05-28-2001, 12:11 PM #1tmnkwdFirehouse.com Guest
Digital Photographs in Investigative Reports
I am looking for information on how many of you have cast aside the traditional 35mm for digital.
I am very comfortable with my 35mm and can take some exceptional photographs. Once developed, I can mount them on a professional looking sheet and have them included with my report. This process is quick and very easy for me.
With digital, there are several pitfalls, not counting the long running debate of how they might stand up in court. The depth of field is much more shallow. Lighting can be difficult and they seem much more prone to injury in the field. Once you have taken the photos, you have to download them into a computer, open a document in which to import and then do a time consuming; preview, import, describe and print function. It seems to take much longer per photo than 35mm.
Is there any type of third party software that is available for making this process quicker. We have several clients that are requiring us to go all digital. Your comments would be most appreciated.
05-30-2001, 01:43 PM #2George Wendt, CFIFirehouse.com Guest
There is no educated "long, running debate" about how a digital photograph will stand up in court. My extensive research has revealed there is not one single reported case in the country where digital crime scene photos have been barred from use in a civil or criminal case. They are accepted as long as the traditional tests (accurate depiction of the scene and relevance) are met. In fact, the courts have historically accepted new technology, not pushed it aside.
My agency will be switching to 100% digital as soon as our test period is up. We are field testing the Sony Mavica CD-1000 digital camera. It stores the photos on a mini-CD that plays in virtually any computer CD-ROM drive. There is third party software available, such as Adobe Photoshop, MGI Photo Suite and Picture Gear Lite that is inexpensive and allows you to manage your photos quite easily.
Once you are adept at using digital photography, it is infinitely faster than 35 MM photography. With the right printer, the photos can be imbedded directly into the report, negating the need for mounting, etc. In addition, the savings in film and processing are enormous. A CD which can store up to 1100 photos, in bulk, costs .90 cents with no processing costs. Calculate the cost of 1100 35 mm photos and tell me how much you save.
If you are having resolution problems with digital photos, you are using a toy. Our photos, at 1040 x 860 dpi using a 2 million pixel camera are superior to any 35 mm and rival large format cameras.
The people that fight digital are fighting a losing battle. In five years, you won't be able to buy a roll of film. It also seems that the people so dead set against digital love to spread misinformation about it. I'm surprised you didn't talk about how all the investigators will alter their digital photos to make cases to put innocent people in jail.
Do some research and get the facts.
05-31-2001, 12:41 AM #3paulpFirehouse.com Guest
I have a Kycera digital camera which uses a small memory card (Flash memory)
This card comes straight out of the camera and is placed in a PCMIA adaptor card on the PC. Comes up as a seperate drive on the PC.
Just drag and drop the picture files. No conversion, no download.
Unfortnately I keep lending my camera to my captain who uses it to photgraph everything in the district for power point presentations and I don't get to use it.
Camera does not work the best in low light
situations, finds it hard to focus.
Your best bet would be to carry both a digital and a 35mm SLR. Use the digital to pick up some quick shots and the SLR when you need more detail. Horses for courses.
05-31-2001, 08:30 PM #4DavesNavyFirehouse.com Guest
I have to agree with George. We started using a relatively inexpensive digital camera for our investigation photos about a year ago. At first we backed them up with 35mm, but now we take only digital.
Yes, 35mm cameras do take excellent photographs, but as George mentioned, once you master the software of your choice and use as good a quality digital camera as you probably do a 35mm ( I doubt you're using an inexpensive point-and-shoot 35mm) I agree that you will find digital the way to go.
We upgraded to an Olympus digital with 32MB flashcard, zoom capabilities and a f1.8 lens. The camera permits aperture priority, shutter priority or full manual selection as well as a range of ASA settings. We didn't have the budget to purchase a camera such as George's. Our full-featured camera cost $385 online and currently meets all our needs.
We are especially fortunate to have a new color laser printer available on our LAN - the photo quality on high gloss paper is extraordinary.
