A Few Photo Restorations
A Database of my Parents' Photos

I just love finding a box of old photographs (especially climbing photographs). In this digital age, the best way to preserve and share these old photos is to digitize them. This page contains a couple of interesting examples of photo restorations as well as describes a digital database I made with my parents' old photos.

A Photo Restoration
A panorama taken during the first ascent of Peak No. 7 in the St. Elias Range of Canada

In 2008, I did a fun project for a family friend. He had come across a box of old photographs, including some from his climbing days in the 60s. He had a set of 5 photos of a panorama of Mt. Steele (in the St. Elias Range of Canada), showing in one photograph a couple of climbers on a summit, which he seemed to recall was a first ascent he had done. I digitally reconstructed the panorama and then, using sight lines and maps and deduction, I figured out he was on Mt. Patterson. I dug through some old archives of the Canadian Alpine Journals, and sure enough: "Peak 7 - Mount Patterson (11,300 ft)...Trevor Morris...August 6, 1967. First ascent...." Cool stuff!

The original photographs and reconstructed panorama are shown below.

Original Photographs


The final product. Mt Steele across the valley, and two climbers on the summit of Mt. Patterson after a first ascent.

Trevor in 1967, the photographer of the above photographs. A real mountain man. And note that goldline rope! (I also restored this photo, which was damaged.)

A scan from the Canadian Alpine Journal about the first ascent of Peak No 7 (Mt. Patterson) in August 1967, during which the above panorama was taken.

Digitizing My Parents' Old Photos
Creating a Searchable Database

In 2005, I undertook the task of digitizing my parents' old photos. I traipsed through the house collecting every photo I could find, and ended up with a rather sizable pile of dogeared photo albums, a couple boxes of disorganized prints, and a stack of framed photographs from the walls.

Then, one by one, I scanned the photographs into files. But I didn't just dump the images into one catch-all folder on my computer. Instead, (initially using iPhoto, now using Aperture 3) I created a database as I went, arranging the photos in folders corresponding to their sources. I also transcribed any handwritten descriptions associated with the photos, and tagged each photo with keywords corresponding to the year the photograph was taken, the people in the photo, the location of the photo, the photo album the original could be found in, etc.

This process was as tedious and time consuming as it sounds. Even if I had not enjoyed it immensely (which I honestly did!), the end result was a invaluable database of digitized copies of all my parents old photos, spanning the time between their childhoods through the mountaineering days of their early marriage to my sister and my growing-up years. All of the digitized photos were neatly organized and easily searchable. Clicking on a photo provided access to a description of the photo (such as a note transcribed from a handwritten label in the photo album) as well as any keywords associated with the photo such as the year and the people in the photograph.

Furthermore, the search feature of the database allowed me to easily pull up any photos meeting a specified criteria. This could be as general as pulling up "all photos tagged with the keyword 'Steph'" or as specific as "all photos of my dad in the album 'Mountaineering 1980-1983' taken in Wyoming with the label 'Grand Teton'). The search is only limited by how detailed the keywords and labels are.

Quite often I find myself searching the digital database I have created of my parents' photos. It has turned out to be a tremendous resource that has made preserving and viewing my parents' old photos easy and enjoyable. Since I am interested in the glacier melting in the North Cascades, I often compare my photographs to those of my parents.  Instead of spending hours paging through fragile photo albums in search for a specific photo of a glacier, I can simply search my database and have it in a matter of minutes (or seconds!). And ready to email or print too!

Now, each member in my family has a copy of the database on his or her computer. This is a great way to share and preserve the photos for years to come.

A screenshots of my photo database (initially using iPhoto, now in Aperture 3) is shown below.

A screenshot of my database of my parents' old scanned photos. I initially used iPhoto, and now I use Aperture 3.

The info box for the photo the cursor is on shows how I have added keywords and descriptions to the photos; this makes all photos easily identifiable and searchable. The folder list on the left shows a bunch of smart albums I have made to sort the photos by year (these smart albums do not duplicate the photo files, so you can create and delete smart albums to your heart's content and not worry that a single photo might be in several of them).

I often reference the scanned images from my parents' old photo albums to make comparisons of glaciers in their photos and mine. Having all their old photos at my digital fingertips is a tremendous resource.