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Auspex

Please Help Craft New Guidelines

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Auspex    1,717
Auspex

Our guidelines for posting in the Fossil ID forum are rather disorganized (in some cases inadequate), and need sprucing up.

If you have suggestions for some 'best practices' in imaging, description, measuring, etc., please make them (or link them) here. We will use them to compile a more user-friendly topic.

Thanks in advance!

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Harry Pristis    1,770
Harry Pristis

Land vertebrate cheek teeth and jaws for which you seek identification should be photographed perpendicular to the left side, to the right side, and to the top (grinding surface). In other words, your images should be straight-on (at a right angle) in a lingual, a labial, and an occlusal view.

Other teeth, such as canines and incisors, may require only a lingual and a labial view.

Other vertebrates, including whales, seals(?), and most bony fish, may require only the lingual and labial views of any of their teeth. Some shark teeth may be easier to identify if a lateral view is provided. The rule of thumb is: If it has an occlusal surface, photograph it.

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Troodon    2,840
Troodon

I think that is a simple guideline and I would also include images for each so that newbie's and others understand what is being asked.

On Dinosaur teeth need views of lingual, labial sides as well as the base also a close-up of serrations.

Edited by Troodon

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Shamalama    114
Shamalama

Sample images would be helpful for newbs who don't understand terms such as lingual and labial too.

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RichW9090    325
RichW9090

The same thing applies to all other bones - photographing them in standard position which allows direct scaling if length, width and thickness i think an element by element gallery of photographs would help. The invertebrate people could add some showing standard positions for gastropods and mollusks, etc.

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RyanNREMTP    55
RyanNREMTP

Location, location, location.

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JohnJ    1,508
JohnJ

Location, location, location.

Generally speaking. ;)

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Missourian    376
Missourian

When taking photos....

1. If taking a photo with an iPhone.... On the screen, tap the fossil to focus. Otherwise, the camera may focus on the background. Other phone cameras may work like this, but I don't know....

2. Crop the image. Oftentimes, uncropped images are too large for the forum's 2 meg limit. FYI, MS Paint in Windows (7, at least) has a crop tool.

3. Also, if possible, and if file size is still a concern, image the fossil against a smooth, out-of-focus background. This will also help to limit the size.

4. If the fossil is overexposed, include a large white object in the field of view. This may trick the camera to tone down the brightness.

5. Take several images. There will always be a best one. In my case, it's often the last one I take.

(I have a feeling that many of the blurry images uploaded to the forum are not the best of the photographer's batch. The sharpest may not have made it past the 2 meg limit.)

6. Oh, and don't forget the scale. :)

Edited by Missourian

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Taogan    106
Taogan

A lot of people forget a scale, coins are OK, but only if we can make out the nationality and denomination, rulers and tape measures are better. Thumbs, small children and similar things are not so good. As said before location helps, but also was it loose in a stream bed, in gravel, in a cliff etc. so we know if the fossil was in situ or had been re-deposited

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Harry Pristis    1,770
Harry Pristis

I've used rules for scale, but in my experience they are best-used for approximations of size. More often than not, the rule is placed in a plane of focus other than that of the fossil itself. A butane lighter is as useful as most of the rules I see in images. My preference is to provide the actual measurements in millimeters and/or inches . . . no approximation required. I'd like to see that accepted as 'best practice' here.

If there is to be an illustration of left - right - top (lingual - labial - occlusal), I think it should be a line-drawing or several line-drawings. These should be easy to find in copyright-free books.

I still think (or I wouldn't be using them) that my tips on making better images are good . . . doable by all but the least-adept camera users. Here they are again, with a modest addition:

Do you have editing software that came with your camera or with your scanner? Use the image-editing software (or download shareware from the Internet).

You can be as creative as you want to be with the editing software, but the following basic things will improve anyone's images:

GROUP IMAGES of more than a few fossils are not effective. The more individual fossils in an image, the greater the amount of table-top is in the image. Viewers cannot see the details of a fossil that might take up less than five percent of the total image. Photograph a single fossil (or two or three, if they're tiny), and post that image.

LIGHT IT UP. Use as much ambient light as possible to reduce shadows...two light sources are a minimum. Eliminate yellowed images caused by tungsten filament bulbs by switching to the new compact flourescent bulbs. CFLs come in a "daylight" (6500K) version that you can use in any (non-dimming) fixture and produce very little heat.

