Wow it has been a long time since I saw a Brunton Pocket Transit, probably back to grad school Geology. It may not have much relevance to the post, but I warm to the nostalgia.

Maybe it does, because it was my study of Geology that got me thinking about something I saw online today.

I have this curious habit/mind game that comes up in the landscape paintings of art museums but also in movies, you see this and you might say “mountain”

Public Domain Wikimedia Commons image

Public Domain Wikimedia Commons image

I’m trying to guess which mountains it might be, what region does it belong to, is it a Cascade Volcanic peak (no), it’s definitely got that Rocky Mountain look.

Dan Cohen’s tweet this morning of a new exhibit caught my interest on several levels:

First because this exhibit, the Evolution of The Personal Camera, is about the history of photography, but also of note because it was designed and developed by students at Wayne State University.

But the “thing” happened looking at the image for America Meets the Personal Camera:


It’s the scene! Two women with a 1890s camera rig sitting under some kind of arch; the caption reads:

Two women with a camera looking out over a desert landscape. Lyle, Charles Nourse. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky via the Kentucky Digital Library.

I’m looking at the rock and the mountains through the arch, and wondering, where is this? The rock of the arch looks volcanic, pyroclastic even, and is fractured. It says “desert landscape” but as aI zoom and pan around, I am not seeing any cacti, it looks more like high desert vegetation, sage, etc. I like how with the media on the pla site you can zoom way in:


The landscape below where the women sit looks like cultivated agricultural land, not quite desert as I think of it. That and the shape of the mountains have me thinking Western Utah, maybe Nevada, perhaps Colorado, or maybe eastern California.

Like I said, it’s just an idle curiosity.

But it also gets to the intent of this exhibit, it’s about photography, not landscapes or geography. Yet I could use that same photo perhaps for something other than teaching about photography. And it has me thinking some about David Wiley’s post today on An Obstacle to the Ubiquitous Adoption of OER in US Higher Education. I do see the DPLA exhibits and the fact that student work is shown there as the kind of Renewable Assignment David describes, so students work on something that is not disposable, and in his new thinking, can possible contribute to the potential void in OER content.

And I unravel ideas here, there is some knocking again on the reusability paradox, as I read many of people’s focus on OERs as textbooks, textbooks, textbooks. Or the classic idea of them as blocks that fit together.

If I only think of the DPLA exhibit as something just for the History of Photography, it cuts off the possibility of seeing in that one image, something I can relate to maybe a different activity, course, class.

And now its just late and my brain is mush, and I have completely lost hold of an idea here.

Oh well, I just got sidetracked by wondering where in the world a photo was taken.

Top / Featured Image Credit: Creative Commons licensed Wikimedia Commons image

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. Seeing this reminded me of my old undergrad days studying art and the History of Photography. I’m reminded of guy named Mark Klett and his Rephotographic Survey Project:

    The idea then was very post-modern, to just go back and rephotograph the old land survey photos from the 19th Century. And then stare into each one to see similarities, differences. I always wondered how they got their camera positions, geo-locations in a time long before consumer gps was available. It’s quite a technical but also an intellectual tour-de-force.

    1. Yes, I followed a bit of Mark Klett’s work (because I attended ASU too and live in Arizona); I forget if it was him or someone else who rephotographed the images from John Wesley Powell’s 2nd Grand Canyon expedition.

      I agree about the challenge and complexity of doing this accurately, its easy to think you just get close and match it in the viewfinder; but matching the position and focal length is super tricky. I’ve tried a little bit of reproducing old photos from my town and can almost never match it up.

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