Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Video "From Where He Stood..."

Well, here it is in its unfinished glory. I want to go back and fix some of the text. Video editing has proven to be one of the most difficult aspects of this project.

This is only a small sample of the images that I captured. I wanted to keep the video on the shorter side. Five minutes seemed like a good length of time yet not to short to be able to see the changing scenes. I will be working on digitizing more of the collection in the coming months and I will update the blog as things progress. Thanks to everyone for watching the process.



More to come...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kinney Intro Teaser

I have been teaching myself editing using Final Cut Pro. I have six of the locations edited and finished. Here is the intro to the video. I'll show the final version at the end of next week.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Tools of the Trade

Then





and


Now




Asa's camera kit probably contained something like the above, 1915 Criterion, from my collection and a few lenses. He probably carried six film holders that hold 2 plates each. Add in a tripod and a dark cloth, and you have a large amount of gear to carry around. Comparatively, I carry two cameras and 2 lenses, a tripod and a 32gb card that can hold 590 raw files. That many plates would weigh about 120 pounds. That being said, the plates are still beautiful 100 years later. Where will that 32gb Scandisk be in 100 years?

We could debate the benefits and drawbacks of each setup, and I support both for their own uses. I enjoy seeing how imaging has evolved over the past 100 years. I feel honored to witness first hand this evolution over the 25 years that I have been working in the field. I would like to preserve and share that history of innovation so we can learn from the processes of years gone by. This is one of the reasons why I have been excited to work on this project. I can take the past and use technology of the present to adapt and repurpose Kinney's images.

The other important tool that I carry when re-photographing is a field guide of the images that I will be shooting. 



I make a print out of the images and include a sheet of acetate with a marked out grid. This grid matches the one in my viewfinder. The grid allows me to count how many windows are from center of the scene, or fence posts, roof lines, etc.  I then use that information when composing the shot in the viewfinder. At the back of the book I have a campus map to see where the buildings are in relation to each other.  Here is a complete (as of today) collection of scanned plates that I will be re-photographing for the Kinney project. This will be edited or modified depending on the present day views.

Mount Tom from Clapp Tower

President's House

Obseratory

Talcott Arboretum and Greenhouse

Dwight Hall 1929
  
Williston Memorial Library

Library Interior

Mary Lyon Hall and Library
Field Memorial Gate

Mary Lyon Chapel Doorway

Boiler House

Skinner Hall

Wilder Hall

Music Building

Pearsons Hall

Rockefeller Hall 1930

Gymnasium

Gymnasium and Wilder Hall

Clapp Hall under construction 1923

Clapp Hall 1930
Safford Hall
This Saturday, April 12, I am excited to give a lecture for Martha Mahard's Photographic Archives class at Simmons College. I am planing on setting up the 5x7 and showing the students what it would have been like to capture the scene back in Asa's time. The magic of seeing an image appear on a ground glass is something you never forget. It should be a fun experiment. There is a lot left to do and time is running out. Next up: shooting, editing, post processing, video production and site design.

More to come...


Monday, April 7, 2014

Warping Space More Than Time...






Here are three quick screen shots of the warping process. 

The present day image is overlaid on top of the original image in Photoshop . I adjust the opacity of the top layer to see the details from the original image. I use "Edit - Transform" to adjust the top layer to match the layer below. 


I first use "Scale" to do a general adjustment to get the new image in the ball park.  


Next, I use "Distort" to bring the perspective closer to the original. 


Finally, I use "Warp" to tweak the small details. 


It is important to pull in some guides to make sure that the building is still straight. It is a slow process, of tweaking one direction and then back the other way. I trade off between these three tools until the two images match as close as possible. This process is a bit too long and boring to watch in a video. I'll try to create a step by step list for it. This was a preliminary test. I do wish the warp tool had a more granular control. If anyone out there knows of a better tool, let me know. The 9 grid just doesn't give you enough handle bars to grab onto to tweak the perspective.
















More to come...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Searching For a Point of View





Today was a gray day, but I needed to start re-photographing. With my prints in hand and my tripod on my shoulder, I set out looking for Asa Kinney's tripod marks.


I forgot how this is a very meticulous and time consuming process. There are so many variables that need to be considered when searching for the exact location. First of all, what might be a good photograph back in 1910 could now be a bad vantage point, with a tree right in front of the camera. So I would have to make a decision between accuracy or aesthetics. I may have to shift the camera slightly to the left or right to get a better vantage point.


Secondly, a couple of the shots I would have had to shoot from the center of the road on a busy Saturday afternoon. This resulted in shooting with a wider or more telephoto lens, which changes the perspective and throws everything off just a bit.


