Beatties Studio: Blog en-us (C) Beatties Digital Studio (Beatties Studio) Sun, 11 Mar 2018 23:48:00 GMT Sun, 11 Mar 2018 23:48:00 GMT Beatties Studio: Blog 89 120 See, I said I'd write soon. Lightroom says I have 5022 photos so I hit my 5000 by 2018 goal. There's plenty of crates left, I estimate another two or three thousand negatives. I just found a whole box of sailing ships, for example.

Last year I went to galleries in England, Scotland, Singapore, Sydney, on cruise ships and in Melbourne. More recently, I took a walk through Salamanca Market and also visited some local galleries. Special mention to Wild Island. And of course, I've been to MONA a few times. When we're away, it's a bit of a running joke between me and the Boss - "Oh Walshie's got one of those." (Props to MONA when I was referring to an exhibit in the British Museum.)

I'm no art expert and my art budget is basically zero. But I think I have a bit of a feel for how it's done. The business of art. And here in lies that elusive business plan I mentioned last blog post. I noticed that I wrote in 2016 that I would be developing products and making the collection more accessible. I think I said watch in the coming weeks. I suppose 2 years is only 104 weeks...


My digital recreations now come as a full featured piece of art. Each one is printed and inspected, then sprayed with a clear coating to protect it. It is “T” hinge mounted on acid-free foam core backing board and window matted with 4-ply cotton museum board. The image and paper is estimated to resist fading or deterioration for over 100 years. Framing options have been carefully selected to make the best presentation. Prints are wrapped in crystal clear viewing bags for transport.

But wait, there's more. (I always wanted to say that)

Included is a certificate of authenticity listing the details of the image, its history and as much information on the scene as we can find. Each certificate has a unique serial number on a tamper evident hologram sticker with its matching sticker on the back of the signed print. There will be no doubt that you have an original Beattie's Digital Studio print.



]]> (Beatties Studio) john watt beattie tasmania Sun, 11 Mar 2018 23:48:06 GMT
New Shopping experience I've updated the web site yet again. If you want to buy prints, frames etc it's now a bit easier.

As you browse the galleries, the shopping options appear on the right hand side of the screen by default. You can turn these off if you wish, just hit the little "x" in the top left hand corner of the shopping pop-up on the right side of the screen. Turning it off makes for more screen area to view photos. And some people are not interested in buying and that's fine, feel free to browse the galleries with shopping turned off. Hit the "Buy" button at the top right to turn shopping back on. Easy.



In that shopping pop-up, you will see a few suggested common products you might like. One click on those adds them to your shopping cart. View items, put things in the cart, take them out. I don't get statistics on that, I won't be offended if you change your mind, I won't even know about it. Once you have everything you want, finish the cart, checkout and pay. That's the point where I start getting information and statistics. Try not to change your mind after you pay, that creates a bit of work for me. Paypal and Zenfolio have charged me their commissions at that point, so it costs me money to refund you.


The real treasure is located in "The Shop". Hit the "Visit Shop" button and you will see ALL of the options, not just the common ones. Bigger prints, frames, acrylics, canvas and maybe one day coffee cups and mouse mats, tea-towels and the likes. Same deal, browse the store, put things in the cart, take them out. Go back to the Gallery if you want to look at more photos or head to the checkout if you're done.


The shopping experience uses cookies. The cart is saved locally on your computer (that's what cookies are), not on our web site. If you clear cookies, the cart will vanish. If it all gets messed up, just delete cookies on your computer. We don't do any evil tracking and we don't give, sell or rent your personal info to anyone (we have to pass some basic stuff to Paypal so they know how much to charge to you). Your credit card details are never on our web site. We don't ask for any information beyond what we need. (e.g. we don't ask for your date of birth, drivers licence or the password to your Cayman Islands bank account - oh go on, I know some of you have one!)


Instructions on buying our products


]]> (Beatties Studio) john watt beattie tasmania Tue, 06 Feb 2018 01:26:40 GMT
Inspiration 4242Hobart GPO from Franklin Square. You would think finding the inspiration to restore 5000 historic Tasmanian photos by iconic photographer John Watt Beattie would be easy. Well I suppose it would be if I were a photographer, but I'm not. I'm an imposter. My grand father and my father were photographers, my brother is a photographer, as is my good friend, my printer and lots of the people I associate with. I don't know what I am (photography wise that is), I'm an anomaly, a photographer that doesn't take photos. That's not it exactly because of course everyone takes photos. I mean professionally. And I'm not a photoshop artist, although I do a lot of photoshop. I'm some kind of historic photography restorative computer museum curator. See, it's hard to define.


