TOPIC 6: PHOTOGRAPH READING AND INTERPRETATION | GEOGRAPHY FORM 3
A photograph; is an image of an object which is recorded by a camera and then printed on paper Or, is a picture taken by means of chemical lights prepared on a special paper Types of photographs
There are three types of photograph that includes the following.
i) Horizontal photographs/Group photographs
ii) Oblique photographs
iii) Vertical photographs/Aerial photograph
1. HORIZONTAL PHOTOGRAPHS/GROUP PHOTOGRAPHS
These are photographs that are taken from the ground when the camera is at the same level as the object being photographed.
Objects are large and clearly shown in these photographs when they are close than those far from the camera
The fore ground and the horizon is seen but the back /dead ground is not seen There is no fixed scale
2. OBLIQUE PHOTOGRAPHS
Are the photographs taken when a camera is slanting at an angle less than 90°.
They are taken when the photographer is standing on an elevated ground and hold the camera on an angle towards the lower ground.
They normally cover the horizon.
(a) Low oblique photographs
These are taken when the photographer is standing in elevated ground, such as top of a hill, building or cliff, and holds the camera at an angle pointing towards the lower ground.
The photograph can also be taken when the photographer is standing at the bottom of an elevated ground, with the camera pointing towards the higher ground.
(b) High oblique photographs
These photographs are taken from the sky with the camera tilted at an angle towards the ground. The photographer may take the photograph from a helicopter or low-flying aeroplane.
These photographs cover quite a large area of land.
3) VERTICAL PHOTOGRAPHS
These are photographs taken from the aircraft with the camera directly above the object pointing vertically to the ground. Only the top view is seen.
Instruments used to capture pictures are called air crafts or the satellites
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THREE TYPES OF PHOTOGRAPH
These are various differences between 3 types of photographs as follows.
Show relatively small area Objects closer the camera is larger than those far away They show side of the object facing the camera. Are taken when the camera is at the same level with the object
Show relatively large area Size of object near the camera are large than those far away
Shows the top and sides of the object Are taken from the ground or from air with the camera tilted below 900 Show relatively largest area possible Objects in the center are larger than those away from the center
It shows only the top side of the object Are taken from the air at 900 vertically above objects being photographed
PARTS OF PHOTOGRAPH
A photograph has three parts as described below:
a. Background – the area farthest from the camera.
b. Foreground – the area nearest to the camera.
c. Middle ground – the area between the background and the foreground, which is at middle distance from the camera.
Each of the three parts of the photograph can further be sub-divided into three parts to give nine combinations which form the nine minor parts of the photograph as shown in the table below:
- Left Centre
- Right Left background
- Centre background
- Right background
- Left middle ground
- Centre middle ground
- Right middle ground
- Left foreground
- Centre foreground
- Right foreground
READING AND INTERPRETATION OF PHOTOGRAPH
Is the process of reading, measuring, translating and explaining the meaning of objects identified on that photograph. It is done so as to obtain reliable information about the natural or cultural features on their environments. It involves the following;
Determining the title Estimating time and the season Estimating direction Identifying and interpreting physical features Identifying and interpreting human activities Estimating the size of features Suggesting possible location of the scenery in the place
DETERMINING THE TITLE
Can be obtained by carefully studying the photograph, information determines the choice of the title. Photos show landscapes, activities on land, what is on the surface and the sky.
The information contained in the foreground, middle ground and dead ground can help in determining a suitable title
ESTIMATING TIME AND SEASON
Time It is possible to estimate the time of day when the photo was taken if we know where the photograph was taken If the photo was taken during the morning its evidence is through the shadow During the morning;
The shadow of the object lies in the western side because the sun rises from the east During the evening; The shadow lies in the eastern side because the sun sets on the west During the afternoon; The shadow lies around the object because the sun is over head of the object Seasons
A bright sky with dry vegetation may indicate a dry period or season.
Thick vegetation young crops or flowering plants in the field and a sky full of rain clouds indicate a rainy season Clear sunny conditions with health vegetation and flowering plants or plants with fruits indicate summer season Plants with young leaves others bloom and field full of grass indicates spring season Hazy sky with leafless trees and some snow on the ground indicates winter season
Also when people appear to be wearing heavy clothes with faces almost completely covered, hand gloves and heavy boots it indicates cold weather, likely winter in temperate regions People wear light clothes and some may even have broad-rimmed hats indicates hot weather
When houses appear to have slanting roofs it indicates the region experiencing a lot of precipitation which facilitates the easy flow of water from the roof of the house If people appear to be planting then it is planting season the rains either are about to come or have just started
If the people appear to be weeding it is growing season for the crops and there is reduced rainfall If people appear to be harvesting a crop it is harvesting season and probably dry season because harvesting normally takes place during dry weather.
This refers to identifying the position of the photographer after studying the relative sizes of objects in the photograph. It is possible to estimate the direction on a photograph using shadows.
This is possible if the time and place where the photograph was taken are known.
For example, if a photograph shows a tree whose shadow is on the right and it is indicated that it was taken within the tropics and in the morning, then the photographer was facing south. The sun and the shadow are always in the opposite sides of the photograph.
