Monday, May 28, 2012

first OPR restoration

I've finished my first restoration for Operation Photo Rescue

© Operation Photo Rescue

Quite the challenge with the water damage, mildew and discolouration. I started with a basic colour adjustment and then went to work with the healing brush and clone tool. Lots of layers and reconstruction along the way but I cleaned it up and it's looking good. I hope the family agrees....

For information about Operation Photo Rescue check out their site:

from the ashes....

Saturday, May 19, 2012

prevent the loss of your family photos and memories

One of the first things most people think/talk about if they've experienced a fire, flood or natural disaster is the loss of all their photos (assuming their loved ones are safe and well). Ask anyone what they'd grab if their house was on fire (and they knew all their loved ones were safe) - probably 99% would say they'd grab photos.

Disaster strikes suddenly and quickly so there usually isn't time to grab anything but yourself. But, it IS possible to rescue, recover and restore photos afterwards.

I personally experienced this a week before Christmas when my mom's house burned down. While we stood around lamenting the loss of our photos and how unfair it is I decided I'd look through the rubble and see if I could find ANYthing worth salvaging. I'm SO glad I did! What a find!

All our family albums were kept in one place - on shelves which happened to be in the hottest part of the fire. At first glance it just looked like a bunch of blackened ash. But I was able to pull the albums apart and open them up to find lots of photos still recognizable as photos. Some were completely untouched by the fire, some were badly damaged and some only mildly damaged by heat, smoke, fire retardant and water. 

To give you some perspective about the severity of the fire….My mum and her husband left the house at 8:45 to go to church. By 9:00 the house was fully engulfed in flames. The house was burned beyond repair and has been torn down so they can rebuild (fortunately they DID have insurance….so I highly recommend you get good comprehensive insurance if you don't already!)

Saltspring firefighter

the fire was so hot the car melted
this was within 15 minutes

fire photos are from Gulf Island Driftwood

once the fire was out

hottest part of the fire (epicentre) was this room
some of the albums

standing on TOP of the rubble (ceiling, books and junk)

I AM wearing gloves but we didn't have any masks at the time

Sadly, insurance companies won't pay for recovering burned and damaged photos but they will pay for one or two of your most special ones. So don't despair and think you've lost it all! There is hope and help.

anyway, back to the story…..

Once we had collected all the albums I brought them home, popped them in the deep freeze (critical move for preventing them from becoming further damaged by mould and mildew) and I've been recovering, scanning and restoring ever since. I have well over 7,000 photos which could have been completely lost if I hadn't gone looking for them. Besides the joy of still having family photos I've also had the great experience of discovering a lot about my history and ancestors.

Before disaster strikes….

Scan your photos (or have someone scan them for you), back them up and keep a copy somewhere else besides your home. 

After disaster strikes….

Once you know everyone is safe and well and the disaster/fire/flood has ended (and ONLY if it's SAFE to go into your house) collect all your albums if you can find them. Use gloves and masks to protect you from chemicals and fumes. 

If you can do it yourself find a freezer you can keep them in until you can do the work. You'll probably find you won't be able to do it all at once so the freezer is a MUST. The freezer will help prevent mould and mildew plus it's easier to pry the album pages and photos apart when they're frozen. 

If you need help scanning and restoring them please contact me ~ I can help. 

I'll be posting more in the future about the actual process of restoring photos so please check back.

from the ashes...May 18 restoration

This is the image I worked with.... Stewart StG (St. George) is my ancestor. I'm not sure if he's the one standing by the car or the driver - I'll have to do some research.

Fortunately this one wasn't crispy like many of the other photos but it clearly has damage.

Under the car and in the bottom left corner there's discolouration from heat or water (or both). There's a fair bit of ash stuck to it all over. Plus, during the process of recovering it from the album, some of the image was torn off when the photo that was stuck to it was pulled away.

Tip for avoiding this, in most cases, is to soak the photos until they slide apart on their own.

Sometimes this isn't possible, like with this photo, because I wanted to preserve the album paper with the writing. If I'd put this in water I'd have lost the writing.

There are a couple of spots which are actually the paper from another photo that got stuck onto the image. These can also be removed with water or carefully scraped off. Sometimes scraping can cause further damage though so, in this case, I just left them and dealt with them by painting and cloning.

The first thing I did was save a copy of the file with a different name. I've had a few experiences when I forgot to do so, did lots of work and then lost everything and had to start again. Not exactly a fun moment! So save as and then save OFTEN!!

Once I was satisfied I was working with a copy I straightened the image using arbitrary rotation. It didn't need much rotation but it needed some. I also cropped off the bottom and the sides

Besides Saving OFTEN the other important and critical thing to remember is to use layers. I made a duplicate of the base layer so I could toggle back and forth to assess my progress. Then I got to work.

As well as being stained, torn and ashy the overall image was murky and had low contrast so I adjusted the settings using the levels menu. By adjusting each of the colours (RGB) individually I was able to achieve a higher contrast but retain the details. This brightened up the image and removed some of the colour cast I didn't want. At this point the image was true black and white.

Then, with healing brush and stamp tool in hand I went to work to remove the ash, glitches, blips, specks, dust, scratches and spots where the image had been torn completely away.

Under the car I noticed some of the discoloured stain was stubbornly sticking around so I sampled colour from another part of the image (colour that roughly matched the shade of the area I'd be working on) and then used the colour replacement tool to paint over the stain.

One of the urns on the posts was badly damaged by the photo being torn. To fix this I copied one of the other urns and pasted it onto another layer and moved it in place. The copy was a tad smaller to I scaled it up using the transform tool.

The roof of the building had some paper stuck on it which I needed to remove. Because the roof has a fairly sharp edge I made a selection around it to keep the edge straight. Using the clone tool I painted over the paper and recreated the roof. I also used the clone tool to fix the large tear in the upper right hand corner.

To get the sepia tone look I made another layer and filled it with a pale sepia brown, changed the blending mode to overlay and reduced the opacity of the layer until I was satisfied with the colour. The black and white looked nice and sharp but kind of took away from the oldness of the image. So sepia it is.

The final change I made was to invert the black page with white text so it's easier to read. And, obviously, I moved it from the top of the image to the bottom.

Here's the final result:

If you have photos that need to be restored and you need help with the restoration I can help you. Contact me to talk about options.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Operation Photo Rescue

SO excited! I have been accepted as a photo restoration volunteer for Operation Photo Rescue. From the ashes and rubble more memories will rise!

Operation Photo Rescue

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

waiting to be scanned

All the photos have been stripped out of the burned albums. Now they just need to be scanned

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

final two albums recovered

Yesterday we finished recovering the last photos from their albums. One of them required a dremel to cut off the burnt edges of plastic. Big job! Still have lots to scan and ALL of them to clean up and edit.

here's the freezer once all the albums were removed

and then vacuumed out and finally clean!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

More photos and letters being uncovered....this time Feist decided to help...