Turning 60 year old train tickets into a thermofax screen

I have a tendency to accumulate art equipment and to plan to work in more media and to undertake more projects than I actually have time for. I suspect I am not alone in this, but, if you also are sitting in a studio filled with hardly touched tools and a mound of good intentions, take heart. Yes, this is a how-to post about how I made a thermofax screen for my Overhead Railway series. But, really its a story of how accumulating knowledge and equipment can save the day!

overhead trcin ticket

If you have been following my Urban Scrawl Diary over on my Facebook page, you will know I am making 21 small pieces inspired by the old overhead railway in Liverpool. I want each piece to have a reference to the stations on it.  so, I was delighted when I found some original tickets in eBay. Given the railway closed in 1956 I never expected to get these! I bought what looked like the lightest coloured ones available and my intention was to simply photocopy them in an enlarged format and get a thermofax screen burned.

Not so simple. when they came I realise the tinted backgrounds were going to cause a problem. And besides my printer started whirring and clanking and would not do what it was supposed to. Enter problem solving mode:

Almost a year ago I took a fancy to photography and, despite always having two very good cameras in my bag at all time (I-phone and Ipod) I bought a fancy Micro Four Thirds camera. Then I accumulated a barely used boom stand for my tripod (because in a dream state I though I had time to learn food photography) and also a macro lens (because why wouldn’t you?). Then I subscribed to Lightroom, a wonderful photo editing programme from Adobe which in a world of 48 hour days I would  have become fully au fait with.  This week, all that stuff saved the day.

IMG_0170 2

I set my tripod up over my desk with the boom arm allowing me to have the camera directly over the ticket. I set the camera in position using the built in digital spirit level.

IMG_0165Then, I activated the built in wifi on the camera which links to the iPod ( or iPhone) and allows me to use the Apple device as a remote control trigger. It even allows you to use Live View so that you can see on the iPod screen what you would see through the viewfinder of the camera. so that way there is no accidental jigging of the camera  to take a shot. Important when you need crisp macro shots of text.

screen shot ticket screen 5

I took images of all the tickets on a piece of white paper. then, In Lightroom I cropped them all individually and converted the image to black and white to get rid of that pesky coloured tint.

Screen shot ticket screen 3

I then used the editing tools to make the text as clear as possible ( by playing with the levels of exposure, clarity, blacks and white) and to reduce any fuzz on the background.

Screen Shot ticket screen 2

I then made a custom layout ( with the wonderful Lightroom book by Scott Kelby at my side as I had never done that before). You can then ‘print’ to a PDF file which is what the nice people at Thermofax Screens require.

overhead railway ticket screen

I then uploaded the file to them, sent them a fair amount of money via PayPal and sat back to wait for the screen to come in.

So, no, I have not done any food photography at all, ( unless you count pinning other people’s images in Pinterest) but that boom arm turned out to be a great purchase !

What have you bought in the past that lay unused until it saved the day?

Share Button

Make me happy - leave a comment!