Tag Archives: artifacts

Archaeological Photography – Experimenting with a Light Tent

I’ve been trying to come up with a better strategy for photographing artifacts while in the field in Jordan. There is a lot of nice, natural light but it’s so windy all the time that a rig with sheets or with paper scales can be difficult to manage. I decided to try out an inexpensive light tent. I thought about making my own, but these aren’t particularly portable and the more portable ones on Amazon were cheaper.  We ended up getting this one, and it arrived in a box without instructions. Not that we really needed instructions to put it up, but folding the light tent back into a small enough shape to put it back in the case proved problematic.

I also finally added a macro lens to my photo kit, the Sigma 105mm Macro, which one of my friends recommended to me after taking photos of very small pressure flakes on a piece of porcelain successfully. It was fairly mid-range for a macro lens, and I tested it out on a horse mandible that I had hanging around:

I found the lens to be really responsive during more out-in-the-world photography. The photo of the mandible was taken without a tripod. It was also very good with artifact photography, but I struggled with the light tent, mostly because it put me far away from the artifact and it was hard to position a tripod correctly–nearly impossible to get above the artifact like you can with a regular photo table.

This is a piece of metal recovered from Dhiban in 2009. Overall, not a terrible photo, and it will work for publication, but not ideal.

This is the head of an Iron Age figurine that I side-lit to pick up details of the face. Don’t talk to me about those photo scales–it was humid that day and the stupid paper I used wasn’t thick enough to lay flat. I’ll replace them for final publication anyway. It’s also a bit dark–I haven’t mastered integrating Adobe’s Lightroom into my workflow quite yet. I’m really happy with the program overall though.

The experience with the light tent was frustrating, but I may still try to make it work. We will likely take the tent itself to Dhiban, but maybe not the light rig–I think there will be enough ambient light to make it work.

Artifact Photography – Photoshop Deathmatch

This is the original photo.  Can you do better?

This is the original photo. I should mention that I didn't take this.

I’m trying to fix some photos for an upcoming publication, and one of the most crucial photos, that of a clear glass “blade,” was photographed…let’s just say non-optimally.

Here's my attempt.  eh.

Here's my attempt. eh.

I worked with the photo, but I just couldn’t make it come out very well.  Lots of the detail is lost, the jpg compression is bad, etc.  So I enlisted a few of my friends to help.

artifact

One of them went for a cut-out approach, but I think that it looks like the blade isn’t clear, so it’s confusing.

glass-1_dan

This one manages to get a lot of the detail that I missed, but it’s still really hard to see.

glass_jesse

Jesse, my graphic designer friend, wins.  I guess it pays to leave some things to the professionals!

Postscript Artifact Photo Scale

CLM_0140

A nice reconstructed Dilmun pot. I should have used heavier card stock to print the scale.

I’ve been photographing a bunch of artifacts from the Hearst Museum for the Bahrain Bioarchaeology Project and I wasn’t deeply happy with many of the options available.  I found this site:

http://anthropolo.gy/

But the resolution wasn’t as crispy clean as I wanted.

So here is a postscript file that will convert into pdfs on most computers.  The postscript file is licensed under the GPL – the Gnu General Public License, which is a copyleft license.  Share early, share often!  Also: thanks to archaeology-friendly computer programmers!  It’s fully modifiable and there are directions inside the script.

Postscript Photo Scale File

It should open as a pdf for most people on macs, let me know if the link doesn’t work for whatever reason.  Also, be sure to measure each scale you generate, as some printers do not handle postscript well and the scales can be off.

I should say that again: MEASURE EACH SCALE BEFORE USING.

End of an Ear

P1010380

See, I do print media too.

If you’re ever in Austin, check out End of an Ear, one of the few remaining great record stores.

I’m having an incredibly wonderful holiday–I hope all y’all are having the same.

PS: Anyone have advice on dealing with family/artifacts?  I keep having a couple of them bring me artifacts to look at and I tell them to leave them be, to no avail.  It’s not illegal (they’re from private property) but it’s still non-ideal, to say the least.  I’ve even told them that I can’t look at them.  Darned hard-headed Texans.