DTDFU

Ken Nelson shows us how to date - order images


KEN NELSON of Seattle is a well known Daguerreotype collector and historian. He has done extensive research on images of Niagara Falls. In this talk, Ken shared his inspirations and results with us so we could apply similar concepts to date other famous locations. Most of the images shown on this page were taken at various time from the same location - Prospect Point on the American side which looks across the top of the American Falls at the Horse Shoe Falls in Ontario. The main photographer using this site was Platt D. Babbitt who set up a pavilion to hold his equipment.

By checking changes in foliage and buildings, Ken was able to rank images by age. The few dated images and paintings served as benchmarks. Certain trees and bushes appear in many of the pictures and appear to slowly disappear through the ravishes of time.

Ken traced key elements of the falls in early images and made modern images with a similar lens. This analysis showed two things: The spot Babbitt used still exists near a parking lot. His pavilion was there and not farther forward on the portion of Prospect Point which fell into the Niagara Gorge some years after his death. And Babbitt seems to have used only one camera at one fixed position. Variations in images can be explained as the use of different size camera backs for the top price or economy price souvenir images.

ABOUT THE IMAGES
These images were snapped from the projection screen with a Nikon 990 and adjusted in Adobe Photoshop. Any lack of focus is due to my struggle to handhold the camera to take the images.

Popular Falls View
A typical shot from Prospect Point. Babbitt's decision to take many shots from this spot led to the DTDFU concept (to learn what DTDFU means, catch Ken Nelson's talk at another venue :-) 

Same Site Later
Seven Guys

These shots show the same backdrop of the falls with other people in the foreground.

The Secret Idea
This picture shows a group of trees (green circle) that can be traced through many pictures and gave rise to the means to time line the images and the meaning of the title of Ken's talk.

Key Bush
This bush (shown in the green circle) also appears in many images in various stages of disintegration aiding the dating of some images.

Famous Wedding
That Bush Again
...and again

This image of the wedding of an American Millionaire allowed Ken to correlate a date with the condition of the bush so other pictures could be tagged as earlier or later shots.

Maid of the Mist
This is the earlier (two stack) version of the famous boat. Knowing when it ceased operation can help target a range of dates. The boat appears in both photos and paintings. The paintings are usually dated, helping to confirm other objects that have appeared/disappeared from Niagara scenes over the years.

Outcroppings
Buildings

Physical elements of the area like Prospect Point often appear in images. Knowing when these geographic elements changed (eg fell into the Gorge) can also aid in dating. Towers and buildings also come and go in the scenes. This is the pavilion that Babbitt built for his business.

Sketch
And this is one of the sketches used by Ken to compare old and new images to verify the camera position and focal length used for an image.

Bob Carter

Photos

Ken Nelson

Popular Falls View

Same Site Later

Seven Guys

The Secret Idea

Key Bush

Famous Wedding

That Bush Again

...and again

Maid of the Mist

Outcroppings

Buildings

Sketch to compare


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