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Geography

Photos in geography

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Geographers can gather a lot of information from the content of photographs, including information about a town, the countryside, a geographical formation or human activity. They may give detailed close-ups or large-scale aerial shots. As photos are common in exam questions, you need to be able to interpret them.

Interpreting photos

Photos may be used to illustrate almost any aspect of geography. You need to be able to identify, describe and interpret the geographical processes that can be seen in a photo. You may be asked to identify or comment on what you can see or to compare the information from a photo with that from a graph or map.

Interpreting photos is about asking questions. Take a look at the picture below. Here are some examples of the sort of question you need to ask about a photo like this:

Walkers in Wasdale, Cumbria

Walkers in Wasdale, Cumbria

  1. What is happening? The obvious answer is that people are enjoying a walk in a mountainous landscape. You could then explain what geographical features make the landscape so remarkable.
  2. What impact does this activity have on local communities and the environment? Looking at these two people near the mountain top, you might think the impact was minimal. But lower down the mountain there may be many more walkers. Large numbers of recreational visitors to this landscape may bring in money and jobs - but might also cause soil erosion [soil erosion: Loss of topsoil due to wind, water or deforestation. ], congestion, pollutionpollution: contamination of the environment, usually by chemicals, disturbance to wildlife and disruption to farming and/or local communities.
  3. How might the impact be reduced? Answers include:
    • restricting access to parts of the mountain
    • building paths and encouraging tourists to stick to them
    • discouraging the development of tourist facilities that are inappropriate or too large-scale
    Bring in your understanding of how tourism can be developed in a sustainable [sustainable: Doing something in a way that minimises damage to the environment and avoids using up natural resources, eg by using renewable resources. ] way.

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