Planning the first view – establishing a monitoring scheme based on photography

Authors and Affiliations: 

Oskar Puschmann, Sebastian Eiter, Wendy Fjellstad, Svein Olav Krøgli

Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO), Ås, Norway

Corresponding author: 
Svein Olav Krøgli

The visual impacts of landscape change are important for how people perceive landscapes and whether they consider changes to be positive or negative. Landscape photographs and photographs of landscape elements are therefore very useful to capture information about the visual qualities of landscapes and can also be used to illustrate, and even to quantify, how these visual qualities change over time. We developed a methodology for monitoring, based on taking photographs from exactly the same location at different points in time. In developing the method, we tested two approaches: qualitative and quantitative. Our aim was to develop a method that is repeatable, relatively person independent, provides a representative sample of the visual qualities present in a landscape and that can capture future changes.

We tested the method in an area of 1km2 in the protected cultural heritage environment of Bygdøy, an agricultural and recreational area situated on a peninsula close to Oslo city centre. In the qualitative approach, seven independent fieldworkers were asked to read a short document about landscape values in the area and subsequently move through the area, freely choosing locations for taking one or several photographs in any direction. Each photo location was recorded on a detailed map and by GPS and the direction of each photograph was recorded using a compass (degrees). There was no restrictions regarding numbers of photographs, but the aim stated was for each fieldworker to be able to “submit” 30 photographs to document the area. In the quantitative approach, the same fieldworkers were equipped with a map and GPS coordinates of 30 photo locations, evenly distributed throughout the area. They were asked to visit each location as accurately as possible, and take photos in four prescribed directions (N, E, S and W), as well as one freely chosen direction (recording the direction in degrees).

Results showed that the qualitative design provided exclusively relevant photographs, and captured existing landscape values well. However, photo locations were distributed unevenly, which means that important future changes in parts of the area may not be captured by repeat photography. The quantitative design resulted in a higher number of photos, but many were “uninteresting”, e.g. photos showing only dense vegetation. On the other hand, the entire area was covered in a time efficient manner, with very little difference between fieldworkers, and the regular spread of photo points means that also unforeseen landscape changes can be captured by repeat photography. Our final recommended method combined the two approaches, with a quantitative aspect to ensure that the entire area is covered, but with the option to add additional photo points to capture especially good subject matter that would otherwise be missed.


Puschmann, O., Eiter, S., Fjellstad, W.J. and Krøgli, S.O. in prep. Planning the first view – establishing a monitoring scheme based on photography.

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