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Posts Tagged ‘Digital Restoration’

It seldom occurs to us that the older folks in our lives, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., were young once and that someday we’ll be the old fogies.

Have a look at this photograph of my grandmother and I, taken in May, 1949. Grandmom was 60 and I was 4 1/2 years old. The photo is one of my favorites and my first serious restoration effort. The inspiration? I needed a good image of my grandmother for the second edition of her cookbook that I edited and produced as an e-book in November, 2010. I used this image on the title page.

I finished the cookbook, “The Collected Recipes of Frances K. Sullivan” in plenty of time to burn the e-book to CDs and mail out to my sister and cousins in time for Christmas. Everyone else got a wrapped copy in person on Christmas Day. I used this restored image of grandmom crocheting in her favorite chair for the cover.

The first edition of the cookbook was done in November, 1987 and printed using a dot matrix printer (and more than one ribbon). Mom helped me decipher grandmom’s handwriting and put the book in order. Mom also paid for the printing and binding (spiral bound 8 1/2 X 11). And we surprised everyone in the family with a copy of the book that Christmas 23 years ago.

This time around I had far more sophisticated computer resources at my disposal. There are 20 chapters in the cookbook. It occurred to me that it might be fun to include images from grandmom’s life in the book so I inserted an image at the beginning of each chapter.

I had discovered a small suitcase filled with old snapshots in mom’s garage. The photos belonged to my late Aunt Martie Ann. As I went through these images looking for material, I saw grandmom as a young mother. I saw her growing family. I realized that these images weren’t simply old photos — they were much more. They were windows into the lives of my grandmother and her family. Real people!

The images I put into the cookbook whet my appitite for more so I published a photo book. This is the cover I created for that project. The book is 8 inches X 8 inches printed on real photo paper. It contains 46 digitally restored photos and sits on my mom’s coffee table. I gave it to her as a Mother’s day gift — she loves it.

The cover image is another of my favorites. Here’s Frances K. Sullivan (she wasn’t a grandmom then) as a young mother in her early thirties with her first three children. The building in the background is the farmhouse. Mom wasn’t born until the family moved to Phila. a few years later.

The reason the image is light and ghostly on the right is because it was double exposed. I cropped and fiddled and came up with a decent image.

The inspiration for my digital restoration journey began with the desire to include images from grandmom’s life in the new edition of the cookbook. The journey continues and takes me deeper into the lives of grandmom and her family. Just the other day I ‘finished’ and published the restored image of grandmom and uncle Harry when grandmom was 10 years old. I restored another image of her grandmother (Uncle Harry’s mother). The journey continues to expand.

I don’t know where the journey will lead but I’m certain of one thing. The images I restore digitally will preserve these precious images and bring them to life for our children, grandchildren and generations to come. And I’m enjoying every minute of the journey.

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I’ve been doing a lot of digital restoration over the past few years: Old slides from the 1960s (Alaska and Vietnam), 35mm B&W negatives from the 1960s and early 1970s (Vietnam, Phila street photography, etc.) and more recently, I restored dozens of old prints from the early 20th century for a photo book I made for my mother.

Lots of hard work and pulling myself up by my bootstraps have paid off. Mom is happy and I’m pleased with what I’ve done so far. But I wanted to take my efforts to the next level. My copy of “Digital Restoration from Start to Finish: Second Edition” by Ctein arrived last week. I dove into this marvelous book right right away. Here’s my first ‘practice’ effort.

Click to enlarge

This restored photo was taken on July 4, 1926. The little girl in the center is my 88 year old mother. The woman on the right wearing the black hat is my grandmother. The setting was in the Kingsessing Playground in Phila. They had a gala July 4th celebration every year. This would have been the baby parade I believe.

The family lived across the street at 5022 Kingsessing Ave. I lived in that same house until I was 12 years old. I still remember those July 4th celebrations. I made a print of the restored photo for mom. She loves it.

Click to enlarge

This is the photo I started with. Mom found it in the bottom drawer of her dresser (along with a bunch of other photos). They belonged to my late Aunt Martie Ann. Another treasure trove found!

As you can see, this 85 year old photo is in poor condition. The first job is to get the image into the computer. I had always scanned B&W photos as gray scale. My first lesson was to scan this photo as RGB as Ctein suggests. An RGB scan gives you more control. The default scanner settings for Gray scale uses the green channel. You can get a cleaner scan by using one or more of the other channels. You can even use the ‘dirty channel’ to isolate damage so it’s easier to make a mask.

I didn’t use a mask for this restoration. I found the cleanest channel, then fixed the image manually. The restored image is pure B&W with a full range of tones including good midtone contrast to give the image some nice snap.

I cropped the original from the left and top. The person in the background on the far left was a distraction and cropping a little from the top eliminated some of the worst damage. Then I used the clone tool and the speck removal tool to clean up the dirt, scratches, tears, fingerprints and spots (from poor processing).

When I was satisfied, I resized the image and sharpened it. Ctein suggests you scan at 16 bits. This one was easy for me because I always use 16 bit scans and do all my post scan editing 16 bit with Picture Window Pro, a program I’ve been using for about 10 years now. I upgraded PWP from 3.1 to 3.5 about 7 years ago. A couple months ago I downloaded PWP 5.0 and played with it until the 30 day trial ended.

Ctein calls PWP “an amazing program” and I couldn’t agree more. After reading through Ctein’s book the first time, I decided it was time for me to upgrade to 5.0. The upgrade cost a mere $44.95, half the purchase price paid by new users. PWP is a windows only program but it runs on my linux box under Wine.

Oh, I almost forgot. I also have Neat Image running under Wine. I bought the pro version years ago and get free upgrades. Neat Image can work wonders. It reduces or eliminates image noise and does a fantastic job of it too.

I’ve been studying Ctein’s book and practicing what I’m learning with color now. Every time I open the book, I learn something new and valuable. I tried PWP’s Texture Mask and wow did it ever work for me. I was able to create masks that in combination with the advanced sharpen transformation, cleaned up a large percentage of dust spots and dirt without compromising image quality in two color restorations I’m working on. But that’s another story for another time. Meanwhile, I’m having fun.

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