I think I mentioned that while growing up we had an old stereographic viewer and collection of stereograph cards as seen above. I used to love playing with it, and it seemed like we had quite the collection. While I was still on this 3D kick I decided to check to see if there were other collections online besides the one I found at the University of South Carolina Library. It turns out that there are an AMAZING number of images available online, if you know where to look.
The first thing I did was just a simple Google Image Search for the term “stereograph.” That turned up lots of interesting hits, and some potential sources for more images. It looked like a good many of these led back to the Library of Congress, and that’s where I hit paydirt.
My first search on the Library of Congress’s site led me to the Robert N. Dennis Collection, now housed at the New York Public Library. The stereographic images in the University of South Carolina’s online collection are from this collection. Dennis was not a photographer, but a collector, and he amassed a huge collection of these image cards. Many of these depict life in small-town America, but the collection itself spans the US and includes some European shots. Dennis donated these to the library in two batches, first in the 1930’s and later in the 1950’s. The collection consists of about 72,000 stereograph cards, of which a little over 12,000 have since been digitized and placed online.
The online Dennis Collection can be browsed by state, so I was curious to see what was available for South Carolina in addition to those I had already seen. I was surprised to see that there were several images of Greenville, including one for Reedy Falls and one of the old Furman campus and Belltower.
I decided to see what I could do to change these images into cyan-red anaglyphs. These came out so-so, mainly because there wasn’t that much in the foreground to really bring out the 3D effect.
Interestingly, the image of Furman was labeled as “Unidentified large classical structure with tower.” I sent NYPL a nice e-mail identifying the image. Other images of Greenville included views of Sans Souci, Governor Benjamin Perry’s home.
In my previous search I had been looking specifically for the Robert Dennis Collection, because of it’s connection with USC. This time I headed back to the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog page and did another search, just on the term “stereograph.” I came up was more hits than I could possible preview. There were collections upon collections of images. I would narrow the search, and it would take me to even more collections.
I actually found it easier to browse the collections by subject. What was amazing to me was that the photographers included many subjects, not just scenery and landscapes. The Civil War collection, in particular, can be very striking, showing bodies of dead soldiers on the fields and the harshness of that time period.
I decided to select a couple of images for CR anaglyph conversion. I decided to shy away from the gruesome Civil Ware images, and decided on something easier on the eyes – the Pyramids of Egypt and the Sphinx. I selected three images that would do nicely for conversion, including one with the Graf Zepplin in the background over the pyramids:
I experimented with various focal points and parallax, trying to bring out the best 3D effects. This involved shifting one color layer so that either foreground pops, or the background shows more depth. Fortunately, my Mac with its large monitor made it easier to view and adjust. I also found that there seems to be an optimal viewing distance from the monitor, and that varies with the monitor itself.
The images in the LOC collection are available for download in several sizes and formats. For these anaglyphs I’ve used the larger JPG image, but an archival TIFF version is also avaialble. I’ve gotten the conversion process in Photoshop down pat, and can do it fairly quickly. I just have to remember which is right and which is left (right-red is the way to remember it for cyan-red images.)
I could have spent all night making these conversions, and I know I’ll do more of them. However, it’s getting late, and my CR glasses are starting to give me a headache. I’ll have to save some images for next time.