Test the Finder. While examining the camera to see if the scale is correct, look at the finder and see if the image coincides with that given on the focussing screen. Should it not do so it may perhaps be altered with a little Bates' Black or Brunswick Black, or if the image included is less than given by the plate, see what the error is, so that you may judge when taking pictures. A spot of black paint may be used for marking the current centre, for very often the centre of the finder does not agree with the centre of the focussing screen. When making these adjustments, focus a fairly distant object, for there is always a little unavoidable error in near ones.
In high-class instruments such as the " Sinclair Una " the finder is made to coincide with the view given on the plate. At a small extra cost a tilting finder is fitted with a scale corresponding with a scale marked on the rising front of the camera. This enables the worker to see the exact view in the finder that is given on the plate when the front is raised for architectural work.
The camera being examined and the lens scrupulously clean, it is loaded with plates or films and we proceed to take our first picture.
Fast v. Slow Plates. " What plates or films shall I use ? " is a question put to me constantly and I invariably recommend the fastest that can be procured, providing they are of good quality. This advice is against all the text books and the writings in the photographic papers, but of that no matter. Writers of books are usually content to perpetuate an old legend which dates back to the days when fast plates were bad plates, and the majority of text book writers are more facile with the pen than the camera. There is no plate fast enough for me. A fast plate gives you the advantage of using a smaller stop and this allows for errors in focussing, an important matter when taking moving figures at near distances. Use a fast and backed plate for preference. A " backed " plate is no more trouble than an " unbacked " one, providing the maker's instructions to remove the backing before development are disregarded. I am very chary of recommending that makers' instructions should be disregarded, but certainly must do so in the case of " backed " plates.
Selection of Subject. The camera or slides being loaded let us proceed to take our first picture and perhaps we cannot do better than select a street scene on a sunny day, and say, a couple of hours before or after noon, so that there is shadow as well as sunshine. Don't make the first attempt on the face of your dearest friend or the distant landscape which has so often given you pleasure, for such subjects are of a slightly more difficult order, and we must walk before we run.
To Focus. Where shall we set the focussing scale ? is the first point for consideration. If using f/8 stop with a 5 to 6 inch focus lens it may be set at the 12 yard mark, and if f/11 with a 5 inch lens at about 8 yards. Nearly everything will then be in focus, for of course in such a scene we shall take care not to have any very near object filling up the greater part of the picture. With a 5x4 or 1/2-plate, we shall not get so much depth of focus as with a 1/4-plate, but in these cases, if we set the scale at the 12 yard mark for the 5 x 4 and 24 yards for the 1/2-plate, we shall not be very far wrong.*
What Speed shall we Give ? To give the plate or film sufficient exposure is important, and yet we must beware of gross over-exposure. With a backed plate two or three times the minimum exposure possible will not matter very much, because a good deal of the excess seems absorbed by the " backing." It may be useful to give some well-known subject and the exposure necessary under certain circumstances so that we may compare others by it. Most Britons know Trafalgar Square and the Grand Hotel Buildings. If we stand in the roadway in front of Nelson's Column and look towards the Strand, getting the Grand Hotel on the right of our picture in summer sunlight, we shall obtain a full exposure giving 1/100th second with f/8 stop using such a rapid plate as the Ilford Monarch. With a Kodak Film, we might give 1/32nd of a second, or say the fastest exposure with a " Bausch & Lomb " or " Automat ' shutter, which, although marked , 1/100th second, is probably nearer 1/35th; a speed quite fast enough for most work. In a narrower street, lit by good summer sun, I should recommend 1/32nd with f/11 and the fastest plates. In narrower oriental streets such as Cairo, 1/16th with f/8 would probably be more nearly correct.
•Bee Table in Appendix.
Taking the Picture. Having selected the subject and composed the picture to the best advantage in the finder, with a due proportion of light and shadow, we hold the camera level and probably raise the front to cut off some of the foreground, and, then when all is ready, " press the button " and take the picture. The way the button or shutter release is pressed is most important and more mistakes are made by beginners over this simple operation than from any other cause.
The Golden Rule. When pressing the shutter release, remember the golden rule and " Hold the Camera Steady." It doesn't matter where you hold it, under your right arm, or under your left arm, or in front of you, provided you hold it steady. Don't imagine that a quickly moving object requires you to jam down the shutter release with force, such force has no control over the speed of the shutter. Always press deliberately, firmly, and without any jerk. A steady direct pressure is what is required and the lighter the camera the more likely you are to fail at the first attempt.
Then having taken the picture, at once change your plate or film so that you are ready for the next exposure. Get into the habit of doing this at once and it soon becomes quite automatic.
If you take your first picture on the lines indicated, I can promise you success. You may afterwards experiment with more difficult subjects and provided you have a good camera with a good lens, good finder and good shutter, and combine them with brains, you will find few outdoor subjects which you cannot photograph as well with a camera held in the hand, as the deliberate worker who feels it essential to have the support of a tripod stand.
J. A. S.
Chapel Doorway, Vicars Close, Wells.
C. H Hewitt, F.R P.S.
Taken with the Sinclair "Una" Camera.