The making of flash back photographs

By Kelley, Winter Term Co-op Student

In life we recognize the big picture when it comes to change. We know the museums were once lived in by families, but we never realize all of the little things that are changing. People are usually fixated on tasks, things that need to get done, and places where they need to be. While looking through the archive photographs of Oshawa’s past I came across several pictures of people who have contributed to the museum, people who have enjoyed the lake, the houses before renovations and renovations in progress.

Guy House, then and now
Guy House, then and now

My task was essentially to take the old and emerge it with the new. The idea was to take a past photograph and present photograph of the same scenery and show the changes by using a bit of each photo and making it into one photograph using an editing software called Adobe Photoshop. Whether it was construction or a couple canoeing on the lake, my job in a sense was showing what once was and showing that how things are today was not always the way it is, because everything has a beginning.

In order to complete this final photograph I first had to take a look through the historical photos of the museums and close by locations. The old photographs all appeared familiar to me, the locations became apparent right away along with the old features that have now been modified. It was almost ghostly seeing people on the lakeshore in the older photographs. I’m at the lake almost every day but who knows where those people’s lives took them.

Once I had finished collecting pictures of locations I could match, I went to each location of the historical photograph displayed and tried to match the angel and direction of the photographer who took the photo. Doing so involved constant looking back and forth from the photograph and the camera lens.

A day at the lake
A day at the lake

After taking the new photographs of the old photographs I then could start emerging them together on Photoshop.  When I opened Photoshop I placed in the new photograph and put it to the appropriate size, I then placed in the old photograph in a new layer which overlapped the new photograph.  For those who have never used Photoshop, a layer allows you to make changes to the photo in that layer without affecting any other photos that you have opened which are in their own separate layers. You can rearrange layers to bring some layers forward and other layers backward.

Matching the photographs was tricky. I had to constantly resize and rotate until everything lined up.  I then could go in and take away parts of the old photograph using the lasso tool. The lasso tool is used for selecting an area of the photograph in your layer. When I used the lasso tool to select the areas which I did not want showing in my final product, I pressed delete which crops out the selected area allowing the backward layer to show threw.

For most of my photos I deleted areas all around a house leaving only the old house left to then place it into position to fit into the new scenery. Taking that as an example, when the house was the only thing left I would then again resize it to match the size of the present picture house. When resizing it is important to hold down on the shift button on your keyboard and then with your mouse move the corner of your photo to enlarge or to make the photo smaller in size. Doing this will ensure that the photograph stays natural to size and the photograph does not appear stretched or elongated making the quality very poor.

So to recap, the old photograph was placed over the new photograph, the old photographs scenery was taken out using the lasso tool which caused the old photographed house visible and now the new photograph scenery visible, the old photographed house was placed over top of the new photographed house and resized using the shift button to perfectly a line the old photograph and the new photograph.

Henry House, 1960 and 2013
Henry House, 1960 and 2013

Now that everything is in place and the old and new photos are emerged creating a realistic and identical appeal of a unified final piece there are many final options. One of the options is to adjust the brightness, levels, contrast etc of your layers. To adjust your layer, you would click image on the top bar, which will then have a list of other options, from there you will see the option of adjustments, once you click on adjustments there will be yet another list giving the options to change the brightness, levels, contrast etc of your photograph placed in the layer you have currently selected. Changing something such as brightness will make your over all photograph look like one unified photograph. For example, if your 1st layer was very dark and your 2nd layer was very light, then it will look like it’s been copied and pasted. If you change your 1st layer to appear lighter, then both layers will be light so it looks like it fits together a lot better.

Another option is to add a border. One way to make a boarder is to click on your rectangle tool which is on the side bar, and to fill it with a colour of your choice. Once you have customized your options, you will click and drag your rectangle till it fits the width of your layer. After this step, you would then click on rectangle marquee tool, also shown on the side bar, and with that tool select the rectangle that you have just made. Once you have selected your rectangle, right click copy and then right click paste. Doing so will duplicate your rectangle which you can then move to the top width to have an even measurement. Do this 2 more times to get the other 2 sides of your layer.

An option which I selectively chose to do was to add text. To add text, all you have to do is click on the horizontal type tool which is shaped like a T on the side bar and to then click on the area in which you’d like to type. You have many options to change the text, size and placement. If you don’t like the options you chose, all you would have to do is double click what you have typed and then change your options to your liking.

When I had finished my final product and added my last touches of borders, contrast and text I was then ready to click save as, and to select to save my photograph as a JPEG. If I was to save as a Photoshop file, my edited photograph would open in Photoshop every time I would go to view the photo. Saving as a JPEG makes it so that when I double click my photo to view it, it would open in Microsoft Office picture manager so I can view and share it at any time.

Verna Conant; she was originally walking into Robinson House in the mid-1960s, but here she is, walking into Robinson House today
Verna Conant; she was originally walking into Robinson House in the mid-1960s, but here she is, walking into Robinson House today

Making the flash back photos over all was really fun. I was able to use Adobe Photoshop which I really enjoy using to create a way for people to look into the past while also acknowledging the present. I was able to add my own style of a scrapbook feel while also making realistic sceneries. There was a lot of hard work, revising and feedback that went into making the flash back photographs. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.

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