Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wootton bridge collapse and forensic photography

The camera has a long history as a means of recording phenomena from the first use by Daguerre and Fox-Talbot, such as astronomical events, eclipses for example, small creatures and plants when the camera was attached to the eyepiece of microscopes (photo-microscopy) and for macro photography of larger specimens. The camera also proved useful in recording crime scenes and the scenes of accidents such as the Wootton bridge collapse on 11 June 1861. The rail bridge at Wootton collapsed under the weight of a passing goods train on the line between Leamington Spa and Kenilworth owned by the London and North Western Railway Company.

For the first time, under the orders of the courts, photos were taken to record the scene using both long distance shots and close-ups of the debris. The photographs were used in courts of inquiry, and the technique is now commonplace in courts of law. Then photographs were made on a large plate camera with a small aperture and using fine grain emulsion film on a glass plate. When the positive prints are scanned at high resolution, they can be enlarged to show details of the components. The methods used in analyzing old photographs are collectively known as forensic photography.

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