Thursday, July 3, 2008

Practicus In The Studio: The Surroundings Of The Studio.

Previous articles of this series, in which the aim of the writer to communicate items of a long experience in studio portraiture, have appeared weekly since the beginning of the present year. It is not thought possible to continue the series to the length of that by the name writer which ran hrough the "British Journal" some years ago, but if any reader among the younger generation of photographers, and particularly those engaged as assistants, has a particular subject which might be dealt with, his or her suggestion will be welcomed. The subjects of the previous articles of the series have been as follows: -
Studio Exposures (May 24).
Artificial Lighting (June 4).
Printing Processes for Portraiture (June 5).
Studio Accessories and Furniture (June 20).
A Talk About Lighting (June 10).
The Camera and the Lens (June 12).
Managing the Sitter (May 14).
Backgrounds (May 20).

          Some writers on lighting in the studio have treated the matter as if all studios were alike, and that a set of rules, which should ensure any desired revolt if they were followed, could be evolved. There could be no greater error, for hardly any two studios are exactly alike; in fact, so great is the difference that an operator who has created quite a reputation for artistic work in one will fail dismally in another. It has been my luck to work in many oddly constructed places, but I have hardly found one where, with a little study and perseverance, decent results could not be obtained, the principal difference being not so mach in the appearance of the negatives as in she length of exposure necessary to obtain then. This, I hope, will be of some comfort to those who have found an otherwise eligible position for a studio, but are doubtful as to its possibilities in the way of lighting.
          There are two main points to be considered, one being the orientation of tile building, or its relation to the cardinal points of the compass, and consequently to the sun, and the other the presence of outside obstructions in the shape of walls, trees, or other objects. Regarding the first, I think that too much stress has been laid upon the necessity for a northern aspect for the glass side; in fact, I have known cases where a photographer has gone to great trouble and expense to secure this or even to reject a position where it could not be obtained. For instance, where it has been a choice between securing a good working length with in eastern aspect or too short s studio for good work, the latter has been chosen, simply from fear of not being able to control the light in the former position. This idea dates back to wet-collodion days, when it was considered essential to have a large amount of open light, and has been handed down from one writer to another, although we must not forget that even in those early days Mr. Valentine Blanchard, whose artistic ability has never been questioned, proved that the finest possible work could be done all the year round in a studio facing due south. I frequently work in a studio with a full western aspect, and find no difficulty in doing so, although I must confess that I should like it muoh better if it were a northern one. The reason for this is, of course, that in the latter one can get the same effect all day without altering the blinds, while in the former modifications are necessary as the light works round.
          To make the best of a studio so situated that the sun shines upon the glass, it is necessary to be able to coyer the whole of the light either with dark or white blinds or curtains as my be needed, but when I say white blinds I do not mean pea-soup colour, which is the normal tint in many studios. These intercept so much light that they are useless as diffusers, which is their real mission. Mr. Blanchard screened his sunlit roof and side with light frames, upon which tissue paper was stretched; but I prefer my favourite white nainsook festoon curtains, as they may be easily pushed aside when not required, end are, moreover, easily washed when soiled. I have worked in a studio glazed with ground glass, but found that there was too much glare, and when white blinds were used in addition the exposures were too long. It is almost needless to say that in a sunlit studio there must be no bare glass, the white blinds being the source of light, when they act much in the same way as if a sky covered with white clouds were seen through dear glass. The simile is, perhaps, not quite good, but that is as nearly as I can put it. In such a studio the inside walls must be rather dark or flatness will result, and the area of white blind used must be no larger than is necessary. If we consider the ease with which good results can be obtained with a single enclosed arc lamp we shall see that a very large area of light is not necessary.
