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Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category

Here’s another photo from my Grandpa’s collection.  (See A Family Photo Jackpot for the story of my gradually scanning/preserving a large collection of old photos).

I’m actually showing two photos—front and back of an old photo postcard, sent from St. Paul, to Bemidji, MN.  What’s wonderful about its being a postcard is that the postmark on the card exactly dates the card, if not the photo itself.  The date the card was sent was 16 March, 1907.

Here’s the photo side of the card.  (For a large version, click here).

1907-sextgegr-fami-002-8001

And here is the address side of the card.  (For a large version, click here).

1907-sextgegr-fami-002-back-800

Note that this is a real photo postcard—one in which the photographic paper on which the photo was developed was itself then sent as the postcard.  You can read a little bit about the history of vintage photo postcards at Playle’s Real Photo Postcards.  This particular card is printed on “Azo” paper, made by Kodak.  In my scan, you can see the word “AZO” just below the stamp.  You can also match the pattern below the stamp with the patterns listed on the Playle’s site.

The stamp is a 1902-1903 issue 1 penny stamp with the image of Ben Franklin.  Here’s a site with more info.

So who are these kids?  The boy on the far right in the back row is my grandfather, Ted Sexton.  He was born in April of 1902, so he was nearly 5 years old when this photo was taken.  Immediately to his right is his older brother Judd (Gerald), born in 1899.  On Judd’s lap is their baby brother George, born 24 Aug, 1906 (so he’d be just under 7  months in this photo).  Standing in the white dress to George’s right (our left), is my grandfather’s sister Kit (Kathryn), born 4 Sep, 1904.  So she’d be 2-1/2 yrs old in this photo.

So we have the four oldest kids in my grandpa’s family.  (There were eventually 12 children).  The family lived in Bemidji, MN, where my great-grandfather worked for the lumber mill.  (You can see an earlier photo of great-grandpa bill, from his earlier days working in a lumber camp in the woods).  Through old family photos, I’m also fairly sure that the family lived at this time in an area of Bemidji known as “Mill Park”.  The address on the postcard seems to confirm this, since you can see “Mill Park” written on the lower left.

What I love about the address is how it’s addressed merely to “Mr. W. Sexton”, Bemidji, Minn.  And then Mill Park is penciled in, almost as an afterthought.  I have a feeling, however, that the postcard would have found it’s way to Bill even had “Mill Park” been left off the card.

The remaining three kids on the card are all first cousins of my grandpa Ted.  They are all children of two of my great-grandmother’s sisters.  Great grandma Liz (Elizabeth) Carroll was married to Bill Sexton.  The boy on the far left in the photo is John Lytle, born 15 Dec, 1902, to Margaret Carroll and George Lytle, in St. Paul.  The sticker on the back of the photo lists Annie Carroll’s children as the two girls in the front and incorrectly lists one of them as “Melvin”.  Annie Carroll refers to great-grandma’s sister Helen Carroll, who did have a son Melvin, born on 17 Jan, 1905 in St. Paul.  Melvin would have been too young to be the boy in the back.  So the two girls in the front are likely Helen’s twin girls Lottie and Catherine Hall, born 4/5 Jan, 1903 in St. Paul.  (Just over 3 yrs old in this photo).

I don’t know any portion of the story behind this photo.  But based on the date, the location, and the kids in the photo, I can make an educated guess.  My guess is that my great-grandma traveled from Bemidji down to St. Paul in Spring, once the snow started to melt, to visit two of her sisters.  She brought all four of her children, and then the women went to a local photo studio in St. Paul to get the photo of all of the kids taken.

One interesting thing is that the photo contains seven of the eight children that great-grandma Liz and her siblings would have had, as of Spring of 1907.  Missing is Melvin Hall, the boy mentioned on the label on the back of the card.  It’s quite possible that the boy in the back (on our left) is Melvin, rather than John Lytle.  Then we’d have all four of Liz’ children and all three of her sister Annie’s children as well.  Only missing would be John, only child of Liz’ sister Margaret.

