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Where's That Benchmark?


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In my area photographs, I add in an arrow to indicate the location of the disk (or other marker).


Occasionally I'll log a benchmark before I have the photos ready to upload. When I went back to upload a photo recently, I discovered that in the area view I couldn't make out exactly where the disk was. D'oh!


I know some benchmarkers place a small object at the mark to ensure the location is obvious. For those who want a somewhat more professional appearance, I recommend inexpensive Crime Scene Evidence Photo Direction Indicators.


I actually stumbled on this vendor while looking for a nice ruler that I could put in the picture of non-standard size disks and other objects. Their photographic scale wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but I'll keep searching. I could use something homemade, or just a cheap plastic 6-inch ruler, but I'd like something more official-looking and cool.



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How about one of those tri-bladed shaped wooden rulers, that are a foot long and have gradiations on either side of the three blades in 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 5/8", 3/4" and 1", or something like that? It's kind of hard to describe what I mean; I can't seem to find the right search on the web to find a picture. It would be kind of classy.

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I have seen the physical arrows that some people do. I prefer using a photo editor to put an arrow in myself. It takes an extra step in the logging procedure, but I think that the distance-picture is one of our most important contributions and any effort in making it better is worth it, I think.


The main problems I have in using the portable physical sign are (1) I'm lazy and don't want to carry around a big sign, and (2) I think the sign itself blocks too much of the location-identifying scenery in the immediate location of the marker. In other words, a sign constitutes a bunch of whitespace in addition to the arrow. In a computer software you have that choice - you can blank out a little square of your picture and add an arrow in it, or just add the arrow with no blank square. Who would choose the first alternative of blanking out a piece of the picture? (Not me.) The physical sign does that by default.


ArtMan, I have noticed the same 'where's the benchmark' situation. When I take the picture, it's obvious to me where the mark is. But, when I got home (the first couple times), and looked at the picture, I couldn't find the mark. :unsure: What to do? I'd expand the picture to a huge size and search for the mark, etc., usually to no avail. Since that experience, I have changed my photography a bit. What I do now is to make very sure when I take the picture that I recognize exactly where the mark is. I write a note on my datasheet if necessary. Right after taking the picture, I look at it in the camera, zoom in and make SURE that I can see it or it's exact location (the hole in the grass that's in front of the background tree, but not the other hole in the grass that's by the rock). If I can't, I re-take the shot.


I tend to go with the following thought - if the marker isn't at least vaguely visible without an arrow, it isn't a good enough shot. In other words (in the extreme), you could have a mark at one end of a football field, and put an arrow sign there and take a picture from the other end of the field and you'd see the arrow sign, but would it really help someone in finding the mark? I don't think so. So, I make sure that I can at least see something of the mark in the distance pictures I take.


Unless I learn here of a big advantage of a physical sign, I think I will stick with the photo editing arrow placement.

Edited by Black Dog Trackers
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I Agree with BDT on the digital editing, it is a great way to work and you can place text and arrows in the picture where ever needed so as to not obscure the details you decide are important. Sometimes lees to carry is well, less to carry. I often put a 100 foot tape in the large back pocket of my survey vest, grab the Datasheet Camera and my GPS and go on recon. Most I'll ever need is already in the Vest.


I have found that making the shot in the first place with the survey marker clearly visible is important. It is important to be able to see the station in the area pic.


I have shot a few in low light where things showing up would be more difficult as well, but I have a work around.


I use 25' Lufkin HV 1425 Tape measures. Seems like I have a ton of them. It is Hi-viz orange and we in the survey field like this model because the tape has inches scale on one side and feet in tenths on the other. They are about $14 at home depot and though you can get them at survey supply houses, the cost is higher. I am carrying this thing anyway so I put it to multiple use.


Anyway I will take a couple shots of the station. Some are for my reference, some are for editing for NGS I often lay that bright orange tape on the station in low or bad lighting to show me where to look, then in the pic I intend to brighten and edit I can go right to it. that pic has no tape measure in it. The Hi-viz orange is really a help sometimes. then I can do what I need to to the edit and have confidence with things that are hard to see. Just use a reference pic to help edit the real one. Delete it when you are done.


