Thursday, December 9, 2010

Library of Congress Civil War Photographs

The Library of Congress posted a series of Civil War photographs on Flickr, many of them of unidentified soldiers. I skimmed through them wondering if I could identify any of them.

I came across this one:

and wondered if it might be possible that this was my Bagley ancestor; these are the pictures I've got:

This one:

also seemed like a possible match, although maybe less likely.

Have I identified an unknown soldier in the Library of Congress photo collection?

There must be people who are well-versed in -- what, forensic photograpy? -- who know what to look for as far as ruling out a possible match. But how would one ever know for sure?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Journal Facsimiles Update

So, I sent a photocopy of the original to Joan and Don Joy in Conway, South Carolina, so Joan could finish reading it, while I work on the rebinding of the original and the production of the facsimiles.

Today I picked up a proof copy of the facsimiles on ordinary paper, done for Bessenberg by a service bureau in Saline. The result isn't very good -- the problem is, the original is fine-point blue ball-point pen on somewhat faded paper. Turn that into a straight one-bit-per-pixel image using thresholding, and you've got a gritty-looking image with dropouts; bring the threshold up too high to make it darker, and the background starts to get speckled.

Bessenberg sends out their scanning and printing to a service bureau, so the binding is now on hold while I work with the service bureau to come up with something that looks better. They're probably accustomed to scanning dissertations in crisp black print on a white background, which doesn't require a high bit depth. I think what I'll have to do is ask them to scan it again, in color at perhaps 600 dpi, and give me a disc with the images. I'll then have to spend some time playing around with the images in Photoshop, which may mean finding the best per-page settings, then bring it down to a dithered black and white image, and have them print that.

So, on the one hand it looks like I will have to put more time into it, where I was hoping to pay other people to do all that. But on the other hand, the results should be closer to what I want -- and if it works out right, I'll also have an archival digital version, which is actually more than I had originally hoped for.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bessenberg Bindery

With Grace's help, I've finally gotten my act together enough to take Marcella's journal to Bessenberg bindery, to have it bound in a new cover, along with a box. The original cover is disintegrating, but fortunately the paper in the book is holding up well, and it is sewn, and can thus be put in a new cover without too much difficulty.

I'm also having five bound archival-quality facsimile copies made, and an unbound facsimile to be kept in a box. This should make it easier to scan or make further copies in the future. I'm also hunting for someone to finish transcribing the whole thing, after realizing that I'm not going to have time to type it all; and even if I did, my wrists just aren't up to that much typing. I'm on the computer pretty much all day at work as it is, and don't want to give myself an attack of tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

And finally, I have a photocopy (on ordinary photocopy paper, made at a Staples), which I'm sending back to Joan and Don so that they can finish reading it.

When the original is done, I'll send that to Joan and Don as well. The facsimiles are for the grandchildren. They estimated they would be done in about three weeks.

I'm not making a lot of headway in my scanning and archiving -- it's a lot of work! And when Joshua arrived, our free time was squeezed just that little bit further, and a lot of our planned activities fell apart. But I will keep plugging away as best as I can.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Starting a New Album: Clarkes, 1902-1935

I am starting to scan and restore images from an old album of my grandmother's, marked "Clarkes 1902-1935." To do this I had to take it apart, but fortunately this one has a tied binding. Some of the other albums are going to be trickier.

It is another black paper album, and is quite worn. The photos tend to have too much or too little contrast, and some silvering. There are a lot of hand-written comments in white ink, but many of them are difficult to read. I'll try to do restorations of some of the more promising images.

Here's a detail of one of the clearer photos, a scan prior to any cleanup. It shows Joe and H. Harrison Clarke, Marcella's brothers. It isn't dated, but 1912 seems like a reasonable guess; H. Harrison Clarke was born in 1902.

I'm scanning these at 1200 dpi, to try to capture any fine detail that is lurking in the grain. Here's a first attempt at cleaning up dirt and scratches on the image and adjusting the contrast. Take a look at the blousy shirts, the ties, the pantaloons, and the shoes!

