March 30, 2008

Tintype Restoration

I discussed tintypes below and this is another example from my own collection. This is a tintype of my great grandmother as a child. The tintype was scanned and then the contrast and brightness were adjusted to obtain a good image. As you can see there were major condition issues - large portions of the image were missing and there were many marks and scratches. Below you will see the finished restoration after about two hours of work. Two hours well spent to capture this bit of my family history.

Be sure and click on the pictures to view a larger image.

March 24, 2008

Art and Restoration

There are times when an old photo has simply too many condition problems or simply was not that good to begin with to do a standard restoration. That doesn't mean you can't create something you could display. The picture on the left is of great historical significance to my family. It is a picture of the original family home in Idaho taken about 1907. The original is small and has some condition problems. The first thing I did was to separate the structure from the rest of the picture. I added a sky for some drama and used PhotoShop's dry brush filter on the foreground. The result below makes a nice 11 x 14 that I proudly display.

In addition to have pictures of family members this photo taken around 1905 is also a fine work of art. It reminds me of a Maxfield Parish painting. The original had too many condition issues to make a "straight" restoration possible. I first did as much retouching as I could. Next I used the Photo Shop dry brush filter to smooth the image. I then had added a vignette. The result below also made a wonderful 11 x 14 image that could be displayed with pride.

Click on picture for larger image

March 23, 2008

More than pictures

History is much more than pictures. If you witnessed history and were fortunate enough to get some photographs write down your memories as well. As an example I will repeat a post I did on another blog for the 25th anniversary of the eruption of Mt St Helens in Washington.


Mt St Helens, recollections 25 years later

Commentary By Ron Beasley

On this 25th anniversary of the catastrophic eruption of Mt. St. Helens I'm going to share some of my memories and some of the photographs that I took at the time. You may have seen better pictures but these are pictures you have not seen before.

One of the memories I have is of my friend Bob Kaseweter who had a cabin at Spirit Lake. He went up to the lake on May 18, 1980 to clean out his cabin. That was the last day of the life of a person who was full of life and loved to live it on the edge. He died on the edge and I am sure that he was thrilled the last few seconds of his life. His body was never found.


On Sunday May 18th, 1980 I had to work. I was employed by a large manufacturing facility that used a number of RF generators in the manufacturing process. As a result we could not get radio or television reception in the building. We heard rumors that something had happened at Mt St Helens throughout the day but because it was a Sunday few people were coming and going. I left work about 2 PM and headed home to NW Portland. I started down the east side of Portland's west hills and was greeted with the view below. When I got home I grabbed my camera and took the picture below. (Note: you can click on the pictures for a larger image)

There were numerous smaller eruptions over the next few months but most could not be seen because it was overcast or dark. One eruption in July, 1980 occurred on a beautiful day and I took the picture below at about the same location as the picture above.

In August I had the opportunity to fly around the mountain and into the still smoking crater. I took the picture below as we approached the crater. You can see Mt. Adams in the background.

The picture below shows the inside of the crater. You can see the growing lava dome in center left. We were close enough that we could smell the sulfur dioxide. The dome in the picture was destroyed in another explosive eruption a few weeks later.

About 24 1/2 years later Mt. St. Helens awoke once again. Up to this point the eruption has been a mellow dome building event. The new dome is still growing at one or two feet an hour. Weather permitting you can look into the crater during the daylight hours at the link below.

Of course Mt St Helens is not the only volcano in the Pacific Northwest. A very clear day in Portland is known as a five mountain day. We can see five mountains, Rainier, St. Helens, Adams, Hood and Jefferson. Four of them are dormant volcanoes and one is active. The picture below is of Mt. Hood from my backyard.

The last major eruption of Mt Hood occurred in 1790, just before the visit of Lewis and Clark. A history of activity on Mt Hood and it's possible impact can be found here.

South of the Portland there is another recently active volcanic area, the Three Sisters.

North and Middle Sister with 1,500 year old lava flow in the foreground

The entire area around the South Sister is rising which may indicate a future volcanic event. More information on this can be found in the post Volcanic hot bulge in Oregon.

Click on picture for larger image

March 19, 2008

Another Restoration example

This is another example of digital restoration from the same collection as the one below. The first problem here was the sky. I made the decision to simply scrap the existing sky and create a new one from scratch. I added some grain to the new sky so that it would match the original. The rest of the photo had many condition issues most of which could be fixed with the healing brush in photo shop. Some of the large areas in the rocks required some copy and paste using the method described below. It should be noted that I first remove the color before restoration - it is easier to retouch in gray scale. In most cases I will try to match the original color but in this case I chose not to.

