Coloring Historical Photographs - April 7th Edition

Someone posted the following photo of three WWII GIs to a Veteran's forum, and I thought it would make a good candidate for another attempt at coloring a historical photograph. I did a little bit of research about the uniforms, thankfully there are a lot of examples around.


I have no idea who these guys were, or what time in the war this was from; they look like three guys on leave enjoying life, though.

That's it for today.

Coloring Historical Photographs - First Attempt

I hang out in a few history-related forums, and I see a lot of great photos posted. Periodically, I see photos that someone has colorized, and I have occasionally thought, "I wonder how hard that is?" With that in mind, I saw a photo today that I thought seemed like it would be a great place to get started. Here is the before and after... it's not too bad for a first effort. There are a few historical inaccuracies that I learned about after the fact; for example: the buttons and belt buckle both should have been silver, not brass. (I obviously have room to improve.)

Pilot-Officer-James-Robbinson- Before-and-After

Colorizing that image was quickly followed by colorizing another image, which turned out okay, but I didn't have much to work with; the resolution of the source image wasn't that great. I did some research to get the colors right for the airplane and uniform, so I was trying to learn from my mistakes.


So there you have it - my first two attempts at coloring historical images. I obviously have lots of room to grow.

The Windmills of La Mancha

Here is an HDR shot which I took of the windmills in La Mancha, Spain...


However, this photo does not do justice to the actual spectacle, nor does it capture the rain and hail which were pelting me as I took the photo. With that in mind, I felt a little more in tune with Don Quixote as I was chasing the impossible amidst an onslaught of oppressive circumstances...

Surprised smile

Fixing Underwater Videos with FFMPEG

I ran into an interesting predicament: I couldn't get the right color adjustment settings to work in my video editor to correct some underwater videos from a scuba diving trip. After much trial and error, I came up with an alternative method: I have been able to successfully edit underwater photos to restore their color, so I used FFMPEG to export all of the frames from the source video as individual images, then I used a script to automate my photo editor to batch process all of the images, then I used FFMPEG to reassemble the finished results into a new MP4 file.

The following video of a Goliath Triggerfish in Bora Bora shows a before and after of what that looks like. Overall, I think the results are promising, albeit via a weird and somewhat time-consuming hack.

Exporting Videos as Images with FFMPEG

Here is the basic syntax for automating FFMPEG to export the individual frames:

ffmpeg.exe -i "input.mp4" -r 60 -s hd1080 "C:\path\%6d.png"

Where the following items are defined:

-i "input.mp4" specifies the source MP4 file
-r 60 specifies the frame rate for the video at 60fps
-s hd1080 specifies 1920x1080 resolution (there are others)
"C:\path\%6d.png" specifies the directory for storing the images, and specifies PNG images with file names which are numerically sequenced with a width of 6 digits (e.g. 000000.png to 999999.png)

Combining Images as a Video with FFMPEG

Here is the basic syntax for automating FFMPEG to combine the individual frames back into an MP4 file:

ffmpeg.exe -framerate 60 -i "C:\path\%6d.png" -c:v libx264 -f mp4 -pix_fmt yuv420p "output.mp4"

Where the following items are defined:

-framerate 60 specifies the frame rate for the output video at 60fps (note that specifying a different framerate than you used for exporting could be used to alter the playback speed of the final video)
-i "C:\path\%6d.png" specifies the directory where the images are stored, and specifies PNG images with file names which are numerically sequenced with a width of 6 digits (e.g. 000000.png to 999999.png)
-c:v libx264 specifies the H.264 codec
-f mp4 specifies an MP4 file
-pix_fmt yuv420p specifies the pixel format, which could also specify "rgb24" instead of "yuv420p"
"output.mp4" specifies the final MP4 file

How to Add the Nik Collection to Corel's PaintShop Pro

Following Google's acquisition of Nik Software, Google has decided to make it's suite of plugins available for free. With that in mind, I thought that I  would post a simple "How-To" guide for using the Nik plugins for anyone who is using Corel's PaintShop Pro instead of Adobe's hideously-priced Photoshop software. (Note that Photoshop is really cool, of course - it's just priced and/or licensed badly.)

In any event, here are the steps to use the Nik Collection plugins with Corel's PaintShop Pro on a Windows computer:

  1. Download the Nik Collection from
  2. Install the collection into the default folder; this should be something like the following path:

    "%ProgramFiles%\Google\Nik Collection"

  3. Open a Windows command prompt
  4. Change directory to the plugins folder for the version of PaintShop which you have installed; for example:

    cd /d "%ProgramFiles%\Corel\Corel PaintShop Pro X8 (64-bit)\PlugIns\EN"

  5. Create a directory junction to the Nik Collection:

    mklink /j "Nik Collection" "%ProgramFiles%\Google\Nik Collection"

  6. When you next open PaintShop, the Nik Collection will show up under Effects->Plugins:


That's all it takes. Have fun!

The Photo that Nearly Got Me Killed

Several years ago my wife and I entered the Leavenworth Half-Marathon; we had recently both lost weight, and we wanted to do something big to test our new-found health. Because the half-marathon takes place in the Fall, I knew that the leaves on the trees would be changing colors, so I brought my DSLR camera and tripod with me.

On our way back to Seattle after the marathon, we passed by several groves of trees on either side of the road that were displaying a dizzying array of radiant colors. As we approached a road that was announcing a new housing development that was coming soon, I thought this would make a great place to take photos - especially before the developers cut down all of the amazingly colorful foliage to build houses.

