Okay, so I’m cheating a bit here, but I’ve been extremely involved with starting a new website, Ancestors In Aprons, so this is a bit of time travel for Travel Photo Thursday with vintage photos.
Ancestors in Aprons is about tracking ancestors, memories triggered by food, and family, and a big part of it is vintage photos. I’m fortunate to have a wide range of pictures of my family members from tintypes to Kodak Brownie snapshots to digitals. I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the challenges there are in bringing those vintage photos to the web page. I have no fancy photo editing equipment, using Picasa to do whatever needs to be done.
This first picture is the poorest quality, mostly because I cropped it from a scanned copy of a very old photograph (probably 1920s) of Great Grandfather and his wife, and then enlarged it to get just his head, because the two of them were standing too far apart. Therefore I lost any resolution that was there to start out with. But I had a reason for using it this way, and eventually I will be publishing the picture of the two of them. You can learn a little more about Great Grandfather Henry Butts in a Veteran’s Day article at A Traveler’s Library.
The only trick on the next picture was deciding which of two to use. One of my uncles took this picture and my mother took this one. They are missing from each other’s pictures. That’s my mother in the middle in the front, with both hands in her lap. Improving the contrast was difficult on this one, and the whites of the dresses started dominating everything.
This picture didn’t do too badly, given that it is cropped from the long picture I use as the header for Ancestors in Aprons. I cropped out some of the details, like focusing on my Grandparents and this cigarette ad on their counter. But the picture was a black and white, professionally shot 8 x 10 picture from 1940, so it was not too bad a quality.
And here’s what I did (with some help from Melanie McMinn) to the original to make it into a header for Ancestors in Aprons. Added a sepia tone and the lettering, plus cropped out some of the bottom and top to fit the wide short space.
When I see how much better black and white photos hold up than color, I’m tempted to take all b & w in the future. I know I won’t do it, but at least pictures of family members should be preserved in both for posterity. More recent color pictures are problematic. Interestingly, some of the 1950′s vintage photos are better than 60s and 70s that are losing all their color by now. Here’s a 1950 era photo of my family’s garden, unretouched.
What a difference there is in the color quality of this picture from the late 1960′s. Granted it is Arizona and there is not so much vivid green to start out with, but the sky is definitely not that washed out blue. And the kids faces are fading away.
One final challenge is not with quality but with how to copy. I do not have a flat bed scanner (well I do, but it isn’t working), and many of the turn of the 18th/19th century pictures I have are tintypes or printed on heavy cardstock. They routinely printed their vintage photos on postcards, for instance. Here is one from 1881 that I had to resort to photographing with my digital camera and then cropping in Picasa. I DID NOT draw the circle on the picture. Not guilty. That’s my Great Uncle that is circled. Other than the fact that I could not make it perfectly fit within a modern proportion and you can see some white around the edges, this is a very true photo.
And if you want to see some Travel Photo Thursday photos that are really about travel, to to Budget Traveler’s Sandbox. There’s a BUNCH, including host Nancy McKinnon’s photo esssay on sparkling, spectacular Hong Kong.