This photo is definitely a treasure.  I love the looks on the kids’ faces and the idea that they’d likely been spending a number of days playing together and getting to know each other.

Here are some higher resolution shots of some of the kids in the photo:

My great-aunt Kit (Kathryn) Sexton, born 4 Sep, 1904.  Later married Raymond Sicard and lived in Duluth, MN:

kit-19071

Judd and Ted (my grandfather):

juddandted-1907

The two girls that I believe to be twins Lottie and Catherine Hall:

lottieandcatherinehall-1907

One more, a slightly different crop, to show off Kit’s white dress and shoes:

kitindress-1907

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Here are two photos from my Grandpa’s collection.  Since Grandpa’s photos are almost always of family members, it’s rare to find one with people that I can’t identify.  But these two photos are a complete mystery to me.

The photos show a bunch of young people, some of them in baseball uniforms, and one of the photos is labeled “after the game”.  So clearly it’s a group of young friends gathering after a baseball game, or maybe celebrating a victory.

Here’s the first photo.  (Click on the photo to see a larger version).

sextonscan-375-800

And here’s the second photo, showing some of the same people, but with labels that look like surnames.  (Again, click on photo for a larger version).

sextonscan-374-800

I really love these photos, and maybe more because they are such a mystery to me.  As usual with these older photos, I love just staring into the faces of the people in the photo and imagining what it would be like to have been there on that day, talking to everybody, getting to know them.

What’s great is that this isn’t your standard old photo, with everybody in the photo stiffly posed and unsmiling.  The young people in the photo look happy, almost flushed with the excitement of the day.  Every face tells a different story: pride, determination, “coolness”, or just plain happiness.

I especially like the couple who appear in the center of the first photo:

sextonscan-375-crop1

These two have wonderful faces.  We’re looking back in time 80 years or more, but with the energy and excitement in the couple’s faces, we can easily imagine them as young friends of ours.

I also like the doubly-stacked, jauntily tilted straw hats.  The silliness hints at the sort of day that everyone was having–just being crazy, goofing around, having fun.

There are other faces that are equally fascinating, like the guy and two girls in the front row:

sextonscan-375-crop2

(I’m half convinced that the girl on the left is my grandmother, but I’ve asked other family members to confirm this).

24 Mar 2009: An Uncle confirmed that this is not my Grandmother–so the mystery continues.

There is something in the faces of these three that also tells a story.  We might imagine the young man as romantically interested in the girl at the left, or the girl on the right as also a close friend of both of them.  The body language might be telling us a lot.  The man has his hand lazily draped over the girl’s shoulder, drawing close to her.  The girl on the right, in turn, drapes her arm around the man’s shoulder and holds his elbow with her other hand.  The image makes me really curious to know who these three were and to understand their connection with each other.

Here’s another face from the past that I love–wearing what looks like catcher’s gear:

sextonscan-375-crop5

What a great face!  The boy appears younger than the other players and clearly seems proud to be a part of the team.

A quick google search turns up a web page depicting what looks like exactly the catcher’s outfit that the boy is wearing:

vintage-baseball-chest-protector-dm

The second photo also has some wonderful faces to stare into.  Note the two girls in the center of the photo, one of them wearing the catcher’s mitt:

sextonscan-374-crop1

If you look at the large version of the photo, you can also make out “Same gang” written on the face of the photo.

I did a little searching on the name “C. W. Fenners”, but didn’t turn anything up.  My guess is that this is some local business that sponsored the team.  The next step might be to go browse through the St. Paul, MN city directories from the mid-1920s and see if I can’t find a business with that name.  The other avenue to pursue might be to do some searching on the listed surnames to see if I could verify whether all of these people lived in a particular part of town.

In the end, maybe these sorts of photos are the most interesting–the ones that tell us a story, but which contain stories that elude us.

