Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

I had the idea while writing my 50 Gifts for Genealogists post of making tile coasters with old photos.  I got some inspiration from this post I saw on Pinterest from Boxy Colonial, as well as several other Pinterest examples, but I also improvised.

I thought I would like to use family photos, but not of people.    I ended up doing two variations of this:  old New England houses that had belonged to my direct ancestors, and, at my daughter’s suggestion, the four houses that my parents owned before their present house.  I also bought scrapbook paper and made some with Christmas themes, and some for year-round.

Getting the pictures

I had taken pictures of the historic houses I wanted to use.  For my parents’ houses, my daughter had one picture that was suitable, and I went out while the leaves were still on the trees to photograph the three other houses, which are nearby.

So I was starting with pictures like this:

Former house on Waterman Avenue, Warwick, R.I.

Former house on Waterman Avenue, Warwick, R.I.

I needed to do several things to make them work:

  • make them square (by cropping)
  • eliminate aspects of the picture that were not accurate for the period they owned it (in the case above, the color is wrong, and the addition to the house beyond the garage is not original)
  • make them more interesting with special painting effects
  • make them just under 4 inches in size (for this, I actually needed to take the edited pictures and move them onto a blank Word document, then resize.  I printed on a normal color printer, on copier paper, from there).

I could handle the cropping and resizing, but I got my daughter to use a special app called “Waterlogue”on her iPad to make the “watercolor” effect on each picture.

So at this point I had pictures that looked like this:

The square, resized, watercolored picture of the Waterman Ave house.

The square, resized, watercolored picture of the Waterman Ave house.

For the historic houses, I wanted to get those done on my own, and I downloaded a free one week trial of AKVIS Artwork 8.1.  It was fairly easy to use.

Editing one of the historic pictures using AKVIS Artwork 8.1.

Editing one of the historic pictures using AKVIS Artwork 8.1.

The results were nice:

The watercolor version of the historic house in Sheldonville, Mass.

The watercolor version of the historic house in Sheldonville, Mass., built by my 5th great grandfather Nathan Aldrich and his father, Asa Aldrich about 200 years ago.

I also used Paint to retouch the photos, eliminating a few window air conditioners and other modern touches.

I moved the pictures into Word when I was finished editing them so that I could size them exactly, in inches. Then I printed them.  I measured them against the tiles and cut them out with scissors.

Putting the tiles together

I also purchased:

  • scrapbook paper on sale at Michael’s which I cut to size
  • 4 inch square ceramic tiles, color Bisque, from Lowe’s, 16 cents each
  • Modge Podge and some foam brushes.  I got the shiny Modge Podge, but the matte might have been better
  • Acrylic spray for finishing
  • We already had glue and some quarter inch cork sheets around the house.

I covered the tiles with Modge Podge, placed the picture on top immediately – you can wiggle it at this point, but once you let go, you can’t really move it again.  Then I coated the top of the picture with Modge Podge, being careful to make sure each edge was held down firmly.

Modge Podge going on one of the scrapbooking paper tiles.

Modge Podge going on one of the scrapbooking paper tiles.  It dries clear.

I gradually put about 24 tiles together, and went back and recoated each one with Modge Podge three additional times.  They were looking good:

My parents' four previous houses

My parents’ four previous houses

This is the historic house set:

Some historic houses owned by my direct ancestors

Some historic houses owned by my direct ancestors

Along the way of all that Modge Podging and drying, I cut the cork for the backs, and began applying the backs just before the last coat of Modge Podge.  My husband made me a wooden template to use for the size I wanted the cork to be (slightly smaller than the tile) and I cut the cork with a knife.

Cutting the cork backing.

Cutting the cork backing.

I glued the cork on the back of each tile.  I just used Tacky Glue along the edge of the tile back, and on some of the raised areas; it worked fine.

Gluing the cork on the back of each tile.

Gluing the cork on the back of each tile.

The Christmas tiles

The Christmas tiles

The last step was to spray an acrylic finish on the tiles (the smell was really annoying!).  Although that dried quickly, I plan to leave them out for a week or so before packing them up for gifts.

