An hitherto unpublished view of Boston. Wet collodion plate (1861)
Professor Sam'l A. King and J. W. Black


The time has come to talk about aerial photography. Many things are in the air. Every town of size boasts its skyscraper; every mountain top has its summer hostel and every country fair its balloon ascents. It is not wholly improbable that, ere many years have passed, the airship excursion will be at least as popular as the automobile tour of today, or that the schoolboy of tomorrow will study topography at first hand, from the actual fact instead of the schoolroom map. The frequent reports of aeronautical events in the public prints, the activity seen at the recent International Aeronautical Exhibition held in London, and the purposed aerial tourney at the forthcoming St. Louis Exposition, are straws showing which way the wind blows. Photography must not fall behind its opportunities. The telephotographic lens has solved the ancient problem concerning Mahomet and the mountain, and our aerial resorts, from the Washington Monument to the dome of Saint Paul's, are rarely visited without the camera. It has even been suggested that the North Pole may be discovered by means of telephotography from a balloon fifty miles distant! But this is set down as an aerial flight in more than one sense of the phrase. The sober facts are sufficiently inspiring. At the St. Louis Exposition the airship will take its place with the turbine and the trolley-car as a practical factor among modern methods of transportation. Along the Potomac, Langley is busy with his gigantic aeroplanes, undismayed by failure and confident that tomorrow will uncover the long-sought secret


of mechanical flight; Bell, of telephone fame, is telling scientists of his wonderful tetrahedron kite, capable of lifting a weight of two hundred pounds; Gaudron, at the instance of the British Government, is building an aeroplane of 120-horse power, to carry five persons and remain in the air within a radius of one mile from the starting point for twenty-four hours without descending. In England, Bacon, Cody and others are demonstrating the practicability of dirigible balloons and kites; in France, Santos-Dumont has accomplished remarkable feats with his motor-driven airship. The conquest of the air is well begun, and photography should play its part in the advance.

The Field
The story of aerial photography is not a long story, and is well worth knowing as pointing to a field of neglected opportunities. Its possibilities are novel and extremely interesting. Further, they are practical possibilities, open to all who seek a new direction for their photographic activities, upon the single condition that their inclinations lean toward the strenuous life. Assuredly it is no field for the carpet-knight or beginner, but rather for the trained amateur possessing skill and precision in manipulation. As a mere hobby, photography in mid-air offers the pleasurable excitements of untried possibilities, new views of familiar places and profitable experiences, with here and there the spice of personal risk to whet one's appetite. The results, as our illustrations show, are peculiarly interesting in themselves, quite apart from the pleasures of the chase. Seriously applied, as in warfare, meteorology, cartography, geodesy and surveying, photography from aloft obviously affords a ready means of observation and for obtaining records valuable in these branches of applied science.

Let no one think, however, that aerial photography is confined to photographing from airships or balloons, or that it is drily scientific in its applications. As here to be considered, its scope is wider and more directly interesting, including the use of kites and the making of bird's-eye views from high buildings or similar elevated points. Such points of vantage may be found everywhere, and are by no means confined to large cities. In


brief, then, a little book about aerial photography should prove a timely and acceptable addition to THE PHOTO-MINIATURE series; hence I have persuaded those familiar with the work to tell of their experiences and to show us some of the first fruits of this field.

The making of bird's-eye views will be considered first, as the simplest and most readily accessible branch of photography in mid-air. Here, as in dealing with balloon work, our information comes from Mr. W. N. Jennings, a specialist whose skill is apparent in the prints herein reproduced.

Let me emphasize the point that, although much is here said about photographing from high buildings, the instructions apply with equal profit to photographing from any natural eminence, whether it be Lookout Mountain, Tennessee; Glacier Point in the Yosemite Valley; the Grand Canion of the Colorado; or the Capuchin Monastery which looks down upon Amalfi; or a chosen point looking over Derwentwater toward Bassenthwaite Lake, among the English lakes. The mention of these famous places of pilgrimage whispers of the pictorial possibilities of the field, despite its close kinship with topography and the making of maps. The city also has its opportunities above the housetops. Mr. Jennings gives us interesting glimpses of Philadelphia and Washington from the aerial point of view. As I write, I have before me a panorama of the harbor of Valletta, Malta, made by Mr. S. L. Cassar, of that city. Taken from a neighboring height, it shows the British fleet assembled before Valletta during the recent visit of King Edward VII, the old city with its churches, fortresses and palaces serving as a picturesque setting for the animated scene in the foreground. The view fairly bristles with detail and is "sharp all over," as the phrase goes, but its comprehensiveness and arrangement give the desirable sense of breadth, and it is a capital example of the attractiveness of views from a moderate elevation. In like manner, who, having once witnessed it, can forget the panorama of life and beauty spread before the eye as, from Brooklyn Bridge, at dusk, one watches the day die over the harbor of New York and


the myriad lights of the metropolis spring magic-like into life as if touched by a fairy wand? Similarly the early morning view of Edinburgh from the castle walls, or London from the golden gallery at Saint Paul's, or Paris from the Eiffel Tower, will abundantly repay the enthusiast who, reading what follows, will intelligently attempt their portrayal by photography.

In all photography of this sort, where we work at a considerable height above the ground level, the conditions which perplex are very much alike in town and country, from a fixed base or from a free balloon. The chief difficulties arise from the tendency to over-exposure; vibration of the camera caused by wind or movement; and atmospheric disturbances not always perceived by the eye but plainly apparent in the negative. The first necessity in aerial photography is a readjustment of previous notions and practice. We must realize that we are dealing with direct and not reflected light rays. It is safe to assert that the failure of the great majority of aerial negatives is due to a lack of appreciation of these difficulties and especially the tendency to over-exposure.

