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Photo Project: Physical Geography Processes
20 Points, 4 Photographs, 4 Paragraphs
Introduction
The physical geography processes discussed in class and in your text are not only found in exotic
locations, but also in our own immediate environment. Being able to recognize physical processes
in the landscape is an important goal in this course.
In this assignment, you will practice your skills of geographic observation and apply concepts and
topics that you have learned in any component of GEOG 101 Physical Geography to describe the
physical features, landforms, and processes. To better achieve this goal, I would like to hear
from you, in writing, about your favorite landform or a fascinating place you have visited. In your
day-to-day life and in your travels, you have likely been intrigued by interesting landscapes,
landforms, weather patterns, etc. in your surroundings. An understanding of Physical Geography
allows us to appreciate these phenomena in a different way, as we begin to understand the
processes that create the features that we see. Whether it be a magnificent canyon with layers upon
layers of striations, or rain that falls but never quite reaches the ground, Physical Geography is
everywhere.
Remember – the purpose of your photo essay is to illustrate and describe the unique physical
features and processes. Don’t take a picture of dew and say “It’s humid”. I know that, why did the
dew form & what is it telling us?
If you have no idea which unique physical feature or landform to pick, think about a place you have
been where you were amazed at the natural physical surroundings. Think about a place in which
you wanted to know more about how the landform came to be! If in doubt, please ask your
instructor.
Topics
1. Earth/Sun Relationships (Declination of the sun) – For example, you can take a photograph
of something with shadows and explain why and how the shadow length will vary throughout
the year. Please note that this concept is not the same as day length.
2. Humidity – Either high or low humidity. Also explain what humidity is.
3. Temperature Inversion Layer OR Lifting Condensation Level (LCL) – The inversion layer
(temperature increases with height) is unpredictable, bring your camera with you when you
are out and about. LCL is common at times (e.g., clouds are formed) when inversions are not.
4. Rocks – Identify the rock type, how it formed why you classified it as such. It would be better if
you used exposed bedrock where you can actually touch it as that will aid in the identification
process.
5. Atmospheric Lifting Mechanisms – There are four types; orographic lifting is easy is identify.
6. Weather – Describer the weather for a particular day – you might want to include newspaper
or online weather information for that date. What were the contributing factors to that day’s
weather?
7. Climate – Do not just take a picture of nice weather. What is our climate and how does the
vegetation reflect this? No palm tree or oak or cactus pictures for this or #8. I want to see the
whole landscape.
8. Climate Inappropriate – What vegetation/landscaping is NOT appropriate for our climate and
why?
9. Earthquakes – Do not just take a photo of a crack in the ground and say “earthquake.” Why do
we have earthquakes?
10. Mass Wasting/Movement – Identify type of mass wasting and cause.
11. Stream Processes – Not just take a pretty picture of stream, I want a process: transportation,
erosion, bedload …
12. Coastal Processes – Not just a pretty picture of the beach, I want a process: sea stacks, spits,
tombolos, coves, etc.
13. Free Choice – This can be any topic relating to physical geography that is not found above. Be
sure to describe the process that created it.
Requirements
• Choose from a variety of topics (see above), then compile or take four original
photographs that you find interesting and that remind you of something you have learned in
GEOG 101. With each photo, include a typed description of the components/ processes of
physical geography as you perceive them in the photograph.
• Out of the 4 photographs:
o One photo is limited to Maryland and taken (by you) during the current semester or
within the past two years. You may use a digital camera or your cell phone to take photos
and include those pictures in your report.
o The other three photos can be captured from anywhere, any countries, or any regions.
These can be photos from your trip or any fascinating places you would like to visit.
• Each photo will have a typed description and paragraph analysis (See examples at the end of
this document). Photo information will include the location, date and time of photo in addition
to the specific text chapter of the topic being shown. The analysis will include a definition (in
bold) or explanation of the topic and a detailed description/analysis of how the photo
represents the topic. Any information from the text or other source must be properly cited.
The more insightful the analysis the higher the project grade.
