Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Victorianesque Hallowe'en: Old Houses and Amateur Photographers

What adds to the ambiance of a haunted Victorian home more than pictures of other
possibly-haunted Victorian homes? And if you have ever been to any historic home or
hotel that is reputed to be haunted, I am sure you've noticed old sepia photos of
those places back in their heyday, hanging somewhere in the lobby with a short
historic blurb on a plaquard just below, or in a small side room with other mementos
of "back in the day." The same concept applies here.

It really is a very simple, very inexpensive way to build your Hallowe'en decor
collection and keep it personalized. Professional photography and editing skills are
NOT required, and it provides a great opportunity for outings and getting to know
your city or town, and even the surrounding areas if you and the kinderspawn or
significant others are up for a day trip or even a weekend away.

The key is to look around you at other homes, historic homes, historic districts and
abandoned real estate. Take your camera. Even a camera phone will work, and in some
cases, be to your advantage. I'll explain a bit more about that shortly. And of
course we go back to planning. Think about the feel you want to give your haunted
Victorianesque home. Do you want to portray homes? Perhaps display the history and
"haunt spots" of your locale? Or just be creative and random? Make a short list of
ideas and locations then set out, camera and eyes at the ready. Snap photos, lots of
photos, from the car, from the sidewalk. Please, always remember to be respectful of
private property and the owners of those homes still inhabited. Owners of historic
homes are often used to their houses being photographed, but we must never lose sight
of respectful practices. No shots of mom and dad bringing in groceries from the
street. Not only is it invasive, it will quite ruin the aesthetic of your old home
photo later on, I assure you.

If you are feeling particularly adventurous, go for the abandoned buildings. Some of
the most amazing photography I have seen involves old properties that once were
glorious, but for reasons ranging from economic to lack of interest, they find
themselves standing empty and ignored. Images of their slow decay often inspire
onlookers to envision what they must have been like at the height of their existence,
and if you look closely enough, you might notice small details in the stonework that
stand silent testament to the artistic nature of their original creators.

Now just taking pictures is not enough. You will want your photos to reflect the age
of the buildings you have now immortalized on digital "film". Some smartphones, such
as Droid have a feature that allows you to take photos with a sepia or black and
white tone already set. While this is certainly handy, I would recommend using the
standard settings and taking your photos in colour. This gives you a "clean" base
image to do anything you want to, as many different ways as you wish to. For those of us who do not own professional editing software like PhotoShop, etc., there are many free programs available both for download and to be used online that will allow you to alter your images' contrasts, add sepia or black and white tones, for free and are relatively easy to use. A few of these are: Picasa 3 (a Google app), GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), Pixlr and Photoscape. Many computers also come with their own media and photo editing software applications as part of the basic package. Take some time to explore and play around with them.

Finally, once you have taken, sorted and played with your images, you will want them
printed and ready for framing. If you do not have a printer that does photo paper
well, or wish to save yourself the cost of ink, paper, etc. there are several sites
online that will store your images and allow you to choose prints, sizes and
quantities, then they will print high quality photos and ship them to you quickly for
a very affordable price. Shutterfly and Kodak Gallery are two such sites. Search
around and you may find others just right for your needs.

And back to your images as decor. Remember one of the previous posts about painting
things black? Did you find a few old frames at a tag sale or thrift store? Your new
images do not require expensive framing at a craft or framing shop. The idea is to
look old, and far from contemporary. Using large, ornate or clunky frames with
smaller prints allows you to be creative. Craft stores sell pre-cut matting to fill
the gap between the large frame and the edges of your picture, however, you can use
this same concept with ornate fabrics or wall papers to add a personalized, Victorian
Era touch.

While all of this may sound like a lot of work, it really is not. With a small bit of
research, you may find information about some of the buildings you photographed. Use
that to print your own "plaquards" and exhibit them in a smaller frame below your
photo. Give your Victorianesque haunted home the feel of a miniature museum. A lot of
those old Victorian homes you may have photographed, if held by a trust or historical
foundation, usually have something very similar themselves to educate visitors. What
better way to learn about your community while adding to your decor?

So with all of that said (or rambled), I will leave you to mapping out your daytrips
and voyages of local discovery. As always, have fun with the project and make it 100%

As a side note, if you do run with it and collect a bit of history, by all means,
drop me a line with your findings and images. I would LOVE to feature your work in
future EVGA postings with full credit to the history sleuth you are.

Until next, Shadows and Spooky Sounds,

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