National Geographic : 1936 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE known world has tripled or quadrupled in extent, then has shrunk again before the marvels of modern communication. Yet those old tapestries keep their beauty and fit those walls far better than modern hang ings could. THE CASTLE IS SURRENDERED Later, with the estate manager, I dis cussed plans for my pictures. Once my identity was known the cooper ation was whole-hearted, for three Count esses of Warwick are fellow members of the National Geographic Society. At 4 o'clock on Monday afternoon the last party of vis itors would leave those stately halls. At 4:15 Warwick Castle would be mine. As long as I cared to work that night, an electrician and helpers were to be at my disposal. Old silks and time-browned canvas, Florentine mosaic and waxen Venus, shining armor and canopied bed-all mine, for the National Geographic Magazine. But photographing paintings in color is a studio job. A castle with small windows, dark decorations, and walls ten feet thick is not the place. Yet here I must capture with the color camera those tones which brought glory to Rubens and Van Dyck, Holbein the younger, and Sir Joshua Rey nolds. The equestrian Charles occupies an entire end of the great dining room and towers almost to the lofty ceiling (Plate VIII). Enormous problems of lighting loomed. All this I explained to the Earl of War wick, whose kindness approached 100 per cent. The castle would be ready. I could have all the 100-volt current the former flour mill turned by the Avon could gen erate. If I wanted to tap the Leamington power line, of 220 volts, that would be ar ranged. But much equipment and assistance re mained to be gathered. And only a Sunday lay between me and the responsibility of having a castle on my hands. Back to Lon don I went by train. There a few minutes on the telephone convinced me that my worries might as well be postponed till Monday morning. Lon doners have the enviable habit of escape over the week-end. But Monday was fruitful from the first. The friend who has advised me about cam eras for years was all helpfulness. So was the world-famous concern that makes my films. Packages of material began to ac- cumulate in several places at once, with not a scrap of red tape in sight. A friend with whom I had roamed the wind-swept slopes of the Scilly Islands had promised aid. "I have just the man for you," she greeted me. "He has his lamps-all 100 volt, which is what you want-packed in his car, ready to start. You'll never do it with flashlights even if you shoot a hun dred of them, and little lamps will spread white spots like leprosy over every paint ing you photograph." Since this friend of a friend had every thing we would need, I telephoned orders to have innumerable bulbs, reflectors, and tri pods returned to stock, then dashed for the train. It had left. One small traffic jam in London-which sadly prophesies that it will be at a stand still in another decade-had done it. But the guard whisked me onto another. "Change at Oxford," he said, and his voice was positively cheerful, as if chang ing trains were a privilege. CAMERAS AMID GHOSTS IN ARMOR Back in Warwick, things moved fast. The taxi which I had sent to bring my "technical assistant" arrived at the same time as my tea. Lunch had been out of the question and leaving that piping hot tea untasted smacked of heroism, I felt. "I have to catch the 11:36 back to town," said my friend, thus spiking any plan I had for an all-night ghost party of lights and shadows amid the knights in armor in Warwick's great hall. The portcullis would be left up, the gate man on duty. We plunged to work, but it was three hours before we completed the first exposure. There in the night-dark castle we seemed strange anachronisms. Across the mirror smooth floors our light cables squirmed like serpents. The ghosts of centuries retreated from the glare of our lamps, only to slink into corners behind us and watch us work. Some of the paintings I had chosen were high on the walls. But a portrait must be photographed from a point opposite its cen ter. Henry VIII, taken from too low down, becomes all stomach and no head. In the color process I used, wide-angle lenses will not do because light jumps from a red square to a yellow one, putting jaun dice on a nose which some monarch was at great pains to color with good red wine.