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Osborne Photo History Page

This document contains Background information about

The Photos (or go straight to the forest browser),

the Attributes assigned to each image and site,

the abstract from the companion Technical white paper which presents uses of this disk and the images,

information on how to get Enlargements or higher resolution re-scans made,

information on the ongoing efforts and offers on Retakes of many of the sites,

details About this Site/Disk directory structure and file naming conventions,

and web links to IamWho Panoramic Imaging and other Interesting Related Sites.

For a more detailed description of the photos, this disk, and possible uses, please read the companion overview white paper.
It is available on this disk in Adobe® Acrobat™ format at overview.pdf.
Get a copy of Adobe Acrobat reader from www.adobe.com.


The site, "The Photos" is an index of Osborne panoramic "photo survey" pictures taken from 1929 to 1942 of Washington and Oregon.

This set of photos were taken by the United States Forest Service Region 6 with a custom panoramic swing lens camera designed in 1930 by W. B. Osborne. Most sites had (or were to have) a lookout house or lookout tower. We have included a copy of the operators manual for your edification and enjoyment. It covers the operation, setup, calibration and periodic maintenance of the camera. It answers many questions about the images, and describes the process. The operators manual is available on this disk in Adobe® Acrobat™ format at operator.pdf. Get a copy of Adobe Acrobat reader from www.adobe.com.

The lookouts, Osborne firefinders, telephone network, and the "photo survey" pictures along with the people who manned them were the backbone of the early forest fire detection system. The system of phones was soon replaced by radios. The need for the high concentration of lookout houses and towers was replaced first by airplanes and since then, reinforced by satellites.

The satellites are capable of tracking every lightning strike of a thunderstorm, which also grounds the planes used for fire surveillance. Many of the lookouts (about 10 %) remain operational today because they can be utilized during high thunderstorm activity. The lookouts help to provide the verification of potential fire outbreaks during such thunderstorm periods. Those regularly occupied for fire detection have been maintained, and many of these are available for personal use on a reservation basis (see below). However, many sit in disrepair awaiting demise by natural causes, unintended misuse, deliberate abuse, or await to be restored by actual and potential caretakers. Fortunatly, some are being placed into historical interpretation service as a tribute to the early years. The National Historic Lookout Registry, an American Resources Group entity, lists lookouts for preservation purposes, due to their unique structure, significance, or other special characteristics. See "interesting related sites."

The Osborne Firefinder, which added a vertical angle scale over the older model, is still a valuable tool for fire detection. Most operational lookouts still utilize a finder as the prime way of determining the azimuth to a potential fire. In the early days, each watchman needed to communicate the location of the smoke site in detail. By viewing the vertical angle scale and corresponding it to a spot on the panoramic photo, the watchman transmitted to fire management more specifically where the fire was. In essence, the district office was able to "see through" the eyes of the watchman. Since communications about potential fire sites could be more exact, this created more successful conditions for fighting the fires.

From 1933-1936, a team of photographers led by the late Albert Arnst took the bulk of the photos, as revealed in his work, "We Climbed The Highest Mountains". Not in wide distribution, his booklet is available at the OSU Valley library, catalog number SD 421.375.A71 1985, or for viewing at the Oregon Historical Society's research library, catalog number PAM 634.96 A767w. "We Climbed The Highest Mountains" is available on this disk in Adobe® Acrobat™ format at WeClimbed.pdf. Get a copy of Adobe Acrobat reader from www.adobe.com.

Currently the images have become the interest of landscape architects responsible for the planning and execution of the "Forest Plan" (and other state and local plans). These images represent a reference point for analysis and design of land use. Some of their uses are described in Nancy Diaz and Dean Apostol's book, "Forest Landscape Analysis and Design, A Process for Developing and Implementing Land Management Objectives for Landscape Patterns", USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, R6 ECO-TP-034-92.

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The Photos

The site pages, which systematically present the scanned images, can be accessed by forest name, by given name or by map (via a client-side map). Many pictures reveal cultural artifacts of the era, such as townships, buildings, cars, people, domestic animals and give an occasional glimpse of the Osborne camera equipment.

This set of images was scanned in January-May 1997 by IamWho Panoramic Imaging, courtesy of the National Archives-Pacific Northwest Region, Seattle WA. Enlargements or reprints are available by contacting the Archives directly or IamWho Panoramic Imaging as described below.

Location information was provided by USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database, ESRI USGS maps on-line, and USFS maps from 1939-1941.

Other sources of motivation, information, and images include the Oregon Historical Society, Oregon Department of Forestry and many USFS employees, retired and not.

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Interpretations have been assigned for site attributes of the lookouts (LO) or watch points after careful inspection was made of each photo. The corresponding ESRI USGS maps on-line were also reviewed and extractions from those maps were also presented as (map) attributes.

Image Attributes

These attributes are most interesting when sorting the sites for specific elements or common features. The following table explains the encoding of the attributes assigned to each site.

Code Full name One or more of the images contain
T Technology One or more of the following: roof, flagpole, outhouse, smoke stack, fence, woodpile, wire, power line, car, truck, lumber, railing, decking, firefinder, dam, railroad, house, building, oil drum, table
M Mammal One or more horse, person, dog, or part of
E Human Effect Road, field, clearcut, trail
N Nature Mountain, lake, stream, ocean, or bay (water or snow)
FF Burn Obvious burn with standing snags
CC Clearcut Obvious cutting of timber other than for providing view for the lookout
FL Flag The American Flag, with 48 stars
LO Lookout More than 50% of the building is visible, many are new, some being replaced (in 1934)
OH Outhouse There is an outhouse in one of the images
GA Garage There is a garage in one of the images
LC Construction in progress Obvious construction of a lookout in progress
SH Shadow One of the images captured a shadow of the camera or lookout

Map Attributes

Please note that the maps, from the on-line ESRI Arcview USGS Map, reflect the existence of buildings, roads, and trails when the map was created or revised. In many cases in the one or two decades that have passed since the maps were created, changes have occurred to the lookout sites and the paths to them, some quite dramatically. Roads have been decommissioned, buildings have been abandoned, and each site has been left to the effects of nature. Some former trails have had decades of overgrowth. The codes assigned to each site do not guarantee that the site is still accessible or has a standing lookout. IamWho Panoramic Imaging is not responsible for any ill effects to persons who visit these or any sites or places indicated on any maps or data provided on this CD. Persons who visit any sites do so at their own risk.

