Photo History From National Park Lookouts Shows Landscape Changes Over 70+ Years

There's an intriguing page within the vast nps.gov domain that opens a wonderful portal of history, one that allows us to compare today with yesteryear. The site, within the National Park Service Fire and Aviation Management section, compares historic photos taken from fire lookouts in the National Park System with today's landscapes.

The web page tells the story of a photographic project that took place in the 1930s from lookouts and lookout points at 200 locations in national parks across the country for the purpose of mapmaking for wildfire detection. Many of the 1930s photographs taken by Junior Forester Lester Moe still exist today, though some are still hidden away in national park museums, libraries, and archives. They are immediately recognizable due to their unique format.

National parks are recognizing the significance of the photographs in that they can be compared with present-day photographs to understand change over time. Both Yellowstone and Glacier national parks were very important to the project, as they have pursued repeat photography in the same locations as the 1930s project.

Some of the Yellowstone images have been uploaded to Gigapan®, a website that allows interactive viewing of the image. When present-day repeat photography images are viewed side-by-side with the 1930s' images, viewers obtain a clearer picture of changes related to land cover, topography, and human infrastructure in the parks.

The website compiles stories, history, and imagery and tells the story through the use of interactive elements. In addition, it encourages action by the public to participate as citizen scientists in repeat photography projects, or other related projects such as invasive species monitoring.

Now, you can visit this project, which was completed as a Master’s Capstone project for the Quinnipiac University Interactive Media Program, at this page.

Here's a great companion video that looks at some of the history of how the landscape photography project of the 1930s came about:

The interactive attributes of the Fire and Aviation Management page lets you look at the entire "then" photo, the entire "now" photo, or a combo then-and-now photo.

What's interesting about this project is the photos show how landscapes have changed over time. In some instances, the forests below the lookouts had been charred by wildfires shortly before the photos were taken. Today's repeat photography of the same landscapes in some cases show lush forests, others that show vegetation-obscured roads down below that were clear in the earlier photographs.

At the same time, some shots show landscapes with no visible roads...and the updated shots clearly show the roads that have been blazed across the parkscapes. Unfortunately, right now images from just two parks -- Glacier and Yellowstone -- are up for viewing.

Alternate Text
Looking Glass Overlook photo comparison, Glacier National Park. NPS images.

This comparison photo matches one taken in 1937 from the Looking Glass Overlook in Glacier National Park with an infared photo taken in 2008. As the Park Service caption points out, "The landscape has become more forested. The road once clearly visible in 1937 is obscured by trees in 2008."

This is a great piece of history worth spending a little time reviewing.

Comments


Visit: http://garryrogers.com/2014/01/25/repeat-photography/

Visit: http://www.nrmsc.usgs.gov/repeatphoto/overview.htm

Climate change research in Glacier National Park, Montana

entails many methods of documenting the landscape change, including the decline of the parks namesake glaciers. While less quantitative than other high-tech methods of recording glacial mass, depth, and repeat photography has become a valuable tool for communicating effects of global warming. With evidence of worldwide glacial recession and modeled that all of the parks glaciers will melt by the year 2030, USGS scientists have begun the task of documenting glacial decline through photography. The striking images created by pairing historic images with contemporary photos has given global warming a face and made climate change a relevant issue to viewers. The images are an effective visual means to help viewers understand that climate change contributes to the dynamic landscape changes so evident in Glacier National Park.

The Repeat Photography Project began in 1997 with a systematic search of the archives at Glacier National Park. We began searching for historic photographs of glaciers in the vast collection that spans over a century. Many high quality photographs exist from the parks early photographers such as Morton Elrod, T.J. Hileman, Ted Marble, F.E. Matthes, and others who scoured the park to publicize its beauty and earn their livings. Copies of the historic photos were taken in the field to help determine the exact location of the original photograph. Photographing the glaciers cannot occur until the previous winters snow has melted on the glacial ice and when air quality conditions are considered at least good. This creates a narrow window in the northern clime of Glacier National Park where smoke from forest fires prevented photography on many occasions in the past few years. Since 1997 over sixty photographs have been repeated of seventeen different glaciers. Thirteen of those glaciers have shown marked recession and some of the more intensely studied glaciers have proved to be just 1/3 of their estimated maximum size that occurred at the end of the Little Ice Age (circa 1850).