The finished tiles after the acrylic spray.

The finished tiles after the acrylic spray.

In closing

I think the tiles made with scrapbooking paper are cute, but I think I would only be interested in doing these in the future with my own artwork or photos – that’s the fun and unique part.  I was surprised to see that the Modge Podge didn’t damage the print at all on my copied photos.  It worked fine.

I made 25 tiles, and it took about a half day to take and manipulate the photos, and most of a day to make the tiles.  I think I could do this faster next time.

The post you are reading is located at:  https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/11/30/a-quick-gift-for-mom-and-dad/


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I sometimes like to scan old photos, scrapbooks and out-of-copyright books at home.  My husband, a woodworker, recently made me a photography stand to help me take the pictures.  This is for when a flatbed scanner would be too slow.

We researched the photography stands available (mostly made of metal), and I showed him photographs of a few I’ve seen here and there at libraries.  None of that helped much, and a lot of the advice was conflicting, so we pretty much made up our own design.

My phone is a Samsung Galaxy Note II.  Its freakishly big screen comes in handy in many ways.

My phone is a Samsung Galaxy Note II. Its freakishly big screen comes in handy in many ways.

I knew I wanted to use my smart phone, rather than my camera, mostly because I can command the smart phone by voice to take the picture, and don’t have to touch or move it.  I give 100% credit for this idea to Jenny Lanctot, whose post on Are My Roots Showing? about using a locker shelf to make a photography stand clued me in to the fact that saying “shoot” would snap the picture on my Android smart phone.  Yes, I needed that help despite the fact that my phone camera, when in operation, has the words “You can take pictures with voice commands like Smile, Cheese, Capture, and Shoot” displayed across the bottom at all times.  I tried Jenny’s system, and realized the power of that simple voice command to speed up photographing a large number pages – you can go as fast as you can turn the pages.

The camera screen on my phone

The camera screen on my Android phone

However, I wanted a system that would accommodate wider books, and take two pages at a time, if desired.  There were several problems my husband and I puzzled over along the way.  This is how we resolved them.

The photography stand

The photography stand


Although I don’t plan to take this anywhere, I do plan to move it from room to room, and there will be long periods where I don’t use it at all, so I want to store it compactly.  For that reason, he made it in pieces that simply fit together when assembled.

One or two pages at a time?

Most professional set-ups for book scanning (for instance, this example) put the book in a cradle with about a 90 degree angle that the book rests in.  Cameras are above on each side, shooting one page, then the other, then the page is turned. The pictures are integrated into one pdf.  Since I wasn’t very interested in setting up two cameras, that wouldn’t work for me.  I thought, in general, I would be happy shooting two pages at once.

Size of the book

Of course, shooting two pages at once could require a fairly big surface, so hubby worked with the measurements of the biggest book I might want, say, a page measurement of 9″ by 12″.  This required significant flexibility for the height of the camera, since I might want it farther up for a large book, but be able to lower it to get close to a smaller book.  He put the camera holder on a slider with a knob closure.

A better view of the knob to raise and lower the camera

A better view of the knob to raise and lower the camera

Taking the pictures

If you scan a book lying open on a flat surface you get this:

A book photographed lying flat

A book photographed lying flat; it curves

The curve in the page would get annoying.  To flatten it, glass is a good choice.  I purchased a large piece of quarter inch glass, with a finished edge for safety.  Hubby framed it and added sturdy handles for lifting.  If I had it to do over, I would have put one of the handles on the long edge, to give another option for lifting it.  With the glass, pages look like this:

The pages flattened by glass

The pages flattened by glass

If I use the glass, I am lifting it each time to turn the page.  It’s not that bad, but not ideal.  With the camera relatively close, we didn’t think there was enough room to hinge it, and, that would have made the glass a permanent fixture in this process.

I was concerned about the tone of the pages – old books can easily appear yellowed and even sepia.  I examined the options on the phone’s camera, especially the AWB – adjust white balance – settings.  In the end “auto” AWB worked best.