Thirdly, Kinney was shooting with a 5x7 view camera with a wide angle at times and a telephoto at times. It is very difficult to match up the same perspective after he probably used the controls of the view camera to adjust the perspective of his images.


This is where Photoshop comes in. Using a digital camera and a zoom lens, I can get a very good approximation to the original scene. I look for the existing architectural details in the scene and locate where they are in Kinney's photograph. I then compare the two and adjust my position until they are as close as possible. By folding the paper or overlaying a grid, I can line up windows and roof peeks with the grid in the viewfinder of my camera. Once I download the images I can overlay the original image and the new image in photoshop. I can then reduce the opacity of the layer and digitally adjust the perspective until the details match up exactly.

It seems a bit like cheating, but it is a good use of a tool to show how the surroundings change over time. I am always amazed at Mark Klett's re-photogrpahy work in the 1980s as a part of the Re-photographic Survey Project. Recapturing views taken by Timothy O'Sulivan  over 100 years prior using large format view cameras and no digital alterations.

Here are a few documentary shots showing how I set up the camera. After I shoot all 20 scenes I'll make another Photoshop demo on how to adjust the perspective. Next week I may be shooting from the top of the Clapp Hall tower to capture some of Kinney's panoramas of the campus with Mount Tom in the distance.






Stay tuned...


















Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Scanning a Glass Plate Negative

If you are interested in seeing what is involved in making an archival scan from a glass plate negative, check these two videos out.

I broke it into two recordings. Part one is on how to do the raw capture, and part two is post processing in Photoshop. This post process is very similar to the techniques that I use when working with my own files. I find that getting the most information out of the scan or capture, and then tweaking in post for aesthetics, allows you to have enough information and tonal values to work with.

Feel free to send me any questions if I need to elaborate on a particular topic. I tried to keep it as simple as I could.



Scan Demo Part 1



Photo Shop Adjustments Part 2



Friday, March 28, 2014

Now the fun begins...

This is the part of the project that I have been waiting for.

Re-photography!

The accessioning and sorting of the original work was more time consuming than I expected. With a little over three weeks remaining on this project, I feel like I am just getting started, and I am feeling a bit rushed. I need to keep reminding myself that this is not the end. This project is just the beginning, a way to get it started.

The first step was to take a walk down to the Mount Holyoke Archives and locate the glass plate negatives that are already accessioned and in the collection. This part really hit home for me. It immediately gave me a new understanding and perspective on Kinney's work. The work that I was sorting and organizing was Kinney's personal collection. There were very few images from MHC and just one fifth of the total number of 5x7 plates.

Halfway down the corridor of boxes, on rows and rows of compact shelving, I found four shelves about three feet across, containing 16 archival boxes. (Just a side note, whenever I am in these stacks, I can't help feeling like I am in some twisted version of the Star Wars trash compactor scene.)



Sixteen boxes, filled with approximately one hundred plates each! Combined with the four hundred plates that I accessioned, it is a collection of over 2000 plates that spans over 40 years of Mount Holyoke College's history. Remember these are glass negatives. 

Here is an example of what a researcher would be looking at:



They are not easy to access, let alone see what information they hold. The boxes are heavy, weighing around 20 pounds each. The plates are fragile and stored in non transparent sleeves. It is a collection, that for all practical purposes, is not accessible. There are many original prints, and postcards of Kinney's work scattered throughout the the archives. However, it is not complete and often does not give attribution that it was made by Kinney. To have this collection available in an archival digital format would be of great value to the Mount Holyoke Community and beyond. 





 The completeness of Kinney's work took my breath away. Each box was organized by student group, academic department or building, just to name a few categories.


The fidelity and beauty of these plates literally gave me goose bumps. In a future blog post I want to demonstrate the steps involved at making the scans of the plates. For now, lets just say that an archival scan of a plate could result in a beautiful 60" long print. Zooming in at 100% on the scan is like entering a time machine and closely examining the campus over 100 years ago. I made a few quick selections of iconic campus scenes to start re-photographing. Too bad the forecast calls for rain this weekend. Here are a few examples.





The next two plates are taken of Clapp Hall. The first one is from its construction in 1923, and the second in 1930. I plan on photographing again in the same location. I did a preliminary test of combining these two views. Once I have present day view I'll add it as well.



Here is a sneak peek. Click on the video below.





An example zoomed in at 100%

So many things to blog about from this week. One last item. Here is a treasure that I found. This is the original copyright notice from the Library of Congress in 1905, for the publishing of Kinney's views of Mount Holyoke. Six years ago this book set me off on this path. I have used it to create e-books, print on demand, and as a source for scouting locations to photograph. It was a pleasure to see the steps that Kinney took to make it possible.




So much more to come...