up, up and away in my beautiful balloon

It’s been quite cold in this area for the past few days, so I haven’t been able to spend as much time outdoors as usual. I’m very much looking forward to some mild temperatures so that I can go out looking for snow surface insects and spiders, a pursuit that can keep me occupied for hours at a time in late winter.

In the meantime, I’ve been making the best of things by working on indoors projects. Since getting a pretty decent scanner a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been busily scanning old family photographs such as the one above. It’s turning out to be a fun project. Often, you don’t really know what you’ve got until you’ve scanned the image and get it up on your monitor screen. Many old photos are extremely small and you can’t really see them without the aid of a magnifying glass. However, when scanned at 300 d.p.i. or higher, they reveal all kinds of interesting details.

The above photo is a good example. It’s of my grandfather (on the left), and his son youngest son. I figure this one must have been taken some time before 1910 — I have to do some more research to track down the date. One of the mysteries revealed when this photo was blown up on my screen was the strange background. It turns out that to be a mock-up of a hot air balloon, complete with small bags of ballast and even a tiny anchor in the center (click on image for larger view). The photo was also quite scratched and creased, but after some repairs using PhotoShop, it now looks quite presentable.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to for the past couple of days – scanning and attempting to restore old family photos. Once most of them are done, I’m hoping to set up a website using blogging software — something similar to the Boyd Brothers concrete architecture history site I’ve been working on.

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7 Responses to “up, up and away in my beautiful balloon”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    Isn’t it incredibly interesting to look at these old photos? In 1910, my grandparents were still in Europe. I have a box of their old photos, plus the paperwork they submitted at Ellis Island. It’s a remarkable journey just following one’s own family. Looks like you’re making great use of your indoor time. Which tool did you use to get the scratches and creases out of the photo?

  2. burning silo Says:

    robin – Your box of photos must be very interesting! I’m also assembling any family history type documents and hope to put a lot of things up online, probably as .pdf files with a single website to tie everything together. It’s a bit ambitious, but also an interesting experiment.
    To repair photos, I usually use the clone tool and adjust the size of the cloning area and keep sampling the clone area as I go along the crease or scratch. I can do it fairly quickly and like the results. I find that using things like the dust and scratch filters can cause too much distortion. Also, some of the damaged areas are so large that I have to “paint” in part of the photo. I’m a fairly good painter to start with, so that’s not so difficult. The most creative damage repair so far was in a group portrait of the family. A patch of the photo on one of the faces was gone and so the eye was missing. I painted the damaged area and then cloned the other eye and worked it in to fix the damage. I always work at about the 200x photo size, so by the time I was done, the repair job didn’t look too bad at all.
    The best part of all of this has been hearing my mom say that the photos are really nice to look at when up on the computer — completely different than looking at the tiny old photos in a box. I’m going to contact more of my mom’s family to see if anyone else has old photo they’ve scanned and I’ll offer to put them all up together in my online gallery. With any luck, maybe some other nice photos will find their way into a place where the rest of the family can see them.

  3. NatureWoman Says:

    This is such a fun project! I’ve been doing the same thing, and you hit the nail on the head as far as seeing the details post scan that you definitely can’t see in the original little photo.
    I look forward to your blogsite of your old photos!

  4. Susannah (Wanderin' Weeta) Says:

    So cool!

    I’m glad you detailed your method; I had worked out something similar, and worried that I was “doing it wrong”. But 200x! That’s why your fixes blend in so nicely.

  5. robin andrea Says:

    Ah, the clone tool. What a great invention. I use that one all the time too. I have never tried the “dust and scratches” filter and was curious if that’s what you had done. It doesn’t surprise me that you didn’t! The clone tool is so precise and exact, that it’s hard to imagine any single filter command could do that kind of job. Although, I have to admit I was hoping.

  6. Ruth Says:

    I use the clone brush often. It does the best job of removing blemishes and wrinkles in new photos too. If I photograph friends or family, I will touch up glaring age spots and “creases”. (but I never tell anyone why they look so good) My daughter and I scanned 800 old photos from my husband’s family over a year and then burned them on CDs for Christmas gifts. It was a lot of fun. Your picture is very unique and interesting, Bev.

  7. burning silo Says:

    NatureWoman – Yes, the photos look totally different once they’re up on a screen. I find it makes them seem more alive and 3-dimensional. It’s very neat.

    Susannah – When it comes to repairing photos, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way — it’s just whatever works for you. Btw, I should have been more specific about that… the 200x is actually 200 percent, so double the normal size for whatever number of pixels your photos are scanned to. To give myself plenty of detail to work with, I usually use at least 300 dpi when scanning — I would do that for sure if I wanted to get prints made from the scans.

    robin – Yes, the clone tool is terrific. I like it best as it captures the textures as well as the colours. Using a brush is usually too noticeable as it generally looks rather flat. As far as I can tell after experimenting a bit, when you use the dust and scratch filters, the way they work is to “grow” pixels out in all directions. That creates fuzzy edges. I tried it a couple of times with the Penguin car photos as they had a lot of little dust specks on them, but it was quite unsatisfactory. I went for sharpness and fixed the most glaring of the specks. I suppose what one could do would be to use one of the selection options, such as rectangle box or lasso, and choose a really badlly scratched area of the photo and then apply the filter — and avoid doing that on parts of photos where sharpness is important (faces, hands, etc..).

    Ruth – Aha, so you do a little retouching! I’m sure everyone must love to see their portraits! (-:
    Scanning 800 photos is a lot of work. I have quite a few to do, and also want to scan my dad’s slide collection. It’ll probablly take me quite some time to get it all done.