When I started this project, I needed to learn. I needed to come up to speed on the photography industry really quickly. And so I sought inspiration. The Internet is a wonderful place. If you can ignore the rubbish, there's a wealth of knowledge and experience out there. Wonderful people who love to share. I've learned everything from photoshop, digitising glass plates, landscape photography, black and white, exposure etc etc etc. You can literally Youtube anything. My daughter proved that when she made the pizza oven and Youtubed how to lay bricks.


I like lots of web sites. Luminous Landscape, B&H, Digital Transitions, Tim Grey, Scanscience, robert rodriguez jr and LightStalking to name a few.


I find that I have to have a constant stream of new exciting ideas or I get stuck. I'm stuck at the moment. Not on photography or technique but on business model. But that's another story. I'll write soon, I promise. Right now enjoy one of my personal favourite images from the Beattie's Studio collection - Franklin Square and Hobart GPO. I don't know what it is about this one, but I really like it. It's a big slab of glass, I like glass plates. Maybe it was the fact that the negative didn't give me any trouble, it came up the way I like it (all nice and contrasty) without much work from me. Maybe it's the fact that the Hobart City Council is restoring the park right now and I see it every day. Maybe it's because I've had a GPO box (behind the last arch on the left) for 35 years. I don't know. I just love it. I hope you do too.

]]> (Beatties Studio) beatties studio tasmania Thu, 10 Aug 2017 08:20:23 GMT
Wet Mounting 12481248"A quiet corner" Wineglass Bay Freycinet Peninsula Beattie 909A

I'm constantly seeking to improve my photography. With over 4 years invested in digitising the Beattie collection, I think it's fair to say I've learned a thing or two. At the high end of commercial digitisation the big gun scanners use a glass drum and the negative is mounted onto the drum with a special scanning fluid. Historic negatives are not normally digitised this way for fear of damaging them. And of course glass plates can't be bent around a drum. So wet mounting (sticking the negative to glass with fluid) is not something that is used for this type of project. But that didn't stop me researching it and deciding if wet mounting had something to offer. Turns out that it did.

Some of the Beattie collection exists on 120 film. Where the original glass plate was lost, a high quality print was re-photographed on film. Ilford Fp4+ to be precise. So we have a lot of it and some of it is quite old and well worn. The acetate base (the "film") gets scratched with repeated use. One of the downsides to the very high resolution scanning process is that it reveals these scratches whereas the traditional darkroom printing, using an enlarger, does not.

The advocates of wet mounting claim that the fluid fills in the microscopic scratches in the film surface giving a better scan. The other benefits come from reducing refraction. Dry mounting sandwiches the film between two sheets of glass to flatten it. This means that you are photographing through at least one layer of glass. The more layers you put between the film and the camera sensor, the more chance of distortion.

So I decided to try wet mounting.

I got some excellent advice from and the wonderful Mr Dan Max who got me kitted out with appropriate fluid, glass and most importantly technique. This is a lot harder than it sounds because he had to ship "dangerous goods" internationally. The scanning fluid contains a flammable component so it can't fly, has to come sea and road freight.

The results are good. I can easily tell the difference between a wet mount and a dry mount scan. There are less scratches and marks but more importantly more detail and contrast. And the wet mount holds the negative much flatter than a dry glass sandwich. The process takes a bit longer but the results are worth it.

The photo (above) of Wineglass Bay is a wet mount DSLR camera scan with no retouching. Looks very good to my eye.


]]> (Beatties Studio) negative scanning wet mounting Sat, 10 Jun 2017 02:18:04 GMT
Numbers Numbers are interesting things. Most of our photos have numbers. They don't have much else to identify them, no names, no descriptions, no locations and certainly no metadata. Most have a four digit number hand written on the paper bag they are stored in. Mostly the number is also written on the negative too. So that's what you get - 4 lousy digits to distinguish thousands of lovely images from one another.

