Friday, November 30, 2007

I Used to Have One of These

My first camera was a Brownie Hawkeye. It was old at the time (the late 1970s). I must have taken quite a few pictures with it; I wonder what became of them?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Technicolor Box, September 1963

These slides are all mixed up, so I've been trying to sort them into the original batches. I can only do this when I can find some distinguishing mark on the slides themselves, or by the images.

I think these are actually Kodachrome slides processed by Technicolor. The colors are extremely darkened, and it does not help any that the original was not well-exposed to begin with; here is part of an uncorrected scan:

It makes the image look posterized to bring up the brightness in the foreground, but at least you can see who it is:

I'm pretty sure this is H. Harrison Clarke, Marcella Armstrong's brother. Now that I have the batch put back, though, I can make sense of some of the people I didn't recognize at first. When I get through the rest of the slides, I'll go back and try to identify everyone.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Susan, July 1965

This shot is from a box of very clean and undamaged but faded slides marked July 1965. It looks like they may have been taken on an Armstrong family camping trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. These slides are 3M "Dynachrome" film, which I've never heard of -- probably because it wasn't very good!

The uncorrected colors look pretty weak:

But fortunately they have faded in a relatively uniform way; it isn't one of the difficult cases where there is no cyan left, or the slide has become incredibly dark so that you can't get enough light through it for a good scan. All the colors can have their saturation boosted rather dramatically, and with a little tweaking the original film's inability to properly register colors actually becomes a strength, as you get some artistic blending of colors. Here is my attempt at restoring the colors:

I kept thinking I had the skin tone wrong, because her cheeks look pink. Then I realized she actually has a bit of a sunburn in this photo! You can see at the base of her neck that she must have been outdoors too long.

I think this is a great picture; it shows a Susan who has the beauty of her youth but at the same time the graying hair and laugh lines that hint at the older Susan. It has an ageless quality, just like she did. It is how I remember her.

Who took this photo? It was probably either my grandfather, Richard Armstrong, or my father, Richard Potts. I think both of them were on that trip. It is hard to know how carefully staged and planned the shot was; it could have been relatively spontaneous. Some of my best shots show up without planning.

I could try to make the colors in the shot more "accurate," but this shot looks like it was taken in late-afternoon sun, perhaps even opposite a sunset, in a partially shaded environment, with a lot of reflected or filtered light. It's hard to know just what "accurate" would mean. But I kind of like the colors the way I have them here. It reminds me of one of my favorite photos of Veronica here. That shot initially appears to be way too yellow, but the color is accurate; it was taken on late summer afternoon and the light had that same quality to the naked eye.

Interestingly, I was just looking at some of the work of a photographer who buys up expired slide stock for the express purposes of getting interesting effects like this. And some photographers (including my friend Art) have long been exploring the "low fi" effects available by using inexpensive digital cameras and the various striking, but inaccurate, images that they produce.

Richard Potts, April 1967 Box

This isn't the greatest image, because I had to enhance the brightness a great deal and that brought out some scanning artifacts. But it shows my father around 1967. I am not sure what he is doing -- maybe attaching a boat to a car? The original is very dark; I think it was shot at dusk, or before a storm.

My father was (and still is) quite a handome guy! Unfortunately I only got a small portion of his good looks.

This box of slides was addressed to:

Mrs. Richard Potts
5608 237th S. W.
Mountlake Terrace
Washington 98043

Interior and Car Design March 1963

These shots are from a box of slides stamped March 1963. I assume they are scenes from her life with the man she was briefly married to, Ted Rose, but I don't know much at all about that period in her life. These slides are in poor condition and I have not done much to restore them.

I love the period furniture (actually, it looks like late 1950s design to me, but I'm not an expert):

Apparently Ted was very proud of his car, since there are a number of pictures of it. It was a pretty cool car:

There's a slide that appears to show some guys sitting around a kitchen table, maybe for a poker night.

The box of slides had an address label made out in my mother's printing: Susan Rose, 12009 33rd NE, Seattle 55, Washington. I'm not sure what the significance of the "55" was.

Does this picture show that address?

Wedding Dress and Bouquet

Another wonderful shot of my mom in her wedding dress.

Easter Baskets, April 1967 Box

I have a set of slides that appear to show a group of mentally retarded adults. They are creating really pretty Easter baskets. I'm assuming my mom was working as an Occupational Therapist with this group.

I'm not going to post any of these pictures of the people, because of privacy concerns, but I wanted to include a shot of the Easter baskets to show how colorful these slides are. I did a little bit of tone correction, but for the most part they don't need much. These pictures look like they have never been projected! The slides are stamped April 1967.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cleaning Slides and Making Prints

I'm cleaning and re-scanning slides. The slides are of all different types. The wedding pictures are Ektachrome, and seem to have aged quite well, although some of them have mildew spots. I wiped them with a "tiger cloth" (anti-static micro-fiber cloth) and PEC-12 emulsion cleaner; this did nothing for the mildew spots, but did remove some dust and dirt. It seems impossible to get everything off the slides, so some of it inevitably gets scanned. Digital ICE works on the Ektachrome slides, and removes some of the dust spots, but does not work on the Kodachrome slides.

