The Osborne Panoramas
Photographs taken from the same place, looking at the same angle, years apart are a very powerful way to witness change. Pairings of photographs are not only interesting, but have scientific, historic, and educational value. The Osborne panoramas offer a unique opportunity, as the photographs were taken at known sites, that can be looked up in Fire Lookouts of the Northwest by Ray Kresek. However, there are complications- Most of the lookout towers are long gone, and pin-pointing the exact site can be tricky. Often there are walls of trees where there was open space in the 1930s. The really lucky finds are where the towers still exist, or the panoramas were not taken from towers. Occasionally, the 1930s photographers took photos at nearby sites with great vistas, that were used as a supplement to the towers for fire detection work. These are often the best places for repeat photography today.
My introduction to the Osborne Panoramas came from the U.S. Forest Service. In 2010, I was asked by Richy Harrod Ph.D, fire staff on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and Paul F. Hessburg Ph.D of the Wenatchee Forestry Sciences Lab, of the Pacific NW Research Station to re-take the panoramas at selected lookout sites, to view landscape change. In order to make meaningful comparisons, I found it necessary to make digital scans of the original prints, which was accomplished by visiting The National Archives and Records Administration in Seattle. Opening up folders containing images from eighty years ago is an adventure in itself! I have now been to over forty sites and re-taken one hundred panoramas. While most of the work has been on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, I have been to sites on the Umatilla National Forest, the Mt. Hood National Forest, and Washington State Department of Natural Resources lands. My method has been to use a 35mm full sensor Canon camera, with a 35mm focal length lens oriented vertically, on a rotating panoramic head attached to a tripod. I take five or six images that I stitch together in Adobe Photoshop. Seeing the differences of eighty years is always interesting. I love being in the field, but the most gratifying moment comes when I can compare two panoramic images on a high definition computer monitor. That is when the most powerful comparisons can be made.
Washington Osborne Panoramas
Bald Mountain 19 miles west of Ellensburg, in Kittitas County
Diamond Peak 26 miles south-southeast of Pomeroy in Garfield County
Bethel Ridge 19 miles west of Yakima, in Yakima County
Leecher Mountain 5 miles east of Carlton, WA in Okanogan County
Mission Peak 9 miles southwest of Wenatchee, Chelan/Kittitas Counties
Slate Peak 16 miles northwest of Mazama in Okanogan County
Smoothing Iron Ridge 21 miles southwest of Clarkston in Asotin County
Windy Peak 17 miles northwest of Loomis in Okanogan County
Oregon Osborne Panoramas
Tom Dick Mountain 3 miles southwest of Government Camp near Mt. Hood, Clackamas County.
High Ridge 31 miles east of Pendleton, and six miles south of Tollgate in Union County.
Note, that though my digital camera records color, I frequently convert to black and white to make comparison easier. Another factor is that many of the original images were shot on infrared film.