Recreating A 100 Year Old Photo

by Sep 24, 2019Education, Journal


Note: this article has screenshots from a video of me capturing the picture -> You can check out that video here

I found a picture in an old archive of a waterfall taken 100 years ago (1911)


The Brisbane Water National Park on the Central Coast of Australia is such a beauitful place to be and Somersby Falls is one of the most popular destinations. It’s not hard to see why.
I’ve visited here a number of times over the years and fallen in love with the lush green landscape and powerful water. Whenever there’s rain around Gosford my first thought is how and when can I get to the valley to see the falls.
A hike into the valley takes you to a waterfall which I’ve been obsessed with ever since I realised it was there. The water cascades over the rock shelf and forms a sheet of water. You can walk behind it and capture from every angle. 
Out of curiosity, I occasionally look into old record and picture archives from the Central Coast area to see what everything looked like way back when. Just recently, I came across this little picture of the waterfall. Even crazier, this picture was taken 108 years ago back in 1911!
It’s amazing to think of what an absolute trek it would have been to get down to those falls – bush bashing and abseiling their way through. Now, we have stairs, suspended platforms and paths amongst the trees to help us along. 
I decided to go back to this waterfall after a downpour and try and capture a picture from the same angle of the same place to see what’s changed over the last 100 years and what they look like side by side.

Capturing the image


After hiking down to the waterfall I found a bank of sand which looked like a vantage point very similar to where the image would have been taken. It got me thinking about how easy it was to get there with wooden steps, platforms and a pre formed path through the bush. Compare that to what I’d imagine the absolute trek back in 1911 with the only way of getting down to be bush bashing and having to use ropes – and probably a great deal of ingenuity – to get down the cliff into the valley.


Back to the image – I setup the shot and did the best I could to frame and replicate the shutter speed in the original image. I managed to mostly match up the composition, though because of the recent rainfalls the conditions were a little wetter then they were in the original photo.


ISO 50, 27mm, f16 1/3sec and snap! 


The Question is what’s changed in the last 108 years?

After capturing the shot I was able to clearly see what has changed since 1911 and, to my surprise, there were a few things:

The trees had grown, of course.

The log at the bottom of the waterfall was exactly the same!

Yep that big old hunk of wood hadn’t moved all that time. 

But the biggest impact of all


Of course, trees will change and grow, however, the biggest impact here is from humans, and it’s not in a good way.
From people etching their initials onto trees, graffiti spray painted on rocks, snapping and hanging off branches for fun to leaving crap around like beer bottles, tins of food, even nappies!


As the popularity of a place increases, so will the number of people doing stupid things. Once beautiful locations like the Figure 8 pools in Sydney, Helensburgh Glowworm tunnel and wedding cake rock, have been overrun and damaged. The latter two have even closed down in recent years – so everyone misses out. These are only places local to me in Australia, however the same issue is global.
Personally, I follow the leave no trace principles and I think it would be really helpful to promote and educate people about the philosophy. We should leave these beautiful places better (or at least the same) as the way we found it. I’m not sure how we prevent these places getting trashed and reduce the amount of litter just left around. 
I set out to take a photo and compare it to the natural landscape 100 years apart – but I’ve ended up with this question. What will the falls look like after another