Note: For the photos taken in Maryland, you will want to be mindful of Maryland’s particular
geography in your discussion of the topic.
• You may need to use outside resources for information specific to State of Maryland. Any
information from the text or other sources must be properly cited.
• Audience – Write for a college audience who has taken GEOG 101 Physical Geography.
What to submit
A report containing 4 photo essays. Your report should not be more than 4 pages in length
(including photos and references), all single-spaced, one-inch margins all around, and of 12-point
type-size (in Times New Roman). Turn in a digital copy (either in a MS Word or a pdf format) via
DigitalDropbox on Blackboard. I will not accept Emailed papers!
References
If you research the topic from other sources (e.g., book, magazine, journal article, reliable on-line
source, etc.), you must list the sources for all references you used to write your paper in this section.
NO WIKIPEDIA!
For citing references in your paper, you should use parenthetical (e.g., parentheses) citations in this
format: (author(s) last name(s), year, page number(s)). As examples:
The valley was partially blocked by a landslide in 1987 (Smith and Wilson, 1989, p. 45).
OR
Smith and Wilson argue that the landslide of this magnitude occurs approximately
every 10,000 years (1987, p. 45).
If your citation is a web page, then use the author of the web page or title of the web page
and year. Do NOT place the full URL in your text.
Obviously, you can use your textbook for definitions and as a source to find more information
on your landform. All I ask is that you do not use your book as your sole written reference
(citation) source.
Helpful Hints
1. If you are stuck for ideas, remember that Physical Geography is everywhere you look. You
need not have been to the Grand Canyon or taken a picture of a meandering river from an
airplane to find interesting geographic processes at work. These processes also occur as much
in areas that are ‘untouched’ by humans as they do where humans have the greatest impact.
Erosion and mass movements occurs in open pit mines, ecological succession occurs in cities
and towns. You could even find 2 processes to describe on the TU campus.
2. Pay attention in lectures. Take note if the lecture reminds you of something you have seen.
Photos are used throughout lectures that may give you ideas of how lecture topics are linked to
what we see on Earth.
3. Browse your textbook for ideas. For example, note the variety of discussion questions with a
photo in the textbook.
Grading
Your job is to convince me that you understand the processes that could lead to the features in your
photographs, not that you can simply research and regurgitate information about a phenomenon or
place. To illustrate the depth of your understanding, focus on what can be seen in the photograph
and make specific reference when possible to components within the photo (See examples at the
end of this document for a brief description of the physical feature/landform).
All essays will be graded on the following criteria:
• Photos are clearly presented, including all data and descriptive information.
• Follow instructions; format follows sample given below; and include bibliography.
• A variety of topics from class are illustrated from a variety of locations.
• Appropriate terminology is defined.
• Analysis is insightful and clearly related to information covered in class and text.
• Description should not be simply repeating what the text says. This is plagiarism too, by
the way.
Do not plagiarize
Avoiding plagiarism is easy; just be sure to give all sources and ideas that are not your credit! No
copying verbatim from the Internet, magazines, books, or your friends. For the assignment, you will
be submitting your work through SafeAssign. SafeAssign is a computer algorithm, that compares
the text of your assignment to millions of other textual sources to find any commonalities (in other
words, to find out if plagiarism has occurred).
You need to receive less than a 15% on your overall SafeAssign score for your assignment to be
graded (30% or lower if the plagiarized materials are your references or correctly cited passages).
Failure to fix plagiarism issues will result in docked points and/or a 0 (zero) on this assignment.
I want no more than 5% of your essay quoted in someone else’s words. If you have more
than 5% quoted in someone else’s words, 1-2 points will be deducted from your score.
Penalties for plagiarism will cause you to receive a zero on the assignment.
(See http://www.towson.edu/provost/resources/studentacademic.asp for TU Student Academic
Integrity Policy). Finally if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
Examples of photo description and analysis (these are just an average description)
Topic:
Chapter:
Date:
Location:
Description:
Mass Wasting
Chap 10 Weathering & Mass Movement
Feb 23, 2014
Ortega Hwy, Mile 4, Orange County, California
Landslide
Analysis:
Ortega Highway cuts east out of Orange County through the mountains and along the
way the slopes are steep and subjected to mass wasting. The material tumbled down the slope in a
process known as a landslide. A landslide typically occurs in area with steep slopes as is the case here.
