From Awful to Eiffel*

*Apologies for the lame title

As I was working through my “scanning/archiving family negatives/slides/prints” project, I recently came across a set of slides from the time my grandparents toured Europe in the late 1960s. As far as I can tell from the slides, this voyage encompassed West Germany, France, The Netherlands, Monaco, Italy and the United Kingdom. Among the slides from Paris are these two shots from the Eiffel Tower:

Neither of these photos are particularly-great, photography-wise, but they served their purpose, I imagine, as a memory of the time they saw one of the 19th Century’s greatest engineering marvels as well as a reminder of their journey as a whole, and I don’t discount that—while I tend to approach photography from an artistic perspective, I’m not above snapshots either.

That said, I imagine that if (and I’m assuming the photographer here) my grandmother could’ve gotten the entire structure in the shot, she would’ve been pleased. However, a couple of things would’ve stymied her:

  1. My guess is that she was shooting with a small, fixed-lens and focal length camera, something like an Instamatic, that would’ve precluded her from zooming out to get a wide shot. In effect, her “zoom lens” would’ve been her feet.
  2. Which brings us to the second item: They were on a bus tour of Paris (you can see the back of the bus there on the right of the first photo). These tend to speed you around a city, giving you just a few minutes at each sight to step out, snap a photo and get back on before you’re off to the next stop. No time to walk back a bit (and it would’ve been a fair bit) to get a full shot of the 300m tower on her 41mm Instamatic.

Fast-forward, though, more than half-a-century, and we now have the technology to do her photos justice—we’ll combine these two photos into one and turn snapshots into something a bit more artful.

First, let’s drop these two photos into Photoshop and use the File→Automate→Photomerge… command to combine them into one photo:

Okay, it’s a start. At least the tower is in one piece! Have some weirdness going on with the trees there on the left and it’s not straight, but we can work with this!

Next, let’s fix those trees and get rid of that bus and the busman. For this, we’ll use Photoshop’s Object Selection Tool along with it’s “Delete and Fill Selection” command. We’ll also expand the sky a bit to give us some working room when we straighten out the photo by expanding the canvas and using Content-Aware fill to create some more cloud-cover.

Wow! Bus is gone. Guy is gone. Floating trees are gone. Sure, there are some artifacts to deal with, but PS did a pretty-amazing job here. We’ll use some Content-Aware fill to fix the clouds where the trees were as well as the street where the bus was and fix the fence over there on the right that PS created out of thin air when it blew away the bus:

Lookin’ good. Sure, the Citroën is still a bit weird-looking there on the left, but, to be fair, they were always weird-looking cars.

Next, let’s get rid of that lady in the middle. Not sure who it is, but it’s certainly not my grandfather and probably not my grandmother, as we can assume she took the photo and she wasn’t a blonde. Or shaped like that. To do this, we’ll use the same object select/delete/fill technique as the previous step

I feel like a god…I made a person disappear off the face of the Earth!

Much better. Lady is gone. A few touches of the spot-fixing brush to clean up some remaining artifacts and damage to the photo and it’s time to bring it back into Lightroom for the final stretch. First, let’s straighten it a bit so that Gustave Eiffel’s signature structure isn’t about to tip over onto the unsuspecting touristes below. We’ll also give it a nice crop to center the subject.

I left the Citroën since I’m partial to their oddness

Finally, we’ll convert it to black-and-white to finish the project off in a more-classic style, giving it a timeless atmosphere.

And voila! We’ve made a nice artistic photo out of two not-so-great 60-year-old snapshots in roughly twenty minutes using 21st Century tech. As the French would say, “Le Amaze-balls”.

Finally, if you’re interested in what it looks like today from roughly the same vantage point, here’s a screenshot from Google Maps Streetview:

Featured Image By Hannes Wolf

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