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Article from the Backbenders Gazette of March, 2000
(First Place winner in Adult Advanced Articles 2001 competition South Central Federation of Mineral Societies AND
Fourth Place winner in Adult Advanced Articles 2001 competition American Federation of Mineralogical Societies)

YOUR SCANNER AS YOUR CAMERA

© 2000 Terrell Wm. "Terry" Proctor, J.D., Curator, PMNS


[Using Your SCANNER for Photography & Artwork]

In my younger days, I occasionally got into trouble with my parents for taking things apart to see how they worked and for dragging things home to study. All my life I've collected things, to observe, analyze and see what I could do with such items. Recently my lifetime of being inquisitive and curious has paid off big time.

The way I discovered the magic in my scanner is through my regular vocation. To make a living, I am an attorney at law. In connection with my law practice, I received discovery documents from other attorneys which have to be retyped, answered and returned. In order to reduce the work in doing this I purchased a Hewlett Packard (HP) 5100C Scanjet "FLAT BED" scanner. Then I purchased some OCR (optical character recognition) software, for the purpose of scanning legal documents, so I didn't have to retype the other attorney's incoming documents. After I bought my scanner, I also started scanning photographs of wrecked vehicles and bruised people, in accident cases I was handling, to store in the computer for future use. I started learning how to enlarge pictures and use programs in connection with the scanned images.

All of this was working out pretty well, although the OCR software took longer than I had hope for. However photographs were turning out really well when scanned and I could manipulate them to make larger size prints for courtroom use. I started scanning some professionally taken photos of some of my artwork from past years. The results were outstanding and I was getting good comments from both printed out copies and those sent to friends and family by eMail.

My original understanding of a "flatbed" scanner was that you laid flat things flat on the bed (i.e. the glass), shut the scanner cover flat, gave directions to the scanner of how you wanted it to scan the flat item, clicked for it to start scanning, and then you got a flat image to store in the computer for future use. I originally assumed that was all a scanner did, i.e. it would only scan things which were "flat".

One of my avocations is paleontology & rock hounding. I have served as the Curator and Board Chairman of the Proctor Museum of Natural Science, since I and five family members started the Museum and incorporated eleven years ago. Another of my avocations is that of an artist. I do pretty well in creating artwork and in 1984 I was nominated by a State Senator in Texas, as one of about 12 Texans, for the honor of being named as the Texas Legislature's Texas Artist of the Year. The reason for mentioning these things is to lead into the purpose of this article. After reading this article and seeing some of the images which are printed with this article, I believe you will also start enjoy using your own scanner for "photography", without film, in creating what I have created the word and now call "eArt".

While using my HP Scanner for the intended purposes, somewhere along the line, my curiosity kicked in. The scanning of photographs was turning out fantastic results. While my scanner was proving to be a boon for what I bought it for, I was soon to learn it had "Magic" beyond my dreams.

For the benefit of readers who may be somewhat new to scanning, let me cover briefly a little about using a scanner and scanner terminology. "Resolution" is a term used in scanning, which means the number of dots per inch (called dpi or pixels). If someone comments that the resolution is 300 dpi, that means that each inch has 300 pixels or dots. Each dot is composed of a mixture of the three primary colors plus black (computers and scanners now are referred to as 256 colors or a much higher alternative running into virtually unlimited color, depending upon your computer and scanner). Therefore if an item you have scanned at 300 dpi is to be saved to cover say an area of 7" wide by 9" high when printed out or sent electronically, the image size would be said to be 2100 pixels by 2700 pixels (i.e. 7" X 300 dpi = 2100 and 9" X 300 dpi = 2700). If you scanned the same item using a 150 dpi setting, and wanted the same size image stored, then the image size in pixels would be one-half of that at 300 pixels, i.e. it would be said to be 1050 pixels by 1350 pixels).

