Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Repeat Photography Part 2

by Anita Mae Draper

My post last Tues was an introduction to Repeat Photography and its use in historical research.

This post helps you create your own repeat or Now and Then photography. It will also introduce you to blended repeat photography and how to create it. And finally, it’ll show how this can work for those interested in biblical history.

Here’s a Repeat photo set from the website Normandy - Then and Now. 
SAINT AUBIN SUR MER Juno Beach, Nan Red sector. A P-47 crash
landed on the beach near the strong point WN27. (Photo : I.W.M)

Creating Stand-out Repeat Photography

Colorado State University uses a scientific method of repeat photography where you place a distinctive sign in the foreground of each photo for identification purposes. Although I’m not apt to use that approach, I found the rest of this article very helpful especially as it pertains to temporary vs permanent landmarks.

As I said last Tues, this type of photography enhances a trip down memory lane in the photo department. A carefully printed or handwritten notation on the original photo describing the date and event is most helpful. This is the method used by many early photographers.

When you set up for the Now photo, just try to do everything as close to the original photo as you can, from the background, to the arm placements. Even the same expression and turn of the head will give your photo that extra touch and make take a second look.

John Walker has done that with this photo set of Lignières, Switzerland. He found an old post card, found the actual location, and by blending the two in photoshop, was able to come up with an almost exact repeat photograph almost 100 yrs apart.

He took an original 1911 postcard and scanned it into his computer

Using a digital camera, he photographed the same scene, then
super-imposed (photoshopped) the postcard image over it.

Because he paid close attention to dimensions and visual clues
in Step 2,  he was able to produce an almost identical image.

 Ghosts of the Past

Russian photographer Sergey Larenkov takes this one step further. Called re-photography, he actually blends the old and new photos together into eerie images others have called Ghosts of the Past.

Although Sergey doesn’t give a date, this photo is under his
St Petersburg label.
The following 3 photos are from Sergey's World War II set and in particular, the era called the Siege of Leningrad.

Sergey has found a way to blend a horrific period in history with modern technology in a thought provoking way so it will live on as a reminder, and hopefully a deterrent, to everyone.

Biblical Repeat Photography

So how can a technology which didn't exist in biblical times be used to teach us biblical history? Let's say we want to learn about the crucifixtion. What does the Bible say about it? (All scripture using NIV.)
  • They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Matthew 27:33
  • "And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood." Hebrews 13:12 
  •  "Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads." Matthew 27:39

There actually is a hill called Golgatha near the Damascus Gate on the outskirts of Jerusalem. And it has a road close by where people pass and are well within shouting range. Here's a present day photo of it:

Present day Golgatha Hill, Jerusalem
Can you see it? How about if I take you in closer...
The photo isn't dated, but we don't see any buildings on the side.
Early 20th cenury postcard.
Through these photos of Golgatha, we see that development really didn't go forward until the 20th century. One website even said it wasn't until the latter half of the 19th century before scholars seriously considered this hill as the one pertaining to Calvary and began their archeaological digging at the base which is where they discovered the garden tomb. If that's the case, then it would have been relatively untouched in the preceding years.
Archaeological digs are happening all over the Middle East. Many books, such as Views That Have Vanished: The Photographs of David Bivin show before and after photos of these digs.

Jerusalem, for example, is a multi-layer city. So much so, that you can't even dig for a new basement unless you call up the antiquities board and have someone come over and ensure there isn't something of import buried beneath your property.

An ancient quarry where a basement had been designated.

This photo shows excavation in the foreground and the south wall of the old city of Jerusalem at the top.

Because much of the ancient biblical land is buried, this type of photography is more like Reverse Repeat Photography. We want to look at the photo of a mound and then look at another photo after all the excess dirt has been hauled away and we want to see the difference. It's like opening a package to find a wonderous gift inside.

To show you what I mean, look at this excavation of the city of Jericho:

 Now look at what it was when they first discovered it:

Jericho side view
 Bible Places Then and Now is a book which superimposes a flippable, transparent overlay of a reconstructed archaeological site over a present-day photograph. Although this book is out-of-print, used or similar books can be found in libraries and used book stores.

Actually, there are many books which use plastic overlays over maps to show you where the biblical world used to be and how it fit into the Old and New Testament geography. Christianbook.com has a great selection of this type of bible map.

Hopefully, I haven't overloaded you with photos and information. As you can probably tell, I find this whole subject fascinating.

What do you think of Sergey's blended photographs?

Do you have any books at home with plastic overlays? What subject? I think we have a medical one tucked away somewhere.