I hope this helps - good luck in whatever you choose, but I suspect digital will win out eventually.
05-31-2001, 09:55 PM #5tmnkwdFirehouse.com Guest
Relax. I was asking a question! Oh, by the way I am doing some research. That's why I brought it to this forum. Looking for some advise. Whether you agree or not, there is a debate as to how the digital format is looked at by a jury. Whether courts will accept it or not is a whole other issue. I was expecting input from fellow investigators as a course of discussion. I was not expecting was to be ridiculed by a fellow investigator.
[This message has been edited by tmnkwd (edited 05-31-2001).]
06-01-2001, 10:24 AM #6George Wendt, CFIFirehouse.com Guest
You didn't come on here doing research. You came on here to editorialize. Let's look. First you state your bias:
"I am very comfortable with my 35mm and can take some exceptional photographs. Once developed, I can mount them on a professional looking sheet and have them included with my report. This process is quick and very easy for me."
Then you state the following:
"With digital, there are several pitfalls, not counting the long running debate of how they might stand up in court. The depth of field is much more shallow. Lighting can be difficult and they seem much more prone to injury in the field. Once you have taken the photos, you have to download them into a computer, open a document in which to import and then do a time consuming; preview, import, describe and print function. It seems to take much longer per photo than 35mm."
None of these is a valid argument. You didn't say anything about a jury, you made a statement indicating that the photos would not hold up in court. Then you make a broad statement about "pitfalls" which do not exist. Then you make a mis-characterization of the digital printing process to make it seem like a huge complicated mess. It isn't.
You are not doing research. Research, like fire investigation, requires an open mind and fact-gathering, not a pre-conceived bias.
I apologize if you took it as ridicule. I get frustrated with misinformation.
06-01-2001, 10:32 PM #7tmnkwdFirehouse.com Guest
Yeah, I too get frustrated.
You get frustrated by mis-information.
Me, by people who have apparently been tramatized by 35mm cameras sometime in their life.
So that we can keep this from becoming something that it isn't. If there is anyone else who can see past errors of my ways and give me some usefull and valid input as to the avalibility of an easy to use software, I would be greatfull. Otherwise, I can see that I am wasting my time here.
06-02-2001, 04:19 PM #8TcashelFirehouse.com Guest
I have been using digital since 1996 with some very nice results. I have not been challenged yet by anyone on the admissiblity of the photo's. The cost and easy or transfer is very good. Te chain of evidence is not been a problem as long as you treat them the same as you woould any other document. Is some aspects it is easier. The cost of development is now gone. There is none. The cost os photo quality paper is new. But I can print basic proofs on regular paper to see how they print first. Data transfer actually takes me about 2 minutes to tranfer from camera to computer.
No I use the vaste majority of my pictures for code enforcement purposes.
A word of caution. Technology is changing fast. Equipment you buy willnot stay current as top of road equipment. That is OK, But don't buy cheap either. A good Digial camera like a sony or similar brand will cost about $900-1200.00 SPend the money it is worth it in the long run. I still have my 35mm and equipment. In certain conditions and light levels for really detailed items in dark fire scenes, I still use the 35mm and the digital and then compare.
06-02-2001, 11:57 PM #9wrongWAYFirehouse.com Guest
Sorry tmnkwd, I can't help you out with your technical questions or give you any advice about digital photography and software, but I can offer a little information (very unscientific information right now I should admit) about the 'long running debate of how they (they being digital photographs) might stand up in court' .... if by saying 'stand up in court' you mean 'through the eyes of a juror.'
I work as a biographical researcher for some writers, publishers, and research groups; and it is my job to interview individuals that have witnessed, experienced, or participated in events relevant to the topic, issues, persons, or subjects being written about. Some of my work also involves verifying the authors or the first interviewers notes for accuracy, so I do follow-up interviews that usually confirm the original information received.
One of the research groups that I do work for has received grants from prominent law schools to develop educational curriculum and texts on jury selection. It is also performing collateral research for major insurance companies by collecting information for the creation and maintenance of a juror profile database.