Prior to scanning a document, with most scanning software, you have choices of various settings you can select, in addition to the number of dpi which you want to use to scan the item. The normal default setting is 150 dpi, which is used for documents and normal photos and other scanning. I recommend scanning at 300 dpi on fossils, minerals, artwork and other things where you wish to have high resolution. It gives you a better final image printed out. However in doing web sites, they recommend scanning only at 72 dpi, because high resolution scans slow down the downloading time to a website and the higher resolution probably doesn't add that much more to the website picture.

One of the options you have is what percentage to use in your scan. You can also elect to scan at 100%, which is what I usually use, or you can scan at more or less than 100% of the actual size. This depends a lot on {a} what the size of the item to be scanned may be, and {b} what size you want the final image to be when transmitted or stored for printing out later. Since stored photo images and scans take up a lot of space, there are several tricks I've learned to save hard drive storage space, when saving scanned images. There are a number of formats which a computer program may save images. Generally with scanning and images, you will see the format as a .bmp or a .jpg file format, which are the letters which follow the name given to the file or document. The .bmp format takes up large amounts of Kbytes (kilobytes of space on your hard drive). If you open that same image file again, and save it a second time, whether it was a .bmp file or already a .jpg file, you will find that the number of Kbytes drops dramatically. If is not unusual for the number of Kbytes originally used up by a .bmp file, drop to 10% of that number of Kbytes when you save it as a .jpg file. Even saving it the second time as a .jpg file will drop the number of Kbytes of hard drive space to a small percentage of the original.

The second tip is to get a ZIP drive and install it on your computer. ZIP drives come in 100 Mbyte and 250 Mbyte size. The 100 Mbyte disk stores the equivalent of about 80 of the old 1.44 Mbyte floppy drive disks. The ZIP disks pop in and out easily and load up easily, so they are great.

For the moment, let's leave the computer type details behind, because I will tell you about the really exciting moment I had with my scanner, when I realized that I could use it for more than a just a "flat bed" scanner.

For several months prior to making my discovery of the "magic" in my scanner, I had been scanning my many photographs from really good field trips, such as July 1998 to Arkansas for Mississippian Astereosoma fossil brown algae & beautiful quartz crystals; December, 1998 and March, 1999 to the Leisey Shell Pit in Ruskin, Florida for Pleistocene fossil mammals and shells; and in June 1999 to Harrison, Nebraska for Oligocene Oreodont and Titanothere fossils. I was getting more and more excited about the ability to take the great photographs I had from these trips, store them on the computer, then to make overhead projector slides, to enlarge the photos and print them out, and to do other creative things with them.

I was scanning my photographs I had taken of fossils, minerals, gem stones, faceted stones and people on these trips and storing up a storm of the images scanned, on my ZIP drive.

During one of the periodic auctions which the Paleo Section of Houston Gem & Mineral Society (HGMS herein), I had purchased a really good Jurassic fossil fish from Solenhofen, Germany. Looking at the fish one day I realized that it was so flat in the matrix, that my curiosity was piqued as to whether I might be able to scan the fish, on the "flat bed" of the scanner. So I gave it a try, hoping that the slight unevenness of the matrix would not distort the fish too badly. To my amazement, the slight unevenness made no difference and the scan came out beautifully. In fact it looked better than any photograph I had ever taken of a fossil.

With this initial success, I could hardly wait to start scanning other things. Little by little, I increased the size of items scanned, as I test the distance from the "flat bed" that it would allow me to get a good scan of the item. I found that the scanner didn't care if things laid flat on the glass "bed" or not. The scanner was not just a flat bed scanner at all, but actually acted as a camera and was taking excellent photos of things as high as 4" high, i.e. away from the camera in the flat bed which photographed the image.

The only problem I encountered at that time, was that further the distance an item being scanned was from the bed of the scanner, the less light reached it and therefore it got darker, as the light from the scanner had to travel further away. Therefore, while the fossil or mineral image was good, the background was turning out to be a dark muggy green. I had successfully scanned an Oreodont skull which was about 4" high. The Oreodont was a browsing animal of the Oligocene which was about the size of a collie or sheep. This skull had been found by my friend Duanne Clark, near Harrison, Nebraska on our June, 1999 trip. The skull was good but the very dark background took away greatly. On a few items, such as a Pleistocene Llama leg bone from Leisey Shell Pit, when scanned the scanner only would give a black and white scan. Again, I experimented. I took two orange dayglo dots and, stuck them back to back, and laid them on the glass of the scanner, before running the scan. Voila, the scanner now scanned in color, even if the bone was a dark brown, it now showed its true colors.

