About the Photographs and Project
The collection of my father's photographs comprises of several dozen
Kodak film boxes. They have probably kept so well as for many
years they lived in a cool, dark cupboard at my mother's house in
Birmingham. I have only scratched the surface on this website but
that's because my interest is in old buildings rather than old railways
- the vast majority of the pictures are railway related.
My father developed all his own prints which explains the multitude of
Kodak boxes. Unfortunately I know nothing of the camera or
developing equipment used as my mother had little choice but to sell
them when she found herself a widow with a four year old son and a baby
on the way.
One thing that has helped this project enormously is the fact that 99%
of the prints have a hand written note on the back giving the location
that the picture shows and the date it was taken. Without this
information, this project would probably have been impossible so my
father's thoroughness must be acknowledged. I think we should aim
to do the same. After all, how many times have you looked at an
old photo and wondered, "Where's that?", or, "When were we there?" etc.
Most of the photo's are in excellent condition. They are clear,
sharp and show little sign of their age. A little mustiness when
you open a box is the only clue to the fact they are over 40 years old!
The slides are stored in boxes, all individually numbered with a
matching description on the index card on the top of each box.
They are a little degraded and suffer from dust and scratches.
Getting the best image from them requires a lot of effort!
Curiously, my father stopped taking slides between August 1957 and
September 1962. I wish I knew why...
A digital future?
This project has really made me think about the pro's and con's of
digital photography. On the one hand it encourages us to take
more photographs which must a be a good thing. However, would a
project like this be possible in 40 years time using my digital
There was a high profile case where the BBC had compiled a new Domesday
project back in the 1980's. Twenty years on, the technology was
obsolete and specialist companies had to get involved to recover
it. You can read the story here
Will our JPEG files and CD-ROMs be readable? Do you even have all
your digital photo's backed up onto CD/DVD? If you haven't and
your hard drive crashed, they'd be gone forever. There are even questions over the
longevity of CD-Rs
. How upset would you be if the pictures
you took of your new baby were unreadable by the time they were
Another point worth making is about resolution. I scanned the
photographs at 600dpi resolution which equates to about 6
megapixels. The amount of detail amazed me. That detail
simply isn't there on the images recorded on the 3/4 megapixel
digital cameras that were popular up until around 2005 - is that
I shall continue to use both my SLR and my digital camera. I
don't think a real photograph can ever be overvalued.
Technical Details of the Project
I've summarised my process for dealing with the prints by describing my
thoughts on getting the best from black
and white photographs
. After this process was applied, the
files were resized and saved as JPEGs with a quality setting of at
least 60%, often higher.
The slides were scanned with a Primefilm 7250U. I bought this
scanner because it featured 'Digital
' technology that was invented to help automatically remove
scratches and dust from slide scans. I soon found out that the
technology was dependent on film type and did not work well with my
father's slides - using it caused corruption of the image.
Thankfully, Polaroid came to the rescue with a software
scratch and dust remover. I highly recommend this piece of
software and it's available for Mac or PC. Over the years, it
sadly disappeared from the Polaroid site but there are still active
links on this
. The parameters I found best on my
3600dpi scans were Dark dust and scratch, Tile Size 64, Defect Level
25, Mask Size 10 and Adaptive Filtering on.
Scanning slides, in my experience, is a time consuming exercise.
The physical scanning process, adjusting the image to get the colours
and contrast right, removing scratches - all take a long time and often
need custom adjustments for each image. If you're thinking
of scanning slides, my advice is to try and test a few first to see if
you have the patience!
The colour pictures were taken on a Canon PowerShot A70 (3.2 mega
pixels) or a Canon PowerShot A710is (7.1 mega pixels) and loaded into
iPhoto. Some cropping was usually
performed (constrained to 3x5 to try and match the originals) to
attempt to make the field of view match the original print. The
cropped image was then exported as a JPEG and loaded into Graphic
Converter. Here, the brightness was boosted and the image
resized. I sometimes used unsharp mask here too but found that
the following settings worked best - radius 1.5 pixels, level 30%,
I hope you now will understand if progress on the site is a little slow!