If the sun is in the east, the shadow will always be cast westwards and vice versa. If the shadow is pointing towards you and the photograph was taken in the afternoon (meaning that the sun was in the west), the photographer was facing westwards. With such information, it is then possible to fix compass points on a photograph.
The other alternative for identifying the position of the photographer or cameraman is by observing the size of objects in the photograph.
The objects close to the photographer appear larger those far away. The objects apparently appear to decrease in size as their distance from the photographer increase. Therefore, the part of the photograph showing huge objects is the place close to where the photographer stood.
IDENTIFYING AND INTERPRETING PHYSICAL FEATURES
Many physical features shown in the photograph can be identified and interpreted. These features include relief, drainage, and vegetation, among others.
Before interpretation of other physical features, it is important to first identify relief features on the photograph. Start by giving a general idea about the area shown in the photograph.
In describing landscape and landforms, it is important to go even further and describe the forces and processes that are responsible for their formation and modification. This is an essential aspect of relief interpretation.
Relief features in the photograph may include the following features: Flat landscapes These landscapes occur both in lowland and highland areas. They are called plains in the lowlands and plateaus in the highlands.
Plains altitudes are less than 500 metres while plateau altitudes are more than 500 metres above sea level. It is impossible to tell the average area of the land directly from a photograph. However, other features appearing in the photograph, such as part of the sea, crops and other economic activities may be used in estimating the altitude.
Where there is an accompanying topographical map of the area, it would then be easier to state the height of the land from the map.
Where there is no sufficient information to tell the height of the land, relief may be described as flat. One can then suggest that it is probably a low-lying plain or a plateau surface. Some flat areas may be described as flat lowlands or highlands.
Hilly areas A hilly landscape is shown on photographs as having varied relief of hills and valleys that are not isolated on a flat landscape. Where hills appear to have the same height across the entire landscape, such a landscape is probably a dissected plateau.
Streams have cut valleys across former flat land and some interlocking spurs may be visible towards valleys. Ridges, escarpments and conical hills may easily be identified according to their appearance. Mountainous relief
This kind of relief stands at an altitude of more than 2000 metres above sea level. As such, not all rising features identified on photographs are mountains.
The relief of mountainous areas is characterized by very steep slopes often with no human settlements. The slopes may have vegetation covering them, which could be forests.
At much higher levels, snow might be seen. The type of trees growing could give a clue about the altitude of the land. If there are crops growing or animals reared, these could also give a clue as to the altitude.
Certain crops such as wheat and apples are high-altitude crops. Likewise, animals such as merino sheep and dairy cattle are also reared in high-altitude areas within the tropics. Identifying relief features on vertical aerial photographs is not straight-forward.
The following guidelines could assist in identifying different types of relief:
1. Flat areas would appear as areas with light colour tone except in regions covered with dense vegetation such as forested areas. Rivers may have big meanders while roads, footpaths and railways are generally straight, with gentle bends in some places.
2. Hilly areas could be identified by examining river streams. The streams could be joining one another and getting wider downstream. Hilly areas are the source of rivers. The colour tone in hilly areas is generally dark.
Drainage features such as rivers, lakes and seas may easily be identified in all types of photographs. Different aspects of rivers can be studied on a photograph.
These include the shapes of river valleys, stages of development and various features. Based on the presence of certain features, one can tell the nature of the rock over which the river flows.
For example, the presence of rapids and waterfalls is an indication that the river is flowing over steep land. River meanders are an indication that the river is in it mature or old-age stage. Interlocking spurs indicate that the river valley is made of alternating layers of hard and soft rocks.
Drainage patterns are easier to identify on vertical aerial photographs. The colour tone of areas covering deep water appears darker than those of shallow water. The various functions of the river can also be identified.
Photographs show all types of vegetation in the photographed area. Planted (artificial) and natural forests appear to be distributed unevenly, with planted forests usually in clear straight lines. In planted forests trees tend to be of the same type, size and height because they were planted at the same time.
The plant characteristics that may appear on the photograph can be used as a guide to the general types of vegetation, for example savannah or semi-arid vegetation. The following guidelines should be used when describing vegetation on a given photograph: Identify the types of vegetation, for example, forests, thickets, grasslands and swamp plants.
Describe the plants, giving details such as height, shape and appearance of leaves. Where possible, give the names of species of plants, e.g. jacaranda, cacti, eucalyptus trees, etc. Planted vegetation should be distinguished from the natural ones by their characteristics. Proper interpretation of vegetation calls upon application of geographical knowledge outside the photograph as well.
A clue on the type of soil in a photographed area may be given by the types of crops grown and appearing on the photograph. Rice, for example, grows well in clay soil. Tea and coffee require volcanic soil.
Coconuts and cashew nuts thrive well in coastal regions with sandy soils, and a variety of horticultural crops thrive in loam soils. Proper interpretation of the soil requires an application of one’s general knowledge of geography learnt in classroom as well as knowledge from other disciplines.
Weather and climate are not shown directly on photographs. Features contained in a photograph can be used to make conclusions about the climate of a photographed area.
