Compound Eye

Compound Eye

The many facets of science photography

Thrifty Thursday: The Digital Herbarium


Thrifty Thursdays feature photographs taken with equipment costing less than $500.

[HP deskjet F4280 printer/scanner - $150]

This week's inexpensive photo project makes use of a desktop scanner to translate a living plant into a digital specimen. Creating virtual natural history collections is an activity well-suited for elementary school science classrooms, for children old enough to use computers, or as a novel way to create nature art to hang on your walls.

Here is my recipe for the image of a small grass plant:

  1. Carefully dig up a plant, with roots intact, small enough to fit on a scanner.
  2. Wash the plant thoroughly in running water to separate soil from the roots.
  3. Dip roots generously in a glass of water to spread them out, then insert a paper towel to hold roots in spread position while slowly removing the plant from water.
  4. Set plant to dry until all visible water droplets have evaporated.
  5. Arrange plant on scanner, and scan at desired resolution. I recommend resolutions higher than 300 dpi.
  6. Clean up any stray dirt, adjust levels, and add text in a photo-editing program.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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