Do you know what your hometown looked like 120 years ago? After finding a cache of ancient Photochrome prints of North Wales on the Commons on Flickr, my curiosity was aroused. The photos were from the US Library of Congress. My birthplace seems to have caught the photographer's eye judging by the number of different prints produced in the Vale of Llangollen.
The photos are quasi colour. They were made by taking a photograph, and making a normal black and white negative. This negative was then placed against a plate of lithographic limestone, which had been coated in a photo-sensitive bitumen based emulsion. The plate was then exposed to light for anything from a few hours to a few days. Light hardened the emulsion, enabling the softer areas with little light exposure, to be removed with a rubbing stone. With knowledge of the colours within the scene, it was possible to make a series of different coloured printing plates to produce colour prints for postcards. Usually six different coloured printing plates were used, but sometimes more would be used to give a more accurate colour representation. The results can be witnessed in the old photos of Llangollen. I was interested in finding out how much the valley had changed in the course of 120 years and came up with a plan. I went in search of the original locations equipped with a compact camera set on auto bracket. I then processed the photos in Photomatix to make HDR photos. The biggest difficulty I found when trying to replicate the 1890 something photos in 2013 was the increased tree cover in the valley. This made a few of the views impossible to recapture.
The view from the garden at Plas Newydd seems pretty much the same as 120 years ago ,but there are more trees on the hill below Dinas Bran castle.
The location on the canal towpath above Pentrefelin looks very much the same. The big difference is that the horse-drawn passenger barge in the photo, no longer ventures this far upstream.
Some of the trees at the Horseshoe Falls have grown substantially over the last 120 years.
Valle Crucis Abbey appears unchanged, even after renovation work carried out in the 1970's. The Library of Congress Photochrom Travel Views can be browsed on the Commons on Flickr. The Llangollen photos can be found on this page, but I'm sure you will be interested in looking up photos from other places in Britain and the world. John Williams can often be found undertaking sustainable travel or snowboarding; usually while toting a compact camera. You can follow him at @Eurapart and find out more at about.me/JohnWilliams. See more articles by John on the VisitBritain SuperBlog.