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Here’s another photo from our family collection that I like.  It’s labeled “Pa – George – Jim – Aug, 1940″ and shows my great-grandfather mowing his lawn in Bemidji, MN in 1940.  He’s standing next to my grandfather’s brother George, and George’s son Jim.

Mowing the lawn - August, 1940

(Click to see a larger version, not cropped).

There’s nothing dramatic about the photo, but it tells a little story.  Clearly, “Pa” (my great-grandpa) had been out mowing the lawn and George and Jim walked out to pose for a photo with him.  Pa looks hot, tired and perhaps just wants to finish up the mowing.  His grandson Jimmy just looks tickled to be posing with Dad and Grandpa.

I’m also intrigued by the way that everyone is dressed.  Despite being outside on a hot August day in Minnesota, everyone is wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Pa’s shirt is buttoned all the way up, but he’s at least unbuttoned his cuffs.  George is wearing a tie and even Jim appears to be wearing some sort of warmer outer shirt.

It’s certainly possible that it was a cooler day in August, although our average high for August in Minnesota is 80 degrees F and the average high in September is 71 degrees.

My great-grandpa was 70 years old in this photo, but clearly still mowing his own lawn.  The kids had all moved away, but he and my great-grandma still lived in the family home in Bemidji, MN.  I wondered at first why he’d be wearing his hat while out mowing the lawn.  Was it just his style, to always be this formal?  And then I realized that it was probably just to keep the sun off of his head.  At 70, his hair was probably already a bit thin on top and so the top of his head would be the first thing to burn in the summer sun.

Here’s a closeup of the trio:

Mowing the Lawn, closeup

(You can also click to see an even larger version of the closeup).

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Here’s a wonderful photo of my grandfather that really lends itself to studying it, and thinking about the time and place that it was taken.  It’s a photo that was in my grandfather’s collection.

My grandfather was Ted (Edward Thomas) Sexton (1902-1980).  Ted grew up in Bemidji, MN, one of twelve siblings.  As a young man, he moved “down” to St. Paul to get a job as a printer.  It was in St. Paul that he met my grandmother, Marie Wolters, whose family had a farm in West St. Paul.

Here’s the photo.  Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Ted Sexton on road rally, 1920s

I love studying this photo.  There are so many things to notice, which can help tell the story of when and where it was taken.  I also look forward to taking more time and learning even more.

To my knowledge, my grandfather never mentioned anything about this particular event.  So all I have to go on is the photo itself.  Ted is the boy on the far left, in the dark shirt.  I don’t know anything about the other boys in the photo.

Clearly this was some sort of road rally that the boys went on, driving from St. Paul to Canada.  One of the boys is clearly wearing a University of Minnesota sweater.  (My grandfather did not attend the university).

I haven’t yet identified the type of car, but it seems likely to be a Model “T”, given the time period.  If you look closely, you can see the number “23″ on the license plate, under the letter “B”.  You’ll see “MINN” down the right side of the plate, so this is clearly a car that was registered in Minnesota.  And the date on the plate puts the picture at 1923, or at least within a year or two.  If it was 1923, Grandpa would have been 21, which seems about right.  You can also see a plate below the main one which reads “Bemidji”, where Ted was from.  So perhaps these are friends of Ted’s from “back home” in Bemidji.

I’ve also thought a bit about when this photo may have been taken.  If the boys participated in a road rally, we’d assume that they’d have their picture taken either at the start or at the end of the rally.  It’s hard to say which one of these two this photo would have been, but I’d lean towards saying it was taken at the end.  The boys and the car are located on some sort of wooden plank bridge over what looks to be a small stream.  Given the rustic nature of the bridge (note the hewn log handrails), it seems more likely that it’s up North near the Canadian border, rather than down in St. Paul.  Had the boys taken a picture at the start of the rally, they’d likely be in the city and we’d probably see other drivers and cars.