Preventives are more efficacious than remedies. To avoid over-exposure, it is easy to remember that the greater the elevation the shorter must be the exposure. This is simply controlled by reducing the aperture or diaphragm of the lens employed and by the use of a really reliable exposure shutter. Vibration can be overcome by rigidity in the camera and its attachments, with extreme care in its manipulation at the moment of exposure. Atmospheric difficulties must be dealt with as they arise, but much can be done by not attempting to work under unfavorable conditions where there is choice of time. The best time to make aerial photographs is immediately after a protracted period of rain, when the atmosphere is usually as clear as crystal, and early in the morning, or late in the afternoon, when the air is still and the sun casts long shadows. The blue haze which often intervenes between subject and lens, although slight to the eye, seriously affects the sensitive plate and gives poor, flat negatives with imperfect


From dome of "World" Building. New York
W. N. Jennings

W. N. Jennings
Taken from the tower of the City Hall, showing the advantage of a long-focus lens in photographing from high buildings. The view includes 1¼ miles. Lens: single combination of Collinear-23 in. focal length; stop f/16; exposure 1 second; day cloudy. Plate: Cramer Crown. Street cars all standing.

definition of distant details. A light yellow screen in front of or behind the lens, in combination with an orthochromatic double-coated plate, will cut out this haze and give a brilliant negative with tender half-tones. We see this demonstrated in the bird's-eye view from the Washington monument. In making this negative the lens was "stopped down" to f/32, a yellow screen was used with a Cramer Inst. Iso. plate, and the exposure was 1/25 second at 9 A. M. in July. For ordinary work from lower altitudes, as from high buildings, a slower plate, such as Cramer Banner or Seed 23, is advised, the screen being omitted unless the air is hazy and the lens "stopped" to f/16 under fair conditions of illumination.

No special camera is essential to success, and the reader may make his first attempts with whatever instrument he has at hand, provided that it is reliable in its movements and is built on "common-sense" lines. For serious work a 6½ x 8½ camera of the folding type is advised; it should have a bellows extension of at least 24 inches, an extensive rising and falling front-board and a generous amount of latitude in the swing-back. A tripod will rarely be found necessary in photographing from buildings, as the camera can usually be placed on a projecting ledge or window-sill. A few wooden wedges and two or three iron clamps will often prove of great service in fixing the instrument to a rigid support in such cases. A double spirit-level of the elbow pattern, screwed into the top of the camera frame, will be found to be invaluable, ensuring, with the swing-back, true vertical and horizontal planes in the view. Particular attention should be given to the bellows of the camera and a search made against strong sunlight, for possible pinholes or other defects. If the interior of the bellows can be reinforced with fairly stiff, light-tight material, so much the better.

For all-round work an anastigmat of about 11½ inches focal length is advised. A single element of such a lens is largely used by Mr. Jennings. It calls for a bellows extension of 24 inches, this focal length avoiding abrupt


or unpleasant perspectives and yielding distant detail in a very satisfactory way. We see this demonstrated in the view of Market street, Philadelphia, made from the tower of the City Hall at an elevation of about 500 feet, with a lens of 23 inches focal length. The Ferry House seen in the extreme distance is fully 1¼ miles away from the point of view, yet in the original photograph, an 8 x 10-inch, one can discern the hands upon the ferry clock and the perspectives throughout are wholly pleasing.

A telephotographic lens is an extremely useful and desirable addition to the aerial photographer's equipment for bird's-eye views, provided its use and limitations be thoroughly understood. The atmospheric difficulties are, of course, greater with such a lens, but can be largely overcome. The manipulation of the telephotographic lens is fully explained in THE PHOTO-MINIATURE No. 26, and need not be repeated here.

The exposure shutter used by Mr. Jennings is the Thornton-Pickard "roller-blind" variety. This permits of considerable latitude in exposures, and the range of speed is easily and perfectly controllable. It has the further advantage that a single shutter can be quickly adapted for use with several lenses by means of the rubber molding fitted to the shutter frame, accommodating lens-tubes of different diameters.

It is obvious that double-coated orthochromatic plates possess special advantages for aerial work. With such plates coated first with a slow and then with a rapid emulsion, all the distant detail secured by careful lenswork can be retained in development and the inevitable overexposure of the horizon line can be controlled. In circumstances where orthochromatic or double-coated plates are unnecessary or unobtainable, ordinary plates well backed will yield good negatives if given special care in development. Where an extended trip is planned, including negatives from natural elevations, such as Yosemite points, where color and haze may play an important part in the view, it is advisable to obtain a supply of double-coated orthochromatic plates, freshly


coated, either by special order through a dealer or direct from the manufacturer. For work in cities at a comparatively low altitude, as already advised, a plate of medium rapidity, such as the Cramer "Banner" or Seed 23, will be found useful.

Development of
The development of aerial negatives demands all the knowledge and skill we possess. If a single-coated plate was employed and the scene was well illuminated, over-exposure and the loss of distant detail are chiefly to be guarded against. First the plate is immersed, with constant rocking, in a weak solution of potassium bromide, say 5 per cent solution. This is followed by immersion in a diluted pyro developer weak in alkali, the tray being covered and the plate well rocked for at least two minutes without examination. A momentary glance at this stage will determine whether the plate is overexposed. If this is the case, development for contrast is the next step indicated. Transfer the plate to another tray containing equal quantities of old and new hydrometol developer, replace the cover of the tray and continue development until the image of the horizon line appears at the back, or glass side of the plate. Too much emphasis cannot be placed on the necessity of keeping the plate covered and shielded from the dark-room light during the whole process of development. The frequent examination of the negative during development is a pernicious habit which robs the photographer of satisfaction in his negatives and simply adds to the prosperity of the plate manufacturer.

The object of the preliminary bath of bromide is to produce a slow and uniform chemical action during development. When employed in combination with a diluted developer and patience, it will give negatives with desirable contrast and gentle gradations even from plates much over-exposed.

In cases of known under-exposure a different treatment is necessary. A good method is to develop under cover with a normal pyro developer, applied in fresh quantities from time to time until chemical fog appears upon the surface of the plate. Should the negative, so developed, prove too "contrasty," it should be


thoroughly fixed in fresh hypo and given a prolonged washing, then reduced with a weak (2 per cent) solution of ammonium persulphate. The view of the New York post-office from the "World" Building shows a print from a negative so treated.

