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This photograph of Spokane (source) was taken in 1915. I've identified six of the buildings in the picture, and would like to figure out where the photographer was standing so I can make a modern counterpart. How can I go about doing that?

I've narrowed the likely location down to about a quarter-mile of road based on what's visible, but I'd like more precision. Just going there and looking isn't likely to work, because most of the buildings in the foreground no longer exist, and much of the area is now forested.

If it makes things simpler, one of the six buildings I've identified is almost dead-center at the bottom of the image, and two others are due north and south of it.

  • Can you edit the title to be more specific so someone searching could gain some context? – dpollitt Jan 11 '17 at 23:36
  • Pretty much at Edwidge Woldson Park. 47°39'03.34" N 117°24'56.94" W looking NNE. The views match up. – BobT Jan 12 '17 at 18:53
  • I hope you'll consider sharing your updated version here. :) – junkyardsparkle Jan 26 '17 at 1:56
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Distant objects can help. Considering that, once the image is leveled, the peak of Mount Spokane in the far background lines up vertically with the still-existing Kempis Apartments in the close foreground, you've got at least one very accurate line to work with. If the stretch of road that you mention runs at enough of an angle to this line, then intersecting them should get you pretty close.

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    Lining up Mount Spokane with the Kempis, and a distant un-named hill with the Armory and Westminster Congregational gives me an intersection point on the edge of a cliff. It would be nice if there was something I could line up with the Hutton Building for a third projection line, but the two I've got seem like fairly strong evidence. – Mark Jan 26 '17 at 0:38
  • Landscape photographers do love those cliff edges. ;) – junkyardsparkle Jan 26 '17 at 0:55
  • I think I've worked out exactly where the photo was taken from. It's inside the Moore-Turner Gardens fence, so actually taking the picture will need to wait until the gates are unlocked in the spring. – Mark Feb 8 '17 at 1:46
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I use software such as Google Earth to "stand" at different points to create the same perspective as the image. You can zoom in/out to match the field of view of the image, and shift your position, until you come to within probably a hundred yards or so of the probable position.

Once you've got that position down, you're just going to have to put in some sweat work, go to that position (and probably several other candidates within a hundred yards), and test, test, test.


In my answer to the question, What focal length is used in photos that both model is zoomed in and the background is open, I lucked out and managed to find the exact location where the image in question was taken. I used a combination of Google Maps's Satellite View to narrow down the location, and The Photographer's Transit application to help try to pinpoint the camera's viewpoint to within a few meters.

Essentially, The Photographer's Transit is basically some angle-of-view overlays for adjustable focal lengths, on top of Google Maps. It's really helpful to pre-visualize shots (especially landscapes), or in the linked exapmle, to try to determine the shooter's position to back-calculate probable focal lengths of an image.

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    You can get the vector angle of the location, but as you noted, without knowing the focal length of the original photo, it's hard to pin down the vector length . One of us :-) should generate some geometric diagrams to show the problem; I'm pretty sure that finding the exact location and focal length will require going off-axis and studying the resultant parallax between images. – Carl Witthoft Jan 12 '17 at 14:18
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    While there are certainly photogrammetric solutions to this problem, none of them seems to be easily applicable. Trial and error appears to be the better workflow here +1 – null Jan 12 '17 at 19:06
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    +1 for using Google Earth....you can add a 2-point path from the mountain in the background and interpolate a likely camera location and work your way to a likely point. I do this kind of thing when planning landscape photos and am always stunned by the accuracy of my photo when compared to that generated by google earth. – Knob Scratcher Jan 12 '17 at 21:27

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