March 25, 2015

The Otter Rapids Dam

The house is a complete mess, as the remodeling has now spread its heinous tentacles to the bathroom and the kitchen, last week just sucked on a personal level, last night I stubbed two toes on my right foot so hard that I snapped half a nail off on one of them and now they both hurt like a mother, and I woke up to several inches of fresh snow after a month of sun. 
So let's do something fun, yeah?

This is the Otter Rapids Dam in Eagle River, WI. It's built on the Wisconsin River and it's so cool. The only info I can find on it says the 'original' dam was built in 1906. I'm going to go ahead and assume that's this dam, as there is another one in town. This one is still operational, the big turbine-thingy inside is spinning away in there. (Technical terms, yo.)

I didn't take too many pictures, as I only had a big honking lens with me and it was colder than a well digger's butt out there.

But I love an old building. Holy moly. 

See you later!

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March 19, 2015

Things You Find When Ripping Up Flooring

This is a post similar to the one I wrote when our living room was being remodeled. When I put up Monday's post, I failed to mention that while recovering from wisdom-tooth extraction, my husband thought it would be a great idea to start on the laundry room renovation.

Dear god, why do we do this to ourselves?

I will try to find a 'Before' picture of the laundry room, but for now this will have to do. This picture was taken from the bathroom. THERE USED TO BE A WALL SEPARATING THESE TWO ROOMS. 

We are renovating the laundry room because there was a big exposed piece of duct-work in the room that we wanted to stick inside a wall, and because it hadn't been touched in roughly 412 years, so why not, right? Go big or go home.

So here's what we found!

Three layers of vinyl, linoleum, and OSB. Some of which was moldy, due to my mom's old washing machine flooding several times in my youth. Appetizing.

All the mold has been cleaned up, and yes, I did get a bleach-fume buzz. 

Let's see, what else...the funny papers!

Miss Gordon Hempe went and got herself married, and will now live in Beloit. (In 1965.) I have no idea why people papered floors and walls with newspapers back in the day, but it's entertaining as heck to come across it today.

Cosgrove Chevrolet. 

Oh man, I am so Aunt Tilly. Seriously. I pack that much for an overnighter. I just Googled it, and Porter's of Racine is now closed. Bummer.

And I don't want anything called a 'vitalizer' placed anywhere near my head, thanks very much.


And that concludes today's round of show-and-tell. 

Older homes are...interesting. 

See you later!

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March 16, 2015

Spring, in the Woods, with an Eagle

I feel like I haven't been here in awhile, and that's silly, because I have. But it's been over a month since I put up a normal, chatty-type post, everything else has been books or DIY or whatever, because I haven't been up to a whole lot. So. Today I ramble. If we were on the phone right now, half of you would be doing this. 

  photo tumblr_mdb5s0jaq11qfgzzvo1_500_zps3a80lr2u.gif

Or you would be if everyone still had rotary phones and OH MY GOD how did I get off topic this fast!? 

Okay. Let's do this!

The weather this month has been spectacular. February was cold and mildly miserable, but then March rolled around and BAM. Above freezing. 

So what do you do when the weather's warm? You go out in the woods. Duh. The husband and I have been out three times this week, it's like crack. This is a sweet spot in time to get out there - my chauffeur (ha) isn't back to work full-time yet, most of the roads are passable, it's not too muddy, and there are no bugs yet. In another week or two it will be a soupy mess, and by May the mosquitoes will be out. In force.


On our first trip out we ended up on a very dull road with not much to see, except two chickadees. So we cut across to another town and went from there. And...I saw a boat hoist! I don't think I've ever seen one before, which is ridiculous, because there's like (hold on, I'm Googling) AHA! 183 lakes in my county alone. This hoist was in the next county over which has...drumroll please...1,100 lakes. Although I believe technically this was a river, as it had a dam on it, hence the hoist. 

Maybe I should stick to the DIY posts if I'm going to ramble this much. Good lord. 

It's cool though, right? If only I owned a boat, then I could hoist that baby.

