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The Journal of Everyday Earth


Scanning to Digitize

Scanning actual living beings such as lichens or flowers allows you to use the scanner like a macro (close-up) lens on a digital camera. Scans can be perceived as part of a scientist's field notes or as a work of art or anywhere in between, or both. The art scan should perhaps reflect the artist's emotion as the image passed through the filter of the mind.

Scans can include forest floor leaf litter, seeds and seedpods, mushrooms, small stones, whatever exercises your imagination. With your scanner, you can try to mirror nature, or you can elaborate on patterns you find. If you are struck by the curve of of a grass seed stem, you can recreate it on the scanner glass.

Artistic assemblage of natural items, especially ephemeral items, which are then scanned, is akin to the art of Andy Goldsworthy and Nils Udo, who photograph their creations to share them.

here are no mistakes in assemblage, only experiments. Subjects can be arranged, scanned and rearranged as you like, to find the most pleasing final scan.


For example, a few scans made with the cover closed:

A scanned assemblage of a few objects picked up on the forest floor in autumn. All were collected from the same square foot.
Garden leavings: a grab-bag of material from the autumn flower garden, scanned and rearranged a couple of times. Ephemeral art, captured in electrons for a time. With colors by Mother Nature, it's hard to go wrong.
An ironwood leaf that caught my eye. The "background" is really the sheet of paper it was covered with when scanned. If I'd been thinking 'art' I could have used marbled paper, large leaves,
fabric--whatever worked.

Scans made with the cover closed can appear mildly three dimensional, but you can scan thicker objects by using a scanner-sized piece of foam with a hole cut in it where the object is placed.

assorted lichens on oak bark
Native American obsidian arrowhead, Rio Grand valley

Scans made with the cover open leave the subject isolated against a black background, as below. Open cover scans can be tricky, because the scanner glass must be extra clean, but most natural subjects are likely to leave white specks on the black background, so you can count on some image editing time. Caution: With the cover open, no one should look directly at the lamp as it scans

a fossil ammonite, a cephalopod, circa 200 million years ago
a fossil seed fern , Carboniferous period

fossil fish in sandstone

Most scanner art is done in a darkened room with the cover open. This creates a dramatic background, which some artists find tiresome. Marty Klein often uses marbled papers over the assemblage on the glass in lieu of the automatic black.

staghorn sumac frond, held above scanner glass
the face inside a nut, cover open
Lake Superior agate pebbles, polished, cover open



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