An Arty Old Bird Shows Me Carters in Colour

I love old family photos – I use them a lot on my memoir blog, The King of Isabelle Avenue. I think they are fun to look at and they give me a chance to add some ridiculous captions. Recently Val from The Arty Old Bird contacted me about colorizing (or should I say colourizing) a few of my vintage shots.

As someone who has worked professionally in photoshop since 1992, I’m beyond impressed. Being a “get it in camera” kind of photographer, I take a “light touch” approach to editing. I see people take it too far all the time, sacrificing detail or tone for a perceived improvement that blasts out the color or borders on looking fake. Val uses color richly but shows great restraint, and that’s the true artistry, knowing when to stop. It’s pretty amazing to see these images with color – I hadn’t really imagined that they would be so profoundly different. I feel like I’m getting a window into the world long since past.

The first shot is my great great grandpa Pyeatte, he’s holding my grandmother as a toddler. I think it’s pretty interesting to see snapshots from this era, shots that are less formal than the family lined up in their Sunday best. I have always loved this shot, Grandma was very close to her grandfather, he was someone who told her she was special. I’m quite certain that I have him to thank for the amazing grandmother I had. The Ozark cabin in the background looks just like the ones I see on hillsides around my home.20130306-193752.jpg
The colour in this version is more of a tinting, it warms and defines the image. I like how Val respects the original image and takes the colour far enough to improve it, but not so far that it loses authenticity.

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This is a shot of me and my brothers, I’m guessing it’s very early in 1967. It was taken at my grandparent’s home and I was apparently not very happy with the situation. I’m certain it is because I worried that Ronnie would be taking “my room” since this was a constant worry for me at Grandma’s house. It could also be that Ronnie was a bit fussier than Max and that made me less comfortable around him at first.

20130306-194807.jpgMax was the baby that all the neighborhood girls like to play house with because he was so laid back. I had imagined a baby doll to play with and Ronnie was just not that baby. He was an adorable baby, but oh so loud when he was not happy.

20130306-194938.jpgVal made all the color decisions on this and came remarkably close to the actual colors of our outfits. This was a simple Polaroid and Val’s touch has made it so much more than it was.

I love this photo – it’s my Grandma in her Helldorado Emblem Club drill team costume. She was playing giddy-up with the local constable who had just locked Grandpa away in the city jail for shaving his beard – Circa 1948. Helldorado Days is an old Las Vegas celebration that began in 1934 – by 1946 it was so popular that Roy Rogers made a movie about it. I actually rode in the Helldorado parade many times as a kid – it’s a multigenerational tradition.

20130306-194343.jpgWhat Val has done to this image is nothing short of amazing. The buckskin outfit, the skintones, the color deep in the shadows – it’s so much more than I expected. Seeing my grandmother in all her youthful, exuberant glory makes me smile – I can’t stop smiling when I look at this photo.

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Seeing some of my favorite photos colourized in this way is a pretty special thing. Seeing them done so expertly is beyond amazing. Val’s got skills, mad skills – check out her blog! She’s funny, creative, and poetic – plus she knows a ton of WordPress secrets.

Click here to see what I’m talking about. She’s a good read even if she can’t spell colour.

January on Film – Roll #1 – 1936 Rolleiflex Standard

Every year I give myself a photo challenge. I have been collecting vintage cameras for years. If you want to read about my photographic roots you can check out this post. This year I decided to shoot some of these old cameras. Every month I will shoot at least one roll of film. The idea is that if I can go completely manual and get the most out of one of my vintage cameras, I should get better at getting more out of all the digital bells and whistles on my Olympus OMD.

In January I shot this 1936 Rolleiflex Standard. It’s the first model of Rollei’s beloved TLRs. This one has no light meter, no flash attachment, and it’s missing some screws that hold on the frame around the prism.

This camera is substantial in your hands. That texture on the sides is actually leather.

This camera is substantial in your hands. That texture on the sides is actually leather.

Even though it looks like it has done a lot of living, the shutter snaps cleanly and I hoped that it would still be functional. I should have looked for a YouTube video about loading the film, but decided that since it had only been 30 years since I had seen one that I could do it just fine. I loaded it correctly, but didn’t advance it far enough so I had some shots that were misaligned. So instead of 12 shots I got 5. The good news is – now I know how to load this baby.

To shoot a Rollei you look down through a prism. This camera is pretty neat because it has a level, and a small glass that flips out to assist in focusing. You hold the camera at waist level and look down into the hood – here’s an image of what you see…

Looking through the prism you see everything in reverse. This is the 1930's version of an LCD screen.

Looking through the prism you see everything in reverse. This is the 1930’s version of a LCD screen.

You are looking through the top lens of the face of the camera – it is matched to the lower lens, the “taking” lens. This is the lens with the shutter.

One of the things I missed most was Live View. On a digital camera I get to see what the effect of changing the aperture or shutter speed will be. On the Rollei you just have to make your best guess. I quit shooting film in the mid 90’s so this is a challenge.

Here are the shots from the first roll of the year. I shot black & white film – 400 speed (remember having to choose the speed of your film before you knew what you would be shooting?). I shot these mostly with the aperture wide open to see what kind of DOF I could get out of the taking lens. The taking lens is a Tessar 3.5 75mm.

The wheel of a hay rake with my house in the morning.

The wheel of a hay rake with my house in the background. Aperture wide open at 3.5

Looking through the coils on the hay rake.

Looking through the coils on the hay rake. Aperture wide open to 3.5

I shot this with the aperture closed down for more detail.

I shot this with the aperture closed down for more detail.

Pups

I shot this because I have seen photos of my house taken in the 20s with dogs on this side. It’s surreal seeing a modern vehicle in a photo like this.

This is the bird buffet. The aperture was closed down to see if I could keep the detail in the trees as well as the pergola and feeders.

This is the bird buffet. The aperture was closed down to see if I could keep the detail in the trees as well as the pergola and feeders.

The seat of the hay rake. I shot this wide open - I had two shots of the seat, one closer than this. The closer shot lost the detail in the shadow. Having the aperture wide open made the DOF so shallow that a close shot was impractical.

The seat of the hay rake. I shot this wide open – I had two shots of the seat, one closer than this. The closer shot lost the detail in the shadow. Having the aperture wide open made the DOF so shallow that a close shot was impractical.

Overall, I’m pretty happy. Knowing I only had 12 exposures made me take my best shot and move on. I only took 2 shots of the same spot. I had hoped to catch a bird in frame when I shot the feeders – It could take several rolls to make a capture like that on the Rollei. Focusing was tough with the prism so far from your eye – I am used to using the viewfinder so this took some getting used to.

Still, I LOVED shooting it. Even though it was a bit larger than the size of a pint of half and, it felt “right” in my hands. I like that you could get the sense of it being a sunny day, even with black & white film. I would like to find a Rollei from the 50s with a few more features, but considering that I was sold this one as a “display” camera, I am very happy with it – happy enough that I bought 4 rolls of color film.

Next month – Olympus OM 35mm.