"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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Printed in the Taylor Daily Press - 7 February 2002

“Digital Cameras”

My column sort of wrote itself this week! In November 2001, I sent a “Quick Tip” to Juliana Smith, editor of Ancestry.com’s “Daily News” e-zine. My tip was published in the February 5, 2002 edition and within a few hours, I received dozens of e-mails asking “how to” questions.

Here was my tip: “I use my digital camera on a regular basis at the Clayton Center for Genealogical Research and the Texas & Local History Collection -- both special collection libraries of the Houston (Texas) Public Library System. I use the digital camera to take photos of material on the microfilm reader for censuses, books, maps, city directories, newspapers, etc. Houston Public Library has no restrictions for using digital cameras in the library, but you should check with the library staff to determine the local rules for your community or libraries you are visiting.”

A gentleman from Spring, Texas wrote to ask me: “I saw your quick tip in Ancestry.com and I would like to ask about using a digital camera. I have a Sony Mavica 10x MVC-FD7 Digital Still Camera and I have not used it to its highest capability. Do you use extra filters or attachments for close-ups?

Also, what do you do about lighting? Do you hold the camera right up to the image on the machine? I would like to use my camera more and I am hoping to get to Louisiana for a research, photographic trip, but think I am not quite ready for it all. Thanks for any additional tips.”

My reply: I received my digital camera for my birthday last year and I just started playing with it. My original intention was to use it to photograph gravemarkers. Then one-day, I saw a man using his digital camera to take photos of a census on the microfilm reader at the library. The next time I went, I took mine and I just started playing with it to see what I could come up with.

One-day, I took a book over to the window and I just started playing with the camera to see if I could get a copy of a photograph in the book. I find it best to put a very slight curve on flat white items, like paper so there isn't a strong glare from flash, this is very important when filming glossy paper. Again, just practice with your camera to see what works best for you.

I have a Fuji with single lens and I don't use any special lens or filters, it has a built-in flash. It's really something you just have to play with and learn what works best for your camera. If a shot doesn’t come out the way you want it, just dump the image into the trash can and re-take the photo, with my digital, you can see image as soon as you take it so you know if it's good or not.

I just started using it photograph newspapers and all other sorts of documents. I did get a small desktop tripod at the camera store to mount it on so I could hold item and not have to hold camera at the same time.

I don't worry about close-up because when I download the image into the computer and use my imaging software, I can always enlarge the portion of the photo I want and save it separate document/file from whole image and thereby cut/paste it into a word processing document to print-out or put into my family tree database. I just use the portion I want to retain and if I need to go back, I still have the whole image in its original file.

When filming gravemarkers, I carry a large golf size umbrella so there's no partial shadow across marker and when I can't read gravemarker, I put aluminum foil on the marker, dull-side facing towards me and use damp sponge to indent foil into the writing. When I use a digital camera with this foil technique, I get a really good photo on a hard to read stone. Using foil doesn’t cause damage to stone because you should NEVER use shaving cream to take a photograph, as it will damage the gravemarker.

The advice is to get out your camera and play, what works for me and my camera, might not work for you and your camera.

For more information and techniques, I have a webpage for Texas Cemetery Preservation with lots of “how to’s” at http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/CEMETERY-001.htm as well as on my genealogy column webpage at http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm.

In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.

Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: lksfriday@sbcglobal.net

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This webpage was last created on 15 Mar 2002 and was last revised on __________

Copyright © 1999, 2001, 2002 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604