Thursday, January 14, 2010

High tech for 1850


It's been quite a week.  Welcome to the new followers!  Received a sudden influx of comments.  A friend figured out that this got selected for Blogger's "Blogs of note".  As luck would have it, the selection happened during a break (the Blogger staff don't notify in advance).  So thank you very much for the attention and kind comments.  I'll try to keep supplying material.

The latest project is a portrait of a Swedish opera singer named Jenny Lind.  She's such an important name in Sweden that they put her portrait onto their money; she's on the front of the 50 kronor bill.  In 1850 she toured the United States and sat for a photograph.  Unfortunately for my poor self, high tech for 1850 was a process called a daguerrotype.  I've never seen a daguerrotype that's been preserved in good condition.  As you can see from the detail above, hers is no exception.  I've already spent more than twenty hours on it and expect to spend twenty more.  So here's a look at the work in progress.

First I worked on the background and the really obvious scratches.  As of this screen shot I was starting to get to the scratch that crosses the bridge of her nose.

One question I asked along the way was whether those spots on her face might be freckles.  A close examination at 300% resolution  indicated that the spot pattern on her face is continued through the background.  She was thirty years old when this was taken, which is past the age when freckles are most noticeable.  So I worked from the assumption that those spots were degradation.  Here's how far this segment has progressed.

The collar and shoulder are looking better.  Still need to do detail work at her eyes, eyebrows, hair, and nostril.  Large numbers of parallel scratches are difficult to repair.  In this instance that repair has additional complications: the version of this image that has been digitized isn't the original daguerrotype.  Sometime during the twentieth century the daguerrotype was rephotographed with a film camera for archival purposes.  That second camera was at soft focus.  So unlike direct daguerrotype scans, which have good resolution, this version gets muddy at close view.

Still, she's one of the most famous women in Swedish history.  So here's a look at the whole thing, reduced in size from the version I'm actually working on.

Before:

Current status:


13 comments:

.shin. said...

hey.you are great at this.
keep it up

Sage said...

Congrats on being a blog of note!

Agnes said...

Amazing work!

Archivegirl said...

I have always been fascinated with photograph preservation. Thank you for your interesting posts. Being an archivist means that we come into contact with damaged and fragile records, lost of them are photographs.

AG

Lise Broer said...

Archivegirl, let's get in touch regarding your collection. I'd be glad to donate one restoration as a courtesy to your archive.

George Radu said...

Very interesting project. You didn't say how you were doing the restore. For me, a novice, this kind of work is done with spot healing brush tool or even just a brush tool, pixel by pixel. Any words of wisdom on techiques would be great.

Lise Broer said...

Jenny Lind is making me pull a whole lot of rabbits out of the hat. ;) While you were writing this comment I was preparing another post that shows what the healing brush can do at 4 pixels diameter with default settings. Although some people love the spot healing brush I've never been a fan of it.

Overall, the Photoshop settings for this type of work often aren't very complicated. It's more important to acquire a knowledge of historic photography methods, human anatomy, and other background information that informs good editing choices.

tstarling said...

Awesome, well done.

Jan said...

Have you or are you going to upload it to commons?

Lise Broer said...

When it's finished I will. Occasionally a project gets backburnered. Several other things have come my way lately. This one is a big job and it'll probably take an undisturbed weekend to complete the work.

Jan said...

Thanks, I was asking because I want to blog about it in Swedish when it is available.

Lise Broer said...

Thank you very much! That's very kind of you. Are you in contact with the Swedish chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation, by any chance?

Jan said...

Well yes, I am in the board :) http://se.wikimedia.org/wiki/Användare:Ainali