These pictures were all taken on the same afternoon, and on the way home I spied with my little eye a very large bird in a tree next to the highway. 

Oh yeah baby. I was so excited, as I don't have a single non-blurry picture of an eagle. Birds scare me, especially large ones, but I exited the truck and got quite a few pictures before it gave me the stank eye and I lost my nerve. 

I would post more eagle pics, but I think I'll wait for a Photo Friday to roll around instead of putting them here. 

There are more woods pictures to put up, and I shall also do that at a later date. There's mud! And water! And I can tell you about the 412 deer I saw that all ran away before I got the camera raised!

See you later!

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March 11, 2015

How to Preserve Old Photos By Photographing Them, Part II

On Monday I detailed (extensively) how to photograph old photos. Today, WE EDIT! (In my head, that was said in a very WE RIDE AT DAWN! sort of way.)

Now that the pictures are on your computer, DO NOT resize them. If you do, I will come over and smack you with a newspaper.

Choose the best picture and open it using a photo editing program. I used GIMP. (These instructions will apply to anyone with GIMP [a free, open-source version of Photoshop] or some version of Photoshop.)

First, rotate the picture if it's crooked. For the life of me I could not get the picture centered in the camera's viewfinder, so it came out a little crooked. Use the rotate tool. 

And then my computer switched backgrounds and all the colors are different and it's driving me crazy. Anyway, next use the crop tool to get rid of any extra space around the image.

Now, to edit. My camera did not capture most of the yellow tinge in the photo, but it still looks dull and washed out. My first step when editing is to create a duplicate layer. All this does is create an exact duplicate of your photo, so that all of the editing is done on a duplicate instead of the real thing. It makes things easier - if you screw up badly, you can just erase the entire duplicate layer and still have the original, untouched image underneath. 

Next, one of my favorite things in GIMP. Sometimes it does wonders, sometimes it doesn't do much at all. It's the white balance corrector. It's in the Colors toolbar, under Auto.

Once the white balance was corrected....holy moly. This is probably much closer to what the original photo looked like when it was first printed. 

You can keep messing with the color if you like, or you can make it sepia, or round the corners, or do whatever the heck you want. I was happy with the white balance correction. When you are finished making changes, merge the duplicate onto the original, to create one edited image. To do that, find Merge Down in the Layers toolbar. 

Now, save the image as a .PNG. Save as .PNG, because JPEGs lose some of their quality each time they are edited. A .PNG will not lose quality. A .PNG is generally a big-ass file, but that's okay, because it's a high-quality big-ass file.

Want to see my end result?

PONIES, PONIES EVERYWHERE! Yes, I watermarked it. I generally do not like to do that, but I felt it would be prudent to do so, seeing as I am not the original photographer and have no clue who that person may be. Don't steal my pony pic, people.

Now, it's off to print! Use your favorite local printer, or print it at home if you have a good quality printer. (I sound like Ina Garten, asking you to use only good quality virgin goat tears for your soup.)

End result?

No joke, my photo of the photo looks sharper than the original photo. That is the most confusing sentence I have ever written, but it's true. It's not sharper, not really, but the stark black-and-white makes all the little details pop, and every face is sharp and crisp. There is no noise or grain of any kind. 

In other words...bam! 

The last step is to save the digital photo in a safe place (on an external drive or USB drive if that's where you like to store such things) and then get a frame. 

I did frame this picture and hang it in my house, but I forgot to take a picture of that. Oops. But it looks cool, trust me.

See you later!

Keep Reading "How to Preserve Old Photos By Photographing Them, Part II"

March 9, 2015

How to Preserve Old Photos By Photographing Them, Part I

Recently I came across some old photos, one in particular that I absolutely love and want framed on my wall forever. The problem? This is a 80ish year old photo, already yellowed and discolored, and needs to be placed in a dark environment to prevent further fading, not hung on a wall.

