Re: Photographing a postcard from Russia #general


David Rafki wrote:
"I have a postcard mailed >from Russia around 1912.
Unfortunately, the two messages it contains are written in different color
inks (blue and black), one message on top of the other. I would like to
isolate each message so they can be translated (they are in Yiddish).
Can someone recommend a photo lab that can separate the two messages or
a way that I can do this myself."
The best place to this kind of work would be a forensic, not a photo lab.
These exist inside police and FBI. Art museums are a good place too.

Generally speaking, it is not easy to enhance handwriting in an old
document. Because of the infinite combinations of paper type, ink type, and
environmental damage, there is no cookie-cutter approach. It is a trial and
error process. (The same is true regarding restoration/enhancing photo
images; it is a lot of work, but the results can be amazing).

There are two things a genealogist can do at home:

1. Scan on a whatever scanner is available and post-process in Photoshop or
a similar computer program.
2. Photograph using different light sources and then post-process in

It is good to remember, that what appears to us as "black" may still be a
mixture of primary colors: red, green, and blue. Photoshop program allows
separating a color image into these three (plus other seven) "channels" and
their further manipulation, which are a subject of probably 150 "how to"

"Normal" cameras operate in the same visible light spectrum as our eyes. On
the opposite ends of this spectrum, there is infra-red (IR) and ultra-violet
(UV) light. Documents and photos may look VERY different under IR and UV
light. There are special cameras sensitized to these parts of the spectrum.
A crude approximation of the process would be photographing a document under
Edison incandescent lights (not the squiggly perversion) which emit a lot of
IR radiation and using an IR filter on camera. UV lights can be found in
auto parts and pet stores because they are used to check for leaks in your
car AC system and for leaks your favorite pets create on your favorite rugs.
Rock collectors are a good source of information on UV lights as well.

Boris Feldblyum
Potomac, MD

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