet-plate collodion Tintypes (the real Ferrotype kind), ambrotypes, and glass plate negatives for his patrons, as he camped on field and farm and small town back lots along his way.

In 1985, after more than 11,000 wagon miles and having passed through 36 different states, John and his horse "Brownie" settled down on their own 50 acre farm in the heart of the beautiful "Finger Lakes" country of up-state New York.

Tintype of John Coffer by Tom DeLooza, 2005

He began offering his, now famous, three day wet-plate collodion photography in the field workshops in the summer of 1996. Since then, to keep up with the demand, he has had to schedule steadily more workshops each year and is, also, increasingly busy with private one-an-one tutorials.

"Brownie" went on to graze in the big pasture in the sky at the ripe old age of 34.

Here are twenty-one reasons why "Camp Tintype" workshops and tutorials are simply the best anywhere:

1.    High student teacher ratio and more.
Our regular workshops are limited to only four students and will be taught regardless as to if any fewer than that should arrive. Also, as the workshop progresses and each student becomes familiar with the basic process and work flow, they will be assigned to their own dark box/darkroom set-up with camera, chemicals, plates, etc. This way there’s no waiting to use such things or having to rush so someone else can have a turn. Working at your own focused pace, correcting mistakes immediately as you go, you will find is as good a learning environment as one could ask for. Fine wet-plate art is a personal thing and not a group effort. Compare and shop. Oh, and one more thing, if you have already taken someone else’s workshop or even more than one, don’t overlook taking one here, be it the beginning class or the unique advanced level ones. You will go away with skills and knowledge far above and beyond the others anemic just a “starting point” workshops.

2.    Students shoot a lot.
Typically, a workshop student will go home with over a dozen good to great plates they’ve shot. Many have done twice that and some have gone away with over thirty. Sizes run from 35mm up to and including 8x10. This kind of volume and diversity is encouraged. Fact is; you learn wet-plate best by doing wet-plate and not by running around watching others in an overcrowded institutionalized class shoot their measly two or three plates. It’s a hell of a lot more fun and productive shooting rather than just watching and waiting your turn!

Depending on the particular class, each student will make Tintypes, Ambrotypes, glass Negative, and Albumen Prints. Don’t worry; your work will be expertly critiqued for its flaws, remedies for, and successes why, as it is made right there at the sink when you have a chance to do something about it rather than at some pretentious “Critique Session” at the end of the workshop. There is also a lot of critiquing going on as the group varnishes their plates in the log cabin in the evenings. Yes, that’s right in the evenings and not in the day light lit productive part of the day when you are fully absorbed in shootin'!

3.    Ideal span of Time.
Three days has proven to be the ideal time span for basic immersion. But in fact our standard beginner workshops can be longer than that if you stay over for “Free Play Day” on Sunday at no extra charge and you are welcome to arrive early for the workshop and set-up camp or just check in on Wednesday afternoon and watch the free demos offered in the late afternoon and early evening. There will be time to hang out around the evening campfire as well.

4.    The Price is Right.
Shop around, do the numbers, and you’ll find our prices are more than competitive. Other’s are often significantly more expensive, at the get go, or at least when you factor in expensive lodging and actual workshop time and work output. We do not teach in minimums or just starting points, as in as little as you can get away with, but more in maximums, as in as much as we can teach and you can do given your time here. Be it known, there are many things we teach and have you do that cannot be found any place else. No brag, just fact.

5.    Free Camping!
Many of our students bring their own tents or RVs (no hook-ups) and camp here. We also have free to use teepees and other primitive style tents students are welcome to bunk in to themselves. They are appointed well with rock slab floors and heavily built log bunks with camp mattresses. There are two fine barrel system composting outhouses on site. Also, we have a 60 gallon wood fired primitive shower set-up with curtains. Grocery stores and restaurants are just a few miles away in Dundee. Also, the area has plenty of motels, hotels, and B&B’s to choose from if you don’t care to rough it.

6.    Close to photography mecca, Rochester, NY.
Camp Tintype is about 90 miles south. If you plan on visiting the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography you might want to call ahead to get their hours and possibly make an appointment to see their behind the scenes collection of rare early cameras and images. Cost is only the standard price of admission.

7.   The workshops are geared towards doing wet-plate in the field.
Most newbee- wet-platers see themselves going on the road and shooting in the field at least at some point in time. This requires a certain know-how and set of gear, unlike the generally far less challenging indoor electric lit studio with walk-in-darkroom situation. After learning to do the process in the field and becoming comfortable with that, the shift to a cozy studio is easy. Not so, the other way around!