It’s hard to say much about the time of day.  The shadow of the car appears to be directly under the car, so the photo appears to have been taken near midday.  We can also think a little bit about how long the drive must have taken.  The Model “T” had a top speed of about 45 mph, and the distance between St. Paul and the Canadian border is something like 300 miles.  If they drove straight through, at 40 mph, it would have taken them 7.5 hrs.  But given the state of the roads in the 1920s, they wouldn’t likely be near top speed much of the way.  So it seems like it would have required more than a single day for the trip.  If the trip started in the morning in St. Paul, it may well be that they completed the rally around midday on the next day.  But it’s hard to say.

That’s a good start at thinking about the photo.  I’d be eager to get more information and thoughts from other people.  Some of the next things to look at are:

  • Talk to older relative to see if Ted ever mentioned this trip
  • Try to determine the exact make and model of the car
  • Find out if vehicle registration records for MN are kept anywhere
  • Look at newspapers of the time to see if they mention a road rally
  • Try to date the photo by getting more info on the University of MN letter sweater shown in the photo
  • Look through other photos of Ted’s to see if I can identify his friends
  • Take a look at maps of that time, to guess at possible routes/distances

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I like Randy Seaver’s idea of occasionally posting a photo from his personal collection, so I’m going to start doing that as well.  Here’s one of my favorites.

This is a photo that a family member got from the Minnesota Historical Society, entitled “A lively crowd of old time lumberjacks at Gus Sexton’s camp”.  My great-grandpa Bill Sexton (1870-1960) appears in this photo, along with three of his brothers (he came from a family of fourteen).  Please take the time to load the higher-resolution version of this photo, so that you can enjoy the details.  The photo is dated in the collection as 1903, but I suspect that it may have been taken earlier, given the age of family members here–maybe in the mid-1890s.

Gus Sexton's Lumber Camp

A lively crowd of old time lumberjacks at Gus Sexton’s camp. (click for high-res or medium-res versions).

The basic story is as follows.  Great-grandpa Bill was born in 1870 in a little village in Quebec, on the Gaspe Peninsula.  The town was Maria, also known as “Irishtown” because of the large number of Irish immigrants.  Making a living in Maria was tough and Bill’s oldest brother Gus eventually moved away to look elsewhere for work.  Gus landed in Minnesota in the early 1870s and found work as a lumberjack.  He did quite well, eventually running his own lumber camp.

Several of Gus’ family members eventually followed him to Minnesota, including my great-grandpa Bill, who worked as a lumberjack in his brother Gus’ lumber camp.

My great-grandpa Bill is towards the center of the photo, standing next to two of his brothers.  Here’s Bill:

Bill Sexton

To Bill’s immediate left are his older brothers Jim (sparring with the cook) and Gus:

Jim and Gus Sexton

And towards the left of the photo, we find Bill’s brother Chris (Chrystostome) Sexton:

Chris Sexton

What I love most about this photo of the lumber camp is just looking at the higher resolution version and spending some time looking at some of the details.  The first things that jumped out for me were:

  • The diameter of the logs used to build the camp building.  Old-growth White Pine in MN could be as large as 40″ in diameter
  • How everyone is goofing around, with their fists raised.  (One guy even brandishes his hammer at a neighbor).  What did the photographer say, just before taking the photo?  I imagine something like “All right everybody, pretend like you’re going to fight with the guy next to you”.
  • The clothing.  Lumberjacks wore “Mackinaw” pants and shirts.  After the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894, members of this same lumber camp, when reporting their personal losses, only applied for replacement Mackinaw outfits.
  • It’s Winter.  Lumber camps like this operated during the Winter months, because the logs were hauled out on horse-drawn sledges or rollers
  • No women.  My great-aunt Alice (Bill’s daughter) talked about how all these guys would go out and live in the lumber camps for months on end, only coming back to visit family and women friends when the season ended.
  • The tools.  I see what I think is a long two-man saw, leaning up against the building.  The two men in the front have what looks like a tong that might be some sort of a log lifter, as well as a couple of rope loops that may have been used for climbing
  • Men who aren’t smiling.  Despite the clowning going around, some men are merely posing, but a couple look like they are the types who never smile.  Tough characters.