Beeby's Method
for Under-
The method of development with ortol, given by Mr. John Beeby in a recent issue of Down-Town Topics, is well suited to under-exposures. I reprint his description of the method. Make up the following stock solutions:

A. Water, cold distilled, 10 ounces; metabisulphite potass, C. P., 35 grains; ortol, 70 grains. B. Water, cold distilled, 10 ounces; carb. potass, ½ ounce; sulph. sodium crystals, 1¾ ounces; bromide potassium, 5-10 grains. For use, take of these stock solutions in one bath, which we will call Number one, the following: 1. A solution, 1¾ ounces; B solution, ¼ ounce; water, distilled, 1 ounce. Into another bath, which we will call Number two: 2. B solution, 3 ounces; A solution, ½ ounce; 10 per cent bromide, 20 minims; water, 1 ounce.

"Now proceed to develop the plate. If the exposure has been short place the plate or film in No. 2 bath, allowing development to proceed until the image is almost buried, that is, the surface of the plate dark all over. Don't be worried at the sky or high lights looking dense. Rinse well and place in the fixing bath for at least fifteen minutes or even more, as a well-fixed negative will keep without deterioration better than one which has undergone long washing and short fixing.

"Where over-exposure is feared, place the plate for two or three minutes in Number one bath, drain and finish in number two as above.

"All short exposures can be developed entirely in the Number two bath, but be sure not to stop development until the plate is of a good dark color on the face, the image being seen right through the film, bearing in mind that it will lose considerably in fixing on account of the lack of density-giving element. This method can also be used with bromide papers (contact or enlargement), but not with gaslight papers.


"The only cause of failure will be stopping development too soon; that can be ascertained only by individual experience."

For negatives made from balloons, or plates exposed at high altitudes where the view embraces distant open landscape, Mr. Jennings advises the old-fashioned ferrous oxalate developer as giving clear, brilliant negatives, free from veil or fog and slower in its action than the modern developing agents. As many of my readers will lack acquaintance with ferrous oxalate, I give here a reliable formula, vouched for by Mr. T. C. Hepworth after long experience: A Potassium oxalate, 5 ounces; hot water, 20 ounces. If a milky solution results, let it clear by standing and pour off the clear liquid. B. Warm water, 20 ounces; sulphuric acid, 30 minims (or citric acid, 30 grains); ferrous sulphate, 5 ounces. C. Potassium bromide, 10 percent solution. For use, add 1 ounce of B to 4 ounces of A (not vice versa), with from 10 to 50 drops of C, according to the degree of over-exposure anticipated. It should be remembered that ferrous oxalate is an acid developer, in contradistinction to most of our modern developers which are alkaline developers, and it should, therefore, always have a distinctly acid reaction. The trays in which it is used should be free from traces of pyro, hydroquinone or hypo. As an auxiliary developer, mix equal proportions of old and new developer for use as desired.

The development of double-coated orthochromatic plates may proceed on the general lines given for over-exposures in a preceding paragraph, except that the developer should be diluted with from two to three times the normal quantity of water and no bromide should be used. The object of diluting the developer is to retard the action of development and so give the developer time to reach that portion of the image which lies in the lower (slow) emulsion coating. It is hardly necessary to add that the prolonged development of orthochromatic plates calls for extreme caution with regard to the amount of light allowed access to the plate. Keep the plate covered during the whole of development and do


not examine it close to the dark-room light oftener than is absolutely necessary.

With these instructions and a reasonable amount of previous practice, the reader should now be able to get negatives of bird's-eye views, either in town or country, which will give the distant detail and proper value of the picture planes as clearly as shown in the views reproduced herein. His experience along the line discussed and the problems encountered in working at moderate altitudes will also help him to an intelligent grasp of the requirements of balloon and kite photography now to be considered in detail.

Unlike many uses of photography strenuously developed during recent years, the possibility of obtaining photographic records of observations at high altitudes, by means of balloons, does not seem to have attracted attention during the earliest years of photography. Among old files of photographic journals there are occasional suggestions that cameras and balloons might be combined with advantage in warfare, but I have not been able to ascertain who was the first to make photographs from a balloon, further than a mention in the Photographic News, of 1863, stating that Nadar and Goddard, of Paris, had attempted balloon photography, without success, in 1858. There is no doubt, however, but that the first successful balloon photograph was the view of Boston, made in October, 1860, by Professor Samuel A. King and J. W. Black. This truly remarkable photograph, made on a wet collodion plate, is published for the first time as the frontispiece to this monograph. As a matter of historical interest, I make room here for Professor King's account of the making of this photograph, as published in the Boston Herald of October 16, 1860.

"The Late Balloon Photographic Experiment: Mr. King, of the well-known firm of King & Allen, Aeronauts, has furnished us with the following account of his trip in company with Mr. Black, which is attracting so much interest in scientific circles at the present time:

"'Messrs. Editors: For some weeks past


preparations have been making for a repetition of our experiment of photographing from a balloon. We had previously made a rather unsuccessful attempt at Providence, in consequence of the sky becoming overcast with clouds before the balloon was ready to ascend, throwing such a shade on the earth that to take instantaneous impressions with any distinctness was impossible. Nevertheless, we accomplished sufficient at that time to convince us that under favorable circumstances we could overcome all difficulties, and finally bring the experiment to a successful result. We determined to persevere, and on Saturday last, -- the prospects of a fine day being very flattering -- Mr. Black, the eminent photographic artist, of the firm of Black & Batchelder, and I, as on the former occasion, ascended together. First of all we arose 1,200 feet by means of a stout rope attached to a windlass, and, while remaining stationary at this height, succeeded in getting some fine views of different parts of Boston.

"'But we wished to get more extended views than could be obtained at such a height, and so, after being drawn down and detaching the rope, we ascended in the usual manner. Soon an extensive field was opened to us, and we hoped to be able to secure some of the magnificent scenes which we now scanned. Everything was in readiness, and an attempt was made to take the city that was now sitting so beautifully for her picture. But just at this time we encountered a difficulty which had never before suggested itself. The gas, expanding as the balloon rose, flowed freely from the neck and filled the surrounding atmosphere, penetrating even into the camera, neutralizing the effect of the light and turning the coating on the glass plate to a uniform dark brown color. Several plates were spoiled in this manner before we discovered the cause, by which we lost much very precious time, as we were rapidly drifting away in a southerly direction. Soon after, the balloon reached an altitude above the clouds, which were already quite numerous and gathering fast. For some moments we lost sight of the city and its surroundings, and, when we again descended below the mist, our distance from Boston was too great to make it


W. N. Jennings

W. N. Jennings
Double-coated Seed plate; lens 23 in. focal length; f/16; 1-100th second
worth while trying to get any more views of that locality.

