Photo Restoration Part 1

A while back I was asked if I could take a look at a photo that had seen better days, and see if I could do (literally) anything to get it looking a bit more respectable. Now, I have little experience in photo restoration, or in Photoshop CC (which would be needed for a project like this). However, I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity to get some experience! So, here we go...

Original image

You can see that the image had stuck to the glass it had been sitting behind, and so couldn't be removed. There was also horrible discolouration, making it an odd yellow-orange colour. Ironically, there was still a lot of detail in the part of the photo stuck to the glass. The image quality of the rest of it, however, was a little less good. (Bear in mind this image was taken in the 1930s!)

So, my first job was to import the scanned images into Photoshop CC, create a new smart layer based on the original background, and then apply a Camera Raw filter. This essentially is a long-winded way of getting up Camera Raw to do initial adjustments on levels, colours, and clarity etc. I bumped the exposure slightly, took down both vibrance and saturation to remove the yellow cast, and left most of the other sliders pretty much near the middle. Going on other people's advice (thank you internet) I didn't want to do too much to the contrast early on and not have anywhere to go.

Camera Raw adjustments

With the image now in PSCC, next step would be to start fixing the damage and spotting. More to come...

American Cemetery, Madingley

Just to the west of Cambridge lies something you might not necessarily expect - an American WW2 cemetery. During the second world war, the University of Cambridge donated some land to the United States in order to establish a (then) temporary cemetery for their servicemen and women killed in action in the European and African theatres. Many of those buried there are from bomber squadrons, which often launched missions from bases in the UK. This is the only cemetery of its type in the whole country, and is a beautiful monument to those people who gave their lives for our freedom. Madingley-4312

It sometimes feels like a bit of a moral dilemma, to shoot or not to shoot in a place where people lie just below your feet. However, if done tastefully (which I think is the key here) there is a lot of beauty to be found in a place like this. Architectural interests, leading lines, lovely symmetry, little details telling a story; these can all be found here.


The American Cemetery in Madingley has a Memorial building near the entrance, with some lovely reflecting pools.




Above all else, this is a lovely, peaceful place to have a walk around, with some pleasing symmetries and neat rows of headstones. From a photographer's point of view, if the weather is slightly moody, it only makes the stark white crosses stand out even more.



Gear thoughts

I've been considering a camera body upgrade for a while now, as the limited dynamic range of the D90 (and its poor low light performance) are beginning to limit what I can get done out and about. Towards the end of last year, I went down to Wex in Norwich to have a hands-on with some potential candidates. I can't recommend doing this highly enough - some of my views and (mis)conceptions about certain bodies going in were shot down as soon as I got the cameras in the hand. d800 by d810

The image above was taken by a Nikon D810, of a Nikon D800. Although it was a big body, as soon as I got the D810 in the hand it felt amazing - solid construction, perfectly laid out buttons, and a big bright viewfinder. But the two shining features to me were the grip shape (sooo comfortable) and the feel of the shutter. It had such a satisfying clunk to it! In terms of the image, beautiful bokeh and colours straight out the camera (note - the image above has had some minor editing to reflect real-world use of the images). If this was the camera for me, I would need to remember two things - depth of field is crazy-shallow with the full frame sensor; and two, because of the ridiculous number of MP I would have to make damn sure my technique was spot on to produce clean, blur free images.

d800 detail

This is an image from the (slightly older but still awesome) D800, to show the amount of detail you can get from this camera. Now, it should be pointed out that I was not using the best lens while taking these test images (I just took whatever they were offering), but even so the level of detail is amazing. When viewed in Lightroom at 1:1, every bump on the body cap can be seen. For landscapes, this would just be incredible (especially coupled with the fantastic dynamic range - discussed by Dom Bower in this vid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WRt32pRmLw).

d800 colour original

I just threw this image in at the end just to show an uncorrected image from the D800 (it has been sharpened slightly, but everything else is as it comes from the camera). Lovely, vibrant colours, again with excellent sharpness and detail.

Overall, I was really impressed with both bodies. Obviously, the D810 is newer, has the delicious-sounding new shutter and extremely comfortable grip. However, the D800 is still an amazing camera and has the added advantage of being cheaper (through the second-hand route). Either camera would be an amazing purchase, and considering the latest output issues with Nikon (flare, dust, oil...) these are both excellent options for any landscape (or indeed portrait) photographer. All I need to do now is decide which one...