Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Treasure Hunting and Photography

In today’s high-tech world everyone should own at least one digital camera and in my opinion, if you do a lot of treasure hunting you should own a better than average camera. Most treasure hunters aren’t fortunate enough to be able to hunt full time. Most of us work a real job waiting for the time when we recover a treasure big enough to retire on. With that in mind, having photographs of carvings or markers we find in the field while hunting allows us to continue the hunt when the weather is bad or we can’t get away to the site. We can simply study the photos of the clues and the site and theorize what we will do the next time we are in the field.

Photographing carvings and markers can be more than just making a record for ourselves or giving us something to look at when we can’t get to the site. Some of these things, especially carvings, are fading away daily and will eventually be lost to time. By photographing the things we find we are preserving a part of history. Granted, it may be a part of history some don’t want to remember or even acknowledge, but it’s history nonetheless. Some of the things we photograph may be worthy of putting in a book so that there is a permanent record for all to see and others may be more of a personal record so our children might have a chance to work a site that we couldn’t get to or couldn’t figure out.

I would urge every treasure hunter to invest in a good digital camera and learn how to use it well in different shooting conditions. A camera with a manual setting on it so you can set the aperture and shutter speed as necessary is almost a must. Having a flash either built in or on a hot-shoe is very important. I prefer a digital SLR, Nikon to be exact, but I’m a little bit of a camera freak so this isn’t something everyone needs. A good camera isn’t quite as important as a good detector but in my opinion it comes very close. I could easily get into the technical descriptions of different cameras and lens but since this blog is about treasure hunting I will refrain from boring the majority of you with specific camera talk.

When you find a carving or marker take a LOT of photos. You’re dealing with digital now and you don’t have to pay for the film or developing so there is absolutely no reason not to take more pictures than you really think are necessary. One of the best things about digital photography is you can see the photo you took instantly. Use this feature to make sure you have a photo that is in focus and well lit. If you are photographing a carving take several photos of the entire carving from different angles and at different times of the day. Adjust the settings on your camera to get some slightly different exposures. A good time to photograph carvings is between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. and then again sometime in the morning before 10:00 a.m. After you have photographed your carving from different angles and at different times zoom in on parts of the carving or even on each individual symbol and take more photos. I would recommend doing all of this BEFORE you chalk the carving if you absolutely feel the need to chalk it. Personally, I don’t like chalking carvings because the chalk can hide some of the detail of the carving that may turn out to be very important. If you want to highlight the carving some try pouring water on it. This will bring out the detail nicely in most cases.

When you come across a marker of some kind, whether it’s a large Spanish monument or a small outlaw marker, photograph it from every angle possible and get close ups of anything that looks like it might be important such as anything carved in the marker or a point on the marker, etc. Again, you can’t take too many pictures.

When taking your photographs it helps to have one or two with a compass in them to show the orientation of the carving or marker and it is even nice to have a six inch ruler that you can lay in several of the photos to show the relative size of the symbols or marker. Make sure that the photo is taken close enough to the compass so that you can see what direction the compass is pointing.

You may think that you can remember things like size and orientation and even the exact location but if you work more than one site and take more than a couple of months to work a site that information can get lost in the jumble. If you end up passing down your information to someone else, the more notes and information you can give with a photograph the better.

While you are taking photos of the carving or marker, take some photos of the area around it. I try to shoot a panoramic of 360 degrees just in case I need to look at something later and I can’t get to the site. I will take panoramic shots at any area where I get stuck on a symbol or marker so that I can work it from home. With today’s photo programs it’s easy to stitch the photos together to give you a view of the site.

Two other things I would recommend everyone have with them is a GPS unit and a notepad. Notes are like photos, you can’t have too many. Take compass headings off of anything that looks like it could be a pointer and write them down. Write down the GPS coordinates of the location of the marker or carving and even include a drawing or description of what it is. If you want to get really detailed you can write the number of the photograph in with your notes about the sign. This way there is no question about what you were referring to. This is simple to do since digital cameras automatically assign a number to the photograph when it is taken and they shouldn't assign the same number twice.

Once you have your photos remember to back them up OFTEN. I try to use redundant systems, keeping my photos on two separate computers, at least one external hard drive and also on CDs or DVD discs. (I'm a little anal when it comes to being prepared.) All it takes is for your computer to crash once and take all of your information with it to teach you the necessity of backing up files. This way of learning will of course aggravate the crap out of you and drive you to drink! It’s a very unpleasant experience.

As with most of my articles, I am only covering the basics because of space restraints on the blog. Feel free to post any comments or questions you may have.

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