Repeat Photography: Methods and Applications in the Natural Sciences

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First developed in the 1880s as a way to monitor glaciers in Europe, repeat photography —the practice of taking photographs at different points in times from the same physical vantage point—remains an essential and cost-effective technique for scientists and researchers working to track and study landscape change.


This volume explores the technical and geographic scope of this important technique, focusing particularly on the intertwined influences of climatic variation and land-use practices in sculpting landscapes. Contributors offer a broad-perspective review of the state-of-the-art of repeat photography, with twenty-three chapters written by researchers around the globe who have made use of repeat photography in their work. Topics addressed include

the history of repeat photography

techniques for creating and analyzing repeat photographs

applications in the geosciences

applications in population ecology

applications in ecosystem change

cultural applications

Repeat Photography demonstrates the wide range of potential applications, examines new techniques for acquiring data from repeat photography, and clearly shows that repeat photography remains a valuable and efficient means of monitoring change in both developed and developing regions. Over one hundred sets of photographs, including thirty-two pages of color photos, serve as examples.


Recent concerns about climate change and its effects on natural landscapes, combined with ongoing concerns about land-use practices, make this state-of-the-art review a timely contribution to the literature.

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Editorial Reviews

coordinator, Special Collections and Archives, Northern Arizona University - Karen J. Underhill

"As an archivist, I applaud the myriad ways these talented scientists from around the world have incorporated repeat photogrpahy into their research. Historic photographs teach us much about environmental and cultural change and the continutiy—from subtle shifts to cataclysmic events. Thousands of images await discovery by like-minded, innovative scholars. Kudos to Webb, Boyer, and Turner for leading the charge."
Rangeland scientist, Agricultural Research Service, Jornada Experimental Range - Kris Havstad

"Repeat photography, which can be a rigorous, scientific technique requiring precision and patience, has made a significant contribution to the study of landscape dynamics over the past century. This book is a wonderful and uniquely important contribution to the proper use of this technique for contemporary ecological studies."
University of Victoria, director of the Mountain Legacy Project - Eric Higgs

"Repeat photography proves that pictures are indeed worth a thousand words. What Webb, Boyer, and Turner teach us is that pictures also open up fresh paths of interpretation and understanding. New digital technologies and discoveries of historical photographic collections usher in an exciting era for appreciating cultural, ecological, and geophysical change. Spanning continents, disciplines, and techniques, Repeat Photography will become a standard reference."
Ecological Society of America - Brian H. Luckman

"This book is excellent, with much to offer both the specialist and the more general reader. It comprehensively explores the techniques and applications of repeat photography and will prove the benchmark in the field."
Restoration Ecology

"Repeat Photography: Methods and Applications in the Natural Sciences will remain a standard reference."
Ecological Restoration

"Repeat Photography: Methods and Applications in the Natural Sciences has all the ingredients to make it a definitive treatise about visually measuring landscape change."
Ecological Management & Restoration

"I was struck by the ingenuity and creativity of many of the analyses, both qualitative and quantitative..."
author of On the Road Again: Montana's Changing Landscape - William Wyckoff

"These remarkable essagys bring together a treasure chest of accumulated wisdom from more than three dozen scholars who have explored the world of repeat photography. From the rural Scottish Highlands to the desert landscapes of Arizona, these innovative case studies showcase the use of repeat photography in the sciences and provide general observations on the techniques and applications of this fascinating, rapidly evolving field."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597267137
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 11/16/2010
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 530
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Robert H. Webb is a hydrologist and Diane E. Boyer is a photo archivist with the U.S. Geological Survey National Research Program in Tucson, Arizona.

Dr. Raymond M. Turner is a botanist, now retired from the USGS in Tucson. In 1959, Turner established the Desert Laboratory Repeat Photography Collection, now managed by Webb and Boyer.