I thought that instead of scanning the photo (which I hate doing. Hate. Hate. Hate.) I could just take a picture of it. So this is an exhaustive treatise on how to take pictures of old pictures in order to preserve them. Just about anyone can snap a picture of an old photo and have it turn out fairly well, but this method is more anal-retentive, and will result in a large, high-quality image if done correctly.

Again, scanning is faster. But I hate scanning pictures. They always look funny to me, and you need to be a freaking magician to keep dog hair and dust off the damned flatbed.

A note before we begin - you're going to need a camera that allows you to control the ISO setting. (That doesn't necessarily mean a DSLR.) Since I am a Manual shooter, that's the method I'll be outlining here. You'll also need a tripod. 

The only two props (for lack of a better word) you'll need are a white tablecloth or bedsheet, and a piece of white foamboard. A bedsheet can be bought for about $5 at Walmart, and the foamboard is $1 at most dollar stores. 

Lastly, this needs to be done on a bright, sunny day. You do NOT want sunlight actually falling on the pictures as you work, but you want the room you're in to be bright and illuminated. Just good old fashioned sunlight. And for Pete's sake, if you use a flash, I will hunt you down and do something unpleasant to you.

Ready? Here we go!

This is the old photo. It is an 8x10, and LOOK AT ALL THE GLORIOUS PONIES. It's very yellowed with age. Not to mention being glued to a tattered mat. 

First, place a table near at least one window. Lay the bedsheet on top. Cut the foamboard in half down the center, but don't cut all the way through - you're just cutting it enough to fold it. Set up the foamboard on the side of the table with the most light. 

See how the board bounces the light toward the photo? That's all it's for, to brighten everything up. 

Now stand the photo upright, nice and flat. (I had to move the foamboard around a few times to find the best light. The struggle is real.) If you do a Google search about photographing old documents and photos, it will lead you to several different sites detailing all the lights you'll need (at least 2, as I understand it) a ring flash, this fancy thing, that fancy thing, etc.

You really don't need all that. Find good, bright light, and make sure there isn't any sunlight actually hitting the photo and creating weird highlights and reflections.

Place your camera on a tripod and get the old photo centered in the viewfinder.

And now the photography speak. Many apologies. 

Here's why you need to be able to control the ISO on your camera - you need to set the ISO at 100. At ISO 100, you will have little to no grain or "noise" in your photos. The higher the ISO, the more noise/grain. We want no noise. We want this picture to be smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy, okay? 

Next, you want a large aperture number (aka F-stop). That way, the entire photo you're taking a picture of will be nice and sharp. A small aperture number, and parts of the photo will be soft and blurred - the exact opposite of what we want. For this picture, my F-stop was 10. Not huge, but large enough for the entire frame to be in focus and sharp.  

To compensate for the low ISO and the large F-stop, you'll need a slower shutter speed. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the shutter is open, and the more light enters the camera. Adjust accordingly, using the exposure meter, should your camera have one. 

These are the settings I ended up using.

1. Shutter speed 1/8 ||  2. (Aperture) F/10  ||  3. Exposure meter - balanced in the center.

This is an extremely slow shutter speed, and if I tried to take this without a tripod, the picture would be blurry, because I am a human being that is breathing and is incapable of being perfectly still. Hence the tripod. If you have one, feel free to use a remote control as well. (I did.) That eliminates the possibility of any blur in your photos from camera shake. (The camera will move when you press the shutter button and can screw up your pictures. Seriously.)

And now...snap away. Take a bunch of pictures, because I said so.

Now you might be wondering why in the world anyone would go through this much trouble. The main reason is that most cameras these days take ginormous pictures - mine takes images that are 6016 x 4000 pixels. After editing and cropping, the photo above is a 4600 x 3640, 24 MB image. That's big! That's larger than a scanned image would be, scanned at 300 dpi and then cropped. I could print a 13x19 inch photo without any graininess or loss of quality.

When you're happy with your pictures, stick them onto your computer, DO NOT RESIZE THEM, and come back here on Wednesday and I'll show you how to edit them!

Keep Reading "How to Preserve Old Photos By Photographing Them, Part I"
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