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The Darwin Region

Colourising Yesteryear

What we do

The Request

After converting some very old B&W photographs to colour images and posting them to the "Rainbow - the Famous Australian Town" Facebook group, I was amazed at the Facebook group and private requests that I received to publish a book of them. 

I have to agree, it would be great, but unfortunately not very practical in my case.

3424-011 Federal St Rainbow 1930s. This building later became the Cafe, the local meeting place for kids like me. Photo: Ally Harper.

So what to do?

The Plan

To invest the time, the energy, and money into something like this at my age simply isn't workable. However as I am skilled at most things computer and web related, I feel the best approach is to publish a website of photos, and build it up over a period of time. 

With the ability to accept users comments on the site, and link back to Facebook threads, it allows me to grow each photograph or subject into something worthwhile for all interested readers, as well as future readers.

3424-003 Federal St Rainbow 1905 Photo: Don McKenzie.

A special thanks to Dianne Bett of Warracknabeal Victoria (nee Dunn - Dunlea at Werrap south of Rainbow) for her encouragement for me to continue my Rainbow research. She has always pushed me one step further, and I wouldn't have gathered up half as much information as I have on the subject of "Old Rainbow", without her enthusiastic assistance. 

The Future and my Shift of Focus.

I needed to shift my focus from Rainbow to Darwin for a number of reasons. I would have liked to continue with this project on Rainbow, but sadly it wasn't to be. My love of Darwin over the last 30+ years has captured my imagination with the history and stories that need to be told. Rainbow residents still have access to all of the images and stories from the link at the top of this page. Thank you very much to the people that supported me on the old "Rainbow the Famous Australian Town" Facebook page.

0800-020 Signpost outside Commercial Bank in Smith Street, Darwin looking along Bennett Street.1935 Photo: L&A NT Gordon Maxwell Reid Collection.

The Priority

I would like to concentrate on street views and buildings first, before I move onto individual and group photos of people.

0800-016 Royal Yacht Britannia Stokes Hill Wharf, Darwin 1963. Photo: L&A NT D. W. Moyses Collection.


In Australia, any image or publication that is older than 50 years and published before 2005, has no copyright whatsoever.

After 2005, the law was changed and it became 70 years. Currently for this year 2021, that makes it any publication before 1955 (pre-2005) and before 1951 (post-2005) respectively. 

Basically all images and publications I am using, fall under the 50 year rule, which means that anything older than 1955 is not under any copyright ruling.

0800-022 Smith Street 1937. Commercial Bank on left, Bank of New South Wales, under construction and Cashman newsagent on right.

However I will always attempt to credit the correct source of these photographs with the appropriate information.

These Copyright rules and interpretations are fully explained on the following websites:

Click the button to go directly to the Copyright information page. 

Photo ID's

In order to identify any old black and white photo that has been converted to colour by me, I have used a simple ID method, which is attached to the image that works like this:
 "wizard-of-oz.com 3424-001" for Rainbow and "Colourised by wizard-of-oz.com 0800-001" for Darwin.

It is this website name followed by the local postcode, and a sequential number for each individual image.  I must admit, for simplicity, I have grouped local areas into the same postcode.

0800-21 Fort Hill Wharf Darwin - 1948 PS: NL of NZ Whites Aviation Collection.

You are free to copy and distribute any of my converted photos, but I would appreciate it if you leave my photo ID intact, as this passes the credit for the conversion back to this site, which allows the system to grow for the benefit of all readers.

Image Quality

Most of the images that I have used on these pages are screen grabs from the Facebook group and historical web sites.

25% of these are what I would call poor quality images that are a photo of a photo, or a photo of a computer screen complete with navigation icons and a nice slant on the image to make conversion a lot more difficult to achieve. Very few are actually a scanned photo.

There has to be a lot of great quality photos hidden and sitting idle in your grand parents belongings.

0800-027 Eight-Hours Day Procession at the Town Hall Union 1914. The stone building on the left is Brown's Mart. Photo: SL of SA B3023

Because of the massive load of images on a website, I have generally posted the best resolutions available to  the Facebook Group pages, and limited images to 800 pixels wide for B&W, and 1500 pixels wide for colourised photos. In both cases, you could well be amazed at the amount of level of zoom level you can apply to some of these images. Many of the Facebook group images are 3K to 4K pixels wide.

In 2017, I purchased a new printer-scanner from Officeworks for $15. I only wanted the scanner, and have never used the printer cartridges. I just checked their site now. They have a similar one for $32, but watch out for specials at supermarkets. They often have a new printer-scanners at a ridiculous price. The .jpg file type is my preferred choice of formats.

You can also use your phone as a digital scanner

Click on the buttons below for a some more helpful hints. 

You don't need expensive equipment to convert from photo slides to digital

This post will give you a few ideas. You don't need a high quality camera, as a mobile phone camera will work fine. You will need a reasonable quality back light. 

A blank white computer screen page works well. You will need to solidly mount your camera on a suitable tripod, and the slide can be clamped to a suitable mount also.

This site is interactive in as much as you can go directly to Facebook groups or individual posts by simply clicking on the button.

And Google Street View. This is fantastic. This button link will take you directly to the location nominated. These links are scattered right throughout this site, and is a great way for past residents and other interested parties, descendants, etc., to pay a quick visit around town.

To navigate around the image, on a PC, hold your mouse left click down, and on a phone, hold your finger on the image and simply move it in the direction you wish to view.

FAQ  (Frequently Asked Questions).

Do you do private work?
I would never accept money for these photo conversions. It is my attempt to help record Darwin's history and promote local tourism. Sorry, I don't do private work. It is a hobby.

There is a company called fiverr.com on the internet. If you do a search on their site for photo restoration and-or colorization, you will find many freelancers doing this sort of work. The prices start as low as $5USD, which usually works out at around $11AUD because of currency conversion and FIVERR fees. It May be difficult to find a good one, but at those prices, you don't have a lot to lose.

People often ask me what program I use to colour these images.
I use 4 or 5 different ones, plus several enhancers. Different photos need different tools. My friend Mick Gulovsen uses Photoshop to get the great results that I can't get.

How do you determine what colours to use?
Colours generated are an interpretation by computer-generated artificial intelligence. Specific colour selections could require many hours of work on each image.

It is what I call the 50 shades of Grey. A black and white photo is made up of black, white, and many shades in between. That is shades of grey.

Take an American civil war photo of men in battle. A good "AI" colourisation program will interpret the uniforms as Blue, and Grey. Others will not interpret correctly, but they all set a colour to a specific shade of grey. Sometimes you may need to force the program into the correct colour for each group of combatants. If uniforms are red or green, then these may need to be set by the operator.

The older colours of the clothing in general, is set by the intelligence of the program used. If it is colourising a photo, it certainly won't be picking modern iridescent types of colours, or anything silly like that, but will choose a colour that was more in keeping with the potential period of the image.

How does it know what year the photo was taken? That too is an intelligent guess by the program. A lot depends
on the quality of the conversion program, and that is why I use 4 or 5 different techniques at times to get a good result.


There is no membership or sign up of any description. This site is free to use as you wish... and free is pretty cheap!

 Don McKenzie

0800-018 Eric and Ellen (Hellen) Izod with the 'NT8' - first Holden in Darwin. The photo was taken in Melbourne where the car was picked up and driven to Darwin. Photo: L&A NT - Izod Collection.