ELIMINATE SHADOWS by elevating the fossil on a glass or colorless plastic stage a couple of inches above the background. Illuminate the fossil AND THE BACKGROUND in this configuration. There are numerous things around the house to use for this purpose, from scrap window-glass to disposable plastic food/drink containers.

BRIGHTEN AND CONTRAST. BRIGHTEN the image until the fossil appears slightly washed, then adjust the CONTRAST until the fossil is bright and sharp and is a good color-match. Practice this until you get a feel for it.

CROP, CROP, CROP. Again, use the image-editing software to crop the image to only what is pertinent. Leave only a narrow margin around the fossil. The more of your kitchen counter-top in the image, the smaller the fossil image will be.

REDUCE THE FILE SIZE. The images directly from a camera usually are too large for posting directly to a forum. You can constrain the proportions of your image to produce exactly the size that works best (I routinely use 700 Kb - 2.0 Mb for my images now). Save in JPEG format.

Edited by Harry Pristis

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Ludwigia    1,275
Ludwigia

Here's an example of the 3 views necessary for the identification of ammonites using a Ludwigia haugi from the German Middle Jurassic.

Frontal: post-2384-0-41120000-1407094437_thumb.jpg

Ventral: post-2384-0-90959700-1407094469_thumb.jpg

Mouth aperture: post-2384-0-85008900-1407094512_thumb.jpg

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Boesse    688
Boesse

Look guys, it's a forum open to amateur collectors - you should expect a wide range of quality. If a photo is oriented oddly, don't work with it. As for standardizing orientations - fine, that's great if you want a figure to survive the peer review process - but being that strict about just getting something identified? It's a bit much. I get amateurs emailing me pictures all the time for identifying - and if there's an angle that's missing that's critical to the identification, I ask them politely to provide another.

Otherwise, it's actually very useful to have non-cardinal oriented photographs: for identifying such things as skulls and cetacean earbones, it is often critical, and many non-traditional angles of skeletal elements get published frequently within the paleocetological literature. One for example that is becoming more and more popular for odontocete workers is the "Fraser and Purves" view - an oblique ventrolateral photograph of the odontocete basicranium, in order to give a good view of all the complicated sinus fossae, foramina, and sutures that are not very obvious in ventral view or in lateral view.

As an example, here are some seemingly oddly oriented figures (not the "Fraser and Purves" view) from the recent paper by Jonathan Geisler on the primitive Oligocene dolphin Cotylocara from Charleston, showing the geometry of some of the weird facial structures and fossae:

nature13086-sf5.jpg

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Coco    318
Coco

Hi,

About gastropods, ID needs 3 vues like here :

30a3o1z.jpg

2j7ck5.jpg

About sea urchins, they need also 3 vues :

ClypeasterJaponicus-654.jpg

On my pics they are recent species, but it is the same for fossil ones.

Coco

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Harry Pristis    1,770
Harry Pristis

That's a good point, Bobby . . . though it probably should be made in the spin-off thread.

I would not limit the number of views to those I (and others, elsewhere) have advocated. I'd say that we are advocating a minimum, rather than an upper limit of views. If you are saying that there may be additional views which may be useful to an ID, no one would argue.

If someone already knows the ID of a fossil, the image may simply be an illustration . . . or a brag ('See how lucky or skilled I've been!'), no minimum views are necessary. Make images that are illustrative or arty or flattering or whatever your need dictates. (example B.)

There are some fossils -- usually familiar ones -- that don't even require the minimum views. (example A.) But, how would a newbie know which those are? And, this shortcut ignores the learning value to others to be had from minimum views.

A minimum of views makes sense for the greatest number of ID requests.

EDIT: This, and the referenced preceding post, has been moved to this topic.

post-42-0-36591500-1407167938_thumb.jpg

post-42-0-84072800-1407168019_thumb.jpg

Edited by Harry Pristis

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Harry Pristis    1,770
Harry Pristis

In Defense of Image Standards [from another thread]

In order to have even substandard images, we first need standards. The clearer those standards are prescribed, the closer the average image will be to the standards. Thus, the overall educational function of TFF will be served . . . There is no magic involved in learning. I assume than anyone clever enough to subscribe to TFF is clever enough to absorb some posting guidelines.

Look at it another way. The better the average quality of posts, the fewer newbie posts will be ignored. Now, if the newbie is lucky, someone here may point out that his/her images and information are substandard. Even rarer, someone here tells the newbie what he/she can do to improve the chances of an identification. It's just more efficient to do that up front, with uniformity . . . in other words, with standards. More newbies will meet with success here, and TFF will be served.

