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Photographing Old Family Tree
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Feb 20, 2019 13:28:28   #
JCam
 
I have been asked by my brother-in-law to photograph an old family tree of my wife's and her brother's that has been hung in a hallway for at least the last 80 years; before that we have no info as to its storage or display. He wants to use the data on it for some family genealogical research. The printed tree has sections for Marriages, Children and Deaths to be filled in by the buyer/owner or descendant.

I'm running into several problems: First, Age-the earliest & last dates entered on the tree, don't know by whom, are Dec. 8, 1803 and April 28, 1848; they look to have been written in script with (probably) a quill pen, and the ink has faded badly; with a strong magnifying glass I can decipher some of the names & dates. The printed paper sheet looks to have been a light tan color and is in pretty good condition except for some discoloration due to (I'm guessing) sunlight, UV rays, and probably chemical reactions.

Second, the size involved, the tree was framed years ago in an old walnut colored wood frame with a wooden backing and behind glass. Inside the frame, there is no matting to separate the paper from the wood , it measures 25 1/4" x 20". The tree itself looks to be separated from the wooden back by some paper. The overall size is probably a couple of inches more in each dimension and the frame is about 3" deep.

I have tried to photograph the entire tree, without the frame, and to crop a "fill in info" circle for experimentation, but my PP with PSE 14 hasn't improved the readability very much. The answer may be to remove the tree from the frame, but given the age, but I am very reluctant to tackle that job, my woodworking skills are moderate, but the consequences of damaging any parts would be never ending

I've attached several photos to better explain the project. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Copy of original
Copy of original...
Lower portion
Lower portion...

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Feb 20, 2019 13:56:24   #
David in Dallas (a regular here)
 
You'll need to illuminate it from the sides such that no reflection in the glass occurs, and keep the area behind the camera dark. If you can mount the camera on a tripod such that the rotation point is at the lens node, it might be possible to take multiple photos of each part of the document more close up and then merge them into a composite panorama. That would give the ability to have better definition than just taking a single shot of the entire document. Since the camera would be fairly close to the document during that process, it is essential that rotation be around the nodal point of the lens, to avoid parallax.

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Feb 20, 2019 13:58:10   #
Guyserman
 
JCam wrote:
I have been asked by my brother-in-law to photograph an old family tree of my wife's and her brother's that has been hung in a hallway for at least the last 80 years; before that we have no info as to its storage or display. He wants to use the data on it for some family genealogical research. The printed tree has sections for Marriages, Children and Deaths to be filled in by the buyer/owner or descendant.

I'm running into several problems: First, Age-the earliest & last dates entered on the tree, don't know by whom, are Dec. 8, 1803 and April 28, 1848; they look to have been written in script with (probably) a quill pen, and the ink has faded badly; with a strong magnifying glass I can decipher some of the names & dates. The printed paper sheet looks to have been a light tan color and is in pretty good condition except for some discoloration due to (I'm guessing) sunlight, UV rays, and probably chemical reactions.

Second, the size involved, the tree was framed years ago in an old walnut colored wood frame with a wooden backing and behind glass. Inside the frame, there is no matting to separate the paper from the wood , it measures 25 1/4" x 20". The tree itself looks to be separated from the wooden back by some paper. The overall size is probably a couple of inches more in each dimension and the frame is about 3" deep.

I have tried to photograph the entire tree, without the frame, and to crop a "fill in info" circle for experimentation, but my PP with PSE 14 hasn't improved the readability very much. The answer may be to remove the tree from the frame, but given the age, but I am very reluctant to tackle that job, my woodworking skills are moderate, but the consequences of damaging any parts would be never ending

I've attached several photos to better explain the project. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
I have been asked by my brother-in-law to photogra... (show quote)


This is a challenge I would like to tackle but you'll have to upload them again and check "store original."

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Feb 20, 2019 14:24:47   #
JCam
 
Guyserman wrote:
This is a challenge I would like to tackle but you'll have to upload them again and check "store original."


Guyserman, thanks! I'll try to get some new pictures but I think my 16-135mm canon was set for as close as it would focus. I know the lighting wasn't good (white lines on lower left), but I didn't notice them until I moved the pictures to my monitor. Maybe I can borrow a close up lens. These were just an experiment.

Jim

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Feb 20, 2019 14:34:05   #
pquiggle
 
Since the paper is touching the glass I would be VERY hesitant to remove it from the frame; the paper and/or ink my stick to the glass after that much time. Removing the glare from the glass may help readability and ease PP. To do that set the camera so that the sensor is parallel to the paper (use a tripod). Illuminate it with two identical lights, one on each side oriented at a 45 degree angle to the glass in an otherwise darkened room. Place polaroid sheets in front of the lights, both oriented at the same angle (you can check this be placing the polarizing material on top of each other and rotating them so that light passes through them and keeping them in that relative orientation). Place a polarizing filter over the lens and rotate it so that the glare off the glass is gone. To improve detail you may want to photograph it in overlapping sections (maintaining a constant distance from paper to camera) using manual exposure and then stitching them together as in a panorama. I hope I was clear enough. Let me know if you have any questions.

