I know what you didn’t do last summer. You forgot to take a photo.
Remember how dry it was last summer? Drought-stressed trees shed their leaves on dry hill slopes across central Victoria. Many readers submitted their observations of dieback to an earlier blog post.
What happened to those trees? Did they re-grow their canopy during the year, coppice and re-sprout, or did they die, leaving gaps for other plants of the same or different species. More importantly, in years to come, how will we know how each patch changed?
To understand how ecosystems change over time – and to show people those changes – we need more than single observations, we need repeated observations from the same places. A simple way to record changes is to take repeat photographs. It’s easy to do. Actually, it’s easy to do it badly and takes a bit more thought to do it well. But we all take heaps of photos. Which makes me wonder…
Last year we crowd-sourced many observations of tree dieback across south-east Australia. Can we build on that ‘citizen science initiative’ and crowd-source a spectacular series of repeat photographs to show each other – and the world – how our ecosystems are changing? To make it more exciting, we can make a competition of it, with prizes for the best contributors.
To spur us all to photographic greatness, Peter Neaum of Tamworth took the following pair of panoramic photos near Mudgegonga in Victoria. The first shows a raw landscape, a month after the February 2009 wildfire. Burnt trees, bare slopes and eroding soils are obvious.
The photo below shows the same site nearly four years later, in December 2012. It’s a wonderful display of recovery and regeneration. Imagine what the landscape will look like after another ten or twenty years.
How did Peter line up and match the two photos? In his words,
The image matching is a classic example of the use of modern technology. I knew from Google street view approximately where I’d taken the pic, and I’d put the final image on a tablet. I parked the car, and by viewing the original pic on the tablet, was able to closely match the original photo location. Multiple images were then merged to form the large pan across the hill. I’ve now got into the habit of taking a photograph of the location on the mobile phone, which will tag it with the GPS data.
You can see more of Peter’s beautiful photos at his Panoramio site.
So what’s happening in your patch? Did you see dieback or other interesting changes last year? Did you take a photo? If you did, it’s time to dash out and take another, to record those changes.
If you didn’t take a photo, when are you going to start? … When it’s too late? As climate change intensifies, the world around us will change more and more. Our children won’t know what we lost (or what we gained) unless we record those changes. The best time to start is now.
If this sounds like fun, please leave a comment below to encourage others to join in. We can collate everyone’s photos on the web later this year or early next year, and hold a competition – to be judged by readers – to decide the winners. I’ll provide some books for prizes.
The goal is to encourage all of us to get out and do our own monitoring, so you don’t have to take photos of drought and you don’t have to be a digital pro like Peter. Your photo sequences can be of any ecological change at any scale; from a landscape, to a patch of trees, to a small clump of ground plants. If you’d like more assistance, there are lots of guidelines for taking repeat photographs on the web (e.g. here here, here, here and here).
So hop to it and get snapping. If you don’t start now, you’ll kick yourself next year.
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P.S. John Morgan posted a great blog last year in which he re-photographed shots of the Victorian alps that were taken up to 100 years earlier. The wonderful comparisons highlight the scientific value of repeat photography.
Also, rePhoto is a free app for iPhones and Android phones designed for citizen monitoring. You upload an old photo onto your phone, and the app super-imposes the old photo on the screen to help you line up a new shot. It may be a helpful tool to re-find a viewpoint, even if you use another camera to take the final shots.
Loads of wonderful photos were submitted to the competition. You can view all of the entries in the last post of 2014: Snap snap! Enjoy this wonderful gallery of repeat nature photos.
Many thanks to Peter Neaum for allowing me to use his fantastic photos.
- Drought, dieback and insect attack
- What did you get from the Big Wet?
- Monitoring ecological change: a view from the streets