Montgomery served as a newspaper reporter and general person-of-all-work in the
Halifax office of the Daily Echo from September 1901 to June
1902. While there she wrote a regular column called "Around the Table"
by "Cynthia." These articles, carefully preserved in her clippings
scrapbooks, are on fashion and topics for light reading. Frequently
jocular, they can be very informative about customs and interests
of the times.
PHOTOGRAPHY AS A HOBBY:
Cynthia's Advice to Beginners
"Around the Table," Halifax Daily Echo,
Monday, May 12, 1902.
Lucy Maud Montgomery
Amateur photographers have to suffer
a good deal of equally amateur joking, but when all is said and
done there is really no "hobby" which has such a fascination or
out of which more pleasure can be extracted. Of course one must
be in earnest about it and not be a mere dabbler. There is nothing
beautiful about a weird snapshot of your friends or a slap-dash
exposure where the houses come out slanted at an angle that surpasses
the leaning tower of Pisa. But a really pretty bit of scenery, nicely
furnished and properly mounted, reminiscent of a pleasant summer
day's walk or outing is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Several
friends of mine have recently invested in cameras and have asked
me for some advice regarding the use and abuse of them. So I will
give a few pointers from experience.
In amateur photography, even more
than anything else, the golden rule is "carefulness." You simply
can't be careless if you would succeed in producing photos worth
having. The most trifling oversight will sometimes spoil a good
picture. If you make your exposures in a slap-dash style, if your
darkroom leaks light, if your hypo solution is not kept religiously
apart from your developer, if you do or leave undone a hundred other
things you will fail to obtain good results.
In starting out, don't attempt too
much at first and recklessly expose half a dozen plates before developing
one. Make haste slowly. A 4 by 5 camera is large enough for a beginner.
Get all the supplies necessary, for, of course, you will not be
content to be a "button pusher," but will do your own developing
and finishing. Above all, get a good darkroom lantern. Misplaced
economy here will result in worry and disappointment. In spite of
some opinions to the contrary, I think a beginner would do well
to commence with a slow brand of plates. Indeed I like the slow
plates best at any time. I consider that they yield more artistic
In your darkroom have a place for everything and keep everything
rigidly in its place. Dust your plates before putting them in the
holders. A camel's hair brush is used for this, but, if some time
you can't find it, draw the palm of your hand softly over the plate,
taking care that it-your hand-is quite dry. If you are ever where
you cannot gain access to a darkroom and yet want to change plates,
here is a plan I have followed with success. Get into a windowless
closet, sit on the floor and get somebody to put right over your
head a heavy quilt-a red one if possible. Then have the door shut
tightly and change your plate. In summer this is a fearfully warm
job, but it is better than getting your plates light-struck.
Choose your view carefully with an
eye to light and shade effects. You will always get better results
by using a tripod and taking time exposures, although of course
this requires more skill. In regard to exposures no cut-and-dried
formulas are of any use. The time is regulated by the strength of
light and the kind of plates used. In this you must simply learn
by making mistakes. Do not take pictures between eleven and three
o'clock. The results are never so good.
In developing don't under-develop. A beginner is fatally apt to,
getting alarmed when the picture begins to fade and whisking it
out of the solution. Leave it until very dim and indistinct. Wash
well before putting in hypo. The use of an alum solution will prevent
"frilling"-which means that the film curls up around the edges of
the plate. In cold weather you will have no trouble with this. After
your plate is taken out of the hypo, soak it in water for half an
hour. If not in running water, change the water six times. This
is very important as the least bit of hypo left on the film will
eventually spoil it. Above all things, be thorough. Don't be content
with "good enough." Aim at the best.
A pretty effect may sometimes be
obtained in a landscape picture by cutting out of white paper a
tiny new moon and pasting it properly on the glass side of the negative.
The result is a "summer moonlight scene". You can take pictures
by moonlight, by the way. The exposure calls for hours instead of
seconds. Generally the result looks more or less like a foggy plate
exposed in the usual way, but very beautiful effects have been obtained
in this way. However, I do not advise beginners to attempt it.
If you want to take a "winter moonlight scene," here is how you
go about it. Take an ordinary negative of some landscape. Don't
have leaf trees in it. Evergreen trees and an old farm house or
so make the best picture for this. Place it in the printing frame,
film upward. On top of this place a fresh plate, the two film sides
together and back them with a bit of black cloth for greater security.
Then hold frame about 18 or 20 inches from gas jet and turn up gas
quickly. Time of exposure will vary from 2 to 20 seconds, according
to character of light, plate, and negative used. After exposure
develop the plate as usual. It is called a positive. Paste a full
moon in proper position on its back and print off. The sky will
come out black while the ground and trees will be white with-apparently-snow.
The effect will be very pretty. I may add that your "positive" is
also a magic lantern slide.
Sometimes your camera will play you
very odd tricks. I have had some curious pictures result from accidentally
exposing the same plate twice. This is how "ghost" pictures are
made. Once I took a picture of two girlfriends of mine standing
side by side. Later on I happened to re-expose the same plate on
a landscape view. The latter came out very well. The girls were
also there, wan, transparent figures with all the background clearly
visible through them. It was apparently a perfect picture, which,
of course, does not often result by chance.
Well, I hope you will get a great
deal of pleasure out of your cameras this summer. It will be your
own fault if you don't, be sure of that.