Pictures in the Park
RICHARD and LIONEL WURTS
Illustrations by Wurts Brothers
Two experts give you sound practical advice on how to find real pictures in your neighborhood park, or right in your own garden.
AFTER many months of winter it is a relief to be able to turn our cameras on a bountiful nature that is clothed with fresh green leaves and soft grass. And wherever you live, you may seek out locations that will offer you much. Those who live in large cities are blessed with parks, while those who live in smaller towns will undoubtedly have access to a multitude of gardens. Both
of these are planned in a manner which will permit you to obtain inspiring vistas—which will allow you to dramatize foliage with your camera.
The flashing spirit of nature which gives photographers and artists the same desire to catch and hold a glimpse of beauty may lead you to snap in any direction regardless of light, shade, foreground, distance, or height. Later, when
the negatives have been developed, the results often appear flat or jumbled by too much detail. You should stop and realize that the split second of inspiration was really caused by just one section of your view as you moved past, and was influenced also by all other senses— the smell of the plants, the resilience of the turf, the sound of birds or wind, and the memory of past glimpses of beauty.
You can learn to capture all this on film, just as the great impressionist painters learned after years of effort. By continuous experiment at choosing the basic composition, and by studying every angle, you can make a picture so natural that it will not only bring back your first sensations at seeing the view, but will be simple enough to tell the story to any one else who looks at the photograph.
Having chosen your ground, study the contour of the land before using film. Do you want to look down a slope to give a feeling of height to the viewer, or up a hill to outline a tree or row of flowers on the skyline? Maybe a pool or wide expanse of lawn strikes your fancy, but seems devoid of any foreground or middistance interest. Modify this by moving your point of view to include a winding road or path running from close to the camera into the background. If possible, include also an overhanging tree on one side to frame the view. Set your camera up on a tripod to one side of the path and include some grass on each side of it. This will cut down the width of the path, so that it will not be too prominent.
The occasional introduction of a figure or animal will not distract the eye from the main theme if it is skillfully blended. An inanimate object like a garden bench, a rake, or an arch of flowers will often emphasize the charm of the composition without taking attention away from the rest of the view. A point to remember in connection with framing the picture is to have the sun at your right or left, so the trees throw long shadows across the foreground. This will help to carry your eye by contrast into the picture, and lend that atmosphere we like to the background. Such shadows near the camera will prove darker than those in the distance. Long shadows of the
early morning or late afternoon will give this effect, and there is plenty of light from the sky to soften shadows if correct exposure is given. Use an exposure meter.
A light yellow filter equivalent to K-l will be most effective in giving good color separation without too much contrast, in most cases. The yellow-green filters (about 2 times factor) seem more suitable with the new, fast panchromatic films. A sky or graduated filter is handy when you want to emphasize the sky or clouds without subduing the foreground. In fact it is nearly always best to keep the tone of the sky down if the main part of your picture is the planting.
Also estimate as near as possible the amount of light and shade present over all. In a good composition the chiaroscuro effect amounts to one-quarter or one-third highlights with the rest shadows. A reducing glass helps to estimate the composition values. If you can not buy one that has the proportions of your plate, then glue on it a mask of the right shape.
Never attempt landscape shots—either in black-and-white or color—in flat or cloudy light, or your results will lack character. Of course if you are trying for a misty atmosphere, looking through early morning fog, or a moonlight scene, by looking into the sun, the approach seems different. However, even in cases like these you will be utilizing the contrast of light on shadow. Always use a lens shade.
It is practically useless to try garden or park views on a windy day, for you will start tearing out hair waiting for the leaves to quiet down. Of course, the fast emulsions recently brought out help here by allowing exposures of 1/100 to 1/50 second when the shadows are not too heavy. But with finegrain film you will ordinarily need a smooth-working shutter giving speeds from 1/10 second to 1 second, or more. This means it is very important to use a good tripod if you want consistently good garden photographs, and it pays to use a cable release even where you plan to give short exposures.
You will be working most of the time with stops of ƒ 32 to ƒ 45 with the larger cameras, and ƒ 22 with miniature cameras in order to secure real depth of field. While you may get good results with a miniature camera or other range finder camera, be careful that you have estimated the depth of field for the stop you are using; with a groundglass focusing camera you can see this. You will find it particularly true in garden work that it pays to make several exposures of each view, not only to be sure of correct exposure, but just in case the wind shook something while you were not watching. Fortunately the wind does seem to die down to a dead calm in the early morning or late afternoon.
The use of a wide-angle lens is not advisable, since the false perspective it gives is not pleasing, and why try to
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lake in Ihe whole country at one shot! An angle of 45 degrees is covered by the average lens sold with a camera, and is very suitable for landscape work.
In garden views the camera should generally be set close to the ground to emphasize the flowers and shrubs; but now and then a bird’s-eye view of a park layout is useful and interesting. Recently our firm was asked by a real estate company to take a view from Central Park (in New York) towards an apartment building in order to show its location overlooking the park. We made several exposures of the building from a spot in the park. Then on our own initiative we made a view from a window in the apartment house looking down on the park lake. This view, showing a rowboat and the soft foliage, was chosen for the advertisement instead of the more conventional architectural shot of the building.
It is no crime to wander sometimes from the exact subject and let a little humor or pathos creep into a picture. Most parks “grow” people on the lawns and paving, and more paper than leaves blows about at times. Such a view of a park or of citizens not civic minded may have some effect, via the local press, towards making your town more conscious of potential or real beauty in its parks.
Just as with any other specialized subject, you will get a lot more out of photographing plants and flowers if you learn to speak the language. Talk to some friend who is an ardent horticulturist; let him tell you about his hobby. Then read one or two general books on gardening or landscaping. You will be surprised how easy it is to get the cooperation of a gardener or a park attendant if you show some intelligent interest in his work.
Summer is just getting under way and there are several months ahead of you in which to enjoy the parks and gardens to the utmost. Make the best of your opportunities.—ps
A Simple Filter Funnel
THE filtering of photographic solutions can be greatly facilitated by a simple trick which I have been using for some time with great success. Soak a piece of string in lighter fluid and tie it around the bottom end of a quart size ginger ale bottle. Light one end of the string and when the flame has encircled the bottle and burned itself out plunge the bottle into a container of cold water. The bottom of the bottle will drop off, after which the edges should be sandpapered. Thus you have made an excellent glass funnel which will serve many purposes.
To filter any solution, merely place two or three thicknesses of filler paper or paper toweling over the neck of the bottle and wrap a rubbér band around it to hold it in place.—Mrs. James V. Fitzpatrick, Brooklyn, N. Y.