Friday, April 27, 2012

Tech Toys -- Abundant Genealogy Week 16

I have this great little camera. It's a Canon PowerShot A560. I got it a few years ago when there was a special offer at Staples: either I bought the camera and got a free Canon PIXMA MP210 printer/scanner/copier; or it was the other way around. Either way, I have both and they are probably the only technology items (aside from my computer) that I regularly use for family history. I can't exactly call them tech toys because technology is just too challenging to be fun (yet).

This is the only scanner I've ever used so I can't compare it to others but it seems easy to me: put the item to be scanned face down on the scanner bed, close the cover, choose what kind of item it is (color photo, magazine article, black and white document, etc.), click "scan," and let it do its work. Like magic, a copy of the original item appears on my computer screen. I love it! You've seen lots of scanned images, both photographs and documents, here on my blog. My one wish for a scanner is that I could manipulate the images (more than cropping) before saving them. That feature would allow me to improve some poorer images and save them as TIFF files. (See Wikipedia's explanation of TIFF files or Cambridge in Colour's explanation of both TIFF and JPG files.

My camera is a little more challenging because there are so many settings and options. I've had it a few years and I'm still learning how to take better photos.

I use my camera to photograph
  • microfilmed images. The local Family History Center doesn't have a microfilm copier anymore and it doesn't look like they'll get one. The camera takes excellent photos if the photographer holds the camera still and chooses the appropriate settings. When photographing microfilm it's important to remember to turn of the flash, otherwise there's too much light and the image is a blank white screen. It's also important to find some way to stabilize the camera - a tripod, book, chair, or other item.
  • books when photocopying is not permitted or when the photocopier is broken. Again, either a steady hand or something on which to balance the camera works best.
  • photographs or photocopies of photographs. If a photograph is enclosed and sealed in a frame and I don't want to take it apart, the best way to get an image is to photograph it. Before scanning was available and before I had a digital camera, the best way (I thought) to get a good image of the photograph was to make a color photocopy. They are great images but they don't scan well. A photograph is the only way to improve the photocopied image.
  • grave stones. I haven't actually taken any photographs of family or ancestors' gravestones simply because I haven't yet been able to travel to the cemeteries where they are buried. I hope to go sometime in the near future. Before I go I plan to read every gravestone photo tip on Amy O'Neal's blog, Gravestoned. (To find them on her blog, use the search box and type in "photo tip" then be sure to read the comments section where she answers questions and explains how she photographs.) She takes the most fabulous photos of gravestones.
  • family members. It seems that I take more photos of my immediate family than I do my extended family. I enjoy visiting and forget to pull out my camera.

I am thankful for these tools. I especially love my camera. I had to send it for a repair a week ago and I am anxiously awaiting its return. It's a comfortable camera to use and is easy to hold and carry. I love the fact that I can see the image before I walk away from whatever I photographed. I can usually tell whether I should take another photo or not. I don't know what I would do without it.

(Screenshot images: scanner from Canon Europe; camera from Imaging Resource)
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This post was written to participate in Amy Coffin's 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy which is hosted on Geneabloggers. The theme will change weekly and may be posted any day of the week. I invite you to participate if you'd like.

This week's theme was Tech Toys. Genealogists love their technology toys! Which tech gadget do you appreciate the most? How has this tool enhanced your family history experience? Would you recommend it to others?

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