We are not responsible for the accuracy of the maps, the accuracy of the mapping tools used for this survey, or the accuracy or completeness of information extracted from the maps.

Code Full name Description
Rd Road The ESRI-USGS map shows a road leading to or by the site.
Tr Trail The ESRI-USGS map shows a trail leading to or by the site.
Lo Lookout The ESRI-USGS map indicates, in text, that a lookout exists on the site.
Bm Benchmark The ESRI-USGS map indicates with either a symbol or text that the site has a benchmark.
Rd-cc Road-crosscountry The ESRI-USGS map shows a road very close to the site and also shows that there is little vegetation between the road and the site.
Tr-cc Trail-crosscountry The ESRI-USGS map shows a trail very close to the site, and also shows that there is little vegetation between the trail and the site.
RT RadioTower The ESRI-USGS map indicates, in text, that there is a radio tower at the site.
4wd Four Wheel Drive Tr or Rd The map shows that the trail or road leading to or by the site is a four wheel drive trail or road.

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Technical White Paper

For a more detailed discussion of the images, this disk, possible uses, retake options and planning, please read the companion technical white paper.

This paper describes the potential uses of the Osborne Images CDs. These uses include the planning of retakes to be compared or contrasted with the originals for research, analysis and public awareness projects.

In many cases, there exists enough science together with latent beauty in the old images to display without contrast. However, most of the images by themselves are mere scenes of vast, forested landscapes. These images could be contrasted with the current view to expose the subtle as well as the dramatic changes.

This paper explains how to select locations worthy of retakes. All locations which have original images (some of which are not on the CDs) are worthy of retakes, given the accessibility. However, many factors make the wholesale retaking of the entire set economically impossible. The individual districts and academic disciplines could choose to augment the set by various ways, and we suggest that a current subset of images is both valuable and economical to retake. Further, we will discuss the issues, applications, and possibilities around the various uses of the originals and retakes.

The technical white paper is available online in Adobe® Acrobat™ format at tech.pdf.
Get a copy of Adobe Acrobat reader from www.adobe.com.

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Enlargements or High Resolution Scans

Please request enlargements via the given name of the site (from the photo) including the forest name and the index number, desired resolution, boundary declinations and elevations (found along the edges of the photos) of the desired area of enlargement (or high resolution scan). The highest resolution possible is 600dpi (six times that of the images on this disk, about one half of the resolution of the prints themselves). Delivery will be on CD-R Hybrid (Mac or PC) PICT or JPEG file format (please specify which format). To get a quote, please visit our reprints web page for the latest offer or phone (503) 804-6368.

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We recommend you read the technical white paper if you are planning photo retakes from the "Osborne" sites.
It contains vital information about planning retakes and is available online in Adobe® Acrobat™ format at tech.pdf.
Get a copy of Adobe Acrobat reader from www.adobe.com.


Many of the sites have been re-photographed in recent years, by ourselves and others. We are in the process of cataloging those sites, locating what district, forest, agency, etc. holds the photo or negative, when taken, and in what format. Please check our retakes web page for the latest information.


Please request new retakes via the given name of the site (from the photo) including the forest name and the index number, and we will contact you with a quote. The costs vary according to complexity. Many of the originals were taken from towers which no longer exist, many of the site locations are not accurately known, and the use of the original camera is not feasible, forcing the use of different film formats. The intended use of the retake may influence the format required. These and other issues cause the pricing for retakes to be on an individual, site-by-site, order-by-order basis. To get a quote please visit our retakes web page for the latest offer or phone (503) 804-6368.

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About this Site/Disk

The scans on this site/disk are 100dpi stored in moderately compressed JPEG format. The folder names are formed by taking the first 4 letters of the name (excluding space and periods), appending the two-digit index assigned by the Forest Service (single digit numbers are pre-appended with a "0"), dropping any radix mark, appending the suffix digit ("0" for those which lack one). For instance the page for, "Devils Peak, Mt. Hood, 22", would be /westOr/mthood/mtho220/site.htm. The JPEG files in the same folder are simply named "a.jpg", "b.jpg" or "c.jpg" for the SW, N and SE frames respectfully ("d.jpg", "e.jpg" ... are the supplemental photos from the same site).

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IamWho Panoramic Imaging

For more information about services provided by IamWho Panoramic Imaging, visit:


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Interesting Related Sites

As it is impossible to update this disk with the latest URL's, some of the following URL's may be out of date.
All were valid as of September 2002.

Oregon Historical Society

USGS and GNIS database


National Archives and the Pacific Northwest Region office

OSU Valley library

United States Forest Service and Region 6

Forest Fire Lookout Association

National Historic Lookout Registry

Nature of the Northwest Lookout Cabin Rental

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| Home | History | - | By Name | By Forest | By Map | Tours | - | Camera | Finder | Lookout | Documents | QTVR |

Copyright 1997-2002 IamWho Panoramic Imaging. Send comments to commentsOPIV2@iamwho.com, Last updated Friday, September 27, 2002