I've also been experimenting with post-processing to improve the color, and making 300 dpi versions of the images for printing on my inkjet. The results are pretty good, now that I'm using Adobe RGB and a monitor profile for proofing. Some of these will be going out as Christmas gifts. Color pictures look pretty good on my old HP Business Inkjet 1100, although it does a poor job rendering blacks. I'm eventually hoping to replace it with an Epson R2400, which uses three different black inks for excellent rendering of black and white images.

The slides also really need to go into better storage boxes, which I'll eventually order from Archival methods.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

More Washington Slides

Wow, that's quite a colorful wedding dress!

Amby looks so young! And my father does too, of course. I think he was 25 when he married my mother. That seems young to me; I was 34 when I got married in 2001.

A Gross of Slides

I have about twelve dozen slides remaining to examine. Here is a mystery box. I'm coming across people and places I don't recognize. Does anyone recognize these people and/or places in this batch?

Better Scans

Some further color correction is still in order to compensate for fading dyes in the originals, but these look remarkable even without it.

A Special Commencement

Mount Rainier

Washington Slides (Details)

Amby and Mary Potts, my grandparents on my father's side. These slides are in far better shape than I was expecting. The sharpness and color are wonderful!

I don't remember the circumstances of this next photo. I'm guessing it was about 1977, on a trip to Washington.

This next one was taken at Mount Rushmore:

From left to right (back row): my grandfather Amby (holding Brian), my grandmother Mary, Yours Truly, Ted, my grandmother Marcella, my grandfather Richard, and in front: Sally and my mother Susan. To the best of my knowledge this is the only picture in the collection to show all four of my grandparents together; having them all in one place during my lifetime was an extremely rare, possibly unique, event!

Don't judge the slides by these screen images; they tend to be grainy and a little dull. The last image looks particularly bad on the web; my apologies. The original has an extremely wide dynamic range with highlights and shadows from direct sun, and some very saturated colors. To get a good version for printing, I needed to tweak it quite a bit and apply a lot of unsharp masking, and that tweaked image then doesn't look very good when converted back to the sRGB color space (technically, it exceeds the gamut of sRGB) and the highly sharpened image becomes gritty-looking when I reduce it back to screen resolution. Ideally, I'd go directly from the uncorrected 6400 dpi master to the different derived files (for printing and web) in completely separate processes. If this doesn't make any sense to you, be glad you don't stay up late worrying about things like this (but be glad someone does).

There are a lot more slides, but it is 3:30 in the morning and I have to get some sleep! These images are so sharp and lifelike, I really am enthralled with them!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Recalibrating for Slides

So, I created a new calibration profile using the transparent target that came with the scanner, and the uncorrected scans look more natural now. I have a monitor profile, but it is only a rough one, made by eye rather than using a sensor. The results look a lot more natural even with no color correction applied. Take a look at the difference in the tones:

Getting smooth tones without weird artifacts is a good start. It's probably best to work on the rest of the color correction and possible unsharp masking in Photoshop. With the black and white prints, I didn't have to worry nearly so much about color space, just getting a full dynamic range. Things get much more complicated with slides, but they have a huge amount of detail and a lot of gorgeous color, so think the extra effort will be worth it!

Captivating Colors

A winter's day, probably in Washington state, perhaps 1967. I'm not quite satisfied with the quality of the scan (the Digital ICE dust removal gave me some weird fringing, and the colors could be better), but even in this draft the image is wonderful. This one deserves to be printed.

Starting to Scan Slides

I was getting kind of tired of scanning prints, so I decided to take a look at some of the slides. Scanning slides is a bit more complicated and much slower. There are all kinds of options to try for backlight color correction, color restoration, sharpening, and dust removal. These should be considered rough drafts.

Mary Potts (my paternal grandmother) and my uncle Ted:

Sally and Elmer (I think that is Elmer):

Bonus points to anyone who knows the name of the dogs, or the year, or the exact location.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hazel Bucklin with John Bucklin

John is the son of Harrison and Henrietta Bucklin, nephew of Isabel Teresa Bucklin, my grandmother's first cousin; I guess that makes him my third cousin. This was probably taken somewhere around 1950.

Hazel Bucklin

John Bucklin is the son of Harrison Bucklin (Isabel Teresa Bucklin's brother) and Henrietta ("Aunt Etta") Bucklin (Hoffman). This makes him him Marcella Armstrong's first cousin. John married Hazel (I don't know her maiden name). I am not sure if they had any children or not (there are none that I know of). According to my grandmother's records, John died in 1981.

