So, what did I learn

Have already posted about my most recent phone call and visit. Still riding high on all that happened on Friday. But, what did I learn?

The family stories are still being developed trying gather the pieces, toss them on the table, then putting them back together. That will come.

This little adventure was to try something that I haven’t used before. That is a Camera for a Scanner. I normally have two cameras with me all of the time. One is my basic Cemetery Camera. Has worked very well doing that. On this trip, we only visited on cemetery, and it was more for my traveling companions, but my hidden agenda was to capture all of the headstones that “might be” related, as it was a family burial ground on the property of our ancestor. I didn’t know for sure that we were going, nor did I know we were going, so I didn’t do my normal “Find-A-Grave” preparation that I do and our host did the driving. (didn’t have my car with my ‘stuff’ in it). But, that’s another story for another blog.

But, I took my DSLR to see if it would work as a scanner. I have read and hear other Genea-Bloggers talk about using a camera for documents. I was successful in much of what was done. What I learned was:

  • Make sure that lens and the document were parallel, which I knew and did
  • Tried Flash, too much wash out of the photo, which is what I thought
  • Available light worked very well
  • Watched the shadows, while using available light
  • Taking the photo vertically was OK, most of the time
  • Take a picture of the Cover (check)
  • Take a picture of the inside cover (check)

After reviewing almost 400 photos for the day, I would call it successful.

Because I didn’t have time to try any of this before the trip, to try different things, I did some trial and error work while taking the pictures.

Three things that I learned and need to improve is:

Tripod: Because this was a ‘field test’ for real, and not practice ahead of time, I took my tripods, but didn’t actually try to use them. The tripod that I have been using, might not work as easily, where the camera would need to be looking directly down onto paper. Will have to experiment. The reason, for me, that this is important is the fact that I was using available light. Potential blurring.

Distance: Although the preview and post view of the photos, pulling back a bit will help with some of the depth-of-field issues that I ran into. The  Macro-Zoom worked well, but looking closer at the pictures, getting a little further back and zoom in should improve this. Good Flat Book pictures were pretty good.

Paper: What I found, on this trip, was some old letters from the late 1800′s. Yellow, folded, and brittle. Not having a couple of extra hands, it was hard to take a picture that was completely readable. I did take multiple pictures to help deal with this issue, but more work has to be done.

I have contacted a couple of seasoned Genea-Bloggers, and friends, to see if they can offer some suggestions on how to deal with this issue.

The real benefit about digital photography and trying to replace or use a camera as a traditional scanner, is not the way copies of this information is, but more about the software that is used to get the most out of the pictures.

The most important letter, for me, taking the color photo and making it Black and White, brought out most of the words in the letter. Several of the above items were noted when trying to get the most out of the pictures.

The good news is that I will have another chance at taking pictures of a couple of the documents. I took a picture of a couple of other documents that I may or may not need in the future. Comparing the names in my file against these documents will tell me which I want to go back to take other pictures of. It was like taking a picture of the cover of the book, so I know where it is. I can almost inventory the contents of a safe deposit box from my pictures.

Any comments about Digital Photography, used for Family History Research will be most welcome.

Examples of some of this will follow.

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2 Responses to So, what did I learn

  1. Wanda Worthington VanderVeen says:

    I was able to obtain a good-sized box of letters and documents on my Lewis line from the Ohio State Historical Society. Perhaps contacting someone working in a similar situation might give ideas for copying those old letters. We were also able to purchase a portable hand-scanner last year for these circumstances.

  2. What a fantastic trip! I use my DSLR for taking pics of documents too. Your tips are helpful as we are always looking for ways to “do it better.”

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