3647 is an interesting number. No, it's not the combination to my high school locker. I can't recall what that was, yet it seemed so important at the time. No, 3647 is the number of images in the Beattie's Lightroom catalogue. That is where I keep the digital master versions of our photographs. So in theory I've done 3647 out of 5000 negatives in the historic collection. Given 2016 was a bad year on so many levels, I'm pretty happy with that number. I believe I said this was a 5 year project and that number says I'm on track for a 2018 finish.

It's probably not appropriate to go into too much detail of all the pot holes in that track, let's just say they were significant and plentiful. What's more interesting is the journey down that track. And I can assure you that's a more interesting story.

One diversion was the scanner. I still get better results with my archival camera, but I needed a scanner for colour work. I do get people needing reprints of their weddings, portraits and other photos Beattie's took for them over the years. Many of these are in colour. And colour is really hard to get right. With all your fancy digital cameras and really smart software, you've probably never had to work with early colour film. And what a little bugger colour film is.

It all comes down to compression. That's the process of taking a lot of information and squashing it down into a small storage space. Your digital camera does that by taking lots of colour picture information and squashing it into a small jpeg datafile. And it does that really, really well. Even a cheap camera does a pretty good job of that and makes the process so simple that it's invisible to you and you've probably never thought about it. When it comes time to viewing the photo, a computer un-squashes the jpeg and produces a wide range of colours that looks so close to the original image that you are happy. You never think about how closely those colours resemble the original scene. Like I said, even a cheap camera can get this bit so very right.

Analogue film cameras are pretty good a squashing down the colour information. They store it on a piece of plastic film using a photo-chemical reaction. And this is where my problem starts. All of that highly compressed colour information appears to my eyes as a piece of orange coloured film. I can't see any colours in there. The whole thing is just a shade of orange;

Kodak 160NC colour negative120 colour negative Kodak 160NCThis one is a portrait of my daughter Taylia taken by my father

I don't know about you, but for the life of me I can't detect any "colour" in this other than orange. Possibly the background curtain is blue and there's some green in the dress, but it's like one of those silly 3D pictures, you can stare and stare and some people just get it and some people do not. When it comes to colour negatives, I just don't see it.

With black and white, I just invert the blacks and whites (using a tone curve, black becomes white, white becomes black) and the negative un-squashes into a photograph. It needs some contrast adjustment, but basically it's a photo. With colour, I have to invert Red, Green and Blue (RGB) which doesn't sound too bad until you realise that each colour layer has its own compression and that's not a linear process. Oops, I just used a bunch of big words. Sorry.

Un-squashing colour negatives into an exact match of the original colour photo is hard, really hard. Each batch of film was different and you would need hundreds of adjustments and you might not get it right after all that.

So I bought some really expensive software that specialises in this complex un-squashing of colour negatives. It's called Silverfast and it's very good at what it does. The software itself is a right bugger to learn because it's very German. All the translation is literal. There is no manual. The training videos are done by very talented, German engineers who wrote the software so they know exactly how it works. They will tell you that the "achtung-o-meter" controls the achtung of the image, for example. Well WTF is that? The user interface was designed by ... no, just kidding, it wasn't designed at all. It was thrown together. In short, the software is God-awful to use but does a brilliant job.

So, in learning how to process the colour negatives in the Beattie's Studio collection, I spent most of 2016 just getting a grip on one piece of software. See, I told you it was an interesting pot hole.


]]> (Beatties Studio) Beatties Studio Tasmania coloured Fri, 30 Dec 2016 22:09:30 GMT
You find some fun stuff So this week's new arrivals include an award given to the Anson Brothers for outstanding photography, 1879, a shot of Elizabeth Street Hobart that almost exactly matches out signature shot (771, the man on the bike) and many more.


I'm using the Epson V800 with Silverfast 8. This helps me "plough through" the smaller negatives. I say "plough" as they take around an hour and a half per negative. Yes, 90 minutes. Given the grunt of my Mac Pro, there must be some serious number crunching going on. The results are good.


Anyway, I'm back at it, which is good.


]]> (Beatties Studio) Sun, 11 Dec 2016 07:04:24 GMT
Fake news, fake history Modern social media seems to have received a bit of a shock with the result of the US election. They have had this problem of “fake news” for while now. Just so we are on the same page, fake news is the term for non-fiction where the facts are not accurately reported.

