Over the past couple of days, I have been exchanging phone calls with a potential Photo Restoration client, and today I finally got to met Eleanor and my new project, Michael Moran.
From what Eleanor had told me on the phone, was the original was 16×20 inches, mounted into a new wooden frame some years ago.
When Eleanor arrived, the picture was packaged in bubble wrap and a white garbage bag, being especially careful, since it had rained lightly earlier in the day.
As we sat and talked, I reiterated that it was not very common for people to get pictures done because of the expense and time involved, let alone an immigrant of the 1800s, and especially at a large size!
“I have a call into my brother to confirm that Michael Moran was from Ireland. He married Mary Hughes here in the States. Four children were born and 3 survived to adulthood (one of which was my grandmother). He became the Head Farmer for the Cassatt estate until he died of pneumonia.” – Eleanor
We chatted some more, and when Eleanor left, I knew I was in for a really good adventure with this Restoration project!
The first thing that I wanted to do, was document what I was doing, just encase I was confronted with some issue as I progressed.
So, how was I going to get this thing apart?
Turing it over, I inspected how the internal frame was connected to the external picture, and I was able to find five (5) small nails holding the picture to the frame.
Thankfully, these nails were easily removed with a pair of needle-nose pliers and some careful tugs.
Once the exterior frame was separated from the interior one, the next element to be aware of was the large pane of glass, and when it was removed, and inspected more carefully, had several ripples as a sign of age.
It was also now possible to closely inspect the surface tears and map them to the backside of the frame.
Toward the middle of the image, there was this pair of tears, one going all the way through to the fiber of the cloth backing, and a strange blue mark:
and near the bottom of the image, there was this tear:
Note – You can double-click on the pictures to get a larger view of the damage.
Some of the damage appears to be simple cracks to the surface, along with other water stains.
When looking at the edges, there is noticeable damage to the cloth used to connect the images to the frame.
I always have a concern when I am faced with a large print, especially of this size!
What also makes this digitization more challenging, is the fixed wood frame that the image is suspended on.
Most of the time, I encounter loose original prints that are not mounted, and with the condition of the cloth material, there was no way that I was going to remove this image from the frame for scanning.
The scanner I use, is an old Epson Perfection 4490 Photo, which I bought numerous years ago, and has a scanning bed of approximately 9×13 inches.
Another requirement of this project, was to scan the original to be Printed at 100%, which I knew was going to make for some very BIG files, but I had a plan, and hoped that my scanner was up for the task.
My solution, like many times before, was to break up the scan into four (4) sections: upper-left, upper-right, lower-left, and lower right, and then combine them into one image using Adobe Photoshop layers.
The final concern, and the most important, the scanners depth-of-field, which is exactly the same concept as with cameras, but with desktop scanners, the depth-of-field is very shallow, and the beveled lip on the edge of the scanner was not going to help, even if it was only 2-3 mm above the glass surface.
I lined up the first corner, leaving just a little break between the scanners capture edge and the edge of the print.
Once aligned, I placed a soft folded cloth on top, and then added some weights to gently and evenly press as much of the picture surface to the glass bed of the scanner as possible, and repeated three more times.
Once I had the four (4) quadrants scanned into 16-bit TIFF files, my next step was to combine the scans into one image, making absolutely sure that the images overlapped enough to mask out any softness that might have occurred during the scanning stage.
Thankfully, and once again, my Epson did not let me down!
Once combined, the final image is beginning to take shape.
From here, it is just taking the time to use the various tools within Photoshop to clean-up the various issues caused by cracks, rips, tears and water. For more information on how to handle these issues, please consult the various reference materials that are available on the internet.
After several hours of clean-up and tweaking, the proof image looks like this:
but remember, it is always the Client that has the final say!