Regular readers of this blog know that among my many interests are going to amusement parks with my son. However, I have had this love of amusement parks since before I was his age-and younger than dirt, I might add. When I was 13 years old, my ‘local’ amusement park, Kings Dominion near Richmond, VA, added a new and thrilling rollercoaster called “King Kobra”. I loved that ride. It was the park’s first looping coaster and the park’s first ‘launched’ coaster (it did not use a chain to pull it up a hill, instead, a weight was pulled backward on a pulley like system and the train was attached via a cable. The weight was released and ‘launched’ the coaster train in the opposite direction.) Unfortunately, the ride was removed in the late 1980’s. I have not seen much about it since. Well, to my delight, a web site devoted to Kings Dominion posted a short story, complete with video and photos, about the ride. The ride has been relocated several times and is now in the Hopi Hari Amusement Park in Brazil. However, it was in Alton Towers Amusement park in 1991, which is where the video came from. The photos, however, were taken in Kings Dominion.
The photos are, obviously, old and have deteriorated a bit. Color is faded quite a bit. I knew I could restore some luster to these photos and restore at least two memories of the ride. The photos were probably taken with an old Kodak 110 camera. They are not overly sharp and exhibit a lot of film grain.
I copied the photos to my local drive and then opened them in Picasa 3. I used the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button in the photo editor to get the basic fixes out of the way. This got the color to pop a bit and fixed some contrast issues. I then used the Neutral color picker and sampled the white paint from the wooden coaster (Rebel Yell) that the Kobra was located next to in the side photo. Using the bright white as the neutral color resulted in a vivid blue sky and greener trees as well as bringing out the blue in Lake Charles, which was kind of brownish in the photo. The lake has never been brown (murky green at times, but never brown.) As you can see in the before and after, Picasa was able to fix much of the photo. I was not yet happy as there was too much grain. I fired up Adobe Photoshop Elements and used the despeckle tool. This, however, resulted in a photo that looked more like fake painting. I decided that the grain was not that bad and let it go. I did, however, pump up the shadows using Picasa just to bring out a bit more detail. I think the effect works well for this photo.
I also used Windows Live Photo Gallery to make the same fixes on copies of the photos. While Live Photo Gallery works very, very well, I was a bit more satisfied with the results from Picasa 3. Both applications are equally easy to use. Picasa has a few more options than Live Photo Gallery. However, you can be very happy with either application. Since the two photos were in relatively good shape, I did not need to fix things like tears or creases. To do that, you’ll need more sophisticated applications like Photoshop Elements, Gimp or something like Paint Shop Pro.