How a digital camera saved a life... and uncovered a whole new world.

Do you own a digital camera and like traveling? If so, here's a story that'll make you appreciate your camera in an entirely different light.

It happened almost two years ago when four friends from Australia decided to take a three month backpacking holiday through South America. About six weeks into the trip, one of the friends developed a cough and a very sore throat. He didn't take too much notice of it at first as he thought it was just a case of the common cold. One week later the cough hadn't gone away. In fact it had gotten much worse. He was now suffering terrible headaches and a rash suddenly appeared on his chest and face when he woke up one morning. At breakfast he could hardly swallow due to the intense pain in his mouth and throat. It didn't take much encouragement from his friends to convince him to go see a local doctor.

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Quality of image with digital camera has leaped in folds over the last few years. The Canon G-1 that I have bought a few months back has seemed a little inferior in the number games of pixels and resolution. However, for most general applications, its 3.3 million pixels is still adequate for good image output. Recently, one of my Company has run a full page colored advertisement on a local daily using images taken with a G-1 !

<<<<<<- ----- H20 plant, an actual image taken with a G-1. Copyright-Free images collection © 2001 eofooTM.gif

After waiting over two hours to be seen, the doctor gave him a quick examination, wrote a prescription for penicillin and said something about a food allergy. At least that's what they thought he said. You see, none of the friends were very good at speaking Spanish. On paying a considerable doctors fee, the friends felt very dissatisfied with the doctor's quick diagnosis. They sat around outside the surgery talking about what they should do next. Then in a moment of inspiration, one of the girls suggested taking some photos with her digital camera and e-mailing them to her doctor back in Australia. Within half an hour they had taken some good photos of the rash and an ulcer on his tongue, found an Internet café and e-mail the pictures to the girls' doctor. The next day they received some distressing news. The girl's doctor wrote back saying that the rash was unquestionably caused by a condition known as Stevens-Johnston Syndrome. He went on to explain that this disease is potentially fatal if not treated in its early stages with steroid therapy. With that, the boy and his girlfriend booked tickets on the next available flight back home for treatment. He's now taking steroids for life and thankfully has his disease pretty much under control thanks to his girl friends quick thinking and her digital camera.

When I first heard this story, it captured my imagination. I couldn't help but wonder what they would have done had they only had conventional film cameras rather than a digital camera. I guess why I was particularly obsessed with this question was because at the time I was toying with a few alternate ways to put my CoolPix 990 to use. I hadn't thought about using a camera in such a way before and it got me thinking about why they could do this with a digital camera and not with a film camera.

My conclusion was deceptively simple: the critical element responsible for preserving this boys quality of life was that the images they created were digital. Now I appreciate that this might not sound like that big a deal. By their very nature, digital cameras produce digital images. However, the fact that the images were digital meant that they could instantly communicate an entire story (that they would have struggled to do so with only words) to someone on the other side of the world. We're no longer simply talking about taking photos, but rather communicating important information to other people.

This got me looking a little closer at some of the alternate ways I was using my CoolPix to see if I could identify why I couldn't use my film camera in the same ways. The end result was that I narrowed it down to six critical features found in every digital camera that are responsible for uncovering a whole new world of creative uses for digital cameras. The following six features in effect transform digital cameras from advanced picture-taking instruments into portable communications devices:

1. The images you create are digital.
2. You can view images on your LCD screen.
3. Your camera is very portable.
4. You can transfer images from your computer to your camera.
5. Your memory cards are compact and relatively inexpensive.
6. Your camera can project images onto a TV or data-projector.

At first glance, this list may not seem overly impressive. The reality is that most of these features are the same ones that you use for your digital photography. But when you take a closer look at these six features you'll discover just how versatile they really are.

For instance, let's examine the first feature; the images you create are digital.

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The fact that your images are digital also means that you have enormous control over what you can do with them. Not only can you see your results instantly with no processing costs or delays, but you can also modify your images in an infinite manner of ways; you can annotate them; you can stitch them; you can fax them; you can e-mail them; you can post them on the web; you can store them on a number of media; and you can print them at home, in your office or in a lab.

