Hi Jack, if I understand your questions correctly, the way I weld is as follows, firstly my wire nozzle is recessed about 5-6mm inside the shroud, and I hold the torch head so that the shroud is about 6-10mm away from the work and on a slight angle off vertical, leaning away from the direction of travel (push). When the arc strikes, the arc does not travel into the shroud head unless the wire feed rate was way too slow. When the wire hits the work piece it starts to melt from the point of contact and then moves up half way up the wire towards the shroud (but not in it) and the molten wire sprays out towards the weld bead area, so I watch the weld cone and the molten metal being deposited. The distance of the shroud from the work varies depending on the voltage and wire speed selected and the subsequent amperage, the thickness of the wire also determines the distance as well as it also changes the previous settings and the resulted arc and deposition. So I just fine tune it as I go.Depending on the length of your nozzle compared to the length of your contact tip, if you are dragging (or pushing) the nozzle along the workpiece, the torch angle must be a long way off near vertical. Isn't the stickout extreme and the gas coverage minimal? On the other hand, if your contact tip is an innie, how do you see what you are doing?
The arc/molten wire does not go into the shroud and so there is no point in me trying to watch what is happening in the shroud as it will just be the wire feeding out which is not important. The gas coming out of the shroud will be pushed forwards in the direction of travel providing coverage and is super hot, but there will also be a bit of gas that will be diverted backwards which will protect the newly formed weld bead as well as you travel forward. If you are having a bit of trouble seeing what you are doing because the torch is in the way, then move your head closer to work so that you will be looking from the side and towards the torch head coming towards you. There is nothing that says that you have to have your head directly above the torch. Position your head and body so that you can see what is happening with the arc and weld deposit.
Welding is a process that I do automatically without thinking about it too much, so when I have to explain it becomes a strain on the old brain cells, so I hope I have explained it properly to you.
The above info from me is only for solid wire as I have never used gasless wire, so that process may be slightly different but I imagine that similar rules apply except for not requiring a shroud.