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Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online
Fun With A Flatbed Scanner, 
or How I Created a Monster 

by Gary W. Stanley

A couple of years ago I introduced the computer to my mother. She, like many folks got a little nervous when she started to think about all the new challenges of entering the computer age. This seems to be especially true when you get older. My fear was that I would be hand holding for the rest of my life; you know, calls in the middle of the night asking how to open an attachment.

At first I set her up with a laptop because all she wanted to do was get email. This alone was not an easy task. My mother lives next door to nothing. She lives on an Indian reservation in the great white north outside of a small town in Quebec province. I got her a Mac because they are easy to use, and since I have one, it would be easy for me to answer any questions that she would no doubt have. No one in the town of Maniwaki owns anything but a PC, so no help there. I'm 600 miles away, wow! I may have made a big mistake here!

Well I have to tell you how proud I am of my mom. She read 'Mac for Dummies' front-to-back. She spent her own money on an iMac, and then named her Ima, that's short for "I'm a Mac." (And you wonder where I get my sense of humor!) I bought her a printer, she bought a scanner and I created a MONSTER.

My mom just turned 76 on New Years Eve. She said to me: "Gary, thanks for talking me into this computer stuff, I would be lost without it." If I had any doubt before where my creativity comes from, it was answered this fall when I began receiving emails from my mom with a series of images that she had created using her flatbed scanner.

She said she was sitting around one day wondering what she could do to pass the time. She went outside on that nice fall afternoon and began collecting leaves and such. She would bring them back inside and carefully arranging them on her flatbed scanner. At first she said there was nothing technical about it, arrange them on the scanner, press the button and presto, see what comes up on the monitor.

After a few trial and error scans, she began attacking the outdoors with a vengeance. She collected leaves, vines, grapes and various other props, and went back to the scanner. 

I noticed that she had a few different color backdrops to the scanned leaves. I asked her what she used, and again it was a very technical answer: mouse pads! Yes mouse pads! "I used the blue side for some of the scans and the gray side for the others." 

Her words of wisdom are that it can be somewhat difficult to arrange the composition on the flatbed because you really can't see the results until after it appears on the computer monitor. Everything has to placed face down and arranged without the advantage of any sort of preview. It's sort of like putting the pieces of a puzzle together, with the pieces turned up side down.

There may be readers out there who think digital imaging, scanning and emailing images has to be serious technical stuff - think again!

It, more often than not, may be about the creativity, the experimentation, and about doing it just for the fun of it. That word "fun" keeps creeping in to the equation. I saw the first image that my mom sent me, and said wow, "send me some other images, these are great." After about ten of them, I turned to my wife Pam and said: "How do I shut her off, I think I've created a monster?" 

I'm sure that many of you have found other uses for your flatbed scanner (keep it clean, this is a family magazine and it's probably been done already anyway). I have to be honest, I haven't been one to do anything with them accept to use them to email a document, fax something, or scan a print for a relative. I've got to admit that my mom has piqued my curiosity. I promise that as soon as I experiment a little and have something worth looking at I'll let you know. My Brother scanned his face and said it was the brightest light he's ever seen. He emailed it to me and I can tell you, it wasn't pretty!

Just a brief word about flatbed scanners. Most are very easy to use, are quite inexpensive, and though not designed to do a great job with slides, are great for just about everything else. If you've ever had family photos lying around but don't know where the negatives are, you'll be amazed at just how well these scanners work on a plain old 4x6 print.

Maybe we could talk the editor into posting a "Reader's Creations" using the flatbed scanner, and see just what you can come up with. Give it a try and see if you can have "Fun With A Flatbed Scanner."

Ed. - I'm taking Gary up on his suggestion. This month's contest will be "fun with flatbeds." Use your imagination: collages, flower arrangements, anything you can think of !

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