<<<<<<- ---- Inserted Image Copyright-FREE images collection © 2001 eofooTM.gif

To illustrate how this feature can open the door to creative new ways of using a digital camera, consider the following examples:

If you wanted to repair done your property (whether it be your house, your car or anything else you own) you'd naturally want to shop around for the best value for money. Normally, this would involve either going to see a hand-full of people in the trade personally or have them come out to you. However, with the ability to take and send digital images almost instantly, you can now e-mail photos of what you want repaired to as many merchants as you want and have them e-mail you back with their estimate/quotes. Not only would this save you time and money, but you could also request that they send you photos of their work to ensure you're getting quality tradesman-ship as well.

Alternatively, making birthday cards for your family and friends from your digital images can be tremendous fun. With any digital editor like Adobe's
Photoshop® or Paint Shop Pro®  you can easily add humorous captions and alterations for a real kick. And you don't even have to print a physical card. Why not send the customized card by e-mail?

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The fact that your images are digital also means that you have enormous control over what you can do with them. Not only can you see your results instantly with no processing costs or delays, but you can also modify your images in an infinite manner of ways; you can annotate them; you can stitch them; you can fax them; you can e-mail them; you can post them on the web; you can store them on a number of media; and you can print them at home, in your office or in a lab.

<<<<<<- ---- Inserted Image Copyright-FREE images collection © 2001 eofooTM.gif

These two suggestions rely purely on the fact that you've created digital images to work with. Now when you combine two or more of the features listed above, the flexibility of your camera opens up even more. Consider, for example, the fact that you can transfer literally any image from your computer onto your camera's memory/flash card and then view these images on your camera's LCD screen or on a TV. All of a sudden you now have in your hands a very portable reference device for displaying any information wherever you go. This information may be for your personal benefit or for the benefit of others.

To get a better idea of the potential uses this creates, take a look at these ideas:

It is no secret that the best photographs are taken by the photographer who has a deeper understanding of their subject. But when you're out photographing in the field, carrying a bunch of field guides filled with a lot of irrelevant information is not always convenient. A much better idea is to study your preferred subjects at home, add the pertinent information to a series of images you've scanned from books or downloaded off the Internet and transfer them to your flash card. So the next time you're out in the field, everything you need to know to capture the individual characteristics of your favorite subjects can be referenced on your camera's LCD screen.

Or if you're having trouble tearing your kids away from the TV, don't worry. Simply display a series of bright and educational images on your TV and let your child run through them at their own pace. As an example, you may create an album of different fruits captioned like "A is for Apple", "B is for Banana" and so on. Not only does this make watching TV more valuable to your children, but it also creates a new focus when you're out taking pictures. Maybe you're looking to redecorate your home but can't decide which colour scheme will best match your existing décor. Why not take photos of the room you want to paint and then ‘redecorate’ these images with editing software? Once you've narrowed down your choices on your computer, show the remaining schemes to your family and friends on TV to get their opinions. You won't believe what a difference viewing your photos on TV can make until you try it for yourself.

Yet another possible application would be to use your digital camera as an emergency back-up when giving a presentation. Imagine how devastating it would be if your laptop failed you at the most critical moment during an important presentation. You could almost guarantee that you'd blow the deal. Now imagine what an incredibly professional impression you'd make if you calmly pulled out your digital camera (with a back up of your entire Power Point® presentation), plugged it into a TV and continued on as though nothing happened.

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I could literally go on and on with dozens more examples. In fact I've written a book with over 50 new ways to use a digital camera. However, what's more important than a list of 50 plus suggestions is that you develop a better understanding of the underlying principles that make these applications possible. Experience has shown that the best way to fast-track any learning is through example. By using the list of ideas to gain a deeper appreciation of the creative potential of these six features, you'll empower yourself to come up with your own new uses for your digital camera that are most suited to your personal lifestyle.

It's said that necessity is the mother of all invention. Thanks to the quick thinking of these Australian friends we can all share in the expanded pleasures that our digital cameras have to offer. So next time you walk out your front door, think twice before leaving home without your trusted digital camera.

To learn more about these six key features of a digital camera and to discover over 50 new ways to use your digital camera. You can download his FREE e-book "50 New uses for your digital camera" from <http://www.fotosoup.com/eBooks/order.asp?ID=newuses>

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Article reproduced with the permission of Angelo Ioanides for Photography in Malaysia

Angelo Ioanides is a Forensic Dentist with nine years experience as a landscape and adventure photographer. He is also the cofounder of FotoSoup and has written a number of articles to promote the new medium of digital photography. Most of the articles aim to educate and stimulate digital photographers to get more out of their cameras. If time permits, there will be more contributing articles from Angelo in this section of the PIM site relating to digital photography.

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