Saturday, August 22, 2009

Preparing images for the website

Photoshop can do amazing things. Even older versions like Photoshop 6 which I use to edit images for the website, are very powerful.

Sometimes I simply crop an image, add a drop shadow and boost the contrast to give it more presence on the web. Other times more work is required.

A simple adjustment in photoshop, for instance, greatly enhanced this washed-out image of the 13th Mass Band. I scanned this image from a short booklet titled "The Civil War Letters of Edwin Rice," edited & published in 1975 by Ted Perry, a descendant of Rice's sister. Edwin Rice was a member of the 13th Mass Band. A letter of his states this photo was taken at a photographer's studio in Hagerstown, MD on December 11, 1861. Even then, Edwin was not impressed with the photographer's ability.

I made a simple adjustment of auto-levels in photoshop and came up with a much better image. A few extra touches were applied to try to bring out the features of one or two of the more faded parts of the image with some success. The end result was much more satisfying than the original.

Other images require more work. Several images, mostly those taken by regimental photographer George Crosby, vary greatly in contrast; one side being extremely dark, the other almost washed out. To correct this, a mask was created to select either the darker side of the image, or the lighter side. The edge of the mask was feathered by a wide margin. The feathering prevented a hard edge from showing when adjustments were made. Using the feathered mask to make a selection I was able to adjust the lightness or darkness of that side of the image. The goal was to achieve a more balanced image in terms of contrast.

Generally, I don't care to change original photos and only attempt these changes if it will enhance the image significantly. I'll always post the fact that an image has been altered if that is the case.

This is an image of Company C in camp at Williamsport. Using the feathered mask I darkened the left side and lightened up the right side.

This is the end result.

The following photograph is one of the most challenging that I worked on. It was sent by the owner to a fellow researcher, who in turn shared it with me. The owner claimed it had been handed down in the family as a prized possession, a remnant of their ancestor's service in Company G of the 13th Mass.

At first glance it appears to be Col. Leonard and some officers gathered round a table for Thanksgiving in camp, Nov., 1861. That may be the case, but Lt. Loring Richardson, with his distinctive sideburns is clearly identifiable. He was an officer of Company G. Captain Eben Fiske of Company G looked a bit like Colonel Leonard, so its possible this is a picture of the officers of Company G, carving up their Thanksgiving Turkey. (Colonel Leonard was headquartered in the town of Williamsport at this time.)

I really wanted to use this image for the site, but the glare from the camera flash was distracting, and the angle of the image was distorted. I had lost contact with the owner so this was the only image I had to work with. (I did try to contact the owner but was unsuccessful). Straightening the image was easy with photoshop, but touching up the glare was difficult. A lot of guess work went into cleaning up this particular image as I attempted to replace the glare with tones that matched the rest of the photograph. With my wife's help, (she is very proficient in photoshop), we selected the bluish colored pixels that made up the 'glare' and replaced them with pixels of a brownish color. It's not perfect but it was very presentable.

I think the images, especially when they match the text closely, add to the 'real life' aspect of the stories of the men who fought the Civil War.

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