What you see on this site aren’t photographs – at least not in the traditional sense. The camera in this case is a high-end digital scanner, with the flowers arranged face down on the open glass of the scanner and the image taken in a darkened room. The picture is then retouched with a computer only to remove any stray pollen or dust, being careful to never alter the original arrangement, preserving the integrity and natural beauty of the plants. Since this editing is often done at a level of nearly 1/300th of an inch level, each picture can require 10 to 20 hours or more to complete.
Here’s an example showing the close-up editing of a small, hairy leaf:
The circle is the editing paintbrush, where I am carefully going around the edges to make them black. Further away from the leaf has already been painted black, but now the close-up work takes place. You can see the not-quite-black background that is slowly being erased to pure black, ensuring that the leaf (and all of it’s hairy appendages!) are left intact. The white editing circle is about 1/175th of an inch (relative to the overall image size).
Because the scans are made at very high resolution, typically 1200 dots per inch, the printer becomes the “zoom lens” — the final images can be printed four times the original size or more without affecting the print quality, making for some stunning close-ups of flowers and leaves, down to the pollen on stamens or hairs on a stem. Because of the way scanners capture the image by moving across the surface the image is captured with zero spherical or chromatic aberration that a typical camera lens might introduce. Coupling that with a completely flat plane of focus and you have the rich and visually deep images that scanography produces.
The images on this site, as JPEG files, are only a fraction of the quality and resolution of the original source scan TIFF files that are used to make the prints. The TIFF format does not lose image quality in compression, unlike JPEG and many other formats. Because of this, the original source files for the artwork on this site can be quite large — 400MB or more — but the resulting image quality is well worth the disk space.
Sometimes the scanned images yield interesting surprises. This tiny insect wing turned up when performing close-up editing of the work “Mirrored Hosta”.
The individual veins and the glossy sheen of the wing show up clearly on this image, and this is nowhere near the quality of the actual image and subsequent prints.
Want to see more? View this short YouTube video.
Scanography.org – information on scanning techniques, artists
MyNeighborsGarden.com – Scanner photographer Ellen Hoverkamp
Scanner photographer Katinka Matson
Scanner photographer Kim Kauffman
Scanner photographer Janet Dwyer
Scanner photographer Patri Feher