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Stanton Repeat Photography

Photographic Methods and Conventions

Scientists setting up for a repeat photograph. The Stanton photographs were matched on a series of river trips along the Colorado River starting in 1989. All images of the Green River and Cataract Canyon were taken by Franklin A. Nims, Nims also took all photographs of Glen Canyon and in Grand Canyon to the head of House Rock Rapid, with a few other images downstream to South Canyon. After Nims sustained disabling injuries in late December 1889, Robert Brewster Stanton assumed photographer duties and took the remaining photographs. Most of the original images were obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), with a few coming from the New York Public Library. Three sets of images exist: small 4x5 paper stripping negatives on 4x5 film exposed using a "Detective Camera," paper-stripping negatives, and emulsion film negatives, the latter two obtained using the large-format camera. See Grand Canyon: A Century of Change for a complete accounting of the story of the Stanton images.

The Nims-Stanton camera stations are identified by river mile using the Stevens guide for Glen and Grand Canyons and the Belknap guide for Canyonlands. We use the terms "river right" and "river left" as they refer to the side of the river when facing downstream (in other words, when facing upstream, river left is on your right). Except in heavily used campsites or trails, camera stations originally were marked with a permanent marker, such as rebar, scribed x, or cairns; many of these markers no longer exist. Camera stations were mapped on 7.5’ topographic maps and later, when the technology became available, using hand-held GPS units. Our matches were made using tripod-mounted 4x5 field cameras, mostly Crown Graphics, primarily with 4x5 film but sometimes with 120 roll film. In a few cases in which the original camera station had been inundated by the rising waters of reservoirs, we used 35-mm film cameras, shot from the decks of boats. Field notes include information on camera station location, film exposure, photographic crew, and notes about change—or lack of change—to geomorphic, hydrologic, and ecologic features. Many photographers participated in the repeat photography work.

Please note that the Desert Laboratory Repeat Photography archive has been moved to the GCMRC Library in Flagstaff, AZ. Please contact Meredith Hartwell at mhartwell@usgs.gov if you need further information about the collection.

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