Or as founder David Mikkelson put it “The fictions and fabrications that comprise fake news are but a subset of the larger bad news phenomenon, which also encompasses many forms of shoddy, unresearched, error-filled, and deliberately misleading reporting that do a disservice to everyone,”


And there’s a lot of fake news about and not just on social media. Traditional media often displays a lack of understanding of the facts in a story. For example, a story about a scientist making a significant discovery can be be reported with the gender or physical appearance of the scientist taking the lead in the story and the discovery barely mentioned. Or the use of NBN to facilitate Beattie’s restoration gets reported with no mention of NBN at all.

When my late father wrote his book (Pictorial Portrayal of Tasmania’s Past) he engaged local history buff Basil Rait to do the history. Much of what Basil wrote was good, but he had a tendency to guess if the facts were not available to him. Facts can be checked or evidence given to support supposition and every historian brings his or her own views and distortions, no matter how minor or well guarded they keep them.

Once a bad story gets out, it lives forever. No matter how many times reputable, informed sources prove it to be false, there will always be many people who believe the original (fake) article. Vaccination is a classic example. Put aside your gut reaction for a moment. One fraudulent article in 1998 and there are still people who believe vaccines are proven to cause autism. They are not.

History is the same. History is written by the victors. And once fake history gets out, it lives forever.

I am not a historian. I think I’ve said that a few times now. The history I report comes from other sources. Where I infer things, I admit it. The story of my grandfather’s camera bag came from my head, I admit it. The fact is it’s in the shot. The reason he put it there could have been laziness or incompetence, it could have been stylistic but I prefer to believe it was to piss off his son the perfectionist. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

]]> (Beatties Studio) Sat, 19 Nov 2016 21:57:42 GMT
A few more tweaks I made a few more tweaks to the web site view. It's still not where I want it, but it's better than it was. I've posted the pros and cons of hosted websites before so I'll not repeat myself - again.

The (useless) camera info is gone. This referred to the camera I use to capture the image, not the antique camera used to make that image. Unfortunately, ancient film cameras did not record metadata like modern digital cameras. Working out which wooden camera Mr Beattie used for each photo is not something I am going to attempt. But all the cameras will be on display when I open a museum. (no cat out of the bag there I hope)

Over on the right of each photo, you will see the Title in grey text (generally a 4 digit number, occasionally with a letter prefix and/or suffix) which relates to the original Beattie's negative number. (e.g. 28g, the "g" means glass negative). That is the number we refer to the photo by. Don't ever quote any other number to me, it probably won't make sense. 

The numbering on the thumbnails is gone. Very pleased to get rid of that, the extra numbers confused the heck out of everyone including me. You now just press the right and left controls to browse through the photos. If you are at the first photo, there is no left. If you are at the last photo, there is no right. If your device has a touch screen (tablet, phone etc) you can swipe rather than hit the buttons.

Under the Title is the Caption (in white text), which is the name of the photo or its description. (e.g. "Man on the bike, Elizabeth Street c1914"). This is there so you can search for photos of something you are interested in. (e.g. Elizabeth Street)

Then below that is "Categories and keywords". I finally found out how to fill in the "Category", "Subcategory" and "Subcategory Detail" boxes. These have been empty for years. That's how long it took me to find out how to use them. Anyway, these fields aren't as useful as you might think and really only help Google find images. The categories are pre-set and can't be changed. Like I said, not really useful. But I now have data in there. Just please no one complain that I have silly categories, because they are not my categories. I have to have this box showing as that's the only place the keywords show up. So no categories box, no keywords. And I do use keywords and they are useful. The thing that I can't display yet is the star rating of each photo. So I'll tag the photos with the keywords "3star" and "5star". Soon.

I got rid of more overlay information. And generally cleaned up the look. I'm aiming to make the viewing experience as clean and easy as possible, within the limits of a hosted web site. You came here to see photos, not pop-up information.

Thank you for your suggestions, I have to hang onto them until I design my own site. I think I have pushed the hosted site as far as it goes.



]]> (Beatties Studio) Sat, 12 Nov 2016 02:39:29 GMT
Product development Not having studied marketing or design at school, the world of product development is all new to me. And I have to say somewhat exciting. It's sort of like shopping. You search for materials, compare research and select the ones you like the best. Then you find that they just don't go with that other amazing thing you had your heart set on, so you have to change one of them and so on. It is not as straightforward as I would have imagined.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am working on framing for our prints. And that is the product I'm currently developing. I'm probably not ready to let the cat out of the bag just yet, but let's just say it will be as elegant as I can make it.