"'We were nearing the coast in an oblique direction, and as our voyage must of necessity be of short duration, it was necessary that our movements should be very rapid. Mr. Black proved himself to be peculiarly fitted for the object we had undertaken. Entirely absorbed in his manipulations, he worked with a celerity that was truly astonishing, never allowing the novelty of the scene to divert his attention for a moment when there was an opportunity of securing a picture.

"'In this way we moved along, sometimes taking views immediately beneath us, and at others bringing into focus objects that were miles away. None of these views were equal to those taken while hovering over the city, for the clouds had now gathered thick in every direction, and an intervening mistiness in the atmosphere prevented the impressions from being clearly defined.

"'Our last attempt at photographing was just after passing over the village of East Weymouth. Finding it impossible to carry our experiments any farther, the apparatus was secured, the tent dropped, and the balance of the voyage was devoted to pleasure.

"'We descended at quarter past three o'clock, having been up two hours and fifteen minutes, traveling about thirty miles. So ended our experiment. The views we succeeded in taking can be seen at Black & Batchelders' rooms, 173 Washington street.

"'This is only the precursor, no doubt, of numerous other experiments; for no one can look upon these pictures, obtained by aid of the balloon, without being convinced that the time has come when what has been used only for public amusement can be made to subserve some practical end.'   SAMUEL. A. KING."

Since this remarkable and very successful experiment, many attempts have been made at various times by photographers, under Professor King's directions, to obtain photographs from a balloon, but, notwithstanding the great improvement in lenses, plates, cameras and shutters, no clearer or more satisfactory photographs have


yet been made than those taken by Messrs. King and Black nearly half a century ago.

Before taking up the account of his experiences related by Mr. Jennings, it may interest the reader to glance over contemporary reports of the attempts at balloon photography made by the late James Glaisher, who was president of the Photographic Society of Great Britain in 1869. I quote from the Photographic News of September, 1862: "In one of Mr. Glaisher's recent and most perilous ascents, in which he obtained a height of nearly six miles, and became insensible, after passing through the clouds he attempted to make a photograph of the scene, but was prevented by the rapid motion of the balloon. He says: 'On emerging from the under clouds we came into a flood of light, with a beautiful blue sky without a cloud above us, and a magnificent sea of cloud below, its surface being varied with endless hills, hillocks, mountain chains, and many snow-white masses rising from it. I here tried to take a view with the camera, but we were rising too quickly and revolving too rapidly for me to do so; the flood of light, however, was so great that all I should have needed would have been a momentary exposure, as Dr. Hill Norris had kindly furnished me with extremely sensitive dry collodion plates for the purpose.'"

Of an ascent made during the early summer of 1863 Mr. Glaisher writes: "We left the earth at 1 hour, 3 minutes, P. M.; at 1 hour, 7 minutes we were at the height of 2,000 feet; at 1 hour, 15 minutes we passed above 8,000 feet; a height of 10,000 feet was reached at 1 hour, 17 minutes; in nine minutes afterward we were 15,000 feet from the earth, and rose gradually to about four miles and a quarter at 1 hour, 55 minutes. On descending, at 2 hours, 8 minutes we were 20,000 feet from the earth; at 2 hours, 13 minutes, above 15,000 feet; at 2 hours, 17 minutes, 10,000 feet; at 2 hours, 22 minutes, 5,000 feet, and on the ground at 2 hours, 28 minutes.

"I could not use the large spectroscope at all throughout the journey, and, through the thick atmosphere and large amount of vapor, I was unable to make any use of


the camera kindly prepared by Mr. Melhuish, with plates specially prepared by Dr. Hill Norris, of Birmingham. This ascent must rank among the most extraordinary ever made; the results were most unexpected. We met with at least three distinct layers of clouds in ascending, of different thicknesses, reaching up to four miles high; when here the atmosphere, instead of being bright and clear, as it had always been in preceding ascents, was thick and misty; but perhaps the most extraordinary and unexpected result in the month of June was meeting with snow and crystals of ice floating in the atmosphere at the height of three miles, and of nearly one mile in thickness."

The obvious disadvantages of being obliged to send an aeronant and a photographer aloft, and the corresponding difficulty of providing balloons large enough to carry these, led several experimenters to investigate the possibility of sending a camera alone up into the air, the exposures being made by devices operated from terra firma. In 1881 the late W. B. Woodbury invented and patented a small balloon camera of this kind, which is at present, I believe, in the possession of Mr. A. L. Henderson, of London. This camera, with the necessary apparatus and four prepared plates, weighed twelve pounds. Just above the lens, attached to a slide which could be drawn out, was a revolving disc worked by a spring giving four or more revolutions -- one each time the catch was released -- by means of a small electro-magnet; in the upper part of the camera was a drum holding four plates. This also had a spring, causing it to be revolved each time it was released one quarter its circumference, thus bringing a new plate into position for exposure. The camera was suspended vertically beneath the balloon. The lens was covered with an instantaneous shutter, opening and closing the lens in the part of a second. This also was controlled by a small electro-magnet. The wires connected with these two magnets, and one for the return current was inclosed in the rope that held the balloon, so that the operator at the base, by simply sending a current through these wires, could work the movements of the


camera as easily as if it were in his own hands. The operation was this: he touched one button and sent a current to one electro-magnet, which brought a plate into position. By means of a telescope the behavior of the balloon could be seen. Directly it was in a steady position a current was sent, by pressing another button, through the second electro-magnet; this released the shutter, and the exposure was made. When the four plates had been exposed the camera was drawn to the ground, the plates developed into negatives, and by means of a magic lantern their image was thrown upon a screen or large piece of paper.

