Howard Ludlow Sr. Slide Collection
October 26th, 2011 | Back to Blog Listing

As some of you already know, or have possibly noticed popping up on Facebook over the months, I have finally taken on the arduous task of digitizing and restoring all of my grandparent's (Momma and Poppa) old slides. In truth I actually started this project a few years ago, but was not satisfied with the quality of output that I getting and ultimately shelved the idea. A dear friend of mine, Mark Holzbach (http://www.austinforum.org/speakers/holzbach.html), was kind enough to provide me with his Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 and SF-210 Slide Feeder finally making the process both bearable and of exceptional quality. I am very pleased with the final result.

The complete collection is a little more than 6.50 GB. The file prefixes were consistent with how my grandfather (Poppa) had the boxes originally labeled and the slides were all scanned in the order that they appeared in the original carousels. There was no post-editing done to the scans (aside from the built-in Nikon/VueScan filtering) and so some are upside down, inverted, etc.

About the Slide Set

In total, there were 1,869 slides that were part of the collection. The date range of these slides appears to be from about 1973 - 1988. The locations are vast and span the North Atlantic, Canada, parts of New York and New Jersey, Eastern and Western Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, and Northern Africa (namely Egypt and Morocco). I would say that most of them take place on various cruises and other water transports, though certainly not exclusively. It's also worth noting that Poppa was very interested in shooting photos of locations and scenery as opposed to people. As it happens, he was actually very good at composition (in my opinion), but the downside is that probably less than 15% of the photos are actually of people. ...or at least people that are recognized by my family.

Digitization and Restoration


Poppa on a boat (7/26/1975) BEFORE infrared processing and and chrome color correction

Poppa on a boat (7/26/1975) AFTER infrared processing and and chrome color correction
The Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 allowed me to capture very high quality image data. I initially intended to scan all of the photos in RAW format, but ultimately decided against this calculating that the 500 GB or so of data that would be required would be very difficult to mobilize and would not justify the benefits given the otherwise VERY high quality of scanning. Instead I wound up scanning each slide at 4000 DPI and stored them in 100% uncompressed JPEG format. The lack of compression makes this more or less equivalent to TIFF data; there is no (or should not be) adjusting of the color pallet. The complete dataset wound up being 6.50 GB of JPEG data or about 3.477 MB per photo - essentially the same as any high resolution photography these days.

The scanner also utilizes a technology known as digital ICE (which incidentally was invented by a friend of Marks). Essentially after each slide was scanned, it would be rescanned using an infrared light. Unlike traditional white light used for scanning, infrared is capable of detecting depth. This is used to automatically detect dust and similar particulates as well as scratches on the physical film. Once the process finished, a proprietary software program I purchased (called VueScan) compared the infrared layer of data to the color layer and automatically eliminated the granular imperfections. The final step was to apply industry standard color corrections to the various types of slide film (Kodachrome, Ektochrome, etc.).


London Wellington Arch (4/17/76) BEFORE color correcting

London Wellington Arch (4/17/76) AFTER color correcting
The blended result of these technologies is a wonderful restoration of the entire photo set. Aside from physically improving the slides under a microscope, I'm not sure they could be restored or preserved any better.

I should also note that I did not use any sort of cropping on the slides. The reason for this is that I occasionally find the algorithms to detect the edges of slides not to be very good. I wanted to preserve the entirety of the slides and so you'll note that almost all of them have the slide frame scanned around them. If you zoom in and look very closely, you'll even see the frayed edges of the film against the slide frames. In the few occasional instances where no slide frame is visible, these were slides that simply had no lip.

Also, if you are interested in printing any of these photos, just open the photo in a graphic editor of your choosing and crop as desired. The quality is FAR great enough to produce very nice prints. Even 16x20 prints of these slides should print without any pixilation.

Storing


Some of Poppa's original notes
Several years ago I carefully moved all of the slides from their carousel trays to specialized air-tight acrylic slide containers. The slides have been placed back into these with all of the notes that Poppa kept on them (I will be getting these notes typed up sometime soon). The slide containers only hold up to 50 slides each, so there are quite a few of them. Each of these slide containers was then placed into air-tight photo boxes (available at craft stores such as Michael's). Upon the completion of my company warehouse (hopefully to be open in early summer 2012), I will be storing these slide boxes in a fireproof safe in my hidden room. There will be some irony should they burn, I realize this, but that's about as safe as I can think to make them.

Additional Photos


One of the air-tight acrylic slide boxes
I am still hoping to get any remaining family photos, slides, or the like from old boxes or books in order to have them digitized and add them to my collections. I would also like to note to anyone reading this that if you DO have photos in those old sticky-magnetic photo books, please note that the glues are only accelerating the destruction of the photos. You may want to consider removing them from those books (as I did for my parents 2 years ago) and storing them in proper photo containers until they can be digitally preserved. This is especially the case given the pervasiveness of modern scanning technologies and methodologies.