Digital Photography of Plants and subsequent manipulation
Tue, 17 Dec 2002 21:10:36 PST
This is a most interesting subject.  John Lonsdale has done a terrific job of 
thoroughly "covering the bases" and sharing lots of useful information.  I'm 
impressed both by the detailed scope of coverage, and by the description of 
his personal computer management and backup strategies that far surpass my 
hack-job attempts at organization (it's certainly ad hoc chaos here).  For 
those that operate more by the seat of their pants, I have a few suggestions 
and opinions:

>The cards that come with the
>cameras are woefully short of capacity.  

True enough, the memory cards that ship with cameras are mere tokens.  You 
must always separataly purchase higher capacity flash cards that hold 60 MB 
or more.  With the larger capacity cards, you can easily take an unreasonable 
quantity of photos!  ;-)

>You need to get the images from the
>camera to the computer and you can do 
>this directly or indirectly.  I have never 
>even installed the software that comes 
>with the cameras, preferring to use a flash
>card reader (which acts as a mini-hard drive)
>to download images straight to my PC, into 
>a directory kept for that purpose.

It should be noted that printers have come a long way, and now come 
predisposed ready to deal with digital camera flash cards as an industry 
standard.  When you purchase a printer these days, they are remarkably cheap. 
 I bought a color HP Photosmart 1115 last year for less than $200, and as 
with most printers today it comes with support for digital photos, including 
built-in slots/readers for flash cards including the newer ultra-thin cards, 
buttons on the printer to automatically download the photos from the card, 
and software bundles such as ACDsee and Photo Imaging software.  So there's 
little need to buy a separate flash-card reader to download digital pics... 
just buy a new printer and it's all built-in.

>After naming, some manipulation is always 
>going to be necessary to get the finished 
>product and for this I use Adobe Photoshop.  
>The latest full version is very expensive ($700) 
>but there are much cheaper slimmed down
>versions available which do most of what you need.  

I agree with Dave Fenwick that Paint Shop Pro is an excellent solution.  At 
work I have Photoshop, Photoshop Elements (lite version), Paint Shop Pro, and 
other graphics software.  I like Paint Shop Pro best. I think that 
inexperienced graphics-software users will do very well with the VERY 
affordable yet undeniably powerful Paint Shop Pro (about $70) versus 
Photoshop (+ $700).  Photoshop is tremendous overkill for some users who 
could suffice with a simpler program like Paint Shop Pro.  Unless you're a 
grahics pro, or have the dollars, Photoshop is like having a sledge-hammer to 
trim a hang-nail.  Paint Shop Pro is eassier and more "user friendly", yet 
surprisingly powerful and comparable.  For imaging professionals however, or 
for very specific Photoshop capabilities, Photoshop is the way to go.  I'm 
not a pro yet, so I'm quite satified with Paint Shop Pro.

>Images for the web are surprisingly low resolution 
>(72 dpi) whereas to get good prints of a reasonable
>size you need higher resolution images (300dpi).
>For printing I use an Epson Stylus Photo 1280 ink
>jet printer - and get results which are just outstanding.

Regarding JPG file format (the 72 dpi JPG format is certainly universal for 
the web), it should be noted that 20%-25% compression is typical.  
Compression ratios higher than that usually results in visual image 
degradation.  Images in JPG format with compression suitable for web viewing, 
are completely non-suitable for printing purposes.  JPG files with 
compression print poorly, the compression resulting in noticeable image 
distortion and "artifacts".  For printing purposes, images should be saved in 
TIF format or JPG format WITHOUT compression.

Regarding time of day to take digital photos, digital cameras do a really 
fine job as compared to single lens reflex cameras.  Under very low light 
conditions, digital cameras are more forgiving and deliver better quality 
photos than one might expect.  As someone who has a 1-1/2 hour commute each 
way to work, I almost always end up photographing early morning or late 
afternoon/early evening when light is low (drat).  Yet in full sunlight, 
digital cameras do better than SLR cameras at mitigating strong shadows and 
contrast, and yeild consistently better results.  With digital cameras, John 
is most defintely correct, photos taken in full sunlight are preferred.

The only frustration I've experienced with digital cameras, and it's a major 
frustration, has to do with the camera itself.  I borrow from a fleet of 
digital cameras we have at work, the cameras selected to service our 
Architects and Engineers that need to take longer-distance jobsite photos.  
The cameras we purchased are excellent in general, yet terrible for close up 
macro photography.  For photographing narrow, thin plants such as Alliums (my 
main area of interest), general digital cameras are extremely difficult and 
frustrating because the automatic focus looks beyond the narrow target and 
blurs the image. Attempts to manually correct the focus and depth of field 
are difficult and unsatisfactory at best.  One apparently needs a digital 
camera specifically designed for close-up macro photography such as the Nikon 
Coolpix camera.  It's on the horizon for me... I must buy my own camera with 
macro photography capabilities in the new year.

Happy Holidays all!

Mark McDonough        Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States    "New England"               USDA Zone 5

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Subject: Re: TOW Digital Photography
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> It also collects way too much light and on both cameras I have to keep
> turning off the flash, even at night.


Check your manual.  That problem can be avoided.


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