8.   Camp Tintype is laid back, well, sort of.
“Rebel” the rooster starts sounding off at 5:30AM, but class doesn’t start till about 9:00AM. We’ll take a short lunch break at noon (bring your own food and beverage) and then class resumes till about 5:30 PM. A supper recess is taken till 8:00PM. We then gather up for plate varnishing, other wet-plate chores, and some show and tell in the log cabin till about 10:00PM. After that you will probably be forced to hear some of my early 1900’s Edison cylinder recordings on my vintage talking machines.
      We request that there not be any imbibing till after the whole day is through and then in moderation.

9.   The Most Experienced Wet-Plate Teacher in the World.
That’s a mighty big claim but it happens to be true. John Coffer has been doing wet-plate collodion photography professionally, or any other way you look at it, longer than anyone alive today, shooting his first wet-plate image on a Ferrotype in 1982. He has been teaching apprentices, doing demos, and teaching workshops practically from the get go. Literally he is the teacher of the teachers who taught the teachers. His personal work is well known in the art photography world, having shows regularly in New York City and Santa Fe and other prestigious and even some backwater not so prestigious galleries across the country.


10.   The world's most thorough wet-plate Manual and Instructional DVD set.
At a whopping 165plus pages, no other contemporary manual compares. And it comes with a 4 hour video instructional DVD set that covers all the bases. Such as choosing of equipment, chemical safety and mixing, black japanning your own tin to make real deal Ferrotypes, and many other, must-see to appreciate, vital aspects of the wet-plate collodion process. And, if that isn’t enough, you will receive your copy through the mail as soon as you sign up for a workshop, Free!

11.   We’ve got Cyanide!
By far the best fixing solution for wet-plate photography is Potassium Cyanide {KCN}. See my Myth Busters page for a comparison study of fixing solution options. KCN is also the most difficult to obtain of all the chemicals used in the wet-plate process. When I say difficult I mean really really difficult unless you are well connected with some large institution or have some black market connections and have bags of money. Because we are always willing to go the extra mile here at Camp Tintype for our workshop and tutorial students, they can buy a limited amount on site only. In 2017 single half pound lots will be $125 cash and carry. That may seem pricy but a little bit goes an amazingly long ways. That amount would last the average shooter at least two or three years cranking out hundreds upon hundreds of plates. Kept in a well sealed plastic bottle, its shelf life in the raw or in the form of diluted working solution is unlimited. KCN will even fix plates perfectly, as weak as a .01% solution. That is one gram to 1000mls of water. That is incredibly dilute but you should expect fixing times as long as 3 to 4 minutes, or not much longer than sodium thio-sulfate which is your best authentic alternative to cyanide fixer. Despite the slow fixing time, a super dilute KCN solution may be just the ticket for those who fear working with it or having KCN fixing solution around in a public setting. The normal working strength we use in the workshops is 1.1% solution for a super quick fixing time of only about eight seconds or less. If you fix much longer than that it acts as a reducer which can be helpful if your image is slightly over exposed and needs darkening and a bit more contrast. For those who do not want to mess with the raw extremely poisonous stuff in powder form we can sell KCN premixed in 1.1% solution for $10 a liter. Again, cash and carry to our workshop and tutorial students only and at the workshop they are in only. Our supply is limited and once it’s gone there will be no replacing it.

We are one of the few wet-plate collodion workshops in the world that uses KCN to fix with and the only one you can buy any at.

12.   Top-notch Cameras and Equipment.
We do not use any ultra rare and fragile original mid-19th century wet-plate era cameras. We do use finely crafted of the correct materials reproduction wet-plate cameras with original brass lenses of the celebrated Petzval and other designs and also, and very importantly, an assortment of 20th century cameras of all shapes and sizes, adapted to doing wet-plate. We have way more than enough to go around. There is no waiting your turn to use the camera! You can even try out wet-plate dedicated view cameras we often have on hand for sale at reasonable prices.


13.   Charlie.


14.   Ferrotypes.
Ours are the only wet-plate collodion workshops in the whole world that teach you firsthand how to make and then use real deal Ferrotype plates for the making of truly authentic Tintypes just like they used to be before the modern slick trophy aluminum plate tintype high-jacked the modern wet-plate scene. The aluminum trophy plates are admittedly very easy to use and unintimidating to the first time wet-plate student and we use them quite liberally in the class as well.