Here is Hazel. I don't have a good date for this picture, but it could be around 1950. The original was very overexposed, taken in bright sunlight; I didn't even realize there was a dog in the picture, since it was hidden in the deep shadows, until I did some adjustments! The image shows a very "bimodal" distribution; I can bring down the highlights and bring up the deep shadows, but there just isn't all that much data in between to spread out in order to provide some gray tones in between. I took a shot at fixing it with Aperture, although I may be able to do a better job with Photoshop later.

Archival Supplies Ordered

To start getting these pictures into their long-term homes, I ordered an initial round of storage supplies from Archival Methods. These include tissue paper, a big 11x17 box for some of the oversize prints, a smaller box for 3.5x5-inch prints, 500 print sleeves, a number of open-ended paper envelopes, and index divider cards. While this certainly won't hold everything, it is a start. I think I'll probably be placing a monthly order for at least the next few months.

I also ordered 50 gold DVD+R discs. They are relatively expensive, four or five times the price of Taiyo-Yuden DVD+Rs as sold under the Verbatim brand. Because the gold reflective layer does not oxidize like aluminum, marketing materials claim that they can last 100 years or longer. Some gold CD formats even claim 300-year longevity. That seems unlikely, and even if they survive for 100 years, consider: how many 100-year-old media formats can you use today? How many 25-year-old media formats?

Still, my hope is that they will last long enough for a member of another generation to explore. If that person is smart, perhaps they will copy the files onto some undetermined future format and create their own distributed backup for yet another generation.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Richard Armstrong, Childhood and Graduation

Both of these photos are pretty poor, but I'll include them here to finish off tonight's series of older photos of Richard Armstrong and family. The first shows him as a boy, and the second shows him in his commencement gown. The back reads "graduation from Des Moines University."

Two Armstrong Family Meals

A New Year's dinner. 21151 Nunes Ave., Castro Valley, California. Richard Armstrong is standing. Around the table are, left side back to front, Lenore Frimoth (face partially hidden), Bud Frimoth, Susan (front). On the right side, back to front, are an unknown man (the photo says "-- Navy"), Don Nelson (a friend?), and Marcella. It looks like a Thanksgiving-style menu with a roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and the traditional cylindrical can-shaped slab of cranberry sauce. It looks like Susan got milk in her glass. The rest probably had water, not wine; my grandmother was fairly disapproving of alcohol of any kind.

A picnic with Joan, Richard, and Susan. The back of the photo says "Lake Erie shore." I am not sure why he is wearing a suit to a picnic, but it seems to go with the nice china coffee cup. It looks like they're eating oranges, Hershey's kisses, milk, a thermos of coffee, and sandwiches on white bread wrapped in wax paper. Is that some kind of wrapped up chocolate swirl cake, in front of the glass of milk, to go with the Hershey's kisses?

Richard and Ella Grace

An enhanced detail from a larger photo. It looks like they are on a college campus, but I'm not certain which one.

Dennis and Dora Armstrong with Ella Grace

There's not a whole lot I can do with this image because it is quite blurry, but it shows (left to right) Ella Grace (Richard Armstrong's sister), Dennis Armstrong, and my great-grandmother Dora Armstrong (maiden name: Bagley).

Richard Armstrong, Summer 1930

Most of the images I have from this pile of assorted snapshots are unfortunately rather poor, with weak contrast and focus, but this one was sharp enough that I could bring some detail out of the shadows.

Dennis Armstrong

My great-grandfather on my mother's side, father of Richard Dennis Armstrong, my grandfather on my mother's side. My brother Brian's middle name is Dennis, in remembrance of this man.

I don't think I've ever seen this picture before. I never met him and don't know anything about him, although there may be some more information with my grandmother's papers. This photo needs some restoration work; it is covered with scratches that make him look like he has stray white hairs all over his face.

UPDATE: Linda reminded me that Dennis is also the middle name of Joan Joy (Armstrong).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Richard Armstrong as a Boy

I did a lot of print organizing today and came across an envelope holding a series of class pictures of Richard Armstrong, Marcella Armsrong's husband and my grandfather, in 8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, and probably 3rd grades. The envelope says this was in Omaha.

The images themselves are group shots, but they are quite sharp, so I was able to zoom in a great deal and pick out Richard. I don't have the exact dates, but I think he was born in 1905, so I think we're looking at about 1912-1918.

Let's work backwards, since he looks more familiar in the later grades.

8th grade:

7th grade:

6th grade:

5th grade:

4th grade:

Not specified, but probably 3rd grade:

I don't think I've ever seen these pictures before. I was a bit startled to see how much I looked like my grandfather. Here is a shot of me from around the same grade:

I was a bit startled to come across this girl in the earliest class picture.

Were the Omaha public schools really integrated around 1912? Was it a private or parochial school that was integrated? There is probably an interesting story behind her presence in this photograph, but 95 years have passed and I am not certain anyone who is now alive can still tell it.

UPDATE: Grace pointed out that Nebraska as a Northern state was not segregated like schools in the South. But I still find it hard to imagine what it must have been like for that girl in the overwhelmingly-white classroom around 1912. She was not in any of the other class year pictures.