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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: photography (3)

From LaserDisc to high-res Hasselblad

Author
by John Broomfield
Publish date
4 April 2014
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John manages the museum's Media Production and Copyright Department.

Recently a group of aero engines, usually stored high in the storage racks at Scienceworks, was lowered to allow visitors a closer look. This allowed me to photograph them for Collections Online and revisit a job I did at the museum some 20 years ago.

aero engine, side view New photograph of an Austro-Daimler Beardmore aero engine, circa 1914. The design was used by combatant nations on opposing sides during the First World War. (ST 17925).
Image: John Broomfield
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The first time I photographed the aero engines, I was an Image Capture Officer and Museum Victoria was one of the first institutions to link electronic images of collection objects to a database. I say electronic because these images were analogue, not digital. This period represented the transition between traditional silver-based photography and digital photography as we know it today.

Back then, we captured the objects using a video camera (Super VHS), then transferred video stills onto a WORM (Write Once Read Many) drive LaserDisc. These discs were then sent to the USA to be pressed into LaserDiscs that could be played in domestic machines. The players were attached to computers and search results displayed collection images on a separate monitor.

Although this technique was cutting edge at the time, the starting resolution was only 560x480 pixels, or in today’s terms 0.27 megapixel (a new iPhone has an 8 megapixel camera). Analogue signals suffer deterioration or generational loss each time they are migrated to a new format and our involved multiple transfers – from videotape, to WORM drive and then onto LaserDisc. You can see why some of our legacy images are not quite to the standard we expect today.

grainy photo of aero engine Old LaserDisc image of a Benz IVa circa 1918 230 horsepower aero engine. (ST 034859).
Image: John Broomfield
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Fast forward to 2014: digital photography has evolved to the point where, at the high end, the resolution surpasses what was possible with film-based photography. The equipment I used this time was a Hasselblad H5D, capable of 50 megapixel resolution, which is almost 200 times the resolution of the video/laserdisc system employed first time around.

aero engine, side view 2014 photograph of the same Benz 230 horsepower aero engine. (ST 034859).
Image: John Broomfield
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Detail of an aero engine Zoom in on the Austro-Daimler Beardmore aero engine photograph. The high resolution captures tiny details like individual stamps on the cylinders. (ST 17925).
Image: John Broomfield
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Photographing the aero engines presented some interesting lighting challenges. There wasn’t a lot of room to place stands for studio lighting or maneuver the heavy engines with a pallet jack. A large skylight overhead meant I would be struggling to control the natural light coming in from above.

inside collection store The photo setup showing the aero engine on a pallet, the skylight, and the foam reflectors.
Image: John Broomfield
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The solution was to adopt the skylight as my main light source and use a series of lightweight foam reflectors to bounce the light back onto the engines. I found something appealing in adopting 18th century studio lighting methods in conjunction with modern digital camera equipment. That must be the museum worker in the photographer coming through…

Winning photo

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
18 July 2011
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A photograph by museum entomologist Dr Ken Walker has just won a coveted place in the annual international Leica calendar. In 2012, the company’s calendar will feature microscope photographs, and Leica put out a call for entries. Ken’s photograph of the head of a tiny, undescribed lichen moth in the genus Chamaita (family Arctiidae) was one of 12 selected.

male lichen moth The winning photograph of the head of a male lichen moth.
Image: Ken Walker
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The photograph, as well as being incredibly beautiful, is an important diagnostic tool.  This species is a pest in palm plantations in New West Britain, Papua New Guinea. To assist those who need to identify it, the species has its own page , featuring the winning photograph and others, on PaDIL (Pests and Diseases Image Library).

Says Ken, "It’s a great recognition for the photographic skills we have developed here over the past six years to have an image to be used in the high-quality calendar." The competition was open to anyone using Leica microscope and camera equipment; the prize is a Leica EZ4 dissecting microscope. This prize will go right back into PaDIL’s suite of specialist technical equipment to create more photographs like this one.

Links:

PaDIL

International Harvester Collection

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
17 December 2010
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The History & Technology Department is steadily listing the vast International Harvester Collection on Collections Online. This collection of over 50,000 items records the operations, products and manufacturing of the Australian subsidiary of the International Harvester Company. This US-based company began selling its agricultural machinery and trucks in Australia in 1902. Local manufacturing in Victoria began in the late 1930s.

The IH Collection includes colour transparencies which are particularly interesting because colour photography was still quite rare in the 1940s. It’s unusual to see scenes of this era captured in vivid reds and blues and greens.

Horse-drawn GL-60 plough Horse-drawn GL-60 plough manufactured by International Harvester, 1940. This is one of several colour transparencies in the collection. (MM 115209)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Nearly 200 images are now online and more will be listed in coming months. Curator David Crotty is keen to hear from anyone who could help identify some of the people in the images, particularly the photos of farmers and town residents who attended presentations by International Harvester sales reps.

Group of International Harvester salesmen A group of International Harvester salesmen presenting the Farmall A Tractor in Albury, 1940. The company embarked upon regional tours demonstrating its agricultural machinery. (MM 115021)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Group of farmers from Cohuna Group of farmers from Cohuna outside International Harvester factory, Geelong, 1940. (MM 115033)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

International Harvester Collection

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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