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Geoff Thompson <[log in to unmask]>
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SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 17 Oct 2011 10:52:30 +1100
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Dear Mali and all,
                            Sorry for the slow reply. We've been out enjoying Sydney and catching up with friends a couple of hours south.
    We visited Elizabeth Bay House by candlelight on a fabulous, special tour on Saturday. One of the daughters of the house, Fanny Macleay was a fine illustrator and the house holds several beautiful examples. But I was more excited to see a brochure advertising a new exhibition at the Australian Museum of the work of my early-Aussie-illustrator heroines, the Scott sisters. I plan to go soon!
    I also bought a nice, new book on a history of Australian butterfly illustration "A Flutter of Butterflies" by Michael Braby with Penny Olsen.
    Thanks, I'm glad you like my photos. The new equipment has put them into another level. I have more I would like to show off that way too. No Britt I generally don't have the option of arranging legs for a photo. They are just selected from the collection, either because they are in good condition or because they are the definitive type specimen. The Christmas beetle holotype has its legs tucked under but is the only one ever collected. So it's far to precious to risk damage by rearranging legs.
    Museum Victoria got federal government money from the Atlas of Living Australia for the same sort of photographic setup as I did. I was told they just said "We'll have what Geoff's getting"! They have also purchased photographic equipment as part of the PaDIL project but I never heard about a choice between cameras and employing an illustrator. None of this money would have allowed employment of an illustrator as another option. 
    I agree there is a difference between a photo and an illustration but am as proud of my best photos as I am of my best illustrations. The science community is not as interested in that special connection between the viewer and the illustrator, or at least it's not prepared to pay for it unless there is a marked advantage for the extra money spent. Clearly in interpretive, diagrammatic illustrations that advantage is there.
    Individual scientists might buy illustrations for their own walls at home but not out of their tight research budgets if the job can be done adequately with photography.
    I think every illustrator should play around with these modern tools a bit if they want to keep up with modern techniques. Some of the tools are very cheap and easy to use. A combination of a stand-mounted Canon or Nikon camera with "Live View", Zerene stacker software bought off the net and a computer will produce wonderful images of small specimens with a bit of time and patience.
If you want a more automated, but still cheap, system you can use a motorised rail
which has recently been incorporated into Roy Larimer's portable Passport system.
If your institution has more money Roy's BK-plus lab system is unbeatable.

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