Just to clarify, this will be an additional product range, not a replacement. If you want a bare print for your album, scrapbooking, or to frame yourself, that will still be an option for you. Not taking that away.

]]> (Beatties Studio) Sat, 05 Nov 2016 23:02:26 GMT
Framing, finished products coming soon. The journey to digitising all of the Beattie Collection is a long and expensive one. If you've read any of my blog posts, articles etc you will understand that it isn't just a case of tossing them under the scanner. And the quest for quality, modern digital recreations is not easy. I've admitted before that I'm not (and there is no point) just trying to produce perfect copies of these historic Tasmanian photos exactly the way they've been done for the past 150+ years.


For a start, there’s no certainty that the washed sepia look was what the photographer (Beattie) would have intended. Sepia was developed to make the prints last longer. And the original Beattie prints (and those of that era) that have survived are black and white, not sepia. It is my personal theory that sepia toning was introduced by subsequent curators to present a historic look, rather than an accurate look.


And most importantly is the copyright issue. The copyright on original photos would have expired 25 years after Beattie’s death (i.e. 1955) But in creating new, derivative works, the copyright starts again. And it would be very hard to argue that my new digital recreations with their vastly different toning and Photoshop enhancements are mere copies. They are clearly a new spin on old images, making the grade as derivative not duplicates.


Now we could just donate this collection to The Archives and they would probably be scanned and stuck on a web site. And after a few years, the collection would fade into history, popping up here and there when someone needed an old photo. And if you want the proof of this, there’s plenty of examples. My belief is that this would not be good enough for the Beattie Collection. Read my blog article on the photo my son found at the tip if you doubt my passion.


So that’s NOT what is going to happen to this collection under my watch. It is being digitally preserved and enhanced and it IS available to the world. But that costs money and this collection has always paid its own rent. It’s an open commercial collection. Yes, decades before Creative Commons and Open Source and all that hippy "sharing economy" talk, this little collection found a way to survive. And this brings me to the point of my blog article. Hopefully, you are still with me.


I’ve said before that the web site as it is now is a beta for what I want some time in the future. It’s a hosted web site. It lets everyone browse (and search) for free, fulfilling my promise. And for those that wish, there are items for sale. The web site mirrors perfectly the museum experience offered by Beattie himself. But what you’ve not heard before is that the collection isn’t just photographs. There always was more to it than that. Beattie had artefacts from colonial Tasmania. My father added cameras and photographic equipment, books and other historical items. I want to add lantern slide lectures, because Beattie used to tour Tasmania showing his slides and giving his talks. (You didn’t think PowerPoint was an original idea, did you?)


With bigger ideas come bigger costs. To meet bigger costs, the collection has to work harder. Has to offer more to the public. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. And I’ve tried to figure out where I am going wrong with the products. And then I took a holiday and visited some galleries and museums. It struck me that this web site doesn’t really offer finished products. We offer bare prints you can turn into finished products. But you need to frame a print before it can be hung on a wall. And (up until now) I haven’t offered framing.


Modern galleries sell art in lots of ways that don’t equate to a bare print on paper. In fact, you are hard pressed to buy a “naked” print in most galleries. Everything is framed, ready to hang. And that’s where I am going. I want modern framing to suit modern houses. I had thought about a Tasmanian timber frame, but those are cost prohibitive. And then a friend asked me “are you selling the photo or the frame?” and I had yet another epiphany.


In the coming weeks, you will see new products added to the web site.

]]> (Beatties Studio) Beatties Studio Tasmania Mon, 24 Oct 2016 20:16:50 GMT
Old Beattie's photos  

unknown brideunknown bride

My wife and son found this photo at the Tip Shop. This beautiful framed photograph in perfect condition with no damage at all. Given the style and fashion, I estimate this to be 1950-1970. In truth, if I had the man power, I could search the old hand written registers and probably find out whose wedding it was. But I don't and that isn't the point. Back in the day this was taken, colour photography was far from perfected. The colours were often not accurate and the images tended to fade over time. Your beautiful wedding photographs probably wouldn't look so great by your golden anniversary. The chemical process just wasn't great. So despite colour photography having been around since about 1907 (and allegedly made popular by Hitler) it was not used or recommended for weddings at the time this one was taken. The photographers preferred to take black and white images and have them coloured by an artist painting the colours onto the photo. (hand coloured) The colours were more accurate and the photo lasted a lot longer. This one is probably well over 60 years old and the colours are still as bright as the day it was taken.