Recent rains would have lubricated and added weight to the slope though there was apparently
limited mudflow in this event. Road cuts may have also steepened the slope encouraging mass wasting.
This landslide was a quick event (as opposed to creep) and will be quickly cleared by CalTrans. One
can assume though that given the topography along Ortega that this event may likely re-occur.
Topic:
Chapter:
Date:
Location:
Description:
Atmospheric Lifting Mechanisms
Chap 5 Atmospheric Water and Weather
July, 2011
Bernese Alps, Switzerland
Orographic Effect
Analysis: I took this photo in July 2011 in the Bernese Alps
(in Switzerland). Behind the small peak (approximate
elevation 1950 m. above sea level) in this photo is the town
of Interlaken. Although snowy days are not common in this
region in the middle of summer, it is not especially
surprising that snow fell at high elevations. The air was
unusually cool in the lowlands that week. As the air mass
was forced (over the mountain) to higher elevations, it
expanded in volume and therefore lost even more heat
(orographic effect), and in this case resulted in snow.
This photo was taken in the middle of the day, a few hours after snowfall ceased. The pattern in this
snowfall (on one side and not the other) is due to the aspect (direction the slope is facing) of the hill.
The right side is facing NW and the left side is facing SE. Both slopes would have received similar
snowfall in the morning, but because the South facing slope receives more sun (because the Alps are in
the northern hemisphere) and primarily from the east by mid-day (because the sun rises in the east)
the snow is melting faster on the SE slope. This pattern may also affect biogeography on a macro scale,
as sun loving plants such as the tall yellow flowers will be more successful on the SE slope. The
biogeography of the slope is also affected by the slope angles. The trees seem to be clustered where
the slope is not so steep (e.g. on rocky outcrops) even though there is soil on the slope below.
Topic:
Chapter:
Date:
Location:
Description:
Stream Processes
Chap 11 River Systems and Landform
January, 2012
Near the Thames River, Delaware
Floodplain
Analysis: This picture was taken in January, 2012, just a bit
north of Delaware hall beside the Thames river (the Thames
is off to the right of this picture). Even though there’s a
blanket of fresh snow, you can still see differences in
topography and vegetation in this picture. There is a lot of
debris in this picture because it is in the floodplain, which is a
low-lying area near a stream channel. Therefore, much of the
debris was deposited there during high flood waters by the
river. When the river water recedes, debris gets trapped in
the trees, building up over time. In the middle of the picture,
you can see a dry river channel. The lack of vegetation (even
opportunistic grasses) in the channel indicates that it is often
an active channel, perhaps annually during snowmelt and
during flooding.
Topic:
Chapter:
Date:
Location:
Description:
Stream Processes
Chap 11 River Systems and Landform
Summer, 2012
The Inn River, Austria
Meandering Stream
This photo was taken looking upstream at the Inn River in
Austria in 2012. The photo is taken at a meander, so that
the highest velocity at this point is on the channel in the left
of the photograph. The rocks in the exposed mid-channel
bar are all smooth from the eroding action of the water.
They are also all a similar size, as the velocity of the river
when it traveled over the bar during higher flow was strong
enough to pick up smaller grains into the bed load and
suspended load. The channel on the right is slower moving,
as is typical on the inside bend of a meander. A sandy point
bar can be seen on the inner bend in the middle of the
photograph (which attracts ‘beach goers’).
The water on the inner bend is at a lower velocity, allowing smaller grain materials to accumulate (a
depositional feature). The water color is turquoise-ish white. This is likely due to high suspended load
of finely ground rock or glacial flour, which reflects and scatters light.
The mountain in the background has trees until the elevation is too steep for soil to develop and for
trees to take root. It’s not a climatic treeline (tree growth is not limited by moisture or temperature)
because there are trees growing at the top of the mountain.

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