Harry L. Sheperd, B. S
In an exchange notice which I read a few days ago, I noted that a member had for exchange flashlights, 3x6 in size, of groups. The subjects for exchange did not appeal to me very forcibly, in the first place, and in the second, I wondered if this enthusiast's work was of the "soot and chalk" variety which we so often see in this class of work, due to using too little flash powder, and increasing the injury by developing in too strong a developer. Don't spoil a good thing by using too little powder. My test is this: Use the Pyro. developer recommended by the makers of the plates I am using, and diluting that developer with an equal bulk of water. I want the high lights to show in 30 or 35 seconds after I pour on the developer. If they do not show in that time, then I consider I have used too little powder. It is the shadow that I aim at. Give them a chance. Well, now, you say, that is all right; but the high lights in my case don't don't show in less than a minute with full strength developer, and my negatives lookall right. Well, I will not dispute the point,but give my test atrial and submit a print from your negative and my negative, as I will call it, to some one versed in flashlight work, and get their opinion. Again, don't develop too far. Here you no doubt notice that in the example cited I have worked backwards. This a guide for you, as it was for me when I first really appreciated the benefit of flashlight powders. After a few trials you will know the correct amount of powder for any particular case. Again, in the example above, I speak of the Seed plate. As you perhaps know, some brands of plates are coated with an emulsion contained in a quite hard gelatine which does not absorb or allow the developer to penetrate as rapidly as a softer gelatine would. So my remarks as to the time the high lights should appear applies in my case more particularly to the Seed plate, though the Cramer, also, I found about the same as the Seed.
Portraiture appeals to many amateurs who do not have a chance to work by daylight. Well, on my part 1 think most amateurs will get as good, if not better results by using the flashlight.
Don't for a moment think that you can just set your camera up, tell your "victim" to look pleasant, while you fumble around in the dark to find a match to light the fuse attached to the flash powder and produce something that will » .ke you famous. Rather go about the matter in his way: Study the series of articles in this maga one on portraiture by Mr. Raynor (the window method), and get a general idea of how the light ought to fall on the face, where to place the camera, the background, the reflector, etc. Then substitute for the light coming in the window your flash powder.
When I say substitute, I mean, have the same general arrangement of your apparatus. The light should in most cases fall on the face at an angle of 45°. So, you see, you will need a stand which can be raised or lowered. I use a stand made of wood. The base is 2 ft. square of two 1-in. boards nailed together. At one corner I nailed an upright 7 ft. high and in sections 3x1 in. Brace this well. A movable block holds an ideal flashgun. This block lean bolt to any height I wish. The flashgun should point directly at the subject, and behind it should be tacked a piece of white cardboard about 1 1/2 ft. square to reflect the light. Hang a piece of white cheese cloth in front of the flash, which will soften the lighting to a wonderful extent. Keep the background well back, 4 ft. at least, if you wish to avoid shadows. Again don't place the white reflector, on the shadow side of the face, too far to the rear, as that will reflect too much light to the back of the head.
At Stop U. S. No. 8, with the flash at 5 to 6 feet from my subject, I use 30 grains of Luxo powder. Now right here let me tell you that in using flash pistols and the like, to be very careful. Flash powder is dangerous, and especially when used in conjunction with any affair whose purpose is to set it off at the instant required. Sometimes a jar will release the trigger and that is the time you will get burned. I have seen some bad accidents due to the careless handling of flash pistols. So be careful. Keep the pistol away from your face.
Now in portraiture have lots of artificial light so that you can see what you are doing. A couple of gas burners are not too much, but keep them back of the camera. In this way the subject will hardly notice extra light from the flash, closed eyes will be the exception, not to mention the dilated pupils of the eyes.
Now have your subject look in the required direction, then shift the stand, holding your flash gun till the light will strike in the right direction. Stand on a chair and look along the barrel of the flashgun to see that it is just right. Place a heavy weight on the base of the stand to keep it firm. Attach a cord to the trigger of the flashgun. Pass it around a nail in the wall, a hook, a doorknob, in fact anything in a line with the gun, so that by pulling the cord, when you are seated behind your camera, with your eyes on a level with the lens, you will release the trigger arid so set off the flash.
Now suppose you are all ready. Set your shutter at " bulb " or " time" exposure. Hold the bulb in your left hand, the cord attached to the trigger of the gun in your right hand. Keep your eyes on a line with the lens, then talk to your subject. Tell stories or lies, anything to getthe " right expression, " and when you get it squeeze the bulb and pull the cord, and there you are.
In using a kodak it is best to open the shntter and make the exposure by raising and lowering a black cloth thrown over the front of the kodak.
Suppose you have opened the shutter and the subject moves, or a "cast-iron expression" turns up; well, close the shutter and try again. An exposure of 15 or 20 seconds by gaslight will not affect the sensitive plate.
In using a single lens of long focus, the camera may be 8 to 15 feet from the subject. In this case it is not necessary to have the flash as far back as the camera
If the flash is suitably protected and the lens well protected, you may have the flash 5 feet and the camera 20 feet from the subject.
Be careful of reflections, as in the case of mirrors and the glass in picture frames, or else you are liable to get " freak " pictures.
In flashing over 60 grains of flash powder, lay it in a train, because if it is piled up the force of the explosion will blow a good deal of it away. About 60 grains of flash powder is the maximum amount that can be burnt efficiently in a pile; double the quantity will not produce twice the light unless you spread it out.
I have a lot of other points to tell you on other phases of the flashlight work in the picturing of birds, animals, etc., but will have to defer it till some other time.
I hope some of the " hard facts " I have stated above will prove useful to some whose efforts have not so far been crowned with success. - "Western Camera Notes."