Edited by Harry Pristis

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Sacha    97
Sacha

OK, so I'm a relatively new guy joining the forum, I've got a tooth (or definitely an egg), I go to the fossil ID section, if I'm lucky enough to notice the different topics, and post a thread with pictures that may or may not show up. How do the rules for posting present themselves to me so I know how to properly post?

I'm relatively new to this myself, have never run across guidelines (although now I know they exist), but learned from existing posts with recommendations for enhanced views. All of these suggestions are very worthwhile, but if they are not inserted into the process which I follow to post my thread, I will never see them.

The benefit of this forum is the scope of the information available. The problem with this forum, is the scope of information available. We either have to manage the flow of information to include the guidelines (at least initially), or buck up and be patient with new members.

Edited by Sacha

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Sacha    97
Sacha

I'm going to throw this is as well since I'm in kind of a contrarian mood. When I guy (gal) posts a request for ID and 6 guys chime in with guesses which range from the somewhat possible, to the holy cow where did that come from guess, it doesn't really enhance the veracity of the forum as a source.

If there are posting guidelines for requests, how about posting suggestions for ID's.......like no guessing. If you don't have a really good idea, just wait for someone who may know. There are a ton of guys here who want to provide input and have something to offer.

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Auspex    1,717
Auspex

Very often, folks coming here for the first (or twenty first) time don't know what is important to present about their mystery. A good set of guidelines, presented as a 'tip sheet' aimed at achieving best results, will help (and will be educational in its own right).

We cannot expect that a quester will even know enough about what they have to intuit the steps. Neither can any guidelines we compose anticipate every type of fossil and preservation. The list of 'best practices' would be nearly infinite! We will always have to ask for more information, or different pictures, or some clarification or other. Most of all, anyone coming here for help should get just that, and they should never be put on the defensive.

Basic guidelines with instructional illustrations will help a lot. They will be highly educational in and of themselves. They will shed light on the vast complexity called paleontology that most people never dreamed existed. They will never result in a perfectly tidy 'app' for even simple identifications. We can at least hope to keep the process as user-friendly as possible.

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Hunt4teeth    5
Hunt4teeth

Well sounds like you got the photography suggestions covered, ha! Maybe the forum should have separate guidelines for posting pictures (based on all these responses). Sorry for not having more constructive feedback!

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JohnBrian    10
JohnBrian

Sample images would be helpful for newbs who don't understand terms such as lingual and labial too.

Sample images would be EXCELLENT! You look at the sample pics & photograph your item exactly as shown.

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painshill    801
painshill

Location, location, location.

... and "in a creek in Alabama" is not a location; "Texas" is a very large place; "Australia" is even bigger; we won't necessarily know where the "roadcut on i22" might be; and there are 35 states with a place called "Springfield". ;)

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Auspex    1,717
Auspex

Quite often, inquiries are made about an object that the poster is not even sure is a fossil. In these generic cases, the most helpful information to present is bright, sharp images from all angles, with something for scale and measurements, along with the location of the find (including the circumstances [loose in a stream, dug from an intact formation]), and what else was present.

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Harry Pristis    1,770
Harry Pristis

Auspex Posted 02 August 2014 - 02:20 PM

Our guidelines for posting in the Fossil ID forum are rather disorganized (in some cases inadequate), and need sprucing up.

If you have suggestions for some 'best practices' in imaging, description, measuring, etc., please make them (or link them) here. We will use them to compile a more user-friendly topic.

Thanks in advance!

Can we expect to see the new guide to better images soon, Chas?

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Auspex    1,717
Auspex

Working on it, and hoping for more input.

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paleoflor    246
paleoflor

post-2676-0-58318500-1408093467_thumb.jpg

Perhaps you could also use this photograph, if you like. I made it some years ago to illustrate why photographs should be sharp and show detail. Based on the right hand-side, the fossil can be identified as Lonchopteris rugosa, given the network of anastomosing veins and the confluent base of the pinnules on the basal side. However, if only a photograph like on the left hand-side would be available, you miss the information on the veins. In this case the specimen cannot even be identified as Lonchopteris sp., for it could also be Alethopteris sp., marked by parallel veins (not anastomosing), but otherwise very much like Lonchopteris. The ID-devil is in the details... This underscores the previous remarks concerning the crucial importance of a decent photograph.

Edited by paleoflor

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