Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mother Theresa and the Case of the Mysterious Negatives

Filmstrip I've always wanted to play detective.  Ever since I was a girl.  It must be all those Nancy Drew books I read when I was young.

And yesterday, I had my chance.

The Professor and I were walking home after our weight training class, and we stumbled across some photo negatives lying on the sidewalk. It was raining (so what else is new?), and the negatives were completely soaked.

We guessed someone had lost them, since it's not the sort of thing people just throw away like that, and we thought they might like to have them back.  So we picked them up, and wondered what to do next.

We looked at them against the light, and could see that the photos were of several children and what seemed to be their parents or grandparents, but we couldn't identify any of them.  We squinted at them, and we turned them from side to side, trying to figure out if they were people we know, but to no avail.

If you've ever looked at a negative:  a) you're over a certain age, and b) you know how hard it is to identify people in them.

So, that wasn't getting us anywhere.  And without a clue as to who might be in the photos, we were left with two options.  We could go from house to house, asking all our neighbors if they had lost some negatives, or we could leave them out for the owner to find them.  Our neighborhood isn't that big, but finding the owner of the negatives might take some time.  It was pouring down rain, and it didn't look like it would stop any time soon, so we decided against that course of action.

We then considered  putting them inside a ziplock bag and taping them to the wall outside our house, with the hopes that the owner might come looking for them.  But it was late, and, as I said, pouring down rain, so, even assuming the bag would protect the film, the tape probably wouldn't hold out for long.

Then The Professor had a brilliant idea.

He took the film uspstairs and scanned it onto the computer.  Then we opened the file with Photoshop.  That's where I came in, since I'm the Photoshop expert in this house.  And, after a little playing around, we managed to make a negative of the negative.

And as we all know, two negatives make a positive.

At first the image was way too light to make out any details, but after tweaking the levels, we finally had something we could work with.  Hey, so Photoshop is good for more than erasing wrinkles, melting celulite, and pasting yourself into photos of famous people!  Okay, we didn't get a print-quality photo out of the process.  The colors were way off, and there were smudges in some spots.  But it was enough to be able to see the subjects clearly, and more importantly, to identy them.

They turned out to be our neighbors at the end of the street.

They were pretty happy to get their negatives back, which their cleaning lady had accidentally thrown out while cleaning up. Lucky for them, she dropped them on the way to the trash bin.

And so, the Case of the Mysterious Negatives was solved.

That was fun.  Now I'm going to have to find some more mysteries to solve.  Hey, anybody out there need some detective work done?


  1. Well done, Holmes.

    I love a good mystery like that, too. Of course the real mystery is why your neighbors still use film.

    1. Yeah, I wondered about that too. The photos looked to be a few years old, but not old enough to be on film.

  2. You had me on the edge of my seat wondering if you would be able to identify the mystery people! Hooray for you, mystery solved!

  3. That is a totally cool use of technology!

    1. At least it's another use for Photoshop that doesn't involve trying to make people look younger and thinner.

  4. This sounds like the starting point for a great Saga ...

  5. Dude, you just trumped Nancy Drew AND The Hardy Boys. You guys are serious modern-era detectives. WOW.

  6. I still use film...that we I actually get to SEE and keep some photos, rather than the digital ones taken by the rest of the family that get lost in the computer.

  7. Theresa I could give you some detective work - finding the muscle structure under my flab!