Establishing photo points for your restoration project is important yet not always easy to do when beginning when so much work is ahead.
Photo points are important for several reasons. They demonstrate your progress and success, illustrating what is possible with hard work and a little love for the land. They indicate what the ecosystem should or did look like once restored. But most importantly, reviewing the photos provides great joy and pride in the journey and the noteworthy contributions to the ecosystem.
As our restorations progressed, life became busier and photo points were postponed for another year and then another year. When they became the priority, 15 years had passed. I worked backwards before I could work forward.
I began by locating 10-15 year-old-photos that were representative areas of each restored ecosystem. I inserted these photos into a Word document and identified the direction the camera was pointing (e.g. standing at the east end of the bridge looking west). Then I hand drew a map of each management area.
Some areas of our land was a wall of brush like in the above photo. It seemed pointless to take the photo since there was no view. But, take them anyway. You’ll be glad you did. When possible, look for landscape elements to point out for before and after photos.
Mapping the Photo Points
With a clipboard and my scrawled maps, I traipsed to these original photo locations, took current photos, assigned a letter to that photo point and marked the map. These new photos I took as panoramas, which I stitched together in PhotoShop or HugIn.
Once photo points were identified and labeled on the page-sized hand-drawn maps, I cobbled these together using old-school scissors and tape. The common points – the ones that lay on the edges and could be used for different areas depending on the direction the camera was aimed – became clear. These points were merged together and the map was amended. Before me lay an ill-fitting, scratched on, scribbled over, erased out, wrinkled, and disproportional map. But I have photo points!!
The next step was figuring out how to make these scrawlings into a proportional map. I had an 8×11 line drawing of the overall land with various management areas outlined. How could I enlarge this to 24×36? I took my dilemma to a friend and learned the term “tiling.” Aha! A little more research and I learned Adobe InDesign software could resize this so I could print the tiles, which would proportionally enlarge my line drawing. And with that info, I knew of another friend who had the software; she did the magic in minutes. The world is better with friends!
Tiles are 8×11 size pieces that when taped together become 24×36. Now, I have one large, poster-sized, proportional map of the land with photo points assigned. One more step and my project is complete! From this I made copies of each management area and the respective photos points, added a compass rose and included the name of the area. They were then placed in clear-view page covers and into a binder. Ready for the next photo shoot!
The line drawn map of our management areas after tiling, printing, and taping together.
Each management area map was put into page covers. When I’m working on photo points, I take this with me. I know exactly where to stand and in which direction to photo. I document the photo numbers on clipboard that lists each photo point.
Marking the Photo Points
I used identifying marks on the land that I knew wouldn’t be changing, such as curves of a trail.
But one can build and erect permanent markers. These are ideal when several people will be taking the photos. Here’s an example of ones we made.
The left most photo: These are set at a comfortable height with a small top platform where the camera would rest.
The right photo: Each platform had a arrow that was marked with a felt tip then permanently routed
Other Considerations for Photo Points
How many times a year will you want to take photos?
And at what times of the year?
Number of Photos
How many photo points are necessary to capture the essence of the land? This will depend on the topography. I take a lot of panoramas then merge them.
A good software is essential. I use Lightroom for organizing. PhotoShop and HugIn are used for merging panoramas.
Examples of Restoration Progress
Here are a couple of examples of how important progress photos can be.
This is a before and after of the remnant oak-hickory woods. It’s hard to believe this is the same location.
Tip: when photoing in the woods, use a permanent tree for comparing photos and photo on cloudy days.
Below are before and after photos of a portion of our oak savanna. For our history book, I have drawn red arrows at landmark trees so it’s easy to compare.