A little experience, however, will soon enable a careful worker to judge with a fair amount of certainty what exposure should be given, particularly when notes of previous work have been kept, and are, as they should be, available for reference.
The photography of the carved wooden chancel, rood, choir, or parclose screens, often met with in the churches of East Anglia and the West of England, seldom presents any special difficulty, the chief point to remember being to make sure of giving ample exposure.
Font Cover, Aldington.
Nothing looks worse than the effect of under-exposure in records of carving, a by no means uncommon fault, when, as is often the case, the wood has become dark with age, and in deeply cut work strong contrasts of light and shade are present. The same remarks apply when dealing with choir stalls, font covers, bench ends, "poppy-heads," etc., indeed, all the wood carving to be found in interiors.
The most difficult subjects of this class to photograph are the misereres, or projecting brackets on the under side of the seats in some church choir stalls. They are generally badly lighted, and very dark in colour. Their position being too near the floor for the tripod to be of any use, either books or hassocks must be requisitioned to support the camera. If much work in this direction is contemplated, it is more satisfactory to construct a small stand, designed for the purpose, and adapted for use in the confined spaces in which this branch of work has to be done.
It may occasionally be desired to photograph portions of the interior roof of a church, in order to show the method of vaulting in stone, or, for instance, the ornamental bosses at the intersections of the vaulting ribs, or the form of construction in the case of a wooden roof. When using a stand camera a tilting table is most convenient for fixing the camera in the required position, but if a hand camera, of either the magazine or reflex type, be used, it can be placed, lens upwards, on a tripod head, a chair, or even on the floor, if necessary, the correct position being ascertained by means of the finder; thus for this particular work the hand camera has a certain advantage, in point of simplicity, over the stand camera. Another method is to fit a surface-silvered mirror attachment to the lens, and photograph the reflection of the roof. By twisting this attachment round on the lens it will also serve for photographing brasses and inscribed stone slabs in church floors, or, if a direct view be required, a stand camera attached to a tilting-table can be employed; but when dealing with large subjects of this class a specially constructed frame-work to carry the camera is to be preferred.
The photography of fonts often requires considerable care, owing to their position in the churches. Frequently they are very poorly lighted, and sometimes the camera has to be placed in a strongly-lit position, while the font is in comparative darkness. In such cases, if the light shines on the front of the camera, the lens should be shaded, otherwise there will be a likelihood of flare occurring.
The halation in the chancel almost gives a pleasing effect, but, by spreading to the screen, has become a bad fault.
The choice of the particular brand of plate to be used is largely a matter of taste, every photographer having personal preferences in the selection of his materials. Where record work, requiring the reproduction of fine detail, which may be subsequently enlarged, is the main object, a plate possessing a fine grain is desirable, and in this respect a moderately rapid plate will generally be found more satisfactory than one of the ultra-rapid variety, both for exterior and interior work.
When dealing with interiors, the best method of preventing halation must be considered, more especially if brightly lit windows be included in the view. The use of backing on plates has been widely advocated as a preventive of halation, and no doubt it serves the purpose very well up to a certain point; but there are plates on the market, such, for instance, as Messrs. Lumiere's anti-halo plate, and the Agfa I solar anti-halation plate, which are decidedly preferable to any backed plate, if we wish to prevent halation or reduce it to a minimum. These plates are prepared with a substratum of gelatine, coloured a deep red, between the film and the glass, which effectually prevents any light, sufficiently actinic to affect the sensitive emulsion, from reaching the glass, and being reflected back again on to the film. The red colouring is removed from the negative, either during development, fixing, and washing, or in a subsequent clearing bath. Nothing is gained by backing these anti-halation plates, a fact which clearly proves the efficiency of the red substratum. In practice, as well as in principle, they are undoubtedly superior to backed plates, and, although rather more expensive than the latter, the better results obtainable with them make them well worth the slightly higher price.
Attempts have been made from time to time to justify halation, and to claim that, so far from being a fault, it is often beneficial in pictorial work. It is said to give "mystery" to such subjects as church interiors. But while the effect thus gained may possibly be helpful in rare instances, there can be no doubt that in the great majority of "pictures," as well as in all records, halation does far more harm than good, obscuring detail and destroying all fine gradation of light and shade.