Several people worked very hard and used all their skill to produce this photograph. The bride, the dress maker, makeup artist, hair dresser and attendants (maids, as in bride's maids). All of these people got the bride (up 3 sets of stairs) to the studio looking just right. Then the photographer (and in this case I am pretty sure it was A A Stephenson) had to capture that look. He put the bride at ease, posed her and used his charm to get the right expression and look. He used his technical skills to capture that image on a negative whilst looking under a hood (a large cloak to shield the light) at the image upside down on ground glass. Then another technician in the dark room (probably William Stephenson) had to use chemicals and light to develop the negative. And yet more skill to produce the print onto paper. Then the colourist (and I'm guessing Miss Heather Brown did this one) went to work, based on fabric samples, notes etc. (She wasn't at the wedding, and had never seen the dress, complexion, flowers and makeup, so how would she know what colour to paint them?) And then a picture framer had to mount the picture onto stiff cardboard, seal it with a varnish and frame it.

The sad part is that this bride and all her family are possibly long gone. I'm guessing there was no one left that wanted to keep this photo.

So my son bought it with his pocket money (a whole $5) and brought it home. Mostly because his grand father had taken it. And I scanned it and present it here. Because it doesn't belong on the tip.

]]> (Beatties Studio) coloured hand Mon, 03 Oct 2016 04:33:08 GMT
A little re-arrange Now that I have NBN and can actually upload historic photos of Tasmania at a reasonable speed, I have taken the opportunity to have a little re-arrange. The collection from Tasmanian Historian and icon, Colin Denison had previously all been in the "Historical" gallery by themselves. They didn't have proper titles and the metadata was pretty basic. That wasn't Colin's fault, it was mine. At the time he donated them to me, I just didn't have spare time to properly catalogue them. And now I do and I have.

So these old photos from The Courier have now been integrated into the collection and properly tagged. That should make them easier to find. For example, if you search for "Port Esperance" you will now see the restored photos and the published versions. My guess is they were taken on the same day. It looks like the same lady (subject/model) to me.

Being re-printed and scanned from newsprint, they are not the same high quality, high resolution as the rest of the collection. There is not much we can do about that. The news paper prints in about 75 dpi and we like to get 300dpi. Incredible software will fill in the screened bits and give us slightly better copies, but we can't put back everything that was lost in the printing process. (Doctor Who, if you're reading this, I could use your help here.)


So enjoy them. Just be aware that if you order any prints, they won't be as stunning as we would like.


And for everyone who is waiting for the site re-design and better colour scheme - I haven't forgotten you. I said I wouldn't do a knee jerk, but I will get there, I promise.

]]> (Beatties Studio) Tasmania Sun, 27 Sep 2015 04:37:07 GMT
Sunday Tasmanian article A funny thing happened while I was working on some photos the other day. NBN called me to see if I was happy with my new NBN connection. To say I'm happy is an under statement. With the older, slower ADSL, it was taking me nearly all week to upload photos I had finished on the weekend. Yes, 5 days to upload 2 days work. That's slow. And often the connection would time out and I had to start again. Anyway, long story short, when NBN found out how happy I was, they asked what I was using the NBN for. So I told them about Beattie's and my project to digitize the historic photos of Tasmania. That's when they asked if they could run a story about me in the Sunday Tasmanian.

The experience of being interviewed and photographed was fun and I'm delighted with the article. Being mindful that The Mercury doesn't have unlimited space and so any article can only tell a small part of the story, I think they did a great job. There's obviously more to the Beattie's story on this web site (see History).

A few people have jumped to the conclusion that we have 100,000 historic photos on the web site. Regrettably this is not so. There are roughly 5000 historic negatives in the collection. I have digitized about 2000 of them and most of those are on the web site. The exact number changes day to day. The 100,000 are the studio photos of people, groups, babies, weddings etc. I will think about starting on those if and when I finish the 5000 historic photos.

By "historic" I mean that the photos are of interest to a wide audience. They are often of places, buildings or events. A large number of the historic photos were taken by J W Beattie, more by Arch Stephenson and the other photographers who either worked for Beattie or before Beattie. The historic collection continues after Beattie's passing, so there are photos from 1930-1993 in there as well. Our oldest photo (that I have found so far) is dated 1867, but there probably older ones in there that I don't have dates on. Rarely did the photographers of that period actually date their photos.