Holo's evidence ruler looks cool but I have another Idea. A Dollar bill is six inches long and everyone knows the size of a Dollar. It is instantly familiar to everyone. More familiar at a glance than with the scale on that evidence ruler. Why not go to the bank, get a brand new dollar and take it to the office store to get it laminated. It would be a great way to show scale at close up range, with being something everyone in instantly familiar with and the Lamination will help it be durable in all weather. I have used a dollar as a pocket tape measure many times. It would be a cheap solution and thrifty at that in terms of both cost and space.



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Umm, I hate to point out that I think laminating a bill in this way fits the classic definition of defacing currency, a federal crime.  Not to detract from its usefullness, of course.

Yeah, let's all be reminded of that the next time we fail to come to a full stop at a stop sign or recirculate a Where's George Stamped Bill! :-D

Edited by evenfall
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I had a surplus yellow tripod left ofter from a defective shop light. It makes an excellent marker for photos. Plus, with the red reflective tape I added, it looks very "official" and everyone assumes I'm doing some kind of official survey. (grin)





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I made a synthetic comparison of two methods of arrows at JW1298.

typical arrow added with a photo editor

synthesis of an arrow on a sign (I used microsoft paint to make the fake sign with a black arrow.)


One can bring up both pictures and use Alt-TAB to switch from one to the other.


Both types are OK and definitely provide a whole lot of information that the to-reach cannot convey. I just think the yellow arrow one is more unobtrusive, while the sign type obliterates some of the positional relationships.

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Harry Dolphin -


Yes, that works too. Good that your GPS receiver is yellow. :huh:


I used red arrows a couple times in pictures until I remembered a couple friends of mine that are red-green colorblind. A red arrow in green grass probably doesn't look like much to them. There's a rarer form of color blindness (blue-yellow) also, but I think a yellow arrow on green grass is OK for them. I think there is an even far rarer form - a combination of red-green and blue-yellow color blindness. Good luck to them!

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FWIW, I usually use a yellow arrow when I think the person looking at the photo might need help finding the benchmark. If the plants around the benchmark are yellowish (e.g. fall foliage), then I use an orange arrow. I've used white, too.


Occasionally (such as one Yosemite photo where concrete and metal witness posts were almost hidden by undergrowth and I wanted to draw attention to both of them), I've used a circle instead of an arrow.



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I was drving down the road last year and almost hit a traffic cone that fell of a Michigan Bell telephone truck so I picked it up and have been using that.




Here I just used MS Paint to add the arrow. Was a overcast day and photo came out dark. USGS and the USPSQD could not find this mark?? hmmmmmm


Edited by Z15
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My understanding is that Wheresgeorging is not considered defacing currency in that you're not making it unfit to be used as money by stamping on it, in contrast to laminating it and taking it out of circulation. That's why they get peeved about nickel belt buckles, etc., because you're making the money no longer useful, depleting the reserve system.


Also, one generally doesn't run the risk of going to federal prison for rolling a stop sign.

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I am going to laminate 10 one dollar bills and not share any with you Buck, I am going to keep them to myself. Yeah, that's the ticket.


I will have never actually done this as far as you are concerned because you are likely to tattle on me! :D


Boy I can see the prisons becoming fill of state quarter collectors now, what with all those special state displays and all... And what of the new Nickel? I hear they want to do a new Dollar coin that americans will ultimately scoff at and collect so as to get them out of circulation too!


Do you now see how insignificant this is. We will no more miss this bill than any other removed from Circulation, like being ran through the washer and dryer. My How utterly defaced that money is! Arrrrrggghhhhh! The Horrors!


I think we can save you from this morbid sense of responsibility toward small denomination currency. Maybe there is a 12 step program? Maybe just thinking bigger would do it?


To the Batmobile! :):P We Must save Buck from certain Peril!!



Edited by evenfall
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