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Feb 21, 2019 06:21:36   #
Don, the 2nd son
 
pquiggle wrote:
Since the paper is touching the glass I would be VERY hesitant to remove it from the frame; the paper and/or ink my stick to the glass after that much time. Removing the glare from the glass may help readability and ease PP. To do that set the camera so that the sensor is parallel to the paper (use a tripod). Illuminate it with two identical lights, one on each side oriented at a 45 degree angle to the glass in an otherwise darkened room. Place polaroid sheets in front of the lights, both oriented at the same angle (you can check this be placing the polarizing material on top of each other and rotating them so that light passes through them and keeping them in that relative orientation). Place a polarizing filter over the lens and rotate it so that the glare off the glass is gone. To improve detail you may want to photograph it in overlapping sections (maintaining a constant distance from paper to camera) using manual exposure and then stitching them together as in a panorama. I hope I was clear enough. Let me know if you have any questions.
Since the paper is touching the glass I would be V... (show quote)



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Feb 21, 2019 08:22:11   #
jerryc41 (a regular here)
 
If your relatives want it to look like new, they will have to pay a document restorer a lot of money. Otherwise, your photos will preserve it as it looks now. Getting the lighting right and doing some processing produce good results.

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Feb 21, 2019 08:22:41   #
jerryc41 (a regular here)
 
Guyserman wrote:
This is a challenge I would like to tackle but you'll have to upload them again and check "store original."



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Feb 21, 2019 09:21:26   #
fetzler (a regular here)
 
You need an easel that will allow the document to hang vertically. A macro lens - Nikon 60mm would be great although you did not indicate the size. Lighting from both sides at a 45 degree angle. Consider making a panorama to increase the number of pixels. You can carefully move the camera or easel. Your result should be monochrome. For photos that have faded to yellow use the Blue Channel. if there are yellow or brown stains use the red an green channels. Play with the mix of red and green for best results. Don't forget to make separate photos of important areas. If you want to remove from the frame, have a document specialist do it.

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Feb 21, 2019 09:57:14   #
Dikdik
 
fetzler wrote:
You need an easel ... document specialist do it.


Excellent response, in particular with the use of filters. Lighting glare can be reduced by using polarised light and polarising filters. 4' fluorescent fixtures can provide a more uniform light source. A lot of work. If you can separate the picture from the frame, you may be able to take it to a shop that does engineering drawings. Their machines often work as scanners (use 600 or 1200 dpi) in monochrome. File can be huge. They often have plastic 'sleeves' to place the document in to maintain flatness and prevent damage.

Good luck.

Dik

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Feb 21, 2019 10:52:46   #
dleebrick
 
David in Dallas wrote:
You'll need to illuminate it from the sides such that no reflection in the glass occurs, and keep the area behind the camera dark. If you can mount the camera on a tripod such that the rotation point is at the lens node, it might be possible to take multiple photos of each part of the document more close up and then merge them into a composite panorama. That would give the ability to have better definition than just taking a single shot of the entire document. Since the camera would be fairly close to the document during that process, it is essential that rotation be around the nodal point of the lens, to avoid parallax.
You'll need to illuminate it from the sides such t... (show quote)


This photo was taken of an artwork in frame. It was illuminated by 4 Daylight CFL bulbs placed at the centers of each edge, placed about 18" above the painting. The camera was directly over the center of the painting. I photographed the whole collection this way with good results. Some had deep frames, some had shallow. With the deep frames you have to play with the light placement to avoid shadows on the art.



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Feb 21, 2019 12:12:53   #
rdgreenwood
 
David in Dallas wrote:
You'll need to illuminate it from the sides such that no reflection in the glass occurs, and keep the area behind the camera dark. If you can mount the camera on a tripod such that the rotation point is at the lens node, it might be possible to take multiple photos of each part of the document more close up and then merge them into a composite panorama. That would give the ability to have better definition than just taking a single shot of the entire document. Since the camera would be fairly close to the document during that process, it is essential that rotation be around the nodal point of the lens, to avoid parallax.
You'll need to illuminate it from the sides such t... (show quote)


I agree totally with David in Dallas and would offer a couple more suggestions: rent a high megapixel (over 30mp) camera and a good macro lens. That will afford you the opportunity to take that panorama and have it come out at max sharpness. Also, if you're shooting through glass, you should consider using a polarizing filter. Working from a tripod goes without saying.

Good luck.

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Feb 21, 2019 13:59:12   #
nadelewitz (a regular here)
 
Where are you located? Got a museum nearby? Could be worth travelling to one. Museums (especially historical societies) have conservation departments that you could have take a look at it to see how to handle it. Or they could refer you to a conservator at a college or elsewhere.

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Feb 21, 2019 17:36:16   #
JCam
 
Guyserman wrote:
This is a challenge I would like to tackle but you'll have to upload them again and check "store original."


Guyserman, I tried some more photo this afternoon in a room where the afternoon sun was not glancing off the window and increasing the ISO too 800; I took these about as close to the subject as the camera would focus. The pictures are still hand held as I don't really trust my tripod--it has dropped the camera and a 70- 300 zoom twice in the last six months. I know I should get a better tripod, but my need is so seldom that I really don't want to spend the money for a piece of seldom used equipment.

The pictures are directly out of the camera, no PP, and the camera is set for large-fine which on the 60D translates to a 72" x 48" print, If you need something else send me a PM and I'll try to get them out the same evening.

This isn't a rush project so don't bump any if your projects for this.

Thanks for the help, Jim


(Download)


(Download)

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Feb 21, 2019 18:50:48   #
photogeneralist
 
My initial thought was to use color channels to remove ass much of the brown stain as possible then bump up the contrast.

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