Saturday, March 21, 2009

Darkover Country

This panorama was inspired by the dreamlike landscapes of Maxfield Parrish as well as by romantic visions of the American West and old cigarette commercials. It is in acrylic on thick illustration board and measures 16 inches by 6 1/2 inches, and it dates from March 1988, which makes it 21 years old. Old enough to drink. 

Here's what I have to do to bring each one of these vintage images to you. I take the old slide from its plastic holder (some of them are stuck to the holders and have to be carefully removed lest they rip apart). Most of the slides are faded and very dusty. I take a wide soft acrylic brush and try to brush off as much dust and tiny fibers as possible, then I set the slides in a plastic tray. Meanwhile, my faithful PC laptop is running Corel PhotoPaint, which processes the slide images. I push the slide tray through the transcription machine (yes, believe it or not, it came from the luxury novelty catalog Hammacher Schlemmer and was not ridiculously high-priced) and record each slide separately. The tray holds three slides. I used to use the slide scanner attachment on my flatbed scanner but this device is much better.

There are 20 slides to an album page. When I've collected 20 raw images in JPEG (or sometimes TIFF) format, I transfer them to my main system via a portable hard drive. These images are then processed in Photoshop. First I straighten them out with the "rotate" command. This is painstaking because all my old images were taken without a tripod and they are all tilted one way or another. Sometimes I have to use the "Lens Distort Corrector" which is conveniently part of Photoshop.

Then I crop the picture to a reasonable edge. After that, I try to remember what the piece looked like back then, and I use the color, brightness, and contrast modification tools to restore the old image to what I remember. Photoshop has some automatic color-restore programs, but they often deliver false color, so I do the job myself. Then I work on eliminating the dust specks, using the "clone" tool, which changes the dust speck to the color of its background so it is eliminated. Once the picture is suitably restored, I make a smaller copy if I want to display it on the Web (such as this one) and save it.

This is, as you can see, quite a lot of work and this is what I go through every time I transcribe an old slide. I have at least 40 more Darkover pictures to transcribe, let alone the thousands in the rest of my collection. So the project will be going on for ages, but I think it's worth it. While doing so I recall where I was when I did the picture and what was going on in my life. For instance, this one was done when I was still living in Cambridge, Mass. but was just about to decide to move down to the Washington, DC area. I am continually glad that I no longer live in Massachusetts.

1 comment:

emikk said...

I agree, It does seem like a lot of work but worth it.