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logoProformat News                  ISSN 1833-9514
No 25
March 2008


March seminars

12 Mar: Tracing your Scottish ancestors, Tea Tree Gully Library 10:00am
20 Mar: Early photographs, Tea Tree Gully National Trust Museum 7:00pm
28 Mar: Tracing your English ancestors, WEA 6:30pm
2 Apr: Old Handwriting, Park Holme Library 10:30am
See the seminar program for more details.

World Vital Records expands
World Vital Records now has a significant amount of Australian content on its web site with much more to come. It is in partnership with Gould Genealogy and Archive CD Books Australia and the 340 databases currently available comprise of material produced by the well known and respected SA business. I expect to see some of my material available on the site in the near future.

Passengers to Australia have added the 1940s decade to the UK Outbound Passenger Lists. Passengers in this decade included Home Children to Australia.The coverage is now 1890 to 1949.

New LDS web site
This new site is a beta version of what is being done by the LDS with their digitisation program. They are continually adding new records including indexes and images of source documents. In the not-too-distant future LDS will have all its materials available free online, in a format similar to this. For the time being, you may not be able to access it at times, when they take it offline for a few hours for modification and adding new materials.

In this issue:

• March seminars
• World Vital Records
Passengers to Australia
• New LDS web site

Digital cameras


Adelaide Proformat
5 Windana Mews
Glandore SA 5037

Tel: +61 8 8371 4465
Fax: +61 8 8374 4479


Drafting charts
Locating documents
Seminar presentations
Writing & publishing
SA lookup service
Ship paintings

Digital cameras
Probably the most useful tool for a genealogist away from the desk has to be a camera. If you choose wisely it is possible to avoid the repository’s copier, collect photographs held by other family members, maintain a record of headstones and places frequented by your ancestors with a digital camera.
To be able to do all these, you need to understand how to change the camera settings and again a good camera will lead you through these steps. Of course any camera will do but only a digital camera allows you to check the picture without processing!
Rarely does a camera in the automatic mode have the capability to take an acceptable picture of such a wide range of settings as outlined above. You need a camera that gives you the ability to customize the settings and has features to accommodate the range of needs. If you want truly good images then your camera will need some aids.
1. Places frequented by your ancestors
A good record of buildings and places frequented by your ancestors adds to your understanding of your own history. Just as visiting these places and walking and talking where they stood can send shivers up your spine, a good photograph can bring back the memories of such a visit. Now just about every camera owner can take these forms of pictures and certainly every camera handbook will tell you how to compose a good general photograph and so I do not intend to linger on this aspect other than to say that using a digital camera means you can take an unlimited number of shots, discarding the unwanted ones as you go if you wish especially if you arm yourself with a charger and a backup battery to use while the other battery is being recharged and you have some additional memory cards on hand. Before you take the photographs you need to consider their ultimate use. It is pointless using a high resolution setting on your camera and filling up the memory cards quickly if you then display them using a medium that cannot accommodate such a high resolution.
Pictured: Parish church, Chipstable SOM reduced in size to a width of 300 pixels to reduce the file size of this newsletter.
If you want some good tips on photography then go to Geoff Lawrence’s photo tutorials and tips
When you work with digital photographs, you work with pixels (short for picture element), the smallest unit in a computer image or display. The key to successfully editing, scanning, and printing images lies in understanding how pixels transform into centimetres and vice versa. Resolution is the interpreter between the physical world of centimetres and the digital world of pixels.
A camera's resolution is usually defined as the number of megapixels (or millions of pixels) that it can capture in a single photo. Thus a two-megapixel camera, operating at maximum resolution, will create an image that has about two million pixels.
The resolution setting you choose depends on what you want to do with the picture. Do you want to e-mail it to friends, post it on a web site, make it your computer's wallpaper, print it as a 4" x 6" photograph, or create a poster-sized print? For images that will be viewed on a computer monitor (such as those you send by e-mail or post to the Web), a low pixel-count setting is perfectly adequate. Since most people view images on monitors that display only 800 x 600 pixels, a low pixel-count image, such as a 600 x 400 photograph, will fill up most of their screen without running off the edges. A low pixel-count setting will also reduce the file size of the image and reduce time it takes others to download or display your image.
Printers, on the other hand can print at much higher resolution than a typical computer screen. Images that you intend to make into hard copy should be captured at a higher setting. However, if you are using a conventional printer that prints 300 or 600 dots per inch (for the purposes of this article a dot equates to a pixel), then it is rather silly to take photographs on very high resolutions needlessly wasting memory or disk space
Required image resolutions (pixels per inch—ppi) can be calculated by multiplying print size by print resolution. An 4” x 6” image at 300 dots per inch (dpi) requires a resolution of 1200 x 1800. Newspaper images are 180 dpi while resolution for home printers will range from 250 to 300 dpi for colour laser printers, to 2400 dpi for professional photo printers. Printing at higher dots per inch than the printer's image resolution is rather silly since it will not result in better image quality and only makes file sizes larger than necessary.
In spite of what I have said so far, if you do not know what you want to do with your image the moment you take a picture, to be safe, it's a good idea to set your camera to the higher resolution setting. You can always reduce the pixel-count of your image later for e-mailing or web publishing!
Moreover you should not rush out and buy that digital camera just yet—there’s more to come!
To summarise—apart from your camera you need:
• spare memory cards
• back up rechargeable battery
• recharger and preferably one that works from a the AC power and the cigarette lighter in the car.
2. Maintain a record of headstones
When it comes to photographing headstones and monuments we enter a completely new world of photography as we now have to get images that allow us to read inscriptions.
The environmentalist credo—leave nothing but your footprints should be adopted by all those family history enthusiasts on their cemetery visits.
Fortunately the advent of the digital camera allows us to minimise impact on the cemetery and at the same time provides us with the tool to ensure those nasty transcription errors of the past can be virtually if not completely eliminated.