Retouching is a compromise; I've used Photoshop's spot healing brush along with my Wacom tablet to blend out a lot of dirt and scratches. That's an endless process, though, so at some point you have to stop and focus just on the faces and most visible damage. If you get too aggressive with the spot healing, then you start to get a plastic-looking surface, and if you clean up one area very thoroughly and leave other areas dirty, it looks strange and uneven. Also, at this point I'm not even going to attempt to clean up the whitish rubbed areas across the middle of the picture; it's beyond my current retouching skills.

To bring up the sharpness, I hit the unsharp mask filter pretty hard. The image starts to look a little grainy, but you get some details back that tend to look blurry if you don't sharpen them. It's a compromise and I'm still learning how to get the best results.

Of course, I'm also preserving both the original paper album as best I can -- although in another hundred years the acidic black paper will have probably rendered the images even more illegible -- and the original scans, for someone else to play with in the future. That someone might be me in a few years.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Marcella Armstrong's Journal

I have received my grandmother's journal back from Joan and Don Joy! So, now to get it scanned, and restored in a new cover. I'm going to see if the Bessenberg Bindery can do this kind of job for me.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Pile of Long-Lost Slides

I found a handful of loose slides and today I'm scanning them. This batch needs a lot of hand-restoration with Photoshop; I'll leave the touchup of dirt and scratches to later, but just getting the colors even remotely correct has been a challenge, since these are old and have not been properly stored.

This one seems to be me, on the right, maybe circa 1969, in Seattle, but I'm not certain where. Is this in my yard at the time? I don't know. I think the boy on the left is Michael, the son of my mom's friend whose name escapes me at the moment. I look to be about two. I've never seen this picture before. There's probably a story behind it. The slide is marked July 1970, and I think my parents' relationship was either hopelessly broken or badly damaged at this point. I don't look happy. But maybe I'm reading too much into it. When I look at it I feel as if I'm on the verge of remembering what it was like to be that two-year-old boy (I had not yet turned three), as if those memories are still in there somewhere!

This next one was over-exposed to begin with and the dyes are very faded, meaning that it lets most light of the light from the scanner through, and comes out almost white. This means it requires a lot of darkening and contrast-enhancement to see much of anything, and there is hardly any color left to correct. I'm sure a pro could get this looking better, but here it is: Richard, Joan, and Susan Armstrong perhaps around 1955. Are they all in the water? The way the shot is framed, it is hard to tell. Hand-written on the slide is "at Sun Lake, Washington."

Next, a fantastic photo of my mom. This one was remarkably well-preserved. The slide is stamped "61R" which I'm thinking might indicate 1961 -- was this taken at Fircrest School?

This next one is my father's family in Eatonville, Washington: Thanksgiving, 1975. I'm not certain who everyone is, but Amby, Mary, Elmer, Sally, Aaron, and Ted I recognize.

And finally, my mother at Niagara Falls. My father wrote "Fascination" on a label on the slide's cardboard holder! The colors have held up reasonably well but this slide is badly stained and very dirty. I was able to clean some of the gunk off with emulsion cleaning fluid but it will still need a lot of touch-up in Photoshop if I'm ever going to use this one for high-resolution printing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Newly Found Photos of the Armstrong Siblings

These photos came to my mother Susan Zahner from Lenore Frimoth (Beck) in 1996. Some of them were in rough shape; I put Photoshop through its paces to get as much contrast as possible out of the originals, and used my new tablet to do a lot of touch-up to fix dirt, stains, scratches, and even tears. Time-consuming, but I'm very pleased with the results!

Dora Armstrong (Bagley), around 1915.

Ruth Armstrong, Richard Armstrong, and Ella Grace Armstrong (Ruth and Ella Grace later married and took the names Beck and Findley).

Richard and Ruth, exact date unknown. My grandfather looks like he was probably under two years old.