          The second point that of outside obstructions is a more difficult one and every individual case must be dealt with as a special problem. During the past few weeks I have had to deal with two cases in which the trouble arose from the proximity of a high wall a few feet from the side light. In the worst one the wall was higher than the studio, and about nine feet away. It was of dark brick and how the previous occupant of the studio, for whom it was built, managed I cannot imagine. His work was certainly unorthodox, and he abandoned photography for the stage. Then during an interval it was occupied as a workshop, until its excellent business position attracted another photographer who decided to take the chance. The first thing to be done was to visit the owner of the wall and to ask his permission, to have it painted white; this he gave readily enough, and the next to stipple the side light halfway up with very thin zinc white paint. The necessary dark and white blinds were fitted, and even in this dull weather the results obtained are excellent, although, of course, the exposures are not quite as rapid as they would be in a more open position.
          Another studio was even in a worse situation, being located at the bottom of a deep well-hole surrounded by lofty houses. Before it was built I went on to the leads on which it was to stand, and certainly felt some misgivings; still it was there or nowhere, and as the prospective user was a wealthy man we decided to take the risk. There was toplight, and not too much of that, but, with the help of outside silvered reflectors, lighting was quite passable, and many excellent portraits taken in it. All cases are not as bad as this, but there are often obstructions which seriously reduce the value of a studio. Once I built a studio in a garden in the winter, and it was very satisfactory, but what a difference when the leaves came on the trees again! Fortunately, most were on my own ground, and were drastically lopped, and my next-door neighbor helped, bf cutting in one or two which still troubled me. It is wonderful what you can get done if you talk nicely to people. Here, again, I found that stippling the side light was an improvement, as light which would be nearly vertical is intercepted and dispersed in all directions. If rolled plate be used in such circumstances, there is a great gain in light if the ribs be placed horizontally in the side light; every rib becomes a little cylindrical lens, and throws light into the studio.
          In the case of an immovable obstruction which is very near the proposed studio, it is advisable if possible to raise the building, so that it will overlook the obstacle. A friend who found himself in this difficulty said afterwards that it proved a blessing in disguise, for he had to provide himself with an excellent workroom upon which the glasshouse was built, and he found this much more comfortable than the cramped quarters he had proposed using, and the extra cost was not great considering the value of the accommodation provided.
          When building or adapting a studio care should be taken to avoid minor obstructions caused by portions of the building itself; for example, I have seen a single slant studio in which the slant was obtained by throwing back the top behind the general line of the building, thus leaving a triangular piece of wall standing out at each end. This may not be serious in many oases, but if a front lighting is wanted it considerably curtails it, and this is more especially so when the studio is rather a short one, as the angle of light is then necessarily more acute. Great caution must be exercised in erecting a studio near vacant land, as there is no guarantee that another building will not be erected that will shut the light completely out. In order to secure the right to do this, a landowner will often erect a screen on poles so as to block any window on neighboring land in order to prevent any subsequent claim to "ancient lights."
          It is easy to realise that different situations call for differently designed studios. In the commonest case of difficulty, where there is top light only, it is desirable to have as long; a range of glass in the roof as possible, as we can them draw the blinds well over the sitter's head, turn him slightly away from the light, and get the effect of a high side light; such a studio should be built as wide as possible for this reason.
          Studios of moderate height with side light only do not, perhaps, come within our scope, but as they, in common with those with top light only, are capable of being improved by the addition of a supplementary artificial light, we mention, them. A top light may easily be produced under an opaque ceiling by using either the half-watt or an enclosed arc lamp in a metal reflector, which gives a strong though soft reflected light from the ceiling, while similar lamps may be used either to illuminate a white side wall or to give a direct side light through a diffuser. The mixture of lights is not at all objectionable, and, in fact, will hardly be noticed by many sitters.
          Difficulties in lighting will be minimized if the studio be wide enough to allow of considerable latitude in the placing of the sitter; it should be possible to work diagonally or evens quite across the studio, and it should always be arranged, if possible, that either end of the studio can be used.
          When inspecting an empty studio or the site- for building one, a very simple way of judging of its possibilities is to seat oneself in the position likely to be occupied by the sitter, and from there to note how much clear sky is visible, and the nature of any obstructions. This gives a good starting-point, and is better than attempting to judge the lighting, at all events, in the open air.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Electricity and Photography In Warfare.

