I don’t know about you, but I always tend to think about the world prior World War II as being in black and white. Buildings, landscapes and clothing only came in two flavors: light and dark. That’s why it’s so stunning to come across early color photos that show a world every bit a brilliant as our own. These were shot in Czarist Russia just prior to World War I by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, who traveled the huge Russian Empire from one end to the other documenting its art, architecture, geography and people. One interesting aspect of his work is the surprising ethnic diversity of the Russian Empire of the time.
Prokudin-Gorskii used an ingenious process to capture the images in color that involved photographing his subjects three times in rapid succession through different-colored filters. They were meant to be displayed by a projector using similar filters.
The not-exactly true color images that resulted often had an amazing fairy tale quality.
You can browse Prokudin-Gorskii’s work and learn more about him and his photographic process at the Library of Congress.
If you happened to be on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook you might have noticed that their is a trend to post retro-ized version of photos. Its a fun trend, that I certainly enjoy. A lot of these apps are for your mobile device, which makes sense when you are on the go and want to take advantage of the camera built into you phone, but what about on you home computer? Well you certainly have your options, this week I gave an App called Lo-Fi a spin.
The program, by Wingnut, which is available for PC and Mac, installs easily and comes with a 7 day trial where it is fully operable. After day 7, if you enjoy the program, you will be asked to purchase it and it will run you $29 for a license key.
Upon firing it up, you will notice something about Lo-Fi:
The interface is a giant camera. This is something that I needed to adjust to, since I am much more accustomed to software just being software (as a PC user I am not accustomed to this whimsy in my software UI). Initially I thought, how cute, then I realized something. I am going to need to figure this out. It does not take long, the icons make sense once you get to know them, but I do wish that they were clearly labeled or that they had better roll over text to tell you exactly what you are clicking on. So I needed to do some exploring and playing around. 5 minutes later it all made sense to me and while I came to appreciate what the software does, I cannot say that I am madly in love with the camera interface. Plus I am not sure how extensible it will be for future versions of the software that might want to incorporate more social media (more on that later).
So how does it work? Easy, you drag a photo you want to modify, say this wintry scene of a Christmas Market in Vienna, into the image field on the interface.
Then you start adjusting the presets on the right. You can choose what from 3 categories and each of them has multiple presets under them, which allows for a great number of combinations. Then when you feel like the photo looks properly aged and stylized you hit save and you have your aged photo.
But wait, there’s more! The Lo-Fi App also allows you to upload your photos to social media and community sites on Flickr and Facebook, which is kind of cool if you like sharing your photos with others, and the Lo-Fi photo pool seems to be humming along on Flickr. What might terrify some is the warnings you get when you need to authorize the app to contact your account. These are the standard warnings from the site and Lo-Fi works ably in connecting to those services. Two things about this though, one I would like some Twitter integration (which is why I said they may want to rethink the interface to make more room for social buttons) and two, they should explain exactly how Lo-Fi will work with your account.
All in all, Lo-Fi has been a lot of fun to play with. I email and send photos back and fourth almost every day with family and friends and Lo-Fi will add an interesting element, giving a photo that might be slightly boring an air of nostalgia or mystery. If that is something that interests you, why not stop by the official Lo-Fi website and give the trial a try.
Michael Paul Smith started out trying to perfect his twin hobbies of model building when he started what would become Elgin Park, but what started small (literally) has grown into “a dream-like reconstruction of the town (he) grew up in. It’s not an exact recreation, but it does capture the mood of (his) memories.
And like a dream, many of the buildings show up in different configurations throughout the photos. Or sometimes, the buildings stay put and the backgrounds change.” He has been featured in the New York Times and now he even has his own website. So if you like Americana and appreciate the art of model building I suggest your drop by Michael Paul Smith’s Elgin Park photo page on Flickr.