These are the kind of photos that I really love having in my collection.  They show relatives or ancestors, but also give a great glimpse into some aspect of the times that our family members lived in.  Just staring at this picture makes me want to invest some time in learning more about lumbering in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the late 1800s.  I’d love to learn more about the time period and how these men lived.  And having a direct ancestor as part of this history just makes it come to life for me.

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In my last post, I introduced Microsoft’s new Deep Zoom technology and showed how we could use it to zoom way in on a large family photo.  This time, I’m posting a collage of 191 photos of my Dad that lets you zoom way in on each individual photo.  If you’ve never seen Deep Zoom in action before, it’s well worth taking a look.  I think that you’ll be amazed at the experience.  Follow the link below to get started.

This collection includes 191 photos of my Dad, John Sexton, spanning his entire life: 1933-2005.  Many of the original scans are fairly high resolution, so as you zoom in, you’ll be able to see some wonderful details.

How to use Deep Zoom to view the collection:

  • Follow the link below to bring up the page
  • Download and install Silverlight, if requested (it’s quick)
  • Use the scroll wheel on your mouse to zoom in and out
  • Depending on your internet connection, you may need to wait a bit after zooming for the image to sharpen
  • To start with, zoom all of the way out so that you can see the entire collection
  • Then explore by zooming in on individual photos
  • You can also pan (slide) by holding the left mouse button down and dragging

Here’s the collection:    John Sexton Deep Zoom Collection

(If you don’t want to go actually run the demo, you can watch a short run-through on YouTube — the resolution isn’t nearly as good as the real thing, but you’ll get the idea).

Here are some specific things to go look for in the collection (think of this as a treasure hunt):

  • There’s a lot of detail in the buddha in the 3rd row
  • Look at the kids’ faces in the class photo, 2nd row, leftmost photo
  • Find the thumbprint on the photo of John w/the bow and arrow, 1st row
  • Look at the detail on the old printing presses, 2nd from last row, 6th photo from left
  • Look at the detail in John’s face, 5th from last row, 2nd photo from the right (face in his hands)
  • Find Uncle Tom in a ballerina outfit, somewhere in the 7th row
  • In the 1st row is a photo of John with brother Jerry during the first snowfall of 1938.  Can you identify the car in the background?
  • Zoom in on the 1st photo, 5th row, and enjoy incredible color in the photo of Mt. Fuji from 1953
  • Elsewhere on the 5th row, you’ll find a car.  Can you read the make?
  • In the 7th row, you’ll find a photo of John serving some brandy.  Can you read the label?  What time is it?
  • 2nd from the last row, 3rd from left, John holds his granddaughter Lucy’s hand.  What color are her eyes?
  • Can you find the greenish photo in the center of the grid that features John, an antique steel trash baler and an old Ford 8N tractor?

Here are a few other interesting details about this collection:

  • The original collection is comprised of 191 scanned or digital photos
  • Deriving from the original 191, the Deep Zoom collection itself is comprised of 18,433 separate images
  • The collection takes up 1.44GB of disk space

What do family historians out there think about this as a technique for exploring a collection of family photos?

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One tough thing about posting family photos to the web is that you need to decide which resolution to post your photo at.  If you have a high resolution photo that you’d like to post on a web page, you basically have two choices:

  • Option A: Resize the photo (make smaller) so that it fits on the screen
    • If you do this, you’ll lose the detail that you had in the higher resolution version.
  • Option B: Post the higher resolution version as is
    • If you post your original high-res photo, it may take a very long time to download and appear in the browser.  It will also be too large to display in the browser and won’t let you see the entire photo at the same time.

