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Thread: Colour photos from before World War I

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Colour photos from before World War I

    Yep, you read that correctly. Colour photography from prior to the first world war.

    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/201...ntury_ago.html
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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    That link isn't working for me Rick.

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    Hmmm. working fine this end. Anyone else able/not able to access the link?

    Try going to www.boston.com and searching for 'Russia in Color"
    Last edited by ricktas; 28-04-2012 at 8:11pm.

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    Amazing.

    Seems he used the same method they developed for modern colour film, but done manually using 3 photos with different colour filters then re-combined.
    But, what did he print them on to bring out the colours?
    All my photos are taken with recycled pixels.
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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    It works now!
    Interesting, the more things change ....

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Prior to the Autochrome in 1907 colour photographs were made using various techniques.
    Between 1830's and the Autochrome most photographs were hand painted, and a few of these tricolor's were also made.

    I suppose the tri color principle is similar to the Bayer effect in most digital sensors .. but more like the Foveon style of sensor with it's three full colour filter layers for each photosite.

    A chap named Ducose Du Hauron was an early leader in this field.

    There's a colour image of a French village taken in 1877 and at the edges of the print, you can see the three seperate filter layers edges, that didn't quite marry up, but the image is in whole and pretty good colour.

    I have a book entitled A Century of Colour Photography .. large hardback coffee table book, by Pamela Roberts.
    If call yourself a photography enthusiast, it's a must have photography book. It concentrates on colour photography and the history of it, and the images(well the vast majority of them) are sublime..

    The images from the Autochrome process have this amazing feel to them.
    The self portrait of Gorskii in the river is also in the book and a couple of others not in this link.

    Then it goes on about the 'amazing' Kodachrome (from it's inception in the thirties and mass uptake in the 40's) and so on, but the Kodakchromes have an inert and cold feel to them.
    The Autochromes have a sublime warmth and depth to them by comparison.
    It was the first true colour film .. made with potato starch!

    Fabulous book, and it's the only photography book I've read cover to cover .. and about 10 times at that!!


    The only drawback to this book is that it takes up so much of your time .. once you delve into it, it's kind of hard to put down .. and eventually dinner goes cold ...again!
    (not that this has ever happened to me!)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bennymiata View Post
    Amazing.

    Seems he used the same method they developed for modern colour film, but done manually using 3 photos with different colour filters then re-combined.
    But, what did he print them on to bring out the colours?
    Yes it would be interesting to know how he printed the colour images. The original glass plates were coated with light sensitive stuff or something weren't they??? But that only worked on black and white, so how was it done???
    Anyone got any answers??

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    If you're asking about these Russian Gorski images.

    My understanding of the process was that he had three regular black and white plates exposed in quick succession.
    Each plate has a colour filter over it so that instead of just black and white, there is a colour cast to each one.
    The colours are red green and blue(to keep it as simple as possible, but the blue is not just blue, it's blue-ultraviolet, and this is important later).

    The three plates are then projected onto the print medium(in this case paper) all together, so that the colours can then recombine when the (now single colour) negatives are combined over each other during the printing phase.

    One problem is that blue, or more accurately the near visible ultra violet wavelength, is more sensitive to light capture, so there is a stronger blue colouring to the images if they're not filtered in some way.

    I'm not sure if the exposure was shorter in any way for the blue filtered negative, or if they used a filter to warm it up in any way.

    With Autochromes, which is more like a normal colour film type process, meaning only one exposure for all colours, they had to use a warming filter(orange) to remove the strong blue colouring in the images.
    In a sense this is the original incarnation of the UV filter that was common when you took colour photos on your old camera.
    Of course UV filters are now relegated to the drawer of uselessness in digital photography, because the digital sensor is already resistant to UV light naturally, as well as being filtered against any residual near visible blue-ultraviolet wavelengths.

    In the images in the link, you can't see the underlying process of the red green blue filtering as the edges of the image are cropped.
    But in the book I mentioned, the entire image(or print) is displayed and you can see the three different colour filtering being projected onto the print at the very edges of the print.

    Digital sensors work in a similar way to the Autochrome method of colour film, where the film or glass plate or imaging sensor is layered with colour sensitive dyes, that act like filters.
    On the film surface this is random, but on a digital sensor, it's a repeated pattern called the Bayer Filter.

    With this separate tri color process, which was initially done by that fellow called Du Hauron, in the 1870's, the images had to be separately exposed with each complete layer of colour.
    This is supposed to be more accurate to the actual colour of the scene as there is more colour info. That's basically how the Foveon sensor works where each pixel contains all of the three colours involved.

    The Autochromes look nicer in terms of actual colour rendering, but this is probably due to the orange coloured UV cut warming filter as well.

    So back to the possible printing method:
    If you can imagine a cyanotype image where it's basically black and white with a blue colour cast over the entire image, that's what the blue version of one of the negatives looked like.
    The other two were obviously red and green respectively.
    When you place each one of those negatives over the other and project a light source through them, they'll eventually for a true colour image, hopefully rendering the image as it was coloured at the time.

    Another lil tidbit of info you may want to know about(or not?) ...

    If you have ever heard of a small compact self contained little 4x6 Canon printer called the Selphy, it works in the same way to do it's printing.
    You load the (colour)images from your camera, into the small device. The printer is about the size of a 4x6 print but the thickness of it is about 100 sheets deep.
    The way this printer prints, is that it runs the print medium across in one swoop with one colour( I think the first one was the green... can't remember exactly).
    The next run across the device is the blue run.
    As it does this, because the printer is so small, you see the 1/3rd done green tinting of the print, and then it;s next pass, the blue version combined, and the colours begin to fuse and meld into each other.
    Then the last run of colour is the red,and you see the print come out with a horrid pinky tint to it, and just as you think it's done(a dreadful job of your print ) .. the print disappears again for the last time through the print box and it comes out the other side all nicely coloured!

    Cool little device for instant 4x6 prints. Have to say I was impressed given it's size and my initial expectations of what it was going to give..
    I only know about this little device because my sister had one and lost the power cord for it. Couldn't find a decent replacement power cord for it, although the one that would have done the job was going to cost over $40.
    A brand spanking new replacement Selphy .. updated model too, only cost $30!
    Also got her a couple of packs of the special paper it needs, and she was off and running again.

    Seeing this little Selphy printer in action is basically what the printing of these tri colour images would have been like.
    Whether Gorski projected all three negative plates at the same time, or one at a time individually to create the print, I don't know .. but that's the basic premise of how they'd do it.

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    Amazing detail in some of these, particularly given how they were produced. You can see on a couple of shots with water there are distinct colours because obviously the water moved between frames.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bennymiata View Post
    But, what did he print them on to bring out the colours?
    They were projected using lanterns, so I don't think there were colour prints done at the time. I assume the prints shown are modern productions.


    Cheers.
    Phil.

    Some Nikon stuff. I shoot Mirrorless and Mirrorlessless.


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    amazing sharpness and clarity for such old photos!

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