[The generation of electric current in places where no other source of light is freely available has of course during the active operations in Prance been an important branch not only of the Royal Air Force but of other sections of the army. Inasmuch as the use of such small installations are equally of interest to photographers in country places, we take the opportunity of reprinting from the “Electrical Review'' an article describing the use of such units of equipment. Without an installation of this kind a photographer most fall back either on flashlight or on one of the incandescent paraffin lamps such as the Blanchard, neither of which can be said to rival a portable electric plant for all such portraiture as requires to be done by artificial light. – EDS., “B.J.”]

           Having recently returned from France, where I have been attached to a photographic section of H.M. Armies, it may be of general interest if I place on record a few particulars of the work of these sections, and the part played by electricity and engineering in carrying out their functions.
           It must be clearly understood that these sections are not responsible for the actual taking of the photographs, as this duty falls on the Royal Air Force. The photographs cover quite a large range of subjects – such as front line and support trenches, panoramas of large tracts of country, large mosaics or photographic maps of certain parts of the country, “aerials" of particular spots, enemy gun emplacements, bridges and railways before and after bombardment, roads, etc.
           The duty our little party had to perform was to tarn out copies of these photographs in large numbers and very quick working, when necessary, night and day, to get the work turned out in time to be of service for the particular military operations they were required for – whether it was for operations on a large scale or for local raids or artillery work. To give some idea of the magnitude of the operations these small isolated and almost unknown "sections" of the Army carried out, I may say that work equal to 23,000 full-plate photographs was turned out in 36 hours for one of the big blows dealt at the enemy last August Having gone so far to show the extent of the work, we now some to the means of carrying it out, and this is where electricity and engineering played their part "in the game."
           As these photographic sections have to move with the armies, the apparatus is often being. dismantled, moved, and re-erected, and as the conditions vary with every more, retreating or advancing, the plant is put to work under a variety of conditions; sometimes the generating plant is resting on a few piles driven in the ground, and at other tunes on a good solid concrete foundation.
           The plant I was in touch with consisted of one Gardner 5-H.P. petrol engine, direct-coupled to a 3-kw. Holmes generator running at 500 R.P.M. These machines were, of course, mounted on one bedplate. A second set consisted of a Petter Junior petrol engine, direct-coupled to a 3-kw. Holmes dynamo running at 725 R.P.M., on a common bed-plate.
           The working voltage in the depot was 110, and as a steady light was very essential for the photographic work on account of the time for exposure, for printing, equalizing, etc., the supply to the depot was always taken from accumulators, of which we had two complete batteries, which were need alternately, one being charged whilst the other set was being uncharged to the works.
           These batteries were generally accommodated in a room or hut near the engine-room, and complete control of the whole installation was obtained by a switchboard in the engine-room, fitted with the usual meters, charge and discharge switches, change-over switches for switching in or out either generator on to either battery, and also for switching either battery on to the works.
           All outgoing circuits were controlled by switches and fuses on the main switchboard, and mercury vapour lamps, general lighting and night-light circuits, etc., were all separate.
           The batteries were put p in teak boxes, lead-lined, and fitted with lids, and each set had a capacity of 190 ampere-hours. These had a fair amount of rough usage during the various hurried removals, but kept up to their work very well.
           As photographic prints of each subject were sent to our works, and not the original negatives, it was necessary to make a fresh negative from each print sent in, and this often meant over 100 subjects per day. These were taken with the aid of Cooper Hewitt mercury vapour lamps, two tubes in series in one frame, and two complete sets being used. In the case of photographs requiring to be enlarged, a Westminster arc lamp and enlarging camera were utilised. All printing from negatives was done in special printing boxes, lighted either by half-watt or ordinary M.F. lamps, and the same remark applies to the equalizing boxes.

Gardner Petrol Engine

Gardner Petrol Engine.

           After being printed, developed, fixed, and washed, all prints were hung up in a drying-room heated by slow-combustion stoves and spirit flares, and the air was kept moving with two 12 in. electric fans. As the temperature in this room was generally about 120 degs., the prints were dry and ready for the cutters in a very few minutes.
           The water supply was generally obtained from a stream near which the works were always situated, and the water pumped up to a supply tank with a Pelapone pumping set consisting of a petrol engine driving a turbine pump by means of a V-shaped belt, the set being mounted on a wooden frame, and so arranged that when the pipes were disconnected, it could be picked up bodily and carried. The water supply tank was generally fixed on a wooden structure near the main shed or building, and the water supply to all the washing sinks was run in screwed iron pipes, although a quantity of hose pipe was used for connecting up to the pump and tank at various times. The quantity of water used would be about 2,000 gallons per day.
           Floats and indicators were used in and connected to the supply tank, and arranged with electrical contact, either to ring a bell or switch on a coloured light when the tank was either full or empty.
           The general lighting of the depot, which consisted of dark rooms, cutting-room, stores, office, engine, battery and pump rooms dining room, billets, etc., was carried out with ordinary M.F. lamps, and the general wiring was carried out on the cleat system, this enabling dismantling and re-erecting to be carried out in a very short time; I have known the plant to be dismantled and taken across country thirty or forty miles, photographic work being resumed in something like 48 hours. This, of course, was with a good deal of very temporary work, but the "military machine" had to be kept going, and the work of making a fairly decent job of the general installation had to be done whilst the place was kept working; very often, as soon as it was a, bit straight, another move would be ordered. However, as the production of these photographs in an efficient and quick manner very often meant the saving of thousands of valuable British lives and the destruction of those of the enemy, everybody worked with a will for a definite purpose.

Petter Junior petrol engine Petter Junior petrol engine.

Holmes dynamo Holmes dynamo.

Pelapone pumping set

Pelapone pumping set.

           The engineering staff consisted of another R.E. and myself, and the total works staff only amounted to 25, including officer, N.C.O.'s, engineers, dispatch rider, cook, storekeeper, and photographers.
           The illustrations show some of the plant as used and described, and I might also add that the switch used for the firing of the mines at Messines Ridge eventually found its way on to our switchboard.
           Such is a short account of one of the many cases where engineering and electricity, in particular, have come to the aid of our Armies, and have been used to advantage in helping to beat the Hun and save civilisation from a fate that was too horrible to contemplate.

H. Moss.