Notwithstanding, however, the possibility of taking pictures from a height in the 1/1000 part of a second, it was absolutely necessary that the balloon should be perfectly steady. This at first was not the case, until the swinging movement was overcome, viz: a swinging movement in the direction of the wind, parallel to the surface of the earth. This was at length overcome by Woodbury, but I cannot learn of any successful photographs made with his camera.

The name of Cecil V. Shadbolt is a notable one in the British annals of aeronautics. Mr. Shadbolt devoted considerable attention to the photographic possibilities of the field, and the account of his first experiments with the camera in mid-air are decidedly interesting. I quote from the British Journal of Photography, 1882:

A good deal having lately been said and written with reference to the subject of balloon photography -- many suggestions made and elaborate devices brought forward but never used, with a view of obtaining satisfactory map pictures of the earth -- the relation of my experiences with reference to an aerial journey lately undertaken in the interests of photography may not be without interest to some of the readers of this Journal.

I may, perhaps, be allowed here to state that up to the time of undertaking the trip in question it had never been my good fortune to meet with any satisfactory photograph from a balloon, and, having a decided preference for practical results rather than for any amount of theory,


Professor Samuel A. King and W. N. Jennings talking over "space and weight" problem before making a twenty-hour day-and-night journey over New Jersey. This gives an idea of the height and size of the balloon basket.

W. N. Jennings
Taken at sunset; f/16; shutter speeds, 1-100th second
I had long cherished the idea of making an ascent, accompanied by my camera.

Having completed the necessary arrangements, bank holiday last found me at Alexandra Palace, in readiness to accompany Mr. Barker in his ascent in the "Reliance." The necessarily lengthy operation of taking in something like 30,000 cubic feet of gas was rendered all the more so in consequence of the supply being divided between two balloons; for there was to be a race -- an exciting one, perhaps -- but as to which came off victorious I never had the curiosity to inquire. After considerable suspense I was at last assured that all was ready, and invited to take my place in the car. Having complied with this invitation, a few moments only sufficed to secure the camera in its place by means of an arrangement I had rigged up in order to enable the instrument to be fixed at any desired angle from the side of the car. This being done, the only remaining tie which held us to the earth was slipped, and the balloon -- the rising power of which had been calculated to a nicety and accurately balanced with sufficient ballast to insure a steady ascent -- moved gently onward in its upward course. Diving my head under the focusing cloth, and getting the camera into position as well as could be done under the circumstances, I took a hasty "shot" at the multitude of upturned faces; but this plate, on development, unfortunately turned out to be a failure in consequence of the movement of the balloon, which had only just been released from its moorings.

Gradually and steadily the earth appeared to recede from us, while our aerial "craft" seemed to hang motionless in space, and in a few minutes we were almost directly over Hornsey station of the Great Northern railway. A curious cracking sensation in the ears was experienced, by which I judged that we were making satisfactory progress. Here another plate was exposed. My third and most successful "shot" was taken shortly afterward, when just over the district of Stamford Hill, at which point the barometer recorded an altitude of 2,000 feet. In the resulting picture the streets, railways and houses below are clearly distinguishable. In this view, also, can be seen the vehicles beneath, while


people walking on the pathways, although almost too small to be recognizable, are nevertheless to be distinguished.

Shortly after making this exposure the aerostat gradually fell, until at something under 1,600 feet its downward course was arrested by the expenditure of a few pounds of ballast, and we again began to climb upward until an elevation of 3,000 feet was reached. At about this altitude we remained for some time, and one or two more plates were exposed. The view here was grand beyond description. A lovely panorama of country lay beneath us, including the greater portion of London with its winding Thames, St. Paul's Cathedral being just distinguishable from the surrounding mass of buildings far away down in the distance. I experienced a strong desire to go higher, and, after having expressed a few very broad hints to that effect, our accommodating captain, although seemingly very loth to part with more ballast than was really necessary, was at length induced to send over the greater part of the contents of another bag. Small pieces of paper thrown from the car streamed away beneath us, and the hands of the barometer advanced steadily over the scale until 5,000 feet were recorded. The seats had purposely been left behind in order to place all the available space at my disposal for conducting operations; but I found a fairly comfortable position was to be obtained on the edge of the basket, of which I availed myself. The balloon seemed to be hanging motionless in the air, the only apparent movement being that of the earth gliding past us -- caused, in reality, by the motion of our "craft." Tearing off a sheet from a newspaper, I scrunched it up into as solid a ball as possible. Requesting Mr. Barker to keep his eye on his watch while I kept mine on the paper, I threw it out into space, and watched it in its downward course for a minute and a half, at the end of which time, although not having reached terra firma, it was lost to sight.

It was now past five o'clock P.M., or a little more than one hour after we had started. At this altitude the view was considerably less extensive, in consequence


of the intervening clouds obscuring the horizon; but straight down beneath us all was clear, and sunshine could be seen on the earth below. After we had contemplated for some time the lovely prospect around us, Mr. Barker suggested that if I had quite finished my experiments it was about time we were thinking of descending. I felt sorry at the very idea, but having one more plate remaining I exposed it, and then, taking in my camera, sat down on the ballast bags and began to pack up.

I had taken the precaution to provide myself with a couple of newspapers with which to pack the apparatus tightly in its case, so as to make the whole sufficiently solid to resist any shock we might experience in the descent; but, happening to glance over the side of the car, I was horrified to see the various objects upon the earth growing larger and larger with unpleasant rapidity. The grapnel was over, seeking for something in which to bury its flukes; and barely had I time to place the camera in its case, much less to attend to the contemplated packing with newspapers, when the word was given to "hold on tight!" Circumstances made me acquiesce pretty promptly with this request, and the next moment we experienced a bump which brought the hoop of the balloon down over our heads. Another rise, a drag of the grapnel, and one more catch of the same, together with a second bump, and we were safe, camera and all, without a scratch. On inquiry we found we had descended at Ilford, in Essex, some fourteen miles from our starting point; and thus ended one of the most enjoyable journeys it has ever been my good fortune to accomplish.