  1. Very cool, Anita. Thanks again for sharing! I just may try it!

  2. Thanks for sharing. I love the archaelogical photos- so facinating. My son Joshua was able to visit the sights in Israel on a Biblical History tour... So cool.

  3. Hi Anita,
    I just got a chance to visit and I've been looking forward to it all day.
    I love the blended photographs! the whole subject has been very interesting.

    Many years ago when I got my first 35mm camera, I played with a lot of techniques such as intentional double exposures (like my kids peaking around from behind a tree to watch themselves playing in the yard) Oh well. I entertained myself anyway...
    We just found a photo of my childhood home that was probably the for sale photo in 1959. Wow, what a difference from when we moved out in 2001~ I'll have to put them together side by side someday.

    Thanks for a fun intro to this subject!

  4. I love this stuff. It is fascinating!

    I am definitely going to do more research into this (thanks for the site recommendations) and try some of my own. Thanks, Anita!

  5. Sorry for the late post spent most of my day in the emergency room with a massively infected Spider bite so I just now got online. Anyways, this was a wonderful post.

  6. Just got back from a trip to the city for dental, etc. Had to make my rounds of the library sales and used book stores while I was there. I got to the main branch library sale in time to see a man take a book and tuck it under his arm. It was the historical atlas I was looking for! Gotta tell you, I was tempted to snatch it and run.

    Thanks Lisa. I wish you well if you do.

    Anita Mae.

  7. Cheryl, I'm sure he brought back so many wonderful photos for you to enjoy.

    To tell you the truth, until this year I had no interest to visit the Holy Land because all the photos I saw seemed to be of more commercialism than Santa Claus at Christmas. I mean, that hole in the floor to designate Jesus' birth just didn't seem right. And all the violence didn't draw me at all.

    What turned me around was the book, Reflections of God’s Holy Land: A Personal Journey Through Israel by Eva Marie Everson and Miriam Feinberg Vamosh, Thomas Nelson 2008. Here's a quote from my book review: The concept is simple. Quote a biblical reference. Match it with a photo. Show a two-page spread of historical and architectural details including what it looks like today. And finally, read Eva’s thoughts as she walks the path, touches the stones, and feels the same sun at the same place where it touched Jesus 2,000 years before. Her journey is spiritual. Her words are thought-provoking.

    Way at the bottom of one tunnel in particular, Eva touches a wall where it's likely Jesus touched as well. I held my breath as I read her thoughts at the moment she reached out and placed her hands on the stones.

    Now, I want to go there, too.

    Thanks for sharing. Your son is a brave and smart young man. :)

    Anita Mae.

  8. Deb, you're so much braver than I. I always wanted to try the double exposures but never had the guts to actually do it. I think it was because I'd take almost a dozen photos of one scene to ensure I got it 'just right' and it became kind of expensive. That's why I love the digital camera! I can take as many as I want and I get instant results. No waiting and no running out of film. If I don't have enough room on my SD card and don't have access to another one, I just have to delete some of the crummier shots and away I go.

    That's great that you found that old pic of the house. At the very least, if these 2 posts inspire people to dig out their old photographs and take a walk down memory lane, I'll consider it a job well done.

    Putting the 2 pics side-by-side will be something special for your family when you all get together. And then sit back and enjoy all the stories they trigger. :D

    Anita Mae.

  9. You're welcome, Susie. I'd love to see the results. :)

    Anita Mae.

  10. Louise - You're not late - I finally got on about 10 mins after you.

    But gosh, a spider bite? Och!

    Lord, I ask you to lay healing hands on Louise as she deals with the poison invading her body. Father God, fill her with good physical health, and feed her spirit with comfort and peace. I ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.

    I appreciate you joining us Louise. And I gotta admit, I'm wondering about the details of the spider bite.

    Anita Mae.

  11. Well Anita,
    So I don't gross anyone out if you want to read the account I will post the link to my blog which goes into detail.
    That will give you all the information on the spider bite.

  12. LOL Louise - you didn't gross me out. I was hoping you'd say what kind of spider it was, though.

    It reminded me of a visit to my Aunt's house in Ontario. We slept in her unfinished basement. There was a nice bed and warm covers and I didn't mind the 2x4 studs or joists and everything looked clean. But a few hours after we went to bed, I felt something on my neck between my pj top and my hairline. I thought it was hair and brushed it off. It scurried away! I jumped out of bed and yanked down the pull chain for the bare light bulb and a one inch black spider ran off the bed. Yech - I'm shuddering just thinking about it. And one inch isn't really big when half of that is legs. But still. Ugh!

    And shh - don't tell anyone, but I've used that incident in a scene in my book, Emma's Outlaw.

    Thanks for coming back and giving us your website, Louise. Bless you.

    Anita Mae.


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