Playing with Stereoscope

My mother-in-law June recently unearthed a tremendous treasure from among the infinite collections of Fred Rydholm:  historic “stereoscopic” photographs of the Bentley Trail, circa 1916-24 .  Stereoscopic photographs are photo-pairs,  mounted on matte board, which appear identical but are actually two slightly different views (the distance between the camera lenses approximates the distance between the human eyes, which see the world from slightly different positions and work together to achieve what we think of as “depth”).  The photo cards are designed to be viewed through a stereoscope device, which looks like a pair of wooden binoculars (bird’s eye maple veneer!) crossed with a model airplane or a painting easel. As this Norman Rockwell illustration shows, 3D imagery was the rage long before Avatar:

I’ve begun scanning the images.  I think I’ll scan the cards just as they are, as it is possible to “free-view” the effect (crossing your eyes until a 3D image appears — the merged photo).  Here are is a sample pair:

Stereoscope: Arbutus Lodge Stereoscope: Arbutus Lodge

I can share the photos, but not the stereoscopic viewer. Researching this, I found a simplistic but effective tool called Wiggler, which allows you to set near/far focal points for both right and left images, and then creates what appears to be an “animated GIF” but is actually a Flash applet, moving between the two photos.  At first glance, this is a bit annoying, but the more you look into it, the more you perceive some depth.  Here is my test photo. There is not a strong compositional center in the foreground, but this photo dates from 1916, and clearly shows a man identified as “Dishno” with his horse (“Launcelot”!), and Cyrus McCormick’s “Sand Plains Cabin” under construction (it was later called Arbutus Lodge). In the late 1940s, when Fred Rydholm first found the property and fell in love with it, the Arbutus Lodge was already collapsing. If the old Arbutus Lodge were still standing, it would be visible in the bottom-right photograph (see in previous post).

Click to view Arbutus Lodge, 1916 – “Wiggled” stereoscope

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