Adding Colour to Canals

Picturing the Past: NarrowBoat, Summer 2021

Andy Tidy

Andy Tidy showcases a selection of colourised photos of the West Midlands waterways and wades into the debate on manipulating historic images

As an avid canal historian and photographer, I sometimes find it difficult to know how to approach archive photos. My dilemma is how much can you change them with modern technology – or should you change them – before they become something entirely different? This debate reveals something of a continuum among my canal enthusiast friends. At one end of the spectrum stands an ex-picture editor who tells me that photos should be “as they come out of the camera”, and at the other end of the line is another dear friend who has spent a lot of time colourising archive photos. Who is right?Crossing a line? Now for contemporary photos I have no compunction about firing up Photoshop and polishing the images I have taken. This includes straightening up wonky horizons, removing camera distortion, cropping out the sections I want, as well as altering light and colour levels. In short, I tend to think of the image which comes out of my DSLR camera as the raw material for t…

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