As we turned off the main highway between Leavenworth and Seattle, we stopped on a newly-graveled road that led to the future construction sites. To the east of the road was a veritable wall of brilliantly-colored trees, while to the west was an unfenced field with the run-down remnants of a farmhouse and barn.

I got my camera gear out of the car, while Kathleen settled down in the front seat of our car to take a quick nap. I walked along the gravel road, and I stopped periodically to set up my tripod and take a few photos.

Nature did little to disappoint me; it seemed that everywhere I turned I was surrounded by an eruption of vibrant color. My only regret was that I wasn't a better photographer with skills that could capture what my eyes were actually seeing.

I had been careful to stay on the road as I took my photographs for no particular reason; there were no fences that prevented me from crossing into the woods or the nearby field - I simply felt no need to leave the road to line up any of my camera shots. In hindsight, I suppose that I didn't want to track a bunch of mud back to the car.

After a half-hour or so, I had satisfied my inner shutterbug, and I packed my equipment to leave. As I walked back to the car, I realized that if I walked into the field on the west side of the road, I could line up a photo with the barn in the foreground and the grove of trees in the distance.

I have to be honest - there are hundreds if not thousands of photographers who take endless numbers of barn photographs, and that's simply not my style. But on this one occasion, I thought this particular arrangement might result in a decent photo or two. With this in mind, I set down my camera bag in the middle of the road near our car, and I walked a hundred yards or so into the field near the barn.

I set up my camera and tripod, then I lined up a shot, and I set my timer to take a single image. As I heard the shutter click, I happened to notice someone walking towards me from the general vicinity of the dilapidated farmhouse. As the person drew nearer I realized that it wasn't Kathleen, but the stranger waved to me and I waved back cordially. I turned to look at my camera when the stranger's voice was suddenly audible, and I heard him yell, "What the @#$% do you think you're doing!!!"

At that point, I realized that the situation was going to be bad.

Very bad.

As he walked up to me, he swung his arms widely in the air as he screamed a tirade of expletives that made little sense, punctuated by occasional moments of clarity when his threats of beating me to a pulp were all-too intelligible and disturbingly believable.

My would-be assailant drew to a stop within inches of my face, and he continued to hurl fiery verbal spitballs of ill will as I stepped back instinctively. I apologized profusely for whatever it was that I must have done, to which my aggressor shouted that I was trespassing. I apologized again, and I replied that this was my fault entirely; I had seen no signs nor fences to indicate that the property was privately owned. I hastily explained that I thought the land was unoccupied prior to the commencement of the impending development project, while my infuriated companion continuously mocked my every word.

In my former career as a technical support engineer, I had dealt with more than my fair share of angry and unreasonable customers, and I was drawing on every ounce of experience to try everything within my power to diffuse the situation, but nothing seemed to work. My assailant continued to scream at me as I said that I would take my things and leave. As I reached for my camera, my belligerent host screamed, "Don't you touch me!!!", and he jumped back several feet. I explained that I was simply going to pack up my camera, to which he angrily responded, "It's on my land!!! It belongs to me now!!!"

Up to this point in the conversation I had been on the defensive. (Or more accurately, I had been in retreat.) But once he mentioned keeping my camera equipment, I switched gears and strongly remarked, "No - this doesn't belong to you, and I'm taking it with me."

My sudden change in tone prompted a different reaction from my antagonist - he demanded that we call the development company so that I could explain why I was trespassing. I agreed to his terms; after all, I probably was trespassing, even if I had done so unwittingly. But I also thought that whomever I spoke to at the development company would have to be able to participate in a more reasonable dialogue than my enraged escort.

As the two of us walked towards the farmhouse, I had no intention of actually going inside his derelict dwelling. (I've seen too many horror movies for that.) But I suddenly remembered that I had left my camera bag sitting in the middle of the road, and I changed course to recover it. As I did so, my hostile host shouted, "Where are you going???"

I explained that I was going to retrieve my camera bag, but I was now near enough to the car for the shouting to wake Kathleen. As she sat up in our car's front seat, my unwelcome companion suddenly noticed her, and it visibly dawned on him that he was outnumbered. (Even if neither Kathleen nor I were ready to provoke an all-out fight.)

Despite his earlier aggressive stance, my would-be attacker now backed away rapidly, and he yelled at me to leave as fast as possible, and he demanded that I call the property company on my own so that I could explain why I was trespassing. (I agreed to make the call, but of course I never actually did.)

As Kathleen and I drove away, it took a while for the adrenalin to burn off and my nerves to mend. Once we had arrived home safely, I looked through my collection of photos from earlier in the day. I had a few nice photos of colorful leaves, but what I really wanted to see was whether the solitary photo for which I had risked life and limb was worth the potential hazards that I had endured.

I will let you be the judge... here is the actual image:

I think this is the last time that I will try to photograph a barn.

Your Tablet PC is Not a Camera

It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who walk around with a tablet PC and try to use it as a camera.

I don't care how many megapixels a tablet PC has - it's not a real camera, and people look pretty silly trying to hold up a tablet in order to use it as one. Not to mention the fact that people with tablet PCs are typically blocking everyone else's view.

Please do yourself and the rest of the world a favor - if you need to take a photo, buy a real camera.