This one indicates 1906 or 1907 on the back of the photo.

Richard, age 12, and age unknown (perhaps around 18).

The Cherry Pudding

Dick Zahner recently found a few more photos and documents that had been my mother's and grandmother's. To introduce these, here is a short story written by Ruth Beck (Armstrong), my paternal grandfather's sister. The Cherry Pudding (PDF file of page images, 513K) The story describes an idyllic day in Iowa nearly 100 years ago, in 1912.

My great-aunt Ruth dedicated this story to the memory of my grandfather, Richard Armstrong. The characters she mentions include Uncle Harvey (I'm not sure who that is), Aunt Harriet (Hattie), "the baby" Ella Grace Findley (Armstrong), Dora Armstrong (Bagley), and "Grandmother" (Ruth's grandmother, who I'll have to find out more about). I know very little about my grandfather Richard's family and childhood, but this story has just helped remedy that. There's even enough detail given that an enterprising cook could probably make the cherry pudding described, or at least a close approximation.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Summer's Over

This is not really on topic, but... we're back from a week's vacation in Grand Marais with my father and stepmother, visiting from California.

I made a video -- my first -- using Apple iMove, and uploaded it to a brand-spanking-new YouTube account. The video is our family vacation, in the form of a music video for Jonathan Coulton's song "Summer's Over" (Thing a Week #51).

Here is the video link:

I find Mr. Coulton's lyrics to be simple but beautiful; the song has been stuck in my head for the last few weeks.

Summer’s over
You’re going back to school
I’m staying here
Where else would I go?

Watch the leaves turn
Close up the swimming pool
Winter comes in
Sooner than you know

Nights get cold
And the flowers let go
Bide their time
Under the snow
As they go down they say

Summer’s over
Because it has to be
Just like before
Around and around

It’s a circle
Bringing you back to me
Stay where I am
I’m lost and found

When you go
You come back again
Close the door
The cold’s getting in
As I go down I say

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cross-Blog Information and Introductions

In order to try to avoid boring people with material they aren't interested in, I have divided my writing up into five separate blogs. The downside to this is that I have a tendency to wander from one area of interest to another over the course of a typical year, so it may look like I've dropped off the face of the earth. In case anyone is interested in following what is going on in one of my other blogs, I thought it might be useful to post this road map once in a while.

Geek Like Me Too is my general-purpose personal blog. The most recent postings are about a recent Jonathan Coulton concert in Pontiac that I attended and recorded. I have provided recordings of the show as a set of MP3 files, of interest to geeks who like music.

Geek Like Me is its predecessor, done in Blosxom, now still up only for archival purposes.

Geek Versus Guitar is about guitar playing. Recently I've recorded a few Jonathan Coulton songs myself. It will also be about learning to produce songs with my home studio.

Praise, Curse, and Recurse is about programming topics, mostly Haskell, Python, and Scheme. My free time has been devoted to other things but I will no doubt be back around to programming before too long.

The Marcella Armstrong Memorial Collection is about my family history, and the big task of scanning, restoring, preserving, and archiving family photos and documents. Of interest to any family members, but also of possible interest to people doing their own similar projects.

Tales from the Potts House: William Hope Hodgson contains information about the "Hodgecast" podcast available on iTunes, in which I record classic William Hope Hodgson novels and stories. I have more podcasts planned in both this series and possibly others in the near future.

Anyway, there it is... please join me on any of these blogs that might catch your interest. I always have far too many projects going at once!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Brian at Seventeen

I think this may have been Brian's high school graduation photo, but I'm not entirely certain, since I have several similar ones.

Brian at Ten

I think Brian was about ten when this portrait was taken.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

March of 1973

The skin tones are kind of ghastly after rough color restoration, but here we are! I was five, he was three.

I am hoping to eventually acquire some of the more specialized Photoshop plugins for doing more accurate and nuanced color correction.

Brian at One

He had to Beat the Young Girls Off with a Stick