Although the fossils and minerals scanned were coming along great, the dark background was ruining a lot of the fossil and mineral scans. Back to the drawing board. What to do about this. Because of my involvement in science, I had a ring stand on hand along with both a 95 watt incandescent work light and a fluorescent work light on hand. I put the ring stand next to the scanner, and attached both lights to is, so that I could move them up and down and over the scanner bed or swung out to the side. Then the lid of the scanner came off so that there was nothing over the bed but the lights.

After my trip to Arkansas I was trying to identify the Mississippian brown algae fossils. The Librarian of the Paleo Section of HGMS, sent me a print out from a web site identifying the fossil. I contacted the owner of the site, J. Michael Howard, who is the Arkansas State Geologist for the Arkansas Geological Commission. Mike in turn steered me to John David McFarland, who is the Paleontologist for the AGC, who exchanged eMail with me over the fossils as first. Then we talked about scanning, and I learned that John had used some Kleenex over fossils he scanned, and got good results. Using this idea, I tore the edges of several Kleenex, so that they didn't have sharp edges, but blended together for an artistically appealing effect. I laid some Tuberous Begonias on the bed, used the Kleenex over them and got a nice effect. Because the Kleenex were too small to only use one; the folds in the Kleenex couldn't be smoothed out very easily; and the machined impressions in the Kleenex somewhat gave away what the background was. Therefore, I needed something similar without those problems.

By now my creative juices were flowing. It just so happened that I had brought in some clothes from the cleaners. The cleaners I use always stuffs large pieces of tissue up the sleeves to make them look round. I pulled one of these large tissues out, rolled it into a very tight ball which made the tissue crinkle up a great deal. Then I flattened the tissue back out and smoothed it with my hands so it was relatively flat again.

Next I started laying out things to scan on the scanner. I laid out fossils, minerals, flowers and eventually even made a scan of my own face. In each instance I laid the crinkled up tissue, or a piece of cloth over the item to be scanned, with one or both of the lights turned on above, during the scan. Since I am single, trying to start the scanner running and have time to plop my head on the scanner, cover it with tissue and keep my eyes open with a silly grin on my face while I got "scanned" was no easy task.

Each time, the scanned item came out really great (okay, we won't count my face), and appeared to be "floating" before the lovely crinkled background of the tissue. Recently Delilah, my lady friend from Florida, was so impressed with the flower eArt scans which I had done, that she insisted on buying 10 of one of the eArt scans which she especially like, to take back to Florida, to mat, frame and sell as artwork. I was flattered at this interest, as I had offered to give her the ten eArt scans printed on photographic paper, without charge, however she insisted on paying me for them and thinks she can develop a market for my eArt work. That would be nice, of course.

I have also downloaded eArt scans of fossils, minerals, flowers and some insects to friends and family members, on the internet. The response are most enthusiastic. Most responses are that the items look better than if photographed. There is more of a three dimensional effect than a photo gives. Delilah is only one of the people who tell me that they have taken the downloaded eArt and had it matted and framed to hang in their homes.

To me, the ability to not only list our fossil, mineral, cabs, gemstones and faceted items in a book, but to now be able to store an actual image of each item in the collection, in a computer-generated catalog of the collection, greatly increases the value of the collection and enhances each item in the collection. It also is much greater protection in case of theft or casualty loss for insurance purposes and for purposes of recovery by identification.

In short, this new technique has been an outstanding success. John David McFarland tells me he refers to scans as "images", since there is no official name we know of for this process at this time. I have given it the name of "eArt", in my communications with others and in articles. To me, eArt appears three-dimensional. Although I have taken many thousands of pictures over the years, I have never taken a photograph with a camera which looks as good as this eArt scanning does, as to objects, such as fossils, minerals, still life flower imaging, and the like. It is just a super new media to work with.

