In all these matters of focusing the student must ever keep in mind that as the view appears on the focusing screen so it will be on the plate when developed. The character of the picture, the accuracy or otherwise of the rendering, is irrevocably decided when, having selected the front of view and focused it, the lens is capped preparatory to placing the plate in the camera. The beginner too often appears to perform the necessary acts for the production of his negative according to set rules, possessed of a blind confidence that it will all come right in the end, instead of which the ground-glass screen should be thoughtfully studied, and the questions asked of one's self, " How will that do ? Should the view be higher in the plate or lower— more central or less so, sharper here or more diffused there ? " Then, if the result be right or wrong, good or bad, you will at least feel that you have been personally responsible instead of having left the matter to blind chance and the accident of an unsympathetic machine.
In the matter of exposure you will be mainly guided by such knowledge of the craft as may be acquired by the perusal of some of the preceding articles in this book ; but if a wrong exposure will give you the effect you want better than what an exposure table tells you is correct, then give a wrong exposure by all means. Experience goes to show that a long or full exposure is best, by which means even the darkest shadows and blackest objects have time to produce some impression on the plate; for in Nature there is hardly any such thing as an entirely empty space, for, if a shadow be so dark as to possess no detail at all, yet there is always a play of light reflected from the surroundings.
Quite apart from the actual objects which go to make up the scene, the composition often depends mainly on the contrast of light and dark colours; it is hence of utmost importance that the plate used should be of such a kind that it will render the relative lightness and darkness of these colours precisely as they appear in Nature, and on this account an orthochromatic plate in conjunction with a suitable screen or light filter should be regarded as a sine qua non.
Remember that the part of the scene above the sky line— namely, the sky and its clouds—is as important as that which is between the foreground and horizon, and it were just as sensible to photograph the sky and leave all the rest blank white as to photograph the landscape and leave out the sky; supposing, of course, that the sky is included in the field of view; and here we see how essential an orthochromatic plate is, for, if used with a suitable screen, the clouds, or, if there are none, then the clear sky, can always be correctly rendered on the same plate as the view; and yet one hears of " sky and landscape on one plate " as though it were a great achievement. But if a landscape be rendered passably well, and the sky comes quite white, it follows that everything in the landscape of the same colour or tone as the sky has also been falsely rendered,though perhaps our perceptions are not sufficiently trained to notice it. Again, because in the brighter objects the intensity of light may be such as to obliterate the more delicate tones and detail, during a long exposure the backing of the plate is something more than a mere precaution—it is all but essential.
For all pictorial work, then, a backed rapid ortho-chromatic plate should be employed.
Develop for gradation and avoid any great degree of density. Just as a full exposure was given in order to prevent empty solid blacks, so one should in development keep the high lights thin to escape rendering solid hard whites. The printing process to be used, the colour of the print, the shape and even the size, must all be determined by the effect desired and the capability of any particular process to give that effect.
The pictorialist is an autocrat, acknowledging no laws, using just so much of the possibilities of a process as suits him; he must also be something of an experimentalist, trying this and that to see if it will yield what he desires. His field of operations is unlimited; he may choose his subjects from anywhere, and, remembering that whatsoever pleases him or strikes his fancy, his purpose is so to render it that his representation shall show others precisely what appealed to him, and why. The actual concrete objects included are to be merely the vehicles of his abstract ideas, and are not depicted on account of any interest attaching to their existence. An artist may paint a picture which is a pure invention, having no real existence anywhere, and yet it will be not the less good artistically. The photographer must depend in the first place on realities; but, if a picture and not a mere record is aimed at, then its value, and the pleasure it should give, are not dependent on the fact that a real place or subject is represented. Hence, it follows that if it were possible to introduce into the picture something that was not present, but seemed likely more fully to express the idea, or if it were possible to omit that which is not desirable, it would be perfectly legitimate to do so ; and to some extent this may be achieved, not actually erasing, but by so printing that such parts shall be less obtrusive.
Having produced the negative in a manner calculated as far as possible to convey the impression desired, a very large amount of control can be exercised whilst printing from it. Screening the light for such parts as it seems fit should print lighter, and either removing the negative or not, letting the light operate on those parts of the print which by toning down will become almost obliterated— such methods for dodging or faking would of themselves form a subject for an entire chapter, and space in these pages is insufficient; and hence the student is referred to books wherein these matters are treated of at length.
A. Horsley Hinton.