Tips on Using OPTICAL SCANNERS
for Documenting Plants & Animals
Optical scanners are wonderful for those of us with the urge to collect and identify plants and animals, but maybe we don't have the space to keep such collections, or else just don't like the idea of killing things.
For example, I don't even want to kill insects, but I'd like to document the fact that I've encountered some of the rarer and more spectacular species in my area. I've solved the problem by collecting scanned images of them, one of which appears at the right. More such images appear on my Insect Profiles page. Therefore, how do such images come about?
CHOOSING A SCANNER
When you shop for a scanner you will run across cryptic product specifications such as those below, for the popular Canon CanoScan 4400F Color Image Scanner. After each point the text in blue explains what they mean.
To be honest, scanning insects, leaves and the like is really no big deal. It's the easiest part of the whole operation. You find a wasp, you lie it on the scanner's glass, on its back (remember the scanner's "eye" is below, so if the wasp lies on its back the image will show it from "above") and you hit the scan button.
Of course there are a few things to keep in mind.
Mainly, keep in mind that there's no point in using the highest scanner settings for every scanning. Your urge is to choose the highest settings, but if you do that you're going to end up with an image file several millions of bytes large -- several MBs. A few huge image files like that will fill up your hard disk fast and if you try to send them via email they may take some time to download. If you're on a modem, it can take hours! Right now you should digest this fact:
Therefore, if you scan something like that and the file holding the image ends up being 1.5 MB large, which very easily could happen, you have made the file over 200 times larger than it needs to be. That means that you are filling your hard disk with files 200 times faster than you need to, and if you put the image on the internet it will download only 1/200ths as fast as it could.
When I scanned the wasp I chose the 300 dpi setting and even still had to reduce the picture with a graphics program, as described on our Graphics Programs Page. Of course, sometimes you do want to enlarge things, and then you can crank up your program to 1,200 dpi or beyond. It's always neat to create "insets" with much-enlarged images like the one at the right. For the enlarged Juncus flower in the orange box I used 600 dpi. To make the boxes I used a graphics program.
With the above basic information you should be able to make some scannings that will surprise you with their high quality -- like the wasp head at the left. After you've collected scannings for a while, I think you'll find looking at them much more enjoyable (and less messy) than making regular insect collections or creating an herbarium of dried plants. Also you'll be able to send them to friends via email, and make neat Web sites like this one... and you won't be killing things!
Cite this page as:
Conrad, Jim. Last updated . Page title: . Retrieved from The Backyard Nature Website at .