The only option I saw for the pictures in my camera was jpeg, although perhaps there are others.  I used a fairly large size (2048 x 1536), which seemed to work well.

Lighting.  Ah, lighting

When I first started trying this out I quickly realized that lighting would be the big problem.  There were shadows everywhere, and I had two clip-on lamps that I thought I would use, but they could not get high enough above the surface to stay out of the reflecting glass.  I read up on lighting and there is a reason photographers use those giant white umbrellas and enclosed boxes – they want to diffuse the light source.  Light, apparently, should come from a wide source, not a narrow opening.  I chose to deal with this by buying two flexible table lamps that had wide light openings – “Sunlight Desk Lamps.”  They work quite well, but on the other hand, if you look around on the web there are many homemade ways of widening a light source.  I think these lamps will stay on my desk when not in use.

Turning the page under the glass

Turning the page under the glass

Uploading automatically

One of the things I required in this system is an auto-upload of each picture so I don’t have to bother with that.  My phone’s camera was already set to upload to my DropBox account.  So after taking the pictures I could see them right away on my computer.  I noticed the camera stopped uploading when power got to only 25% in the phone, but as soon as it was plugged in, the rest of the pictures appeared in Dropbox.

Bulk editing

At this point, some edits were in order, and unless they could be done in bulk, that could be difficult.  The first thing I did with sets of page pictures was to rename them in bulk.

The Rename function under File in a Windows document folder will rename all selected documents

The Rename function under File in a Windows document folder will rename all selected documents

Using “Rename” under “File” will allow you to give a name (such as a shortened title of the book), which is then assigned to each document you have selected in the folder, with (2), (3), (4) after each one, in order. That would help for keeping them in order.   To batch crop the pictures and eliminate the unneeded edges, I think you would need to download some software.


At this point, there is a folder full of jpeg images, in order.  I have Adobe Acrobat and that would make compiling the pdf book from the jpegs fairly simple.  I think it would be good to photograph the covers and add those.  To assemble the book I could either select ALL my pages and right-click to “Combine supported files in Acrobat” or open Acrobat and under “File” – “Combine” – “Merge files into a single pdf” open a box where I could drag all the pages in.

A picture of my Aunt Ann and a friend from 1945, pasted into my great grandmother's scrapbook, soon to be digitized.

A picture of my Aunt Ann and a friend from 1945, pasted into my great grandmother’s scrapbook, soon to be digitized.

I like the stand, lighting, and optional glass plate.  For other glimpses at hubby’s woodworking, see the bookcase he made me last year.


For woodworkers only

What follows are some details my husband provided me about the construction of the stand, and a few more pictures.  There are no detailed plans; I’m afraid this is all we have.  The stand was made from scrap wood, but my husband says strong wood like oak is important for something like this.

All the pieces at parade rest (as my husband would say).

All the pieces at parade rest (as my husband would say).

The platform is white oak plywood trimmed with (I think) poplar.  Its outer dimensions are 13 x 21.  When assembled the surface of the platform is 2-1/2 inches off the table.

The underside of the platform.

The underside of the platform.

The stand is made out of cherry on the bottom and the rising part is red oak; the top of the riser is 18 inches off the table.

The arm of the stand shown from the back

The arm of the stand shown from the back

There is a slit in the riser, it measures 12-1/4 inches.

To attach the box to the riser, he used a fender washer, and there is a T-bolt assembled into the box.  When assembled, the knob (purchased at Lowes) will allow me to adjust the height of the box, and therefore the height of the camera.

back of the sliding box

back of the sliding box

He carefully fit my phone to the inner edges of the box – he tested this several times. I believe it is red oak with poplar edges. I like the fact that there’s only about an extra half inch in there – I can line the phone up against the edge and be sure it is straight.  The box arms extend out about 12 inches over the platform.

The stand is not actually attached to the platform.  They just slide together.

The stand is not actually attached to the platform. They just slide together.

The base of the stand extends from back to front about 13-1/2 inches.  The platform fits over it.

