Field Photo Weekends

For the past two years, SCIPP, CoCoRaHS, and the Earth Observation and Modeling Facility (EOMF) have developed a "Field Photos Weekend" project to create a national picture of our landscape. We have asked CoCoRaHS observers and other citizen scientists to take pictures of the land around them - water bodies, fields, forests, or any other facet of our environment - at roughly the same time. We have conducted these events over Labor Day 2012 and Presidents Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day 2013. As Presidents Day 2014 rolls around, it is time to collect another set of photos.

These photo collections give us the chance to appreciate nature's beauty and to see the world around us. But having everyone taking pictures at approximately the same time also allows us to thee the landscape as it relates to things we measure - how it compares to the amounts of rain or snow that have fallen or if it looks like what we might expect according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Even if the weather around you seems normal this year, these photos might give you (and us) a point of reference for what is maybe different next year or in another season.

Although this started out working with CoCoRaHS observers, you do not have to be a CoCoRaHS observer to participate. The project is open to anyone. So please tell your friends and neighbors, post a message on Facebook or Twitter, or put up a billboard (ok, we are joking on this last one). The more the merrier!

This year we have made it even easier to participate. EOMF has developed an iPhone app, which is freely available in the Apple Store. You can use your iPhone to take a photo in the field, enter some information to describe the landscape, and then upload the photo into the EOMF photo archive website directly from your iPhone when you have access to WI-FI. When you enter your photo description, please remember to add the #cocorahsfeb14 keyword. If you do not have an iPhone or prefer to email pictures, we can upload them for you; see the instructions below.

So grab your camera and take some photos. There is no obligation to participate in future events. But for those who have previously participated, thank you! It will be fascinating to see the changes in the land around you.

What we do with your photos

Your photos are collected and uploaded to the EOMF Field Photos Archive. Here they are stored along with all the other photos received from researchers, field projects, and citizen scientists such as yourself. All of these photos are valuable in trying to figure out how the landscape responds to both sudden and gradual changes in climate, water, ecology and even geology.

For the Field Photo Weekends project, photos are tagged in the notes section with #cocorahsmmmyy (mmm=month and yy=year, for example feb14). You can search the archive by keyword such as #cocorahssep13 to see all the photos that were submitted last Labor Day weekend. Or, you can use these links below:

We are still working on tagging some of the Field Photos from Labor Day 2012 and February 2013, so if you submitted photos from the beginning, they may not show up on searches yet. Boy, we wish we had thought of adding the cocorahs tags earlier! But the photos from Memorial Day and Labor Day 2013 and the one this Presidents Day weekend 2014 should show up in a search. If you want to see all of the photos we have uploaded, go to the EOMF Photo archive, change "Users" to cocorahs and submit. Anything from this project - any of the five weekend events - will come up.

Taking Photos

So what makes a good picture for a project like this? Photos should tell the story of the field or landscape, anything that you feel is representative of the world around you. Just as you do not find the deepest snowdrift for your snowfall measurements, you should not find the vegetation that is in the worst condition for your pictures. We want to see what it may look like walking through a field, where some things may be in better condition than others. So if you see a dead tree, a bunch of trees that are dropping some leaves, and a heavily watered tree with lush green leaves, we want the picture showing the ones dropping leaves.

Photos can be of any of the following:

  • A water body, showing how much water it is currently holding and where the natural bank might be. For example, a farm pond showing the ring of bare soil around it that is usually submerged.
  • A tree, showing the health of its leaves. It may be a tree in your front yard, one in a nearby park, or something over in the woods, whatever you think tells the story about how it is faring this year.
  • A field, such as a pasture, meadow, or crops. After all, this is "Field Photo Weekends". The photo should show whether vegetation is brown or green, if soil is becoming exposed, if seeds are burnt up, or if vines are withering.
  • A typical scene showing the depth of snow, maybe a meadow, nearby hill, or looking up at the mountains. Be sure to add comments telling us whether the snow is more than or less than usual for this time of year.
  • A panorama, or series of pictures from a single spot looking in each direction (north, east, south, and west - and down!). The panorama is a good way to get a "big picture" of the land around you, especially if you think you might participate in another Field Photos Weekend in the future. Be sure to pick somewhere that is nearby but fairly open. A bunch of houses will not tell us about how wet or dry it is. Tips for making great panoramas.

What you need to participate

All you need is a camera. Any old camera will do, but if you have a camera with GPS capability or a smartphone, that would be even better.

If you are using a SmartPhone or GPS camera, make sure "location services" is turned on. This will automatically encode the picture's latitude, longitude and direction you are looking. To turn on location services, go to your phone's settings and you should see "Location Services" in the menu. When you select this, you will get a list of applications that use location services, each with an on/off switch. Make sure camera and compass are both turned on. If you feel better not having your phone know where you are, you can turn these off again after taking the pictures. The embedded latitude and longitude will help us from having to estimate from a map, which could save us hours in processing time.

Submitting your photos

Upload them with the EOMF iPhone app or simply e-mail them to fieldphotos@southernclimate.org and SCIPP will do the rest. The photos will be uploaded to the EOMF website. We do need a little information from you so that we can place them properly on a map:

  • Description of where the photo was taken, as detailed as possible. For example, northwest corner of Highway 9 and Jenkins in Norman, Oklahoma, looking west.
  • The date the photo was taken
  • If you are a CoCoRaHS observer, your CoCoRaHS station number (we want to give due credit!)

If you prefer to upload and manage your photos directly, visit the EOMF website and register for an account. This will let you set privacy settings, edit your photos to provide additional detail, or upload other photos from other locations or times of the year. The more photos that are in the EOMF archive, the better will be our ability to ground-truth all of the weather and environmental data that we collect.

Please add #CoCoRaHSFeb14 to any photos in the Field Notes section so we can identify those related to this project.

Note that your name or e-mail address will not appear with the photos or on any website. SCIPP will provide a list of those who contributed to CoCoRaHS and will not maintain any records themselves. So your e-mail is safe.

Questions

If you have questions along the way, please e-mail SCIPP at fieldphotos@southernclimate.org SCIPP will help clarify any questions about taking, uploading or viewing photos.

We want this to be a fun experience for everyone and give everyone a chance to see what it looks like near where we all take our observations each day. We hope that you will be as excited about participating as we are in hosting this.