But what if we had a way to do both of these things at once?  What if we could post a lower resolution version that allowed the user to see the entire image, but also allow zooming into the photo to see more detail?  And what if we could zoom in not just a little bit, but deep into the photo to see fine details?

Well, Microsoft has a new technology, called “Deep Zoom”, that helps us do exactly that.

Background: Pixels, Pixels, Pixels

Spoiler: If you’re just here to see the demo, jump ahead a few sections to read about how I posted a “deep zoomable” family photo and then click on the link that takes you to the demo.  But if you’re curious about some of the background concepts, read on.

What do we mean by “high resolution” or “low resolution”?

To start with, when we talk about resolution, we generally talk about pixels:

Pixel - The individual colored dots in a digital image.

We can think about pixels in the context of digital images that we take with a digital camera (e.g. an 8 “megapixel” image).  We can also think about pixels in the context of knowing how many pixels wide and tall our computer monitor is.

Let’s start with your monitor.  When you’re working on your Windows-based PC or your Macintosh, your monitor is displaying everything that you see at some resolution.  In other words, your monitor can display a certain number of pixels horizontally and vertically.  For a typical 20″ LCD monitor, this might be 1600 pixels wide by 1200 pixels tall.  Or, if you’re using a MacBook, it might be 1280 pixels wide by 800 pixels high.

The more pixels that your monitor or laptop can display, the sharper the image, and the better/higher the resolution.

Back to digital images.  When you take a digital image, the image is of a particular resolution, based on the camera and the current settings.  For my 8MP (megapixel) camera, the images are 3264 pixels wide by 2448 pixels high.  (If you multiply these two numbers together, you get something close to 8 million total pixels, hence the term “8 megapixel”).

How do these two resolutions, monitor vs. digital image, relate?  If you want to display that 8MP image on your MacBook, and you don’t do any special scaling of the image, the entire image won’t fit on the screen.  That 8MP photo was 3264 pixels wide and your screen is only 1280 pixels wide, so you can see at most about 40% of the picture’s width.

Normally you don’t notice this.  If you open an 8MP image on your computer, the photo viewing application normally shows you the image exactly filling the screen.  What happens is that your photo viewing software actually shrinks the image down so that you can see the entire thing, “squishing” it into fewer pixels.  Naturally, when you do this, some detail is lost.  No matter how hard you stare at that 1280×800 image, you won’t see as much detail as existed in the 3264×2448 version.

But most photo viewing applications allow you to zoom in and out of the image.  As you zoom in, you do see more detail, because the software is re-scaling the portion of the image that you want to see to the screen.  It’s actually going back to that original 3264×2448 image and resizing it again.

When you use a photo viewing application on your PC or Mac, everything works great.  You are able to zoom in and out of the image and you can see all of the detail present in that original 8MP image.  Images stored on the web, however, are a different matter.

Photos on Web Pages

When you post a photo on a web page, you need to pick a single resolution and post the photo at that resolution.  Let’s look at our previous example.  Say you have this gorgeous 8MP digital photo and you want to display it on a web page (or upload it to Facebook).  If you want viewers of the page to be able to see the entire photo, you’ll want to scale it from 3264×2448 down to something like 800×600 pixels.  The basic idea here is that you want the photo to fit into their web browser, which means that you need to think about how many pixels wide (and high) their web browser is.  If they are running a browser on a MacBook and the browser is not maximized, it might only be 1000 pixels wide, or less.  So you’d size the original image down to something like 800×600 pixels.

The problem with doing this is that web browsers don’t normally have a mechanism for zooming into photos.  And if they do (like Firefox’s zoom feature), they’ll never be able to display any more resolution than was present in the original 800×600 image.  The detail from your original 3264×2448 image isn’t available.

One workaround for this problem is to post several variants of the same photo—one at the lower resolution and then several at higher resolutions, showing some section of the photo at a higher resolution.  But this is clumsy.

