Cultural Heritage Imaging


Photos in the Round: 3-D Insights into Art by chicaseyc
July 17, 2018, 5:49 pm
Filed under: Equipment, Guest Blogger, photogrammetry, Technology, Training, Workshops

Christopher Ciccone is a photographer at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and this is a post he wrote for the museum’s blog Circa. Chris attended the 4-day photogrammetry training class taught by the CHI team at the museum in May 2018 and describes the experience here. Thank you for sharing your blog, Chris!

Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs of an object (or in aerial photogrammetry, a geographic area). This is done by taking a series of carefully plotted still photographs that incorporate targets of known size and then analyzing the images with specialized software. The resulting data can then be used to generate a variety of output products such as maps, detailed renderings, and 3-D models for use in a number of applications.

Dense point cloud rendering of sculptor William Artis’s Michael. The blue rectangles represent the position of the camera for each image that was used to create the 3-D model.

Although photogrammetry as a scientific measurement technique has existed since the nineteenth century, it has been the advent of digital photography and high-powered computational capacity that has made it a practical tool for scholars, researchers, and photographers. Because photogrammetry can be employed on objects of any size, its usefulness in the cultural heritage sector is vast. Interesting uses of photogrammetry include, for example, documentation of historic sites that might be slated for destruction or are in danger of ongoing environmental damage.

Workshop participants in the NCMA Park photograph various angles of Ledelle Moe’s Collapse.

Photogrammetry at the NCMA

In May the Musem’s Photography and Conservation departments hosted instructors Carla Schroer and Mark Mudge from Cultural Heritage Imaging in San Francisco for a four-day photogrammetry training workshop. Participants included myself, NCMA Head Photographer Karen Malinofski, and NCMA objects conservator Corey Riley, as well as colleagues from the National Park Service and the University of Virginia.

Workshop participants Cari Goetcheus and Gregory Luna Golya photograph Willam Artis’s Michael on a turntable to facilitate views from all angles of the object.

William Ellisworth Artis, Michael, mid-to-late 1940s, H. 10 1/4 x W. 6 x D. 8 in., terracotta, Purchased with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest)

In the course of the class, we photographed several artworks in the Museum’s permanent collection, from a small bust by William Artis to Ledelle Moe’s monumental outdoor sculpture Collapse. The technique consisted of taking “rings” of overlapping photographs around the object, at optimal distance relative to focal length, with camera lenses set at a fixed focus point and aperture.  The primary objective in each case was to establish a consistent, rule-based workflow in order to reduce the measurement uncertainty of the rendered photoset, which may then be used to generate reliable 3-D data as well as be archived and used for further study by others.

At the NCMA we plan to employ the technique for such projects as monitoring the surface wear over time of our outdoor sculptures, revealing surface markings of ancient objects for insight into makers’ techniques and tools, and generating 3-D renderings of delicate artifacts that can be manipulated and viewed in virtual environments by museum visitors and scholars. Other applications will become possible as 3-D processing tools are improved.

 

Will Rourk of the University of Virginia and NCMA Head Photographer Karen Malinofski photograph details of Collapse.

 

Christopher Ciccone is a photographer at the North Carolina Museum of Art.
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