And the biggest omission in the article (which is entirely my fault) is that of my brother, William Stephenson. His contribution to the preservation of the collection is as important as those before him. He is the current custodian of the collection. I am the computer geek turned photographer that is digitizing it, slowly.

John Stephenson


]]> (Beatties Studio) Beatties Studio John Watt Beattie Tasmania Mon, 17 Aug 2015 00:56:02 GMT
Yet more surprises As I dig through the old photos of Tasmania in the Beattie collection, I find stuff. Sometimes it's diamonds and sometimes it's dog do. I use this metaphor as one of the discovered treasures was a portrait of the late Bingo, loyal dog to my grand mother.


This week I started on a mixed box of glass plates, whole plates and other large format negatives. All old photos of Tasmania, well mostly. I found some cartoons, funnies and other pictures that were circulated long before the Internet was ever dreamed of. I found another panorama of Port Arthur and a curious landscape of New Norfolk with some obvious photoshop by razor blade, a technique my late grand father preferred.

Some of the glass was golden. A lovely scene of Hobart taken from Lindisfarne. This 10x8" piece of glass probably survived two world wars and several fires and it still looks as good as any photo taken today.


And some of the glass could have stayed buried.


1599 done and counting.

]]> (Beatties Studio) Sun, 26 Oct 2014 05:57:37 GMT
Is Pozible possible? As I progress through the old photos of Tasmania in the Beattie collection, I'm running out of money. There is a substantial cost in getting professional PhotoShop to clean up these glass plates, large format negatives etc. The web hosting etc, I can handle, but the ongoing retouching has drained all the funds I had saved. I need about $20,000 to finish the entire collection.


So I'm thinking of a Pozible campaign. Do we think this would work? Feel free to comment.

]]> (Beatties Studio) Sun, 12 Oct 2014 05:59:18 GMT
Amazing what you find This week I moved on to the "Bowls Club" box of old photos. This box contains mostly historic old photos of Tasmanian bowls clubs, especially the club that my Grand Father (Arch Stephenson) belonged to. I was expecting to see lots of photos of bowlers and maybe the odd one of Arch and his wife (my Grand Mother) and bowling partner Florence. Except I didn't. What I found was bowlers and Masons galore with nary a relative to add any interest. This was fast becoming the most boring box of glass plates and large format negatives that I had ever digitised.


Then I came across a picture of some family in front of their shack. I couldn't identify them or the location, until my Mother dropped by and instantly identified Florence and her family at their shack at Blackman's Bay, just south of Hobart.


A little further in the box revealed some studio test shots. When the photographers received new film or equipment they often tested it before using it for paid work. And this is how I get most of the pictures of my family. You see they didn't take a lot of their own family photos, that was the last thing on their minds after they knocked off work for the day. So these test shots are what I have.


So if you're into bowls, you will be delighted.


On the non-bowling front, the Port Arthur series is just about complete. Over a hundred historic photos of Port Arthur and surrounds. Convict relicts and even photographs of Port Arthur when it was a working prison. These are some of the oldest glass plates in our collection. You may have seen some of these images in museums or elsewhere, but these are the glass plates fully restored. There is plenty of detail and clarity in these old photographs.

]]> (Beatties Studio) Arthur Port Sun, 05 Oct 2014 06:02:24 GMT
3 stars revisited I've been looking into the problem of the ratings not showing up on the site. I've spent some considerable time on it and finally come to the conclusion that the one thing Zenfolio doesn't let you share with your audience is ratings.


So I invented a new tag. 3star


You will see this tag on photos that are 3 star rated. That is they are not perfect. They have flaws. Or they have not been edited fully yet.


Initially I wasn't going to have anything less than 5 star rated photos. But there are so many good historic Tasmanian photos by Beattie, Spurling, Searle and other great Tasmanian photographers. And some of them haven't fared well over the years. Some have degraded. But they are still amazing photos. And frankly, I can't afford to PhotoShop every picture at this point in time. So I have released a number of 3 star pictures.


If you order one of these, I will see if PhotoShop is going to improve the image. And I will do that before you get your print. But for some, no amount of PhotoShop will ever restore the original image. And those we have to accept as they are. Amazing but flawed.