Resolution and Scanning Family Photos

Let’s talk a bit about how resolution comes into play when you scan a photo.  When scanning, you typically select a particular DPI, or “dots per inch”, to scan at.  The higher the DPI, the higher the resolution of the resulting digital image.

So let’s say that you scan a 4×6 print at 300 dpi.  The resulting image would be 1200×1800 pixels, or roughly 2 megapixels.

It’s important to remember that high-quality negatives or film prints have much higher resolution.  (The available detail is actually based on the size of the individual grains of the silver halide crystals on the film).  A high quality 35mm negative might have a resolution equivalent to something closer to 4000 dpi.

If you actually scanned that 4×6 photo at 4000 dpi, you’d end up with a digital image that was 16000×24000 pixels, or 384 megapixels.  This is an image that is as wide as about 15 20″ LCD monitors!  That’s a lot of detail.  Stored as a typical .tif file on your hard drive, you’d end up with something like a 2GB file.

So what resolution should you use when scanning?  The general rule is that it depends on what you’re going to do with the digital image.  If you’re going to display it on a web page, there’s no need to scan at a very high resolution.  If you’re planning on printing the photo, you’d typically print at about 150 dpi.  So if you’re not going to enlarge the photo, you’d also scan at 150 dpi.

Because there is so much detail available in that original print, you may sometimes want to scan at a much higher resolution.  For example, you might scan just someone’s face from a larger photo and then post that scan on a web page.  For example, if you scan a 1″ square area of the photo and you want to display it as a 600-pixel high image, you’d scan at 600 dpi.

Deep Zooming a Family Photo

Let’s go back to our original premise.  When we post a photo on a web site, there’s no way to zoom into the photo and see more detail, right?

Well actually, there is now a way to do this, using a new technology from Microsoft called “Deep Zoom”.

Here’s a sample family photo, inserted into this post at roughly 600×480 pixels.

smallfamily

There’s nothing special about this photo.  If you use the browser’s zoom functions to zoom into the photo, you’ll quickly see how coarse the picture is.

Here’s the same photo, posted on my web site, as a “deep zoomable” photo:

The Bemidji Twelve

Click on the link to go play with the image.  Try zooming in and out and notice that as you zoom in, the photo starts off very grainy, but quickly sharpens up.  Note that you can also pan the photo using the mouse.  You’ll need to install a small browser plug-in called Silverlight, but the install goes fairly quickly.

How Did They Do It?

The basic idea of Deep Zoom is that you start with a very high resolution image, capturing the detail that you want to see when you are all the way “zoomed in”.  You then use some software to generate a lot of other images, which are all chunks of the original image at various resolutions.  The basic idea is to pre-generate all of the different resolutions of the image that you’ll be seeing as you zoom in and out.

In my case, I started with an 8″x10″ image and scanned it at 800 dpi.  This resulted in a digital image that was roughly 6400×8000 pixels, or 51 megapixels.  Another way to think about this is that to display the image at the original resolution, it would cover a grid of 20″ LCD monitors that was 5 monitors wide and 5 monitors high.  I saved the original photo as a TIFF image, and the file was about 145MB.

Here’s the amazing part.  When I ran this photo through the Deep Zoom software, it generated just over 1,100 new images from the original image.  The new images are various chunks of the original photo, at many different resolutions.  Coincidentally, the size on disk of all of these photos also adds up to about 145MB.

I then posted the “deep zoom” collection of photos on my web site, along with some pretty straightforward programming.  (Microsoft has done most of the work here).  The result is what you saw above—a single image that you can zoom into and out of, made possible by 1,100 separate images that are automatically loaded at the proper time as you zoom or pan.

Wrapping Up

The Deep Zoom technology is very exciting for family historians.  We are no longer limited to posting photos merely as static images on a web site.  Instead, we can post collections of “dynamic” images, allowing us to preserve all of the detail that is present in the original film-based copies that we started with.  And the experience for the user is nothing short of phenomenal.  The first web page loads very quickly and new chunks of the photo load only when they need to.

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