In fact, only 26 named glaciers presently exist of the 150 glaciers present in 1850 and those that do are mere

Other glaciers, such as Piegan Glacier, have remained visibly unchanged as a result of their north- northeast aspect and tendency to accumulate wind deposited snow along the Continental Divide. The photos of Piegan Glacier though, record dramatic change in foreground vegetation in response to climate change factors such as change in wildfire frequency and infestation of white pine blister rust. Close inspection of the photo pairs in this collection reveal many changes on a more subtle level than the obvious size reduction in glacial ice see what changes you can detect.

m13cli,

Thanks for posting those links. Nice addition to a great Traveler article.

m13cli, I second justinh, really enjoyed your post, having been associate with a large western park for almost 55 years now, your post got me to thinking about the changes I have seen. I had an opportunity for eight of those years to be associated with group of Historians (funded by a non-profit grant), who did a study of the Historic/Cultural resources of the Yosemite designated wilderness. It was extremely educational for me and they researched some of the issues raised by your post. Thanks again.

Ron,

Visit Vegetation Change in Yosemite by Vale & Vale

http://www.ridgelinephotography.com/YosemiteAbout.htm

and

Walking with Muir across Yosemite Thomas R. Vale and Geraldine R. Vale

http://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/0188.htm

"A celebration of the nature experience. This book expresses John Muir' emotional attachment to America's oldest national park."
—Lary M. Dilsaver, University of South Alabama

Does today's visitor trekking Yosemite National Park find it much different from what John Muir encountered a century ago? Thomas and Geraldine Vale retrace Muir's path, based upon journal descriptions of his activities and experiences during his first summer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. From the foothills through Yosemite Valley and on up to the Tuolumne Meadows, the Vales follow the present roads and trails that crossed Muir's route, imagining his reaction to the landscape while reflecting on the natural world in both his time and ours.

Illustrated with drawings by John Muir and drawings and photos by the Vales, Walking with Muir across Yosemite emphasizes that current visitors to Yosemite—indeed to any national park—can still experience the solitude, wildness, and romanticism of nature. They believe, however, that this modern exploration would benefit from a national parks policy that actively promotes nature study and encourages a more profound interaction between humans and the natural world.

Thomas R. Vale is professor of geography at the UW-Madison. He received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Geraldine R. Vale is a freelance writer and public school teacher. They are the coauthors of U.S. Forty Today: Thirty Years of Landscape Change in America. Thomas Vale is co-editor, with Robert Ostergren, of Wisconsin Land and Life, also published by the Press.

For more information regarding publicity and reviews contact our publicity manager, phone: (608) 263-0734, email:publicity@uwpress.wisc.edu.

http://www.ridgelinephotography.com/Yose/59-V57-US2069.htm

When you visit the High Sierra Camp above Vogelsang, notice that the old whitebark pine krumholtz or "dwarf elfin wood" dates to the
1850 period, the last of the Little Ice Ages: once warming begins
thereby expanding the high country growing seasons, the vertical pine
leaders begin growing in whitebark pine ! Thus, whitebark pine vertical
growth is enhanced by significant warming resulting in a lesser
snowpack with significantly more bare ground during the summer.

Time and the Tuolumne Landscape: Continuity and Change in the Yosemite High Country

In 1901 John Muir described Yosemite: "Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another." Time and the Tuolumne Landscape presents a spellbinding glimpse of this endless song. Through repeat photography, the process whereby a scene in an old picture is precisely rephotographed, Thomas and Geraldine Vale use over eighty photo pairs to document continuity and change in the Tuolumne landscape from Muir's time to our own. In their consideration of change, the Vales offer a meditation on rock and water, vegetation, and human impact. Natural process is comparable, in one sense, to an intricate timepiece with myriad wheels spinning at varying speeds, some stopping or starting without warning, others reversing direction, a few steady on course. Which changes we see, and which changes we comprehend, are limited by the scale of human time. This book is an opportunity to move beyond that constraint to see, with Muir, the whirl and flow of nature.

Also:

Western Images, Western Landscapes: Travels Along U.S. 89
Thomas R. Vale, Geraldine R. Vale

http://www.ridgelinephotography.com/YosemiteAbout.htm

and

Walking with Muir across Yosemite Thomas R. Vale and Geraldine R. Vale

http://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/0188.htm

"A celebration of the nature experience. This book expresses John Muir' emotional attachment to America's oldest national park."
—Lary M. Dilsaver, University of South Alabama

Does today's visitor trekking Yosemite National Park find it much different from what John Muir encountered a century ago? Thomas and Geraldine Vale retrace Muir's path, based upon journal descriptions of his activities and experiences during his first summer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. From the foothills through Yosemite Valley and on up to the Tuolumne Meadows, the Vales follow the present roads and trails that crossed Muir's route, imagining his reaction to the landscape while reflecting on the natural world in both his time and ours.