]]> (Beatties Studio) Sun, 28 Sep 2014 10:37:37 GMT
A quiet weekend? A trip to Sydney made for a quiet weekend on the Beattie photos front. I did note from our web statistics that the popular search term is Beattie photographs scoring higher than historic photographs or old photographs of Tasmania.


Whilst in Sydney, I visited the Rocks Market where I saw lots of historic old photos of Tasmania and Hobart as well as other areas of Australia. Most of these old Australian photos dated back to the 1880's or slightly before. The quality left a bit to be desired but I was delighted to note their price was slightly more than we charge. It's always good to know our price is right.


Back to digitising the glass plates and large format negatives this week. Expect more surprises. The collection on display on the web site is very close to 1000 pictures now.

]]> (Beatties Studio) Sun, 14 Sep 2014 08:27:18 GMT
Father's Day I chose to spend the day honouring my father by restoring more Beattie glass plate negatives. I shot about 20 today, all of Port Arthur. The amazing thing about this batch is that they seem to be Anson Brothers originals of Port Arthur when it was still operating as a prison. I found a few dated 1860. John Beattie is often credited on these photos but he didn't arrive in Tasmania until 1878 so they can't have been his as Port Arthur closed in 1877.


These images have been re-printed numerous times. But actually holding the piece of glass that captured the image back in 1860 has a special privilege. I constantly aim to bring out as much detail as possible, whilst restoring these images in a contemporary style. My black and white toning is more reminiscent of Ansel Adams perhaps than Beattie. And that's how I bring these photos to a modern audience, whilst honouring my ancestors.


Best Wishes to all Fathers today.

]]> (Beatties Studio) Sun, 07 Sep 2014 07:38:00 GMT
Crisis of conscience or new business plan? The collection of old photos of Tasmania in Beattie's Digital Studio has grown steadily over the last 6 months since our soft launch in February. From a mere 100 photos, we now have over 700 unique images. There are glass plates, large format negatives and copies of prints. All lovingly restored and presented in glorious black and white.
The progression through the rest of the collection will be a challenge. So far I have funded the restoration work from my own pocket. As well as the initial capital outlay for the digitising rig, computer, camera and software, there are ongoing expenses for the talented individuals who carefully PhotoShop each image to remove spots and imperfections and restore each picture to its full glory.
I didn't start Beattie's Digital Studio to make a million bucks. But I do need it to be self sufficient at some point. I don't have unlimited funds to pour into it. And I don't have a cash machine. I did make some money from the sale of an IT business. Not the millions you hear about from companies like Google or even that Tassie IT firm that floated, nothing at all like that. But what money I did make has been used already.
So I am at a cross roads. The place where deals are made. And I'm sure there's a devil around somewhere if I wanted to go that way. (I'm talking about advertising)
I've surveyed my initial audience; the FaceBook generation. Because, yes, FaceBook has been where my audience came from. Just shy of 500 of them, or should I say you? And a good audience you are, don't get me wrong here. But what I have found out is that you like me, love viewing these photos of Tasmania. You love seeing how Tasmania was a hundred years ago. You love seeing the wilderness and the towns, the old buildings and the cars, trains and trams. And you genuinely love looking at them and reading about the history. But like me, you have a limited supply of spending money and find it difficult to justify buying prints of these amazing images.
I didn't really expect to build a separate online community around these photos. You are happy to be part of a community, but you want that to live on FaceBook. And that's understandable given that's where you came from.
I also found out that I wasn't doing anything wrong. Or at least not badly wrong. You didn't want sepia. I wasn't charging too much. Yes, there are a few things that (I had already thought of) you would like. There's framing, downloads, books and e-books. And yes I will do those things. But the main reason you aren't buying is that you don't have the cash.
So a change of business plan is in order. I don't think you are my target audience. I still love you FaceBook generation, and I will continue to entertain you. But the customers who can pay for prints are clearly elsewhere. I need to think about a gallery, books and other places to show off these fine photographs. Suggestions welcome.
So there you have it. A long winded, heart on my sleeve approach to the survey results. After 6 months, 2000 visitors and 700 photos, a picture emerges. And it's as clear and beautiful as any of the Beattie photographs, even if its histogram was painted by Survey Monkey. Thank you all for taking the survey and thank you for being honest and open. I love you all and there will be plenty of photos for your free enjoyment.
]]> (Beatties Studio) Beatties Studio tasmania Sun, 31 Aug 2014 09:11:59 GMT