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DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Photography is part of a whole new range of Compact Discs (CDs) applications. Called Photo CDs -- merging the camera with the computer -- digital photography. American Photo magazine reports a future without film.

Though applications are still relatively new, state and local agencies report Photo CD technology is the least cumbersome way to store, publish and disseminate information. It reduces costs of photographic imaging and allows the desktop user more control.

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) Graphic Services Branch, the forerunners of the Photo CD technology in the state of California, supports about 60 other government agencies with visual images. DWR Photographic Unit's shelves are filled with stacks and stacks of boxes containing about 500,000 negatives, slides and transparencies that portray the states water ways, dams, water pumps, other similar structures and even endangered species.

DWR Photographic Unit is archiving those 500,000 images on to Photo CDs while giving preference to the new important photography undertaken. They scan approximately 2,000 to 5,000 images a month via service bureaus, resulting in an inexpensive way to store and disseminate their photographs.

The Photo CD file serves as a digital negative with archival qualities far beyond those of conventional color films, slides or prints. When the need for a print arises, a photofinisher or other properly-equipped photo lab can make it directly from the disc, using a thermal dye-transfer printer or output devices like ink-jet printers and color laser copiers.

That ability makes Photo CD all the more attractive as a tidy, easy-access storage medium for important photos. Having the thumbnail pictures on Photo CD eliminates time-consuming searches for prints, negatives, or slides -- a frustration experienced by even the most organized photographers, let alone those who still keep their film in the traditional shoebox.

DWR images date back to the early 1960's when the state wide water project was started. Conventionally, these images in celluloid acetate base are slowly deteriorating. The Photo CD archival capabilities is a way to capture these images in their present state then preserving them in a more stable environment. "These old images can't be replaced. They're historical." Peter M. Stoiber, DWR's supervising Photographer, refers to the manipulative and archival methods of Photo CDs, "Where you've had deterioration. You can clean them up, modify or rectify, so they look right. Store it on to a CD disc."

Scanning the Image -- an analog image to a digital image

The scanning process is easy. Starting with a negative, print or slide the image is scanned. The image is now digital and written to a disk with a laser that pits the actual emulsion, inside the disk between the reflective coating and outside plastic.

The Digital Darkroom

Photo CDs, digital photography, is a powerful alternative to the traditional chemical process in a darkroom. Chemistry is not involved. The storage of toxic chemicals or toxicity film is not a factor. The computer based tools and techniques are so easy to use that novice and experienced photographers alike can achieve sophisticated effects and image quality.

Stoiber foresees people manipulating the digital images very easily. A background in computer technology not photography will be necessary. "Photo CDs have revolutionized the whole photographic industry, in the next five years at DWR, sixty to seventy percent will be digital."

The Digital Camera, another application of photo imaging, is being use to save an incredible amount of time in preparing fingerprint evidence.

George Reis of the Newport Beach, California Police Department uses the digital camera to image a fingerprint at the crime scene and then sends that print to the state-wide CAL ID service in an hour, rather that the eight hours normally required using conventional means. "You get a better quality fingerprint image and get it into the system quickly to catch suspects faster, cutting crime and making citizens happy," Reis states.

Reis' evidence presentation in court of fingerprints is another time saving method with the digital camera. Preparing comparison of the known and latent fingerprints to mark the points of minutia unusual takes one or two days to prepare using conventional means. Instead, with the digital camera a comparison can be produced in one hour.

For another application, Reis used the digital technology to enhance an old mug shot of a suspect wanted in connection with a fatal shooting. Within minutes he produced a new photo that more closely matched witness descriptions.

The new "electronic" photo of the suspect showed him without his mustache and with shorter hair than the shoulderlength locks that he had in an earlier mug shot.

Reis went further with photo enhancement when police located a brochure showing a 1990 pickup similar to the suspect's vehicle. They found another brochure showing a camper shell which, except for its two large side windows, was reportedly the type seen on the sought vehicle.

Reis used digital imaging to show the vehicle both with and without its windowless cab-high shell for a police bulletin on the suspect.

"Putting together a digital imaging system is simple to do and can be done inexpensively one piece at a time. We started with the computer and a scanner, then added the digital camera. I think the camera is what tied it all together," concludes Reis.

****Tech stuff

KODAK Photo CD disc can hold as many as 100 35 mm photographs -- a digital storage capacity of 650 megabytes. Each Photo CD comes with an index print "contact sheet" of thumbnail pictures providing a quick reference of the contents scanned on the disc.

Every Photo CD image file actually contains five different levels of resolution, each progressively containing more information suited for a different application -- resulting in not having to scan an image twice. Lowest resolution version called "thumbnail" allows you to view what you stored on your Photo CD. Middle (or base) version is for TV or monitor viewing, and is the file displayed by your Photo CD player on TV or Photo CD-compatible CD-ROM drive. High-end broadcast quality for television viewing is the next resolution quality. The fourth level of resolution quality is suited for high-definition television -- if and when it finally arrives. The highest resolution file is for photographic-quality digital printing.

KODAK Pro Photo CD can store larger formats than 35 mm but does not exclude the 35 mm. Images of larger formats are stored at even higher resolutions on the Pro Photo CD. For this reason, only 25 4 by 5 images can be on one Pro Photo CD. A built-in copyright and security features are included on this particular Photo CD.

KODAK Photo CD Portfolio Disc -- designed especially for TV or monitor viewing -- can hold up to 800 images. The ability to add sound, text and graphics makes the especially exciting for multimedia applications.

To manipulate your Photo CD image an imaging program is needed. According to American Photo magazine ADOBE PHOTOSHOP 2.5 is by far the most popular. ALDUS PHOTOSTYLER 2.0 AND MICROGRAFX PICTURE PUBLISHER are right on its heels, feature for feature.

Scanners convert photographs on film and paper into digital data for use in a computer. Film scanners like the KODAK RAPID FILM SCANNER can digitize a slide or negative film. Flatbed scanners are used for prints. The AGFA ARCUS Flatbed scanner has optional attachments for scanning film although at lower resolutions than good film scanners. HOWTEK SCANMASTER D4000 accept larger-format films and prints and scan at higher resolutions. NIKON COOLSCAN fits into a computer's extra drive bay and scans 35mm film.

KODAK recently unveiled it latest megapixel digital camera, the DCS 420, consists of a number of advance features. To capture images, users simply compose, focus and shoot. With 36-bit color, the camera offers an improved color depth over its predecessor, DCS 200.

****Side Bar****

"Year and a half ago, Kodak showed me a Photo CD on TV. It was just like seeing paper develop in a developer, an image coming. I told my son, Tim, that's the future of photography," states Herb Shannon, owner of Camellia Color, "To me it's the greatest thing that's happened in photography since color photography became prevalent in 1957."

Camellia Color, a full photographic lab since 1968, started Photo CD scanning and transferring two years ago. Camellia holds monthly classes on the usage of Photo CDs for both the public and private sectors. Call Camillia Color at (916) 454-3801 for schedule of classes.

 

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