Altogether, the day was most favorable in every respect for photographic work. It may, perhaps, be of interest to state that the exposures were all made by the aid of an ordinary flap shutter, and were, consequently, of long duration -- probably from a quarter to half a second. The plates used on the occasion were Wratten's extra sensitive, and my lens was one of Ross' rapid symmetricals. I am hoping to follow up the present success by making further experiments in the same direction; but, to insure similar results under


less favorable circumstances, it is pretty evident to me that a plate of much greater rapidity will be required, so as to be able to work with a considerably shorter exposure or reduced lens apertures.

So much for past performances. With the knowledge of years the aeronaut of today is better equipped and can handle his balloon with more certainty. The evolution of photographic apparatus and processes has given the aerial photographer equal advantage, so that today there is comparatively little personal risk and much greater chance of success than was possible twenty years ago. Thus, Professor King, of Philadelphia, has made over five hundred celestial journeys without serious accident, and today is as enthusiastic as ever. Similarly, Mr. Auguste Gaudron, of London, has made more than twelve hundred successful ascents. Let us see what Mr. Jennings has to say about photography from the modern balloon.

Practical Work
Despite the practical utility of kite photography, as demonstrated by Mr. W. A. Eddy and described hereafter, the lack of control of the direction of the lens and the limitation in size of plate carried, peculiar to this method, makes it apparent that, at present, the balloon, either captive or free, offers the best means of obtaining extensive views of any desired section of country or locality.

All the photographer needs is a clear day, a good hand-camera, and a steady hand to hold it, a supply of double-coated orthochromatic plates, and, of course, a balloon with an experienced aeronaut in charge of the craft. In still air the balloon may be allowed to rise to any height, say 1,000 feet, and held captive by means of a rope while the desired views are obtained.

Thousands of photographs were taken from captive balloons in Paris last summer with a very small percentage of success. Aside from over-exposure, failure arises chiefly from the rapid vibration of the retaining rope, a between-the-lens shutter in such a case being useless; the quickest speed of a roller-blind, next-to-the-plate shutter, becoming essential.


Copyrighted 1893 by W. N. Jennings
July 4, 6:30 P.M.; double-coated plate; lens 23 in. focal length; f/16; 1-100th second

Note the ripples pushing ahead of the white steamer. Balloon about 1,000 feet high
W. N. Jennings
When we approached Professor King, four years ago, with a request that we be given an opportunity to take a few snapshots from the clouds, he gave scant encouragement to the undertaking.

"During the past thirty years," he said, "I have had at least a score of photographers try to take photographs from my balloons, but so far I have failed to receive any of the promised results."

"I do not think the modern dry plate is adapted to view-taking at high altitudes," was his concluding remark.

Upon examining the original wet plate photographs of Messrs. King and Black, the reason for failure when using the modern dry plate was easily accounted for. The quickest shutter speed under such conditions, where all the light of the sky floods the landscape, is far too slow for a wide-open lens and "instantaneous" plate, and the remedy was simple: The employment of a stopped-down lens, a slower emulsion, or an orthochromatic plate and yellow color screen to cut out the blue haze.

Experimental exposures at widely divergent points under varying conditions of height and light, with carefully recorded results, gave me confidence in being able to obtain good balloon photographs when the desired opportunity should arrive.

"Everything comes to him who waits," even a pilgrimage among the stars, and, although our baggage was limited to 6½ x 8½ outfit and four plates, we were fortunate in all our exposures, securing four negatives having all the qualities of a rich steel engraving, producing 24 x 36 enlargements without a fuzzy line.

There is nothing simpler than taking snapshots from a balloon.

The camera is held in the hands, not resting on the edge of the wicker basket, the lens is set at a fixed distant focus before leaving the ground and firmly locked at that point.

A steady hand is essential, no palpitation of the heart, and thoughts focused upon the work to be done, forgetful of the fact that you are a long way from home in a new direction. The rest is just like fishing.


The Sensa-
tions of a First
You will be surprised to note that the starting point has vanished, although you are quite sure the balloon has never moved. There is not the slightest sensation of motion on the part of the balloon or camera, but the landscape underneath appears to be slowly revolving. All you have to do is to keep the lens directed downward at the desired angle and wait until the required view "composes" itself, and the rest is dependent on the presence of mind, skill and quickness of the photographer.

The importance of skilful manipulation of one's apparatus and the avoidance of unnecessary movement or vibration cannot be overestimated. Much of our success was due to Professor King, who is a practical photographer as well as an experienced aeronaut. He realized that the least vibration of the balloon basket at the moment of exposure would mean "doubling" of the image; so he requested our fellow passengers to remain perfectly still and cease breathing for a brief period during the exposure.

So perfectly poised is a balloon that so slight a cause as a breath of air will disturb its equilibrium.

Having included the entire grounds of the Girard College (about a mile below) within range, and pressed the button, the City Hall, now plainly in view, was next selected. We stooped to change the plate and a moment afterward pointed the lens in the same direction as before, only to find that the City Hall had vanished. Professor King, noting our astonishment, smiled broadly. " Keep your camera pointing in that direction," he said, "and William Penn will be around again in a few moments," and sure enough the rim of Penn's Quaker hat came gliding from under the edge of the basket. Soon the first Governor of Pennsylvania stood just where we wanted him, and the shutter clicked.

An Ex-
It was on July 4, at half past six P.M., that we made our first ascension. The light was yellow, the air wonderfully clear and the shadows long, giving the necessary relief to the landscape, -- all favorable to our purpose.


If it had not been for the previous practice we should certainly have slowed the speed of the shutter and opened up the lens diaphragm to allow for the color of the light and lateness of the hour; but, fortunately, we followed our predetermined rule, and stopped the Beck (old-style) lens down to f/16, adjusted speed of shutter to 1/100 second and used double-coated Seed plates with complete success.

The Negative
Upon the application of a normal pyro developer to the first exposure the image flashed up and fogged over the plate, which was quickly transferred to a tray containing old hydro-metal developer. The plate was developed in total darkness for about fifteen minutes. After fixing, the negative had all the appearance of a sheet of ferro type metal. Without washing, the plate was placed in a very weak solution of ferricyanide of potassium (in daylight, of course), and carefully watched from time to time, the tray being kept in constant motion. Presently traces of the image appeared and the reduction continued until we secured an excellent negative. After a period of ten years this negative is exactly as free from color as it was when taken from the final washing bath.

