[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

Re: No substitute for seeing a specimen: Hone blog

>David Hone is right.  Photos are no substitute for seeing a specimen.

    100% agreed.  Having dealt now with a number of slab-based specimens, 
including some that are quite crushed (and, dare I say it, MELTIBONED...a 
reference to my Bristol SVP talk), I can say that there is no way in hell that 
a photograph will ever do it justice.  With such specimens just changing the 
_lighting_ can radically affect how the elements appear: what in one lighting 
looked like two discreet elements can look like five (and your decisions about 
which interpretation, if either, is correct becomes problematic).  Even 
stereophotography won't help in situations like this, even though it's still 
infinitely better (and grossly underused) than a single flat photograph.  But 
of course, in a photograph, one cannot change the lighting at all, so the 
perspective is fixed and quite probably misleading in several places as a 

     The flatter the specimen is, or the more complex the element is (e.g., 
many sauropod vertebrae), the less likely a photograph will accurately or 
adequately capture much of the essential detail simply because lighting 
everything at once, while maintaining three dimensionality, is a virtual 
impossibility.  Publishing photos is still a necessity in order to provide an 
illustrated guide to what is described textually, but if anything but the 
grossest levels of detail are in doubt, the specimen has to be seen in person, 
period.  This has been well known for centuries -- it is, after all, why we 
keep specimens in repositories!

Jerry D. Harris
Director of Paleontology
Dixie State College
Science Building
225 South 700 East
St. George, UT  84770   USA
Phone: (435) 652-7758
Fax: (435) 656-4022
E-mail: jharris@dixie.edu
 and     dinogami@gmail.com

"I have noticed even people who
claim everything is predestined, and
that we can do nothing to change it,
look before they cross the road."

                   -- Stephen Hawking

"Prediction is very difficult,
especially of the future."

                   -- Niels Bohr