Photographic Definitions: Terms for Documentation, Inventory and Monitoring
By Val Hildreth-Werker

Photographs provide visual records that can be used to document, educate, or entertain. Whether pictures are made for photomonitoring, historical documentation, scientific inventory, restoration-before-and-after, personal enjoyment, salon entry, etc., photographs can provide essential monitoring elements for cave management programs. Among the caving community, there is some confusion about how to define the various purposes and nomenclature of documentation tools that can benefit cave management and protection. The following is provided to answer questions and help define photographic terms.

Photomonitoring is the process of establishing a system of photo stations so the same photographs can be easily repeated at defined time intervals and archived to record visitor impact, vandalism, formation growth and decline, water levels, trail conditions, etc.

Photo Inventory
The term photo inventory designates photographing specific cave features or sites using a simple stand-and-shoot method. The photographer stands in an obvious, easy-to-remember or discernable trail location and shoots the feature or scene. Usually, nothing is left in the cave to identify this stand-and-shoot spot. Repetition of the shot will not be exact, but should yield worthwhile, simple information.

Photo inventory is like a picture inventory of valuable household items for insurance purposes. For caves, photo inventory describes an organized, individually labeled, and archivally stored collection of pictures recording the valuable resources and features in or around a cave or karst system.

Photo Documentation
Photo documentation is the activity of photographing events, projects, procedures, expeditions, evidence, location, or scientific example, and then organizing the photos and recording data to tell a coherent visual story. Photos for scientific documentation should include a reference scale.

All photographs used for any kind of documentation should be labeled with the date the picture was shot. Information on each individual slide label or on the backs of prints should include: the date image was photographed; name of the cave (unless name information is sensitive); location in the cave; and name of the photographer. Optional information might include: address, phone, e-mail, contact information for photographer; names of people appearing in photograph; the name of managing agency or landowner; or a caption explaining the photo. Copyright is also optional-though future use of simple documentation photos is complicated by copyrighting the material and sometimes makes the photograph less useful to the managing agency or landowner. Request for use of photo byline or photo credit may be included in the labeling process, regardless of copyright decision.

By Val Hildreth-Werker (8/99)