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Table of Contents

Foreword \ George E. Gruell
PART I. Techniques
Chapter 1. Introduction: A Brief History of Repeat Photography \ Robert H. Webb, Raymond M. Turner, and Diane E. Boyer

Chapter 2. Techniques of Matching and Archiving Repeat Photography Used in the Desert Laboratory Collection \ Diane E. Boyer, Robert H. Webb, and Raymond M. Turner
Chapter 3. Virtual Repeat Photography \ Thomas C. Hanks, J. Luke Blair, and Robert H. Webb

Chapter 4. Three Methods of Presenting Repeat Photographs: Exploring Digital Media and the Context for the View, Connecting Two or More Photographs in a Continuous Space, and Extending the Information Contained by the Original View \ Mark Klett
Chapter 5. Using Fixed-Point Photography, Field Surveys, and GIS to Monitor Environmental Change in Riemvasmaak, South Africa \ M. Timm Hoffman and Simon W. Todd
PART II. Applications in the Geosciences
Chapter 6. Repeat Photography of Alaskan Glaciers and Landscapes from Ground-Based Photo Stations and Airborne Platforms \ Bruce F. Molnia
Chapter 7. Documenting Disappearing Glaciers: Repeat Photography at Glacier National Park, Montana, USA \ Daniel B. Fagre and Lisa A. McKeon
Chapter 8. Historical Arroyo Formation: Documentation of Magnitude and Timing of Changes Using Repeat Photography \ Robert H. Webb and Richard Hereford

Chapter 9. Clearcutting, Reforestation, and the Coming of the Interstate: Vermont's Photographic Record of Landscape Use and Response \ Paul Bierman
PART III. Applications in Population Ecology
Chapter 10. Population Fluxes in the Sonoran Desert Shown by Repeat Photography \ Stephen H. Bullock and Raymond M. Turner
Chapter 11. Repeat Photography, Climate Change, and the Long-Term Population Dynamics of Tree Aloes in Southern Africa \  M. Timm Hoffman, Richard F. Rohde, John Duncan, and Prince Kaleme 
PART IV. Applications in Ecosystem Change
Chapter 12. Temporal Dynamics and Spatial Variability in Desert Grassland Vegetation of Southern Arizona, USA \ Mitchel P. McClaran, Dawn M. Browning, and Cho-ying Huang
Chapter 13. Disturbance and Vegetation Dynamics in the Southern Andean Region of Chile and Argentina \ Thomas T. Veblen
Chapter 14. Repeat Photography Challenges Received Wisdom on Land Degradation in the Northern Ethiopian Highlands \ Jan Nyssen, Mitiku Haile, R. Neil Munro, Jean Poesen, A. T. Dick Grove, and Jozef Deckers
Chapter 15. Cattle, Repeat Photography, and Changing Vegetation of the Victoria River District, Northern Territory, Australia \ Darrell Lewis
Chapter 16. People, Elephants, and Habitat Change in Amboseli National Park, Kenya: A Century of Change Detected by Repeat Photography \ David Western
Chapter 17. Repeat Photography and Low-Elevation Fire Responses in the Southwestern United States \ Raymond M. Turner, Robert H. Webb, Todd C. Esque, and Garry F. Rogers
PART V. Cultural Applications
Chapter 18. Written on the Surface of the Soil: Northwest Highland Crofting Landscapes of Scotland during the Twentieth Century \ Richard F. Rohde
Chapter 19. Photography and Rephotography in the Cairngorms, Scotland, UK \ Peter R. Moore
Chapter 20. Learning Landscape Change in Honduras: Repeat Photography and Discovery \ J.O. Joby Bass
Chapter 21. Using Rephotography to Find Historic Trails and Campsites in the Southwestern United States \ Tom Jonas
Chapter 22. Shadows of Prehistory: Persistence and Change at Nordenskiöld's Mesa Verde Archaeological Sites, Southwestern Colorado, USA \ William G. Howard, Douglas J. Hamilton, and Kathleen L. Howard
Chapter 23. The Future of Repeat Photography \ Robert H. Webb
About the Editors

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