The type of crops grown and vegetation on the photograph can be used as a clue to establish the climate of a place. Vegetation types and crops can also provide evidence about the season or climate of a place.
For example, the presence of many cacti signifies an arid or semi-arid region, and hence a desert or semi-desert climate. Crops such as sisal are grown in hot areas that receive low rainfall while sugarcane thrives in warm to hot climate with high rainfall.
The type of clothing people in the photograph are wearing can give an indication about the weather and possible climate.
IDENTIFYING AND INTERPRETING HUMAN ACTIVITIES
Human activities on a photograph are depicted by various forms of land use. The uses of land may in form of agriculture (crop cultivation and animal husbandry), forestry, settlement, wildlife conservation, mining and construction of infrastructures, among other uses.
This includes crop cultivation and livestock rearing. It is practised at subsistence and commercial levels. It is easy to identify agricultural activities on ground photographs. To be able to identify these features on vertical aerial photographs, it requires close examination of the features.
Some evidences that can be used to establish the kind of agricultural activities taking place in an area shown on the photograph are summarized in the table below:
Type of farming
• Some houses are permanent while others are temporary
• The land is often divided into small plots owned and cultivated by individual farmers
• Mixed farming is practiced
• Simple farming tools such as hoes, mattocks, pangas and rakes are used
• Fields are separated by hedges Subsistence livestock farming
• Indigenous and exotic animal breeds are kept
• Animals are grazed on grassland or semi-arid vegetation
• Large herds of local cattle (zebu), goats and sheep Commercial livestock farming
• Large fields divided into paddocks
• Presence of cattle sheds near farm houses
• Windmills for water supply
Evidences Subsistence crop farming
• Presence of water tanks, ponds or reservoirs in the dry areas
• Evidence of livestock infrastructures such as cattle dips or spray races, abattoir, cattle bomas, slaughter slab, etc.
• High grade exotic or crossed cows with large udders
• Milking parlour with milking machines, and milk processing plants
• Indoor grazing units Commercial crop farming
• Presence of cash crops on an extensive area
• Evidence of modern farming methods, e.g. farm machinery
• Facilities for collecting crops, e.g. sheds and stores
• Presence of access or feeder roads within the farm Plantation farming
• A single crop covering extensive stretches of land, e.g. sugarcane, tea, coffee, sisal, wheat • Processing factories
• Presence of storage facilities, e.g. silos
• Many labourers in the fields
• Nucleated settlement within the farm. These are usually for the workers’ housing
• Presence of a network of roads crossing the farm – to facilitate mechanization and haulage of inputs and produce to and from the farm, respectively
A settlement comprises of a group of buildings in an area where people live and carry out social and economic activities.
There are two types of settlements; rural and urban settlement. In photographs, rural settlements can be indicated by the following features:
a. Many semi-permanent and a few permanent buildings such as grass-thatched houses or iron-roofed houses with mud or brick walls
b. Evidence of farming, fishing activities etc.
c. Unplanned or unevenly distributed of settlement which associated with plantations etc.
Urban settlements can be identified by the following features:
a. Permanent buildings, which dominate the area
b. Regular street patterns
c. Many large buildings and warehouses indicating an industrial area
d. High numbers of people or population
e. Availability of Many motor vehicles on the road, which may lead to traffic jams
INDUSTRIAL AND MINING ACTIVITIES
The following evidence can be used as a guide in identifying industrial and mining activities on a photograph:
a. Presence of Factory buildings with tall chimneys that might be issuing a lot of smoke
b. Nucleated settlements in the neighborhood, likely to be the laborers’ houses
c. Tall chimneys emitting flames and a network of pipes with large tanks in the distance could indicate an oil refinery
d. Large open pits, large excavators and lorries carrying loads of rocks could indicate open cast mining
e. A large area with derricks (oil rigs) could point to an oilfield where oil is mined
Lumbering activities could be indicated by the presence of the following features/activities: a. Logs floating down the river b. People cutting trees using manual or power saws c.
Large forest clearings with tree stumps and piles of logs d. People loading timber onto lorries or tractor trailers e. Logs piled near a saw mill
TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATION
The following are some of the clues on transport. Presence of motor vehicles and roads Animals carrying loads on their backs Presence of railway line Presence of ports, boats, ships or large water bodies
The clues for communication may be indicated by the presence of telephone lines, telephone booths, satellite dishes, buildings with masts and wires connecting the masts, post office, radio or television station, newspapers or newspaper stands, etc.
ESTIMATING THE SIZE OF FEATURES
Estimating the size of object in the photographed area sometimes is not easy, therefor some clues are used in order to estimate size of objects in the photographed area.
Due to perspective nature of photographs, especially with regard to the ground general view photographs, it is not ease to measure and calculate possible distances from them.
It is, however, possible to work out approximate sizes of objects using familiar objects in the close-up photograph such as a person, ruler or coin.
This gives an impression of the relative sizes of the objects and from this we can be in a position of estimating the size of a given object in a photograph.
That is why, we normally see a coin, hammer or ruler or any known object placed against rock strata to give us an idea about the size of the rock.
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