19    Aug 20091 comment

Imaging and imagining with technology

My summer was bracketed by two major conferences and both provided sessions on photograph and video technology.

The Southern California Genealogical Society 2009 Jamboree (June 26-29, Burbank) provided several sessions by experts Tony Burroughs, Maureen Taylor and Tom Underhill.

Burroughs' session on "Lights, Camera, Action," gave attendees the bsics on turning genealogical documents, photos, interviews and videos into a family history documentary on your computer. He stressed that editing video tapes is easy and not expensive and he covered equipment, costs and demonstrated sample videos.

His basic equipment package includes software, computer, camcorder, connections, video card, computer skills, and techniques for shooting and editing. A useful resource mentioned was Video Maker Magazine. A UK source was Practical Digital Video (formerly DigitalVideo Techniques), but its website was down.

Taylor's "Immigrant Clues in Photographs," provided clothing clues (military, work or trade), regional or ethnic dress, props in the photo, location, celebrations, a postmark (if a card was mailed), the studio/photographer name, etc. Another session focused on identifying and preserving photos, and provided an extensive bibliography for more information.

"The iPod and the Genealogist," with Underhill, offered ways "to integrate family history into future generations and how to integrate the next generation into genealogy." The premise was interesting and utilized working with the younger generations with the technology they were familiar with, while incorporating family history into email, video, internet research, scanning, sharing and collaboration.

I joined the digital camera era several years ago, and have always meant to take a class in how to do better with it. As we all know, life has a way of getting in the way of allowing us to do what we really want. Fortunately, the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, held August 2-7, in Philadelphia, also provided such sessions as "Digital Photography for Genealogy," "Plotting Your Family History Using Google Earth," as well as sessions on preserving documents and photographs.

Digital Heritage Mapping, Inc. is dedicated to the initiation, encouragement and support of research ito and public understanding of cultural heritage sites around the world. Jay Sage's session on plotting your family history demonstrated that Google Earth (GE) could be used for genealogical purpose. These would include recording locations of facts and events, using not only latitude and longitude but images of cemeteries, helping with virtual interviews and for roots travel.

A fascinating GE aspect, according to Sage, is that it has a recording facility allowing a researcher to create a virtual tour that visits a sequence of locations, and optionally opening information screens for each location. A researcher could create a tour of a person's life, "flying" from one site to another in the correct sequence of event locations. He claims that GE represents "a new frontier for researching and presenting genealogical information."

Presented by whale tracking expert Sally Mizroch of Seattle, Washington, who shoots and handles thousands of photos on various projects for work and who also has extensive genealogical experience. On just one trip to Alaska, she shot 2,700 photos geo-referenced with latitude and longitude.

"Photos shot today are the historic photographs of tomorrow," she says. Her work and the techniques she shared are relevant for genealogical research. For her work, it is important to tag her photos with the whale's name, location, its marks, comments or other fields. These can be uploaded to Google Earth and a map of all the points can be seen.

Genealogically speaking, this is useful for cemetery visits and gravestone photos, trips to ancestral towns to mark places of interest and other locations where documents may be located. Sally has taken shots of old sepia-toned historic photos, even under glass, and experimented with shooting at various angles and not using the flash.

Major points Sally shared:

- Always work with the highest resolution available and make JPG copies from the RAW resolution. Save the RAW format as your negative and make JPGs as needed. Remember that each time a JPG is copied, its quality decreases, so work from the RAW shot.
- Use a computer with at least 2GB RAM.
- If you have purchased new equipment, spend a day or so experimenting with it to avoid "surprises."

Digital cameras automatically store image and other data for each photograph, including time, date, camera model, exposure settings and more.

How can we be sure that the photographs we take today will be accessible 50 years from now? She recommends keeping track of new technology, converting from older technology and storing it on newer devices and making sure that you can view them on the new equipment.

Think about attending a major genealogical conference. It can provide a concentrated learning experience not available elsewhere.

Have you participated in a technology session at a conference that offered practical information for your own research? If so, tell us about it. I look forward to reading your comments.

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  1. Thanks for the hard work you do to assist genealogists everywhere. Since you are interested in conducting and teaching family history research, I thought you might appreciate knowing about the 2009 California Family History Expo in Redding, Calif., Oct. 16 & 17. This expo is presented by Family History Expos, fhexpos.com, a well-established Utah-based company.

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