Illustrated with drawings by John Muir and drawings and photos by the Vales, Walking with Muir across Yosemite[/i]emphasizes that current visitors to Yosemite—indeed to any national park—can still experience the solitude, wildness, and romanticism of nature. They believe, however, that this modern exploration would benefit from a national parks policy that actively promotes nature study and encourages a more profound interaction between humans and the natural world.

Thomas R. Vale[/b] is professor of geography at the UW-Madison. He received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Geraldine R. Vale is a freelance writer and public school teacher. They are the coauthors of U.S. Forty Today: Thirty Years of Landscape Change in America[/i]. Thomas Vale is co-editor, with Robert Ostergren, of Wisconsin Land and Life[/i], also published by the Press.

For more information regarding publicity and reviews contact our publicity manager, phone: (608) 263-0734, email:publicity@uwpress.wisc.edu.

http://www.ridgelinephotography.com/Yose/59-V57-US2069.htm

When you visit the High Sierra Camp above Vogelsang, notice that the old whitebark pine krumholtz or "dwarf elfin wood" dates to the
1850 period, the last of the Little Ice Ages: once warming begins
thereby expanding the high country growing seasons, the vertical pine
leaders begin growing in whitebark pine ! Thus, whitebark pine vertical

growth is enhanced by significant warming resulting in a lesser

snowpack with significantly more bare ground during the summer.

Time and the Tuolumne Landscape: Continuity and Change in the Yosemite High Country

In 1901 John Muir described Yosemite: "Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another." Time and the Tuolumne Landscape presents a spellbinding glimpse of this endless song. Through repeat photography, the process whereby a scene in an old picture is precisely rephotographed, Thomas and Geraldine Vale use over eighty photo pairs to document continuity and change in the Tuolumne landscape from Muir's time to our own. In their consideration of change, the Vales offer a meditation on rock and water, vegetation, and human impact. Natural process is comparable, in one sense, to an intricate timepiece with myriad wheels spinning at varying speeds, some stopping or starting without warning, others reversing direction, a few steady on course. Which changes we see, and which changes we comprehend, are limited by the scale of human time. This book is an opportunity to move beyond that constraint to see, with Muir, the whirl and flow of nature.

Also:

Western Images, Western Landscapes: Travels Along U.S. 89

Thomas R. Vale, Geraldine R. Vale[/b]

Thank you. One of my greatest shocks in recent years came when I visited Glacier for the first time since I was a young college student helping to survey Blackfoot Glacier. What's left of it today is but a fragment. It has, in fact, split into two small glaciers and it's apparent that neither will last much longer.

One early Repeat Photography Reference was

Yellow ore, Yellow Hair, yellow pine; a photographic study of a century of forest ecology. ... with photography by Richard H. Sowell (South Dakota ... Agriculture experiment station, Bulletin 616) Unknown Binding – January 1, 1974

PS: Includes an old ponderosa pine snag photo still standing approximately one century later !

Where Custer Fell

By Dr. James Brust, Brian Pohanka, and Sandy Barnard

All photos courtesy Dr.James Brust

Book Review by Bob Reece, October 2005

“The abundant photographic record of the Little Bighorn Battlefield chronicles the timeless face of that historic landscape and the changes wrought by our ongoing endeavor to memorialize, interpret, and comprehend what transpired there. These images cannot solve the mystery; but they do elaborate upon it, and perhaps they can guide us a little closer to the unknowable truth.”

Where Custer Fell

ww.friendslittlebighorn.com/wherecusterfell.htm


The concept behind “Where Custer Fell” is something I’ve wanted to see ever since I found the book Yellow Ore, Yellow Hair, Yellow Pine: A Photographic Study of a Century of Forest Ecology [/u]during my first trip to the Black Hills in 1978. The spiral book by Donald R. Progulske and Richard H. Sowell is a study of the 1874 Black Hills expedition led by George A. Custer told in before and after photographs. Photographer Sowell researched historic photos of Custer’s camps including the long lines of wagons, livestock, and soldiers beside mountains, forest, and streams. Sowell then hiked throughout the Black Hills to locate the exact spot from which the historic photos were shot – there he set up the camera and snapped a contemporary photo. The before and after photos included in Yellow Ore [/u]give the reader an opportunity to look at and wonder how much the landscape has changed due to man and nature.

[=#000000; font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px; text-align: justify]For Crater Lake N.P. see:[/]


http://www.craterlakeinstitute.com/online-library/nature-notes/vol28-repeat-photography.htm