Click on picture for larger image

March 17, 2008

Digital Restoration Example

On the left is a wonderful old photo that is about 100 years old. As you can see it has some serious condition problems including large areas of missing emulsion. The most difficult area to restore was the skirt. I used Photo Shop for the project and several tools were used. First areas of the skirt that were intact were copied and then pasted into the missing areas. The dodge and burn tools were then used to match the pasted portions to the surrounding area. The healing brush was used fix the smaller areas. Finally some touch up had to be drawn with the paintbrush tool.

The healing brush was used for the sky, rocks, sand and water. The final restoration can be seen below.

Click on pictures for larger image

March 15, 2008

35 years ago

To the left is a picture of the Fremont Bridge in Portland, Oregon today. Below is a picture I took on March 16, 1973 from the Broadway bridge as the span was being lifted 170 feet. At the time it was the heaviest lift ever attempted, 6,000 tons.

Click on picture for larger image

March 14, 2008

Blue Mouse

Not all historical images are in old boxes. You too may have experienced and even documented history. Shortly before it was torn down in 1977 I went down and took some pictures of the "Blue Mouse Block". The Blue Mouse is now listed as a Cinema Treasure

Click on picture for larger image

March 12, 2008

Some notes on archiving

Digital Archiving
We currently digital archive images and documents on a CD or DVD. A PC purchased 15 to 20 years ago would have had a 5.25" and 3.5" floppy drive. One purchased 10 years ago a 3.25" floppy drive and a read only CD. A computer purchased today will have a read write CD/DVD drive and no floppy. How long will the optical, CD/DVD remain the portable storage media of choice? I have no idea but the data is only archived if you can read the media. It will probably be necessary to transfer the data from today's CD/DVD to a new storage medium in the future.

Paper Archiving
Archiving on paper may seem archaic but could actually be more reliable. Early ink jet printers produced images that faded rapidly. Today's quality ink jet printers use dye or pigment based inks that are highly fade resistant. When used with quality coated papers and stored properly they can last for 100 to 200 years. A lot longer than that CD/DVD will be around.

March 6, 2008


You may come across a thin 2¼ by 3½ inch metal with an image barely visible. This is a tintype. This was a widely used photo process used in the mid to late 19th century. In many cases this may be the only picture of an individual.
These images can be scanned and restored giving us a window into the past. After scanning the contrast of the image is adjusted using a photo editing program like Photo Shop to bring out the image. The tintype plates are more often than not scratched and damaged. The photo editing software can then be used to retouch and restore the image.

Click on picture for larger image

March 5, 2008

Hover, Washington

The picture below is from a collection I was digitally archiving. The photo was taken in about 1908 and required minimal restoration. It is of the train station in Hover, Washington.

Hover, Washington

The town of Hover was named after Herbert Hover who purchased 12,000 acres of land southeast of Kennewick around the turn of the century. The town was platted in 1905, with the first post office also arriving that year. Mr. Hover had 18,000 brochures printed extolling the virtues of the area for settlement and distributed them nationwide. Hover was primarily a farming town, and it was irrigation that made intensive farming possible. Without the construction of the intensive irrigation system, began in 1888 by the Yakima Irrigation and Improvement Company, there would probably have never been any settlement in the lower Columbia Basin. In October of 1905, the Yakima Herald wrote the following: "The town of Hover thirteen miles down the river from Kennewick is, I believe, one of the most promising in that section. It is ideally located on an immense alfalfa field, which has a gentle slope toward the river. Just now with its beautiful greensward, it is indeed pretty. Our people are planning to erect a Presbyterian Church at that point. There are a number of business houses planned, with dwellings and sidewalk improvement. Hover bids fair to capture a large share of the lower Horse Heaven trade." By 1907, Hover had a population of 300 and possessed wooden sidewalks, a new school, livery stable, a 32-room hotel, opera house, saloon, railroad depot, grocery store, blacksmith shop, church, and post office. Unfortunately, in 1910, a devastating fire struck the town as described in the March 9, 1910 issue of the Twin City Reporter: "Hover was swept by flame the 5th of March, 1910. Fire destroyed the Columbia Hotel, Hover Land Company Office, Post Office and T. H. Dry’s General Merchandise store." Later on, the Opera House was destroyed by fire in 1913. Most of the buildings that were destroyed by fire never were rebuilt, and Hover began to slide into a long decline, culminating in 1954, when the government bought much of the land in Hover to make way for the McNary Dam. The rising waters of Lake Wallula ended up submerging most of the old town. Today, little exists of the original town save a few foundations and the remnants of the old canal used to bring irrigation water to the area. Submitted by: Jeremy Wells

When I scan old photographs for digitally storage only I usually scan at 300 dpi. If I am going to do restoration work I will scan at 800 dpi or more.