Blaine Viator
Blaine Viator

One piece of equipment that is always within arm’s reach is my digital camera—whether working in my truck, on an ATV or walking fields. Long ago I learned that taking the time to take detailed photographs of crop pests, demonstration plots and plant symptomology proved to be an invaluable tool to my business. These photographs are not just for a scrapbook or a hobby. The pictures are extremely useful in training employees as well as for sending out useful information to grower clients.

As the old saying goes, “A picture says a thousand words.” Even with the best verbal explanation of symptomology or pest identification, it’s not nearly the same as seeing the description in a photograph. When a trained and experienced agronomist sees a particular pest or plant symptom repeatedly in the field, the imagery collected from his/her own eyes is burned into their memory. But translating that imagery into words is not an easy skill by any means. This is when field photography can help bridge that gap when training and educating.

These days, it seems everyone has a smartphone in their pocket to take photos. The megapixels and image quality are getting better and better with each model, but currently they still lack the detail and image quality to obtain useful photographs for field training. But even lower quality imagery is at least better than nothing at all.

There are many “point-and-shoot” digital cameras available these days that do not require being a professional photographer to obtain high quality photos. I don’t use the professional SLR type cameras, because frankly I haven’t the time to spend learning all the details in professional photography given that my paying job is already taking up any spare time I have.

Modern point-and shoot-cameras with a good macro function (ability to take magnified close-ups of small pests) and a “burst” mode (shoots rapid, consecutive images in one button press to get shots of fast moving objects like insects) are relatively inexpensive and are becoming much easier to use. Additionally, more and more point-and-shoot cameras are offering a GPS tagging feature that will imbed GPS coordinates to each photograph. Importing the photos to a computer or tablet into Google Earth will allow each photo to be displayed on an interactive aerial map letting the viewer know locations where each photograph was taken.

Take the time to stop and take some photographs. Share them with colleagues and customers. It will benefit your business and your customer/clients in more ways than words can express. And come join us in January at our NAICC annual meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., to learn more.