Pictured: 1. Yunta. 2. West Terrace Adelaide. An overview of the cemetery is useful to give context to the subject.

The goal is to produce a sharp clear image of the headstone that shows its inscription so that is clear and readable AND the all-important decorative carvings. Now this seems a relatively easy task but a glance at most documentary photographs made by beginners suggests otherwise! Unfortunately too many genealogists used to restrict themselves to recording the barest facts on a headstone. Modern family historians realise that the very nature of the headstone, the carvings and the verses are often an insight to the social mores of our ancestors and demand to be recorded as well. For example, while the occupation of the interred may not be noted in the text, a decorative carving may give a strong suggestion!
The techniques to produce a good image are not difficult, but the work can be demanding. Good results require attention to detail and, above all, patience. If you have the patience and are willing to attend to the details that follow, you will find that documenting gravestones photographically can be a fascinating, satisfying and worthwhile endeavour, The results will not only be a valuable record that may outlast the headstone itself but it may assist some researcher in the future. Anyone who boasts of completing a huge number of headstones in any given day is obviously not addressing some of the key issues and clearly some of the work encountered by the author suggests this!
The first consideration has to be the lighting of the subject. Gravestones are best photographed in bright sunlight. The sunlight should fall across the face of the stone at an angle from the side or top of the stone.
If the sun lights the face of the stone squarely from the front the lighting will be flat and the details of the stone's carving will not be clearly delineated. Too sharp an angle, on the other hand, will over-emphasise the stone's surface and that may detract from more important features. Therefore your first step is to undertake some research and work out when the sun is in the best position for the cemetery.
There are ways to eliminate reliance on the sun. Some advocate a mirror; an item that should be in every cemetery sleuth’s toolbox in any case as using a mirror can aid the study of carving details as well as overcoming problems reading weathered or damaged inscriptions. (Never use chalk or any substance on a headstone to bring out the inscription.) By using a mirror to reflect the sun's light, the photographer can control the position of the light source.
You may need to shade the stone with your umbrella from the direct sunlight especially in dappled shade. Experience has shown that using the camera's flash will often cause a wash-out effect. It may fill in the shadowing of the inscription making the reading of the text more difficult with the loss of contrasting light. With a modern camera try using the available light setting rather than a flash or reflected light techniques. This feature works well even in dark Egyptian Temples!
In order to use as much of the image area a possible, always orient the camera to fit the shape of the headstone. As a general rule of thumb, the best way to photograph a flat surface is with the camera straight in front of the face of the surface, otherwise the subject becomes distorted. If a badly worn stone is photographed badly out-of-plane, it is often more difficult to read some of the letter and numbers.
Some photographers always seem to be too far away from their subject when taking pictures. Strive to get close to your subject so that when you look through the viewfinder to frame the stone, you should see the stone almost touching two of the edges. What you will discover is that most digital cameras actually capture a little more around the edges than you see through the viewfinder.

Pictured: Shadows can often be eliminated by the use of a mirror to reflect sunlight or an umbrella to shade the whole headstone and then use the flash or preferably, the 'available light' setting.

The use of a small white board and pen overcomes the problem of missing notes. Just write in the details, draw the mud map, etc and photograph it too!

To summarise—apart from your camera and the above listed requirements you need:

• a reasonably sized mirror,
• an umbrella,
• a soft brush and bucket (you may also need a supply of water)
• a small white board and marker or blackboard and chalk,

Pictured: The use of a small white board and pen overcomes the problem of missing notes. Just write in the details, draw the mud map, etc and photograph it too!


To be continued...

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