Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Repeat photography quest

A few years ago I discovered 'repeat photography' after being tagged by a friend on Facebook on a historical photo taken in the Parys area.

rePhotoSA was established by the Plant Conservation Unit at the University of Cape Town. They have  been scanning old photographs for two decaudes to have them saved in digital form. They have assigned images to geographic areas (where they have information on the general area where the photo was taken) and they ask 'citizen scientists' to attempt to re-photograph the exact scene. This gives them study material of the changes in vegetation to an area over time. 

On their Facebook page description they write:

"This project encourages you as the public or 'citizen scientist' to contribute to an understanding of how South Africa's environment has been changing and is continuing to change. This is done by comparing two photographs of the same view, taken at different times, and then recording the major changes that have taken place between the photos. This approach is called 'repeat photography'."

As rePhotoSA combines being outdoors, a bit of investigative sleuthing, good observation skills and some map work, it is like this was created just for me.

I can't believe that I haven't written about this on this blog before. I've just done a search for rePhoto and found nothing - WTF was I thinking? 

In the recent fires at UCT, the Plant Conservation Unit offices were destroyed and this is where their historical photographic collections were housed.

While they have most of the historical and repeated images in digital form, they were still busy digitising the few remaining large collections, where were destroyed and are now lost forever.

Since I've been in George, I had not looked on the rePhoto website to see what they had for this area. There are not many, but there are a few. I recognised two locations immediately. I have taken the photographs but the light really is not great and may have to wait for summer when the sun to more to the south. Of course, I'm striving for excellence.

There is a third photo that I am fairly certain of the exact location - I just need to go get it. The fourth, I'm confident of the general area and direction. I'd need to head there to look around (about 30 minutes from home).

As I travelled to Swellendam on Monday evening, I checked to see what was available along my route. I found three worthy photos. The one I have a 100% fix on but as it was off my route, I'll save it for another journey when I have more time. 

The second photo was assigned to an general area and shortly before dark, I saw it. It is visible in the George to Cape Town direction - if you're looking for it. On my return route, I snapped a photo from the side of the road but this will be one where I'll need to get further in on dirt farm roads to really nail the image.

Top photo taken by Acocks in 1968. My photo snapped from the side of the highway on 4 May 2021. Photographer position is probably on a higher hill, closer to the mountains and more to the left of where I am standing.

The third one was in Mossel Bay and just looking at it I had a fair idea of the general area and so I made for the location on my trip home. I was limited by driving a small truck with trailer so my manoeuvrability driving on small roads in an unfamiliar area, while looking at mountains, was limited. 

Nonetheless, I found a parking area and snapped a pre-rePhoto. My photographer position is close but a bit off. From the road I identified two other possible places nearby from where I should be able to get a more exact repeat. Parking and walking will give me better access.

Top photo by Pole-Evans in 1915. Bottom one by me on 4 May 2021. Mine is close but not exact. 

I have a connection to this Mossel Bay photo because it was taken by Pole-Evans in 1915. The repeat photographs that I duplicated in Parys were taken by Pole-Evans in 1919. Fascinating guy. I remember reading up about him a few years ago.

You can see my repeats for Parys on this page of the RePhotoSA website. Looking at these, I have another two pre-rePhotos saved on my computer. They were not 100% exact and so I didn't upload. For another two, I'm fairly certain of the general photographer position. I think I need to task my friends Graeme and Karen with getting these this winter (images show more of the terrain when the trees have no leaves).

Achieving a rePhoto is highly rewarding and I look forward to contributing more to this project.

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