Photography in all branches is truly a most absorbing occupation. Each of us who has a camera is constantly experimenting, and everyone of us is delighted when something new is suggested for such experiments.
Making a Silhouette with the Camera
To use a camera in making silhouettes select a window facing north if possible, or if used only at times when the sun is not on it, any window will do, says the Photographic Times. Raise the window half way, remove any white curtains there may be, and in the center of the lower pane of glass paste by the four corners a sheet of tissue paper that is perfectly smooth and quite thick, as shown in the sketch at B. Darken the rest of the window, shutting out all light from above and the sides. Place a chair so that after being seated the head of the subject will come before the center of the tissue paper, and as near to it as possible, and when looking straight before him his face will be in clear profile to the camera.
Draw the of all other windows in the room. Focus the camera carefully, getting a sharp outline of the profile on the screen. Do not stop down the lens, as this makes long exposure necessary, and the subject may move.
Correct exposure depends, of course, on the lens, light and the plate. But remember that a black and white negative is wanted with as little detail in the features as possible. The best plate to use is a very slow one, or what is called a process plate.
In developing get all possible density in the high lights, without detail in the face, and without fog. Printing is best done on contrasty development paper with developer not too strong.
The ideal silhouette print is a perfectly black profile on a white ground. With a piece of black paper, any shape in stopping off print may be made as shown at C in the sketch.
Secure a brass plate having a smooth surface the right size for the photograph and cover it with a coat of paraffin. This is done by heating the paraffin in a vessel hot enough to make the wax run freely, then pouring the liquid over the entire surface of the brass.
When the paraffin has cooled sufficiently the outlines of the photograph must be drawn upon its surface. There are three ways of doing this: First, the photograph can be traced on tissue paper and then retraced on the paraffin surface. The exact outlines of the photograph can be obtained this way without destroying the print. Second, if you have several copies of the photograph, one can be utilized by tracing direct to the surface of the paraffin. In using either of the two methods described, carbon paper must be placed on the paraffin before the tissue paper or photograph is laid upon it. Third, cut out the outlines of the photograph and lay it on the paraffin surface, then trace around the edges with the point of a needle or sharp point of a knife. The outlines drawn by the first method are cut through the paraffin in the same way. The paraffin is carefully removed from the inside of the lines, leaving the brass surface perfectly clean, as is shown in Fig. 1.
The exposed part of the plate is now ready to be etched or eaten away to the right depth with acid. The acid solution is made up of 1-1/2 parts muriatic acid and 2 parts water. The mixture should be placed in a glass or earthenware vessel. If the plate is a small one a saucer will do for the acid solution. Pour the acid on the plate where the paraffin has been removed and allow it time to etch. The acid should be removed every five minutes to examine the etching. If any places show up where the paraffin has not been entirely removed they must be cleaned so the acid will eat out the metal. When the acid solution becomes weak new solution must be added until the proper depth is secured. Rinse the plate in cold water, stand in a tray and heat it sufficiently to run off all the paraffin. Polish the plate by rubbing it with a piece of flannel.
Illustration: Fig. 1 Waxed Brass Plate
Fig. 2 Finished Plaque
The plaque can be given a real antique finish by painting the etched part with a dull black paint. Drill a small hole in each of the four corners, being careful not to dent the metal. The plaque is backed with a piece of wood 3/4 in. thick, the dimensions of which should exceed those of the brass plate sufficiently to harmonize with the size of the plaque. The wood should be painted black with the same paint used in the plaque. Paint the heads of four thumb tacks black and use them in fastening the plaque to the board. The finished silhouette will appear as shown in Fig. 2. --Contributed by John A. Hellwig, Albany, N. Y.