15.    “Tin Lizzies”.
The Model T Ford car was the car that democratized the automobile, just like the Tintype democratized the picture portrait. But, the similarity to the tintype doesn’t end there. Henry Ford is quoted as saying,” You can have any color Model T you want as long as it’s black.” If he had been a little more specific, he might have said black japanned. That’s how most of the cars parts and bodies were painted. The asphalt based formula paint was inexpensive but gave a very durable deep glossy black finish. It was basically the same formula that was flowed on thin iron plates and baked on the same way to make Ferrotype plates back in the glory days of the tintype. The trivia, links, and associations between the Model T and the tintype, of which both, I might add, Henry Ford had a great fondness for, are fun and interesting, but there are some things that will even top that. Have you ever ridden through the countryside on a warm summer day in a Model T Ford touring car? Barring wet weather, we’ll load the class up and go for a jaunt in “Lula”, my 1923 Model T Ford, before your stay is over. She gets her picture taken a lot. But, don’t forget “Gertrude” the 1925 Model T Coupe and “Ol Smokey” my 1927 Model TT truck. They like to be Tintyped as well.

Car    Car

16.   Letterpress Print Shop.
Yes, that’s right, we have the nicest little “Print Shop” you ever did see. In some of our more advanced workshops and tutorials it is vital equipment. But whether you do or do not use it, it is here, and most find it, at the least, interesting, if not downright inspiring. Our shop contains three letterpress printing presses and a ton of type and related equipment. Come see! Come use!

17.   Heart of the Finger Lakes.
One of Upstate New York’s most prized possessions is the Finger Lakes Country. Camp Tintype lies nearly dead center of it. The Finger Lakes is known far and wide as world class wine country. Wineries are over every hill and dale as are vast tracks of vineyards. Rapidly it is becoming known for its craft beer, using locally grown hops and grains, as well. Some like to take the wine and spirits tour after attending a workshop and take a few bottles home with them.

This area also has one of the largest settlements of Old Order horse and buggy Mennonites in the country. It’s been called the Lancaster County of the North, but without so many trinket shops, congestion, and traffic. A parade of black buggies on their way to one of the nearby meeting houses goes by out front of Camp Tintype every Sunday morning like clock- work. Now that’s eye candy! Also, don’t forget the incredible natural wonder of Watkins Glenn State Park, just 16 miles south.

18.   Chemical safety is stressed and exercised at all times.
Right from the moment you sign up for a workshop you’ll get safety tips. In class we will go over all the ins and outs of safe chemical handling, storage, mixing, and disposal. We do, however, follow a common sense approach and not a hyped one that can paralyze students in fear. In over 25 years of teaching workshops we have not had a single wet-plate chemistry mishap and intend to keep it that way while keeping it fun and relaxed.

19.   Camp Tintype is off Grid.
Ever wonder what it might be like to use alternative energy and not be so dependent on the big old “system” out there, then you’re gonna like our set-up. Wind, solar, and animal traction powered electrical generation is on tap. Yep, you can charge your phone here.

We do some things by the time honored manual methods but some by the latest high tech. In other words, we choose our technology rather than let it choose us. Camp Tintype is not, nor has it ever been, an 1850’s living history farm museum despite reports to the contrary floating around.

20.   We Got Oxen.
We have lots of them! After training my first team of oxen from calves, while laid over at the Living History Farms in Des Moines, Iowa, I continued on East in my far flung wagon travels in ‘83. Bodie and Dillard pulled the Camp Wagon over twelve hundred miles to Dundee, NY where we put down roots in ‘85. The boys pulled the logs in from the woods for the log cabin I built. They tilled the land, and all manner of draught animal jobs they were called on to do. The Milking Devon cow, Daisy, I acquired on the trek in Ohio, became the grand dame of many more oxen over the years. Oxen are as timeless as Tintypes and the traditions continue on for both in their most noblest forms here at Camp Tintype. Take a look at this great article from 1996!

Oxen    Oxen

Oxen    Oxen

21.   FREE! Sunday Pancake Breakfast.
Yes sir, stick around Sunday morning and enjoy with us a fine breakfast featuring pancakes hot off the big griddle over the campfire, lathered with butter and our own maple syrup from our own sugar bush. Wash it all down with creamy raw milk from one of the cows. Also, eggs if our hens are laying (the same ones that provide albumen for the albumen prints we make) and hot fresh brewed coffee. Sunday is “Free Play Day” so you can get a little more shooting time in after you fill up.


Note: There are no phones or E-mail at "Camp Tintype".
Correspondence is, by preference, done by mail. Write:

John A. Coffer
"Camp Tintype"
1236 Dombroski Road
Dundee, NY 14837

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Website updated on: 3/3/2017

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