Photography is a powerful and affordable way to document all kinds of environmental issues. We'll be collecting different techniques and tips here -- stay tuned and pitch in where you can! We'll be starting with a focus on #timelapse photography:
Timelapse photography is a visual form of data collection that:
- is relatively cheap to collect (~$100, see below)
- produces easier-to-read data: photos
- can give good visual context to a problem, compared to (or paired with) sensor data
- situates the data in a timeline
What environmental problems might this apply to
Timelapse photography, or photographic monitoring is a good way to document the changes in a landscape over time, or an incident you need images of when you might not be there to capture them in person such as:
- sediment runoff in a stream from a disturbed site
- the changes in opacity of a smoke stack or blowing off of a pile
- an explosion at a mountaintop mining site
- activity at sand mines
(Above: monitoring a mountaintop removal site: see this note)
- To set up the camera, you will need access to a secure location where your site of interest can be seen.
- Depending on how often you have the camera set to take photos, you could end up with a lot of images to go through.
- There have been documented challenges in capturing images with glare (from the sun, snow and water) (see Frequently Asked Questions)
Conversations & collaboration
- Discussions around photographic monitoring are happening on the Midwest group through a few on-going projects, as well as on publiclab.org through this page (see the Activities, Frequently Asked Questions, and Updates sections below)
Midwest group: publiclab-midwest
Get a timelapse camera
Timelapse cameras can be found at sporting goods stores and online. They are also called "trail cameras" or "game cameras."
See the Timelapse Kit page for more, and to borrow one (if available)
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Timelapse photography may also make use of a number of other techniques, such as:
- Triggering cameras
- Photo sharing - different ways to share, distribute, upload LOTS of photos online
There are also possibilities with cell-network-enabled trail cameras, though they're mostly a bit more expensive; they'd need a mobile phone plan and a SIM card to work. Many are around $400, but these (pretty poorly rated) ones were around $100:
Timelapse photography is a way to automatically trigger a camera on an interval -- for example, every minute, or every hour.
Here are some posted activities related to timelapse; we're still seeking a clear guide to setting up and using a #trail-cam to do timelapses, so please reach out if you're able to help document this!
Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.
Frequently Asked Questions
We're collecting and working our way through a wide array of questions about timelapse photography -- if you can contribute your own questions, or answer others', please do!
Frac sand photographic monitoring
There's some good resources posted on this page which are specific to water monitoring or monitoring of frac sand sites -- check it out, and we're working to open some of these ideas up into questions and activities soon.
About the data
Type of data This method produces data in the form of images. Most cameras are also able to timestamp images.
- Some cameras also have the ability to capture GPS data.
- This monitoring method can be paired with weather monitoring stations for a richer data set.
- Sending images to the internet has been another add-on for these type of projects.
Uses for the data