The remaining three plates were developed with weak ferrous oxalate (no bromide) and the developing action continued until the flattening over of the high-light on the surface coating was caught up and corrected by the emulsion next to the glass. In cases of known overexposure ferrous oxalate developer is invaluable.

Upon this same voyage we made several exposures with a 4 x 5 kodak, and although the shutter was set to its quickest speed, and a small stop used, most of the exposures were over-timed, although taken at sunset. (Note the long shadows in the view of a Jersey landscape, among our illustrations.)

Upon a subsequent trip to the other side of cloudland we made the mistake of taking aloft a camera of the reflex variety. This kind of camera is all right for ground work, but it is as ill-adapted to balloon photography as a phonograph would be in a boiler factory.

In the first place, in order to direct the lens


downward and see the image on the focusing finder, it is necessary to lean so far out of the balloon basket as to render a multiple somersault of camerist and camera quite probable.

The second weak point is found in the fact that the necessary declination of the front of the camera makes the reflecting mirror swing forward, blurring the reflected image, cutting off the view and fogging the plate.

A third defect is the absence of a swing-back, and the consequent distortion of vertical lines.

Trouble number four: It is necessary to press a lever in order to lift the reflecting mirror, which then releases the roller-blind shutter. Upon solid ground this movement may not seriously affect the resulting snapshot, but, up aloft, the slightest motion immediately prior to releasing the shutter may result in failure.

In addition to these complications there are too many things to remember in operating cameras of the reflex type in balloons: Setting the speed-scale; adjusting the width of the curtain-shutter slit; winding the shutter spring; focusing and releasing the shutter, with the constant worry that something will go wrong at the critical moment. When working in mid-air one's mind should be perfectly free and concentrated on the work in hand, any distraction tending to increase the chances of failure. The apparatus, therefore, should be as simple as possible and almost automatic in its movements. With such a camera and the information here given the capable photographer can look forward to an aerial trip confident of success.

During the last few years much attention has been given to the development of the kite for observation purposes in meteorology and kindred sciences. The object here is to enable the operator to maintain self-registering instruments for a considerable period at great elevations. The usefulness of kites so designed for photographic purposes is self-evident, and experiments in this direction have occupied scientists for some years.

The honor of making the first kite photographs in mid-air is usually credited to two experimenters,


W. N. Jennings
Cramer Inst. Iso plate; light yellow screen; lens 23 in.; f/16; 1-25th second

W. N. Jennings

William A. Eddy

View from a kite-sustained camera suspended above American Tract Society
Building. New York, showing the singular prospectives given by a vertical
down slant.
William A. Eddy
Archibald, of England, and Batut, of France, who began work in 1886. Both workers succeeded in obtaining map-like views, the lens being pointed straight downward. Archibald suspended his camera from the kitestring, using a system of tandem kite-flying; viz., he attached one kite by its main flying line to the back of another kite. Batut used one kite, and this limited his range, because a single kite of given weight will not fly in light and heavy winds. With the single kite the camera is always liable to disaster from sudden gusts of wind or similar contingencies.

A brief description of M. Batut's kite is available and may interest the reader. In order to secure steadiness M. Batut uses a lozenge-shaped kite, provided with a long tail. To the kite is attached a small photographic camera by means of a triangular support fixed to the back-bone. The camera is provided with an instantaneous shutter actuated by means of a slow match. Before flying the kite this match is lighted, and when combustion has proceeded so far as to set fire to a small thread, it releases the spring of the shutter, and the exposure is made. Another very novel feature of this ingenious apparatus is the use of a registering aneroid barometer attached to the kite, so that the operator can find out the altitude which the kite has ascended above the ground. This barometer is combined with a photographic registering apparatus, which operates at the same time as the camera. It is enclosed in a light-tight box, and the instant that the shutter of the photographic camera is released, and the exposure made, an aperture closed by the shutter is uncovered through the burning of a match. At the moment the aperture is uncovered, the luminous rays strike the dial to print the shadows of the two needles (mechanism and index needles) upon a piece of sensitized paper with which the dial is provided. To the thread attached to the shutter, and which gives the exposure when burnt, is fixed a piece of paper, which at the same time detaches itself and falls to the ground, indicating to the operator that the exposure has been made. The kite is then hauled in and the plate developed.


The Work of
W. A. Eddy
It has remained for America, however, to set the pace in kite-flying and photographing from kites. This is almost wholly due to the enthusiasm and skill of Mr. W. A. Eddy, of Bayonne, N. J., whose work has proved of inestimable value to the United States Weather Bureau and the War Department. Mr. Eddy sends me the following report of his experiments:

After the work of Archibald and Batut, above mentioned, Wenz, of Rheims, took photographs by means of a kite in 1890, and he was the first to take perspective views by this method, although the slant of his camera was very steep. By the work of these early experimenters it was made clear that the science of kite-flying would make little progress unless a superior kite and better system of kite-flying were developed. The European kite photographers had been hampered by bad kite-flying and its attendant danger to the camera, as well as by the deficiencies of photography at that time.

In 1895 I bought one of the earlier types of kodaks having a film 3½x3½ inches in diameter, known as the Bullet Camera, and, on May 30 of that year, I took the first photograph from a kite in the Western Hemisphere, using a dropping weight and a burning timed slow-match to release the weight.

Since that time I have probably taken the largest number of kite photographs in the world, in the following locations in the order named: Bayonne, N.J.; Blue Hill Observatory, near Boston; Portland, Maine; Boston, Mass.; Elmont, L.I.; Philadelphia, Pa.; New York City; simultaneous snapshots with three cameras at once, State Camp, Peekskill, N.Y.; State Camp, Sea Girt, N.J.; Washington, D.C.; Reading, Pa., and Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor.

Steadying the
I very early found that a dropping weight released by a slow match, as a means of springing the shutter, resulted in blurred pictures, and I soon discovered that a steady pull exerted from the ground below by means of a very thin string steadied the camera at the moment of exposure.