Without a doubt, I'm not the only person who has discovered how to use a "flat bed" scanner to do three-dimensional scanning. However, to date I have not seen anything written up this use of a "flat bed" scanner anywhere else. I wanted to share with you this wonderful discovery and all I have learned this far about the technique of using the "flat bed" scanner as a camera and a tool for creating art. I want you also to have the praise of your friends for the outstanding eArt scans you can come up with.

A couple of months back, when I first presented my beginnings of using the scanner for storing fossils, I presented the information to the Paleo Section of HGMS. It appeared that most of the members were amazed that they could take their own flat bed scanner and start taking "photos" of their fossils, without a camera and film, as I had learned to do. The March, 2000 issue of the HGMS publication BackBenders Gazette carried my story about this procedure. This was followed by a similar article I had written, which appeared in the April, 2000 issue of the publication of the Tampa Bay Fossil Club, called the Chronicles. Mike Howard tells me that he will put a similar article about the procedure on his Web site, as the Arkansas State Geologist, as soon as I get it to him. Mike has a wonderful web site for rockhounding in Arkansas, thanks to the creative talent of his wife, Darcy, who creates web sites for people. Mike's rockhound website for Arkansas is http://www.rockhoundingar.com.

I've incorporated many of these eArt scans into the web site for the Proctor Museum of Natural Science which is https://proctormuseum.us. Finally let me give you some more technical information to assist you as you start using your Scanner for photography & artwork. In doing my eArt scans, I sometimes use only the fluorescent light, at other times, only the incandescent light and sometimes both. The fluorescent light alone gives a light green or chartreuse background. The incandescent light alone gives an orange or yellow background. On other occasions I use both, and depending upon the height and placement, it gives from a pale beige to a yellowish light. I also try different combinations of raising and lowering the lights, and placing them directly over the bed or pulling them out to the side to get different effects. Soon I intend to experiment with different colors of tissue, different colors of lights and other combinations and things not yet dreamed up. You won't need to use the dayglo dot when scanning, as long as the lights are on, because the scanner never shows black & white again, since I started using the overhead lights. Sometimes I use cloth instead of the tissue also.

Software programs also can change things a good bit. Some programs will let you turn your eArt into a vignette (feathering out the four corners to leave an oval or round effect of the item scanned) or by using feathering to make the edges soft and fade into the eArt scan, instead of a hard border edge. I've also learned that sometimes the lights from the scanner will both glare and give off a white streak on a glassy object with a maroon edge on one side and green on the other. You can use a painting program to paint out the glare, by mixing in the computer, in the software program, colors to match those of the object on either side of the glare, then using a computer brush or spray can, carefully paint out the glare, back background, or other part of the scan you want to change. You can change the entire background with a click of a button in the computer and other big changes. The ability to work with your eArt image, after you complete your scan, using the many programs available for use in your computer, is simply amazing.

Another pointer. The results you get will also depend a great deal upon what you print out your eArt scan upon. If you use plain photocopy paper your eArt scan will look pretty good and the cost if very little. If you use the various brands of Premium inkjet paper, your eArt scan will look good and the cost is only slightly more. If you use HP or Kodak or one of the other good grades of Premium Photo Paper, your eArt scan will print out beautifully. 50 sheets of Premium photo paper will cost you between $30 and $40, or less than $1.00 per sheet, including the ink and the paper. Avery has out a 6 package of "Textured Canvas" for ink jet printers for about $9 to $10, if you want to have your eArt scan look like an oil painting.

Just think. For Mother's Day you can send your mother-in-law what appears to be a framed oil painting of that great piece of coprolite you found on the last field trip, for her to hang over her dining room table. That ought to get you some points.

If you haven't been a Paleo buff or are otherwise uninitiated, coprolite is fossilized excrement (which amazingly and I'm not making this up, is sometimes opalized, beautiful and used in jewelry). For your own mother, you can send an eArt scan, on canvas, of the gold specimen or Trilobite you found on a field trip, to hang on her wall.

