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Ringing the changes

In which we look at Imperial Russia


It being the new year, I decided to spruce up my computer with a few new desktop backgrounds. I already have a background-randomising program which picks a new one at random every evening;* but there’s only so many backrgrounds on the computer, and they’ve not been changed for a while. So, I went to look for more.

I ended up going back to something I found on the net a few years ago: the works of S M Prokudin-Gorskii, a Russian photographer of around 100 years ago who invented a camera-and-projector system which could take and display colour photographs, storing them as three-part black-and-white colour separations. Because his work is now public-domain, you can find it all over the web; but I originally came across him on this site.

The known surviving works of Prokudin-Gorskii are in the Library of Congress; and, being in the public domain, they’ve all been scanned and put on the web, with the original black-and-white plates in very high resolution. It’s a really easy job to download some, and assemble them into a single colour image.** So, I now have some nice colour photos of Tsarist Russia for my desktop background. It’s a bit of a change from the previous moody black and white photos of the Scottish Highlands. Here’s a few examples:

Laboratory Signals to shipping An Orthodox religious artefact

* Being a big geek, I mostly wrote it myself.

** The main problem – if you’re using the hi-res images – is having enough computer memory. The minimum time it takes me now is about 10 minutes, but most of that is sitting and waiting for my computer to catch up with me. The final image will be just under 3600×3300 pixels in size, which is rather square compared to a computer screen, so it will need to be cropped a bit

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