In the early pictures the pull of a lever, forced downward, pressed the button; in the latter a perpendicular lever was pulled by means of a wire; in either case the pull at the earth exerted by hand was very gradual, as this steadied the camera. After each picture, which is taken by pulling the very thin camera string, the camera and kites, still flying, are pulled down to the earth, but the camera is braced into the main cable so far below the kites that when the camera is at the earth and being set for another picture, enough line is still out to enable the kites still to fly without danger from sluggish earth currents. I have in this way made as many as thirty-two exposures in one day.

The camera is put into an enclosing box, the rear of which can be raised and lowered along a sliding slot set by a set screw. It is attached to a round table, which can be made to revolve and which can be set at any horizontal radial angle. The result is that before the camera is attached to the main cable it can be made to point downward at any slant, or to point in any direction. It is easy, after practice, to determine before the camera leaves the earth as to what direction it will point when aloft, allowing to variation due to the side-swinging of the kites.

The camera and its enclosing box are fastened to a light wooden T frame which allows only side-swinging in one direction, and this swing is further reduced by the retarding pull of the camera line. This T is attached to the kite cable at two points about eight feet apart, but the T frame is supported by three fastenings in a horizontal position, one at the end of the boom of the T, and two at the ends of the cross-bar.

Several Kites
I have as yet taken no kite photographs with a single kite. It requires from six to nine kites seven and nine feet in diameter and a pull of from thirty to sixty pounds to lift the camera and frame to a height of 1,000 feet. It is an undoubted fact that one nine-foot kite would take beautiful pictures with a camera having a film two inches in diameter, but the risk of loss would be much greater than with a tandem line.


Archibald's system of tandem flying, fastening one kite to the back of another, is not recommended, because the upper kite restricts the motion of the lower kites and interferes with their lifting force. A spring balance should be used to see that the strain on the line does not exceed 25 per cent of the strain at which the line actually breaks. Known weights can be loaded upon a single line until it breaks, and in this way the breaking strain can be determined. This is very important, since an attempt to reach a considerable height with a two-pound camera always involves a delicate question of how much strain the line will stand. When the camera refuses to rise to an appreciable height -- say 1,500 feet -- with steel wire and a steam-engine to reel in the wire, a height of 16,000 feet, or three miles, may be reached. Weight is a serious matter with kites, because the weight of the camera to be lifted is multiplied by fifteen, at considerable height, say 2,000 feet.

and Kites
The distinguishing characteristic of kite photography as compared with photography from balloons is the lower altitude of the camera and the extensive horizontal view thereby secured.

I soon found that, if I permitted my aerial camera to ascend too high, the smoke of the city tended to dim the picture. It is better in kite photography to keep the camera within 500 or 600 feet from the city's roofs, because the discernible detail from a small camera is thereby greatly increased, making the picture much more interesting.

Kite photography does not enter the same field as balloon photography, because in the former we send the camera only just high enough to get varied perspective and near-by views.

When no skyscrapers are near at hand, vast stretches of suburban landscape can be photographed from a moderate height, say, a few hundred feet. Some of these outlooks taken in the country are extremely beautiful, especially when the landscape is varied by an arm of the sea, or a river. Every one knows how effective a view in the Catskills may be, especially if it is a


W. N. Jennings
Inst. Iso. Plate; yellow screen; f/32; 25th second; 9 A.M., July

Corcoran Art Gallery, Army and Navy Building and White House in the view
W. N. Jennings
country river village, viewed from one of the high foothills of the mountains. In the cities we have views from the tops of tall buildings overlooking roofs, yet the kite camera enables us to look down upon the roofs of the tallest buildings and to give a complete aerial view with no object breaking the sky-line, without much expense, and, day after day, the kite views may be varied widely.

One of the difficulties of kite photography is that of aiming the camera in any desired direction. In the present pioneer stage of kite photography, the camera must be operated without looking at the finder, and before it leaves the city's roof spaces. The picture is taken by the pull of a special string which is distinct from the kite string. This special camera string is very thin, like thread, to avoid the pressure of the air against it, which tends to snap the camera shutter prematurely.

One of the unexpected obstacles which I have encountered in kite photography in cities is that due to vertical air currents which rush up the perpendicular walls of high buildings, carrying the kites and camera vertically overhead, where the kite refuses to pull with sufficient force to properly support the camera. Since the camera is hauled down after each snapshot, and reset with a new film for the next paying out of the kites and camera, it often happens that when there is a sudden calm it is necessary to take the picture before it again reaches the roof, and when it is within an undesirably short distance of the object aimed at.

Kite photography is useful in cases where a variety of views is desired of one scene. Of course, with a released balloon the scene changes rapidly with the progress of the balloon; so that twenty-four snapshots of one building or scene can be taken only from a captive balloon.

Owing to the difficulty and danger involved in lifting weights by means of kites, the kite camera at present is relatively small, photographs exceeding four inches in diameter involving great danger of a break in the kite line, as well as a decided decrease in the altitude of the camera due to excess of weight, a small weight causing a heavy strain on the line.


During the Spanish-American war, Mr. Eddy's kites were sent to Porto Rico by General Greely, and proved a valuable auxiliary to the broader range of balloon photography with its larger cameras and greater altitudes.

Here our survey of aerial photography must end, as we have exhausted the available information concerning the subject. With the exception of a series of papers by the Rev. J. M. Bacon, published in Photography (London, April 11, 18, 25, and May 2, 1893), this is the first separate work for English readers dealing with photography from balloons or kites. Mr. Bacon's papers deal particularly with atmospheric conditions in photography from balloons, rather than with photographic manipulation. They are profusely illustrated and, as a valuable contribution to the scanty literature of the subject, should be seen by the interested reader.


La Photographie Aérienne par cerf-volant. By A. Batut. Paris. 1890. Gauthier-Villars.

La Photographie en Ballon. By H. Meyer - Heine. Paris. 1899.

Telephotography (THE PHOTO-MINIATURE No. 26). New York. 1901. 25 cents.

Elementary Telephotography. By E. Marriage. 117 pages. Illustrated. London. 1901. $1.75.

Practical Notes on Telephotography. By R. & J. Beck. An illustrated pocket-book of about 50 pages. London. 1901. 25 cents.