There are other products by various manufacturers. At Office Depot and other stores, you can get a Canon packet of 10 sheets of media to print out your eArt scan upon, then press it onto to your own tee shirt. Pretty neat, having your own mineral or fossil find on the tee shirt you wear to the next Gem & Mineral Club meeting, huh? There are also packets of note cards and envelopes on which you can print out your eArt scans upon, along with packets of brochure size and folded papers and other articles for the computer person to use.

Another important point in working with you scanner, computer and printer, along with downloading to the net or eMail. It has taken a good bit of experimenting, but I have learned some things about how many pixels to use, for various purposes. When I do an eArt scan, I do several "saves" of the same eArt scan. I save one item at 650 pixels wide for use when I want to send it with eMail, as that is just about as many pixels at 300 dpi, as you can use and stay within the parameters of the eMail edges. For use in printing out copies onto a full 8-1/2" x 11" sheet, I store the eArt scan at about 1800 pixels (6" @ 300 dpi) to 2100 pixels (7" @ 300 dpi) and on occasions as much as 2400 pixels (8" @ 300 dpi) but sometimes this last choice proves too large and nothing will print out.

Also make sure that when you are manipulating your scan with your computer software, to click the box that tells the computer that any time you change one dimension, to automatically change the other dimension, so that the image is not distorted by changing only one dimension. Otherwise you will distort the scan by making it wider or narrower in comparison with height or vice versa. For working on eArt scans, I usually use Corel Photohouse (which comes with WordPerfect 9.0 Office) or VuePrint. I have other software, however I prefer using these two programs at present)

In saving images, make sure that the relative height in pixels is not going to exceed the height of your page printed upon. If you had something which was relatively narrow and you decided to make it a good bit wider to fill the space, you could make the height so tall that it would not all go on one page and hence your final product would print out with part of your image each on two pages. You can also click to see your image in inches, and you can usually click back and forth to see your width and height in both media of measurement.

In doing the fine work, I have found that my Logitech mouse (which is a great product for what I normally use it for) is hard to work with the paint brush or spray can on the screen without getting too much where I don't want it. I understand that there is a stylus available, which I will need now to get, which allows one to do more like actually painting on a canvas (which I know a good bit about). That is now on my "want list" of things for my computer. I use a HP 722C Deskjet Printer and my scanner and color printer each cost me about the same, with a total investment for both of less than $600 including tax. Pretty cheap compared with the results you get and what I have spent in past years for computer equipment (my first computer, which I never could use, cost $14,000+).

In conclusion, if you own a computer and are an avid rockhound and/or paleontologist, get you a good, but inexpensive "flat bed" scanner and color printer. Then start using these #D scanning techniques to store eArt scans of your fossils, minerals, flowers, gemstones, artifacts and other important things from those field trips. You can put them into newsletters, web sites, slide show presentations on your computer, and many other things as well as artistic prints to print out and five to friends or to frame and hang on your den or office wall. Enjoy the admiration and envy of your friends and colleagues, who will marvel at your creative work. Hope this information will help you as your travel down the road in your "Rocky Life".

Biographic information on author: Terrell William "Terry" Proctor, J.D. is a 65 year old attorney, mediator and former Judge from Houston, Texas. He was a founder and has been the Board Chairman and Curator of the Proctor Museum of Natural Science in Houston, Texas for 11 years. Dr. Proctor is the former Chairman of the Paleontology Section of Houston Gem & Mineral Society, 1997 Show Chairman and twice First Vice-President of HGMS. He is also a member of the Tampa Bay, Florida Fossil Club. Dr. Proctor was nominated for the Texas Legislature's "Artist of the Year" recognition in 1986, has been an award winning writer. He is also a wild life photographer and has led a number of Paleontological trips.


Contact: Terrell William "Terry" Proctor, J.D. c/o T. W. Proctor & Associates
630 Uvalde Road, Houston, Texas 77015-3766
Phone: 713) 453-8338 FAX (713) 453-3232 Email: auraman@swbell.net
Other Websites: https://terryco.us and http://www.terrylaw.us.