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13 June 2016

Staffordshire Hoard catalogue photography

Lucy Martin, Archaeological Photographer

Cotswold Archaeology has been photographing the Hoard piece by piece since September 2015, it has proved to be an absolutely fascinating project with many new challenges for the photography team, Lucy Martin and Aleks Osinska.

Image through the camera

The final product that we will produce is a complete visual record of every object within the hoard. This will show their form, colour, surface details, construction and destruction from all angles; we need to make sure that we have front, back, sides, top and bottom for each object. These will all appear in the final publication.

The process involved in doing this is very simple in principal, but in practice can be very tricky to get right.

Firstly, the object must be propped up to show the correct view to the camera, with object so distorted from the 7th century damage this can be challenging. This is very often achieved with cradles constructed from natural thorns, which the conservators use in their processes, embedded into a plasterzote foam base.

Multiple images must be taken of the same object face, either if props are obscuring part of the surface or if the object cannot be captured in the focal field completely in a single exposure. In such cases we use a technique known as focus stacking, which combines multiple images to extract only the portions of each image that is in sharp focus, creating a single image in which the whole depth of an object is captured sharply (image 3).

Image 3: Stacking multiple shots together to produce an in focus image.

One we have done this process with all views of the object we can combine them digitally to create a standard set of views showing faces around the object at 90 degrees rotation to each other (Image 4).

Image 4: all angles of K698

For the final publication the images need to have a white background (image 5), this is created by removing all background distractions such as mounts and any coloured backgrounds.

Image 5: Final image of K698 ready for publication.

All practical efforts are made to reduce geometric distortion, so the final images can be used to study the objects without seeing the original. This process is time consuming but extremely rewarding for us as photographers.

The Staffordshire Hoard research project, which this photography forms part of, is funded by Historic England and the owners, and is managed on their behalf by Barbican Research Associates.

Established in 1989, Cotswold Archaeology has grown to become one of the top suppliers of archaeological services in the UK today. From our offices in Cirencester, Milton Keynes, Andover and Exeter we provide bespoke archaeological and heritage solutions for a diverse range of projects from major infrastructure to small-scale housing and renewable energy projects. Our outstanding reputation is based on working closely with clients to effectively deliver high quality archaeological projects on time and on budget. We are also committed to outreach – publishing details of important archaeological findings and adding to the wider circle of information available about our heritage in the UK.

Our website is here

All Images © Lucy Martin/ Barbican Research Associates.