The glass tray cover has handles purchased at Lowes

The glass tray cover has handles purchased at Lowes

The glass in the tray is 1/4 inch think, with finished edges for safety.  The outside measurements of the tray are 14 x 20.

The RJB insignia and date

The RJB insignia and date

For further information, consult my husband’s blog at AccidentalWoodworker.blogspot.com and search for “camera stand”.  It’s best to leave questions about the construction there.

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Recently, on a trip to the Providence Public Library, I found obituaries for Russell and Hannah Lamphere from the Providence Journal.  I was surprised to see that they were buried in their home town of Norwich, Connecticut.  Later, online, I found a list of all those buried in cemeteries that (now) belong to the town of Norwich.  The 976 page pdf of the list (available as a link here) contained Russell and Hannah’s names, and pointed to Section 6, Plot 9 at the Yantic Cemetery, Norwich.

At the Cemetery

This is taken from the cemetery map at the entrance to Yantic Cemetery:

Section 6, Lot 9

The plot has several markers visible, and most likely more burials in the rest of the space.

The area of Plot 9

I have now been there twice.  There are two small markers which may or may not designate where Russell and Hannah are buried; one has initials, the other is more worn.

One of the small markers may have the initials “L R”

The rounded marker in the back is for James D. Lamphere who I believe is Russell’s brother.

James D. Lanphere

“In memory of my husband, James D. Lanphere, born Oct. 14, 1829, died January 27, 1887.  Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.”  James left a widow, Mary, and a stepdaughter.

The first (tilted) marker up front is for Russell’s sister Lydia (Lamphere) Palmer, who died fairly young.

Lydia Lamphere Palmer

“Lydia, wife of Henry Palmer, died in Greenville, Nov. 19 1852, aged 45.  —   Mother.”

This brings us to the fifth marker.  It’s a mystery, but since Russell’s wife and mother are still among my mystery women, any information is useful.

The photography lesson

The first time I saw the marker, I took pictures that I couldn’t decipher.

hard to read my first set of pictures

I consulted genealogy friends on Facebook.  Turns out this is a controversial topic, and I got lots of conflicting advice.  When I went today, two of the suggestions worked great.

  • Wet the marker (I had a bottle of water in the car leftover from a recent trip)
  • Photograph in bright sunlight (the sun was going in and out of the clouds, so I waited for it to be right)

This was the result:

Margaret (Gaslin) Bassett

“Margaret Gaslin  widow of Barnabas Bassett  DIED  March 7, 1854 aged 76”

The difference is incredible. Both in person and in photographs, it became much easier to read.

So that was a lot of work just to figure out that the marker belonged to the next plot (#10), the Bassett plot. Which leads me to believe the other tiny, unmarked gravestone may belong to the Bassetts.  Leaving just 3 markers in the Lamphere plot.

Although there are no additional markers, the master list also included in that plot Harry H. Hill and Frank A. Hill.  Those are not names I recognize.

Original Cemetery Records

I also stopped at the Norwich Town Hall to look, once again, for a death record for Russell Lamphere’s mother, Lydia Miner, in 1849 (the death record I have is from The Norwich Aurora).  I didn’t find one.

But I did notice, among some miscellaneous volumes in the records room, an original sales/burial book from Yantic Cemetery detailing some later-sold sections with numbers in the mid-100’s.  My section was 6.  I looked everywhere, and asked if there were earlier volumes, but the clerk could not find any.

What’s Next

  • I will investigate the Hills a little more thoroughly, but there’s always the possibility they were sold spots in the plot but are not related to my family.
  • The original Yantic Cemetery sales records may be somewhere, like a local historical society.  I’ll keep looking.
  • The map says “R and W Lamphere” but I can’t account for a “W Lamphere”.
  • I do not know where Russell’s parents, Russell and Lydia, are buried.  Need to keep exploring that.
  • As I somehow expected, Russell’s loyal associate, Congressman John Turner Waite, who submitted a War Reparations bill for Russell three times in the 1880’s, is also buried in Yantic Cemetery.  I am thinking of approaching the New London Historical Society for more information about him.

John Turner Wait

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