Before/after photos: 2014 awards and new 2015 competition

Webb Newington 1995

Thank you to everybody who submitted their wonderful photos, and to all who viewed and voted in last year’s repeat photo competition. When I announced the competition in February 2014 I had no idea whether any photos would be submitted. The response far exceeded my tentative expectations. Many readers have already requested that we do it all again in 2015. So ready, set, go – grab your cameras and start snapping, asap. But first, it’s time to enjoy the winning entries from the 2014 Inaugural Environmental Repeat Photo Competition (drum roll please)…

Category 1 – Best photo pair displaying historical changes

Yanakie Isthmus 1958

Yanakie Isthmus 2008

The crowd favourite was this photo pair, submitted by Jim Whelan from Parks Victoria, that documented the big increase in Coast Tea-tree at Yanakie Isthmus on Wilson’s Promontory over the past 50 years. You can read more about this ecological transformation in this blog by Luke O’Loughlin. Congratulations Jim!

Category 2 – Best photo pair documenting recent changes

Fairman fire 2013 2014 pair

The votes tossed and turned last week, with two great photo pairs – Thomas Fairman’s Macalister River  and Alan Kwok’s Simpson Desert – battling it out for first place. Like most of the photos that were submitted to the competition, these two photo-pairs are so different that it seems criminal to judge one against the other. In the end, Thomas’s photos of post-fire recovery at Macalister River won by a whisker.

Category 3 – Best photo pair showcasing revegetation

Mt Tamborine A

Mt Tamborine B

Mt Tamborine C

This big category was also a close run race, and three entries – Mount Tamborine, Narawang Wetland and Baddaginnie – jostled for the top spot in a flurry of last minute voting. (Cameron Webb’s photo of Narawang Wetland is reproduced at the top of this post). In the end, this series of photos of an urban restoration project at Mount Tamborine in Queensland, submitted by Katherine Richardson of Ecosure, proved most popular – just! This category showcased many inspiring rehabilitation projects from across Australia. Congratulations to Katherine’s team and to everybody involved in these wonderful activities.

Category 4 – Best time-lapse video

There were only three entries in this category and the stand out winner was this beautiful video of wildlife at Tang Tang Swamp by Adrian Martins from the North Central CMA in Victoria. Adrian uploaded his video to YouTube a few days before I posted it on the blog, and the popular video has now been seen over 1,200 times. That’s a lot of enthusiastic viewers.

Category 5 – Favorite overall winner

Finally, your favorite image across all four categories won by a country mile. Adrian’s Tang Tang Swamp video was the stand out entry, receiving over 40% of all votes. Nevertheless, many, many entries were selected as a personal favorite by one or more readers, which highlights the diversity of wonderful photos.

On behalf of everybody who enjoyed the repeat photos, congratulations to all the winners, and thank you once again to everybody who submitted a photo pair.


The New 2015 Repeat(ed) Repeat Photo Competition

Before After 2

Can we do it this all again in 2015, or has everyone exhausted their stock of repeat photos? Let’s see. By popular demand, we hereby launch the 2015 Repeat(ed) Repeat Photo Competition. Here are some suggestions to encourage everyone to head out and start snapping.

Displaying historical changes

Why not search for old photos from your local area in the huge online photo collection at Trove or on your State Library’s web page. Then head out and re-capture the image from the same locality. Add a touch of pizzazz and encourage your friends to stand where people stood in the original photo.

Or you could re-visit your parents’ old slide collection. Do you have a drawer full of fading slides or snaps from your family holidays? Scan some and re-visit your childhood haunts to make a memorable photo pair. Has the vegetation grown as much as you have?

SLA Beechworth Falls
Discover how your landscape has changed by relocating an old photo. Original photo by Frederick Cornell, State Library of Victoria.

Set up a new repeat photo site

You can’t take a before photo if you wait until after something happens. So hop to it now, and take your first photos before your area changes. There are lots of guidelines for taking repeat photos on the web (e.g. here here, here and here). All the guidebooks stress two points: (1) clearly mark where you place your camera, so you can return to exactly the same spot, and (2) make sure you point your camera in exactly the same direction when you return.

If you have a mobile phone, the rePhoto is worth a try. You first upload a photo to your phone, and the app then super-impose the first photo in the view finder to help you accurately align your next shot. You can find many similar apps by searching for “before after photo” apps in the iTunes and Google Play stores.

