Fig. A: This living dragonfly
was scanned by placing it
inside an opening cut in a
sheet of corrugated board.
Figs. B and C: Many fossils
and flint implements are flat
enough to permit scanning,
like this trilobite and scraper.
Fig. D: Be sure to clean the
glass surface of your scanner
after scanning plant leaves.
Fig. E: Feathers are easily
scanned. Fig. F: This piece of
ancient amber was sliced and
scanned to study the sand it
captured when it flowed from
a tree in what is now the
Fig. G: Samples of light-
colored sand were scanned
against a black background.
Padre Island White Sands Florida Panhandle
For best results, scan plant samples as soon as
possible after collecting them. If this isn’t possible,
preserve the sample in a cool location or immerse
its stem in water. Leaves may be coated with wax,
so be sure to clean the scanner’s glass bed after
Scans by Forrest M. Mims III
The color of scanned leaves may not appear
true to life. If not, you can use a photo processing
program to correct the color. I’ve found that
the best way to accomplish this is to hold the
actual sample next to the monitor and adjust
the color of the image until it matches that of
Most flight and tail feathers are easily scanned
(Figure E), but white feathers and those with white
down require a dark background. For example,
I once scanned a flamingo feather. The upper half of
the feather was pink, and it scanned fine. Because
the lower portion of the feather was white, it was
barely visible against the white background. The
entire feather was visible when a sheet of black
paper was placed over it.
Soil and Sand
Soil and sand samples are easily scanned. Light-colored samples require a black background. Scans
like this are important for soil science, since they
allow different specimens to be compared under
identical lighting conditions.
As with all scans, the colors of scanned soil
and sand samples might need to be adjusted. For
example, when I scanned samples of light-colored
sand from three locations (Figure G), the sand that
looked whitest to the unaided eye was not as white
Water can cause the color of soil and sand to
change appreciably, and a scanner allows both wet
and dry specimens to be scanned simultaneously.