Slideshow

Scenes From the Civil War, in Brilliant Color

Oct. 7, 2013, 9:59 a.m.

The Civil War looked a lot more vivid to pho­to­graph­ers on the side­lines than the black-and-white pic­tures they took let on. But, thanks to mod­ern tech­no­logy, scenes from Amer­ica’s blood­i­est war can be re­stored and re­cre­ated in full col­or.

Jordan J. Lloyd, a col­or­ist for Dy­nami­chrome, a di­git­al im­age-res­tor­a­tion agency, brings old pho­tos back to life, from grainy, glass-plate ori­gin­als to high-res­ol­u­tion JPEGs. For the fol­low­ing im­ages, Lly­od re­searched ex­tens­ively the Civil War era, down to the shoulder marks of com­mand­ers. He cleaned up scratches and blem­ishes and cor­rec­ted for light ex­pos­ure to re­store the im­ages to their ori­gin­al con­di­tion.

Lloyd then ap­plied mul­tiple lay­ers of col­or to the ori­gin­al, much like high­light­ing an im­age with a colored pen­cil. The more lay­ers piled on, the more real­ist­ic the photo be­comes, Lloyd says. Ex­tra lay­ers re­veal a slight flush in the sub­jects’ faces, sharpen re­flec­tions, and add gleam to metals in the scene.

Scroll down for fuzzy be­fores and stun­ning af­ters.

Union Brig. General David McMurtrie Gregg stands with the senior staff of his Federal Second Cavalry Division, possibly near Fredericksburg, Va., in June 1862"”in color. Colorized from a glass plate negative. National Journal
Union Brig. General David McMurtrie Gregg stands with the senior staff of his Federal Second Cavalry Division, possibly near Fredericksburg, Va., in June 1862. Photographed by celebrated 19th-century photographer Mathew Brady. National Journal
Union Capt. Henry Cunningham poses next to a command tent in Bealeton, Va., in August 1863"”in color. National Journal
Union Capt. Henry Cunningham poses next to a command tent in Bealeton, Va., in August 1863. National Journal
Three unidentified Confederate soldiers rest on a stack of timber on top of Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg, Pa. in June or July of 1863. The original was taken by celebrated 19th-century photographer Mathew Brady. Full restoration from a damaged plate, clouds added. National Journal
A restored 1860 portrait of Caleb Lyon, the unpopular, Abraham Lincoln-appointed governor of the Idaho Territory. Full restoration of a heavily damaged plate, color sceme inspired by Rembrandt's 1641 portrait of Nicolaes Van Bambeeck. National Journal
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