Raid your grant project reports

Many agency staff must have a huge pile of ‘before’ photos that have never seen the light of day; including all those photos of revegetation sites in grant reports to the federal government, for example. Make those old reports earn their keep; dig out the photos and show the world. By doing so, you can encourage others to do more great work next year.

Time-lapse and camera-trap videos

This year, the competition year will include a new category for the best motion-triggered, camera trap video – I know that lots of fantastic videos exist. To provide further inspiration, Chris Helzer’s wonderful prairie ecology blog from the USA has a number of stories that demonstrate the extraordinary potential of time lapse photography (here, here and here). Check them out and give it a go. And be inspired by Adrian Martins’ description below of how he made the gorgeous Tang Tang Swamp video.


Making the Tang Tang Swamp video, by Adrian Martins

“I’m a big believer in the power of provocative imagery to tell a story, increase natural asset appreciation, overcome ignorance and empower others to achieve enduring environmental results.

This video is a ‘snapshot’ chosen from 3 months of camera monitoring at a small public wetland in North Central Victoria. The original objective was to monitor Brolga nesting activity. Following this, I repositioned the camera to capture fauna activity at one of only two small pools of water remaining in the wetland. The video in this clip was taken between the 17th and 25th October 2014.

I used a Uovision UV565 high definition scouting camera with a 32GB SD memory card, which was secured to a steel post with cable ties. I set the camera to fire one still image on sensor motion followed by a 20 second video. The interval between motion triggering was set to 2 minutes.

I edited the video using Windows Movie Maker; a free, fun and easy to use piece of software. I limited the final production to 6 minutes to create visual impact without overloading the viewer. It’s hardly ‘David Attenborough’ quality but the clip provides an extraordinary insight of ecological functionality ‘when we humans are absent’ at a small but significant patch in ‘my backyard’. Adrian Martins, North Central CMA, December 2014.

Get snapping

Thanks again to everybody who submitted a photo, and to all of you for reading the blog and voting in the competition. Thanks also to the Ecological Society of Australia and Wiley Publishers for donating extra books as prizes for the competition, and to Euan Ritchie for permission to embed his YouTube clip above. I shall email all of the winners separately to distribute the prizes. Happy snapping in 2015!


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13 thoughts

  1. This is a fantastic enterprise. Enjoyed the before and afters immensely. I’ve been looking at old family snaps that showed landscapes in the background and finding fascinating stuff that’s really changed my pictures of what the landscape was like before.

    1. Thanks OBITR, I’m glad you enjoyed them all. I look forward to seeing some of your old snaps in next year’s competition 🙂 Thanks again and best wishes Ian

  2. Thx for putting this together Ian, and giving everyone a chance to show their ‘then and nows’. All fantastic entries. I’ll view those NC swamps in a different light now – big congrats to Panda Martin.
    Maybe a post on how to organise image meta-data next? My approach to finding an old photo (from memory) is “I’m pretty sure its in shoe box # 3 in the old wardrobe in the shed” Not very efficient really….

    1. Thanks Tim, I’m pretty sure you’ll find that “there’s an app for that”. But probably not for users of windows phones, who will have to stick with their old shoe box for now 😦

  3. This has been fantastically interesting to follow from way over here in the western Northern Hemisphere. And that sample camera trap video – Wow, that’s a lot of feral cats!.

    1. Thanks James, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Feral cats are now seen as one of the biggest predators (with foxes) of small wildlife in Australia. Camera traps really opened everyone’s eyes to their abundance, as cats were rarely caught in the cage traps which used to be used. They seem to pop up on camera trap videos all the time now unfortunately. Best wishes Ian

  4. Fantastic Ian. My favourite was Adrian Martins time lapse. White faced heron, Wedge tail eagles and Brolgas – made my day.

    1. Hi Lisa, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with dancing brolgas isn’t it. Adrian has set himself a high standard to surpass in next year’s competition 🙂 Best wishes Ian

  5. Hi Ian. This competition is a great idea! I love all the photos/vids you’ve included here (who knew wedge-tailed eagles wore trousers!). When I started out doing fieldwork (only 20 years ago) we used slide film mostly. Recently I paid someone to scan a large pile of them so I could see them again. Highly recommended! Cheers, Ian Wright

    1. Hi Ian, thanks for writing in, the photos are great aren’t they. Perhaps we can look forward to seeing some of your slides, with matching digital images, in this years competition? 🙂 Best wishes Ian

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