I beleive the research has been going on full steam for about two and a half, maybe three years, but I've also seen and read some research from almost eight years ago.
Generally speaking, the researchers closely follow a court case from start to finish, and then whenever possible and/or permitted they conduct very detailed interviews of the jurors. They try to interview all the other parties involved as well.
Remember; I said my information being offered here is unscientific. I don't have any of the data that's been compiled here at home, it's all under lock and key in NYC and no where near completion, but some of what I have read and participated in collecting could be of interest to you.
For example; almost three quarters of all jurors asked would participate, most were bored during the proceedings, felt 'spoken down to' by one or by both attorneys, and were unimpressed with or were suspect of experts called in to testify.
The respondents in many of the reports and interviews I read answered that eyewitness accounts weighed more heavily in their deliberative process than did audio or video tapes and photographs.
I had to do three follow-up interviews this past winter. Each of the two jurors I spoke with confirmed they were suspect of an independently recorded video tape which was shown repeatedly, shown at different speeds, and stopped and replayed over and over by both sides of the aisle. They felt overexposed to this evidence and discounted it in favor of an eyewitness. They stated that they felt official photographs entered into evidence the day after viewing the video were shown only to revitalize the state's case and discounted them. The eyewitness (and the emotion he showed, which is not in the transcripts) was more relevant to these jurors than any video or photograph.
The eyewitnesses I re-interviewed was able to tell his version of the event with unwavering consistency, as he did through every interview; from the one in the DT's notebook, to his day on the stand two years later.
So, speaking in very general terms and only from what I've read and heard the reseachers say, it's my understanding that photographs, digital or otherwise may not carry the weight many of us assume they do - with a jury anyway - they still like eyewitnesses.
06-03-2001, 10:04 PM #10George Wendt, CFIFirehouse.com Guest
You're not getting away with that one.
I have never been traumatized by a 35 mm camera. I have college level training in photography and understand completely the photgraphic process. I use a manual 35 mm and actually undersatnd what I am doing. I am also proficient in a darkroom. So much for that argument.
If you look back on my original post, I answered all of your questions, with the exception of the lighting question. So here goes.
The built-in flash on all digital cameras stinks. The one on the Mavica CD-1000 is terribly underpowered for any type of fire scene work. We had to spend the extra $150 for the electronic bounce flash. That has solved the problem. It provides sufficient lighting for us so far up to about 30 feet in a dark room with little to no ambient light.
One of the problems with fire scene photography is that the proliference of black surfaces absorbs a great deal of the light. Therefore, a pwerful flash is a necessity. That is also why it makes no sense to buy a cheap digital camera for fire scene work.
06-04-2001, 02:28 PM #11IceraderFirehouse.com Guest
George Wendt, CFI
Lighten up. Your responses are always so condescending. I believe tmnkwd did come here for some research. As for editorializing, it's the "kettle calling the pot black." You need to be more "user friendly." While you may have a wealth of experience and knowledge, your delivery sucks. Your responses always come across as pompous and arrogant.
If you want people to respect your opinion, respect their questions, and respond to the question in an informative manner and not with an arrogant response. I know you will dress me down in your usual way for making this statement, but it needed to be said. There are many other people out there that have as much experience and knowledge as you in this field. You need to learn to respect them as well.
[This message has been edited by Icerader (edited 06-04-2001).]
06-05-2001, 09:13 PM #12tmnkwdFirehouse.com Guest
Well, I spent the better part of the weekend on looking for a digital camera. Canon makes one that may be the best of both worlds. It allows the use of our current flash and lenses. We could use the 50mm macro, 24mm wide angle and all of the assorted lenses we have spent a fortune on. The price is still a killer for the digital though, over $2,000.
Even after going to one of the St. Louis, Mo. areas largest camera stores and leader in digital, we still can not seem to get past, I know I am going to hear it, downloading and printing delays. What I would like would be software that could make this a quick process. Dump the camera data to a third party program, select the prints and have them go right onto a mounting sheet and then open a text editor box. Quick, painless and professional. Even the camera store could not come up with software to suite.
Thanks for all your advise, additional comments welcome, from everyone. Yes George, I can filter through yours and get some usefull information, thanks
06-05-2001, 10:15 PM #13firecop210Firehouse.com Guest
I would agree with the gentleman from Garden Grove. The post from George in response to a request for help were somewhat vile in tone and not what I have come to expect from George as a professional. The man from Garden Grove is also correct in that there are many good investigators out there. Fire investigation does not begin nor end with George Wendt.
As far as the digital camera is concerned the Sony Mavica CD1000 is about your best bet. Do buy the large shoe mount flash. As George stated the flash the camera comes with is all but worthless. I would also suggest an extra battery, car charger and hardshell case. You can get about 200 or so 1600 x 1200 photos on a disc. You still have to print the photos from a software program like picture gear. Might I suggest that if you use one disc per fire at about 2 bucks a disc and only print when you need to, you will save a ton of money. We leave it up to the investigator as to whether he wants to print his photos. Generally he can print them in a thumbnail format on regular paper and this works fine. Of course why do this when you can put the disc in the computer look at them and then throw the disc back in the file. If a DA or an insurance company wants the photos then we burn them a disc and let them print them. If the DA wants he can scan the disc and tell us which photos he wants for court and then we will print them if need be.
[This message has been edited by firecop210 (edited 06-06-2001).]
06-07-2001, 09:31 AM #14George Wendt, CFIFirehouse.com Guest
$2000 sounds like a lot of money until you factor in the savings on film or processing. What is your film budget? What is your processing budget? Once you figure that out and remove it, it doesn't take long to justify the $2000.
DO NOT BUY THE MAVICA DISCS!!! They are grossly overpriced. We use mini-CD-R's that were purchased in bulk at a computer show for .90 each. The screen prompts you "Mavica Disc Recommended" then lets you use the other one.
BTW; No one ever said that I was the be all and end all of the fire investigation world. I spend a huge amount of time teaching new fire investigators. Don't go there. If it comes off as condescending, sorry. I could have a whole lot more respect for people if they posted a complete profile so I knew who I was talking to. Since I use my real name as my screen name, I never hide behind a anonymous screen name.
06-07-2001, 11:58 AM #15firecop210Firehouse.com Guest
So we all teach new investigators its part of our job George. Whats your point. Once again you started out with useful information and then took a parting knife throw. Why not just start it nice and end it that way.
06-07-2001, 11:31 PM #16IceraderFirehouse.com Guest
I am going to make this my last post directed at you. Most all of us respect your opinions because they are usually based on sound experience or personal knowledge of the subject matter. The problem is your delivery. There is no need to talk "down" to those who ask a question. My only point is to lighten up and if you really are a teacher, then teach not preach.
As for the fact that you are an instructor of new investigators, welcome to the crowd. I would venture to say many of those that post have been or are instructors of new and even veteran investigators....that's not even the point here.
Lastly, no one here is hiding behind anonymous screen names. When most of us signed up here we thought up what we thought might be clever screen name with little or no thought to being "anonymous," so let's put that notion to rest. As for me personally, I am Bill Dumas, a 27 year veteran of the Fire Service. 21 years as a Captain and 10 years of service as a Fire/Arson Investigator. Those that know me or know of me, know I am a man of interity and most certainly a knowlegable fire investigator with an impeccable record. I am not in the least intimidated by anyone here nor have I ever found a reason to be. This is a place to exchange information, ideas, or questions related to the Investigation of Fires.
As I have said...."lighten up."
Bill Dumas, HB (Human Being)
[This message has been edited by Icerader (edited 06-07-2001).]
06-11-2001, 10:32 PM #17Fire_InspectorFirehouse.com Guest
We have recently purchased a digital camera with digital fingerprinting software which does not allow the picture to be altered. The quality is as good as 35mm and the cost saving are unbelievable. We have laptops with the software and can see the pictures on the scene and work on the report without even going back to the office. ITS GREAT
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