Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fog In The Studio.

           IN many localities, notably in the London district, the state of the atmosphere has left much to be desired from the photographer's point of view. Not only has there been an actual deficiency of light through the presence of more or less yellow fogs, but there has been great difficulty in securing brilliant negatives on days when the light was fairly good, because of the general haziness of the atmosphere. Many photographers suffer from this fogginess without quite being aware of the actual cause of it. A simple experiment which will show in a rough way how much fog is present in any room at various distances can be made with the aid of two ordinary black velvet focusing cloths, velvet being chosen because it has leas reflecting power than any other material in ordinary use. One piece of velvet is crumpled up so that some parts produce deep shadow and put on a table in the position usually occupied by the sitter. The operator then stands by the camera at the distance at which a full-length portrait would be taken, and holds up the other about a foot from his eyes so that it half covers the piece on the table. If there is any appreciable amount of haze present he will find that the deep shadows on the distant piece appear quite grey in comparison with those on the piece which he is holding, and at once finds an explanation of the flat negatives which he has been obtaining.
           Having established the existence of the fog, our aim is now to minimise its effects, and there are many methods by which this end may be partially attained which, when put together, result in a substantial improvement in the quality of the negatives. In the first place, the studio windows should be kept clean, so that as small an area of glass as will give the desired lighting will be needed to obtain short exposures. By thus closing out all unnecessary light we reduce the general illumination of the fog and get a much brighter image. This can perhaps better be seen when working with artificial light. If we build the lamps in with screens or backgrounds so that the light falls upon the sitter only and none reaches any other part of the studio, there are only three or four feet of fog to work through, while if the whole of the studio is illuminated the amount is greatly increased.
           In foggy weather the lighting of the sitter may be more concentrated than is usually necessary, as a more vigorous negative will then be obtained, and printing can be carried on until the shadows are of sufficient depth. Windows become coated with smoke in a day or two in the winter and act as undesirable diffusers, so that it is advisable to clean at least the panes which it is intended to leave unscreened.
           A fairly warm temperature and good ventilation tend to reduce fog and to clear it away quickly. We have often noticed that a room or studio has remained foggy long after it has become fairly clear outside. When the necessary power is available, an electric fan will do much to establish a current of air, which should be directed towards an open window or door. A proper exhaust fan fitted near the roof is the best form, but the portable ones are of considerable value.
           We have already pointed out how the effect of fog may be reduced by cutting out all unnecessary illumination. A further improvement may be made by using a lens of as short a focal length as possible, though not so short as to introduce distortion. Where sufficient length of studio is available, it is now common to use sixteen or eighteen-inch lenses for all-round cabinet work, and it is quite good practice in clear weather. But at other times a tea or twelve-inch lens will be found to give much brighter pictures. As a matter of fact, many photographers have found this out without knowing the reason, and attributed the improvement in brilliancy to some other property in the lens than its focal length. Whatever lens is being used, it should be kept clean. Lenses will get as dirty as windows do in a smoky atmosphere, and will then yield flat images in the clearest light. If a lens has not been kept clean it is interesting to take a negative with it before cleaning and one directly afterwards. In most cases the contrast will be striking. Lenses should be cleaned carefully, a vigorous rob with the corner of the focussing cloth is not to be recommended, as such treatment soon "greys" the surface. An old worn handker-chief, kept in a box free from dost and grit, should be used. If there is a greasy deposit from town smoke, a single drop of pure alcohol may be applied on a tuft of cotton wool, and then the surface quickly polished with the handkerchief.
           Although we are opposed to all “tinkering” methods of development, the judicious use of bromide upon exposures which have been made under adverse conditions is quite permissible. To describe the action of bromide in popular language, we may say that, when used upon an over-exposed or foggily lighted plate, it allows the high-lights to get a start before the shadows begin to develop. If the plate be developed right out this advantage is lost, but as most portrait negatives do not reach this stage there is a decided benefit to be obtained by the use of bromide in the cases we have mentioned. It is necessary to add the bromide to the developer before immersing the plate. Once development has started it is of little, if any, effect. The character of the plates used should also be taken into consideration. Some brands tend to give brighter results than others. These should be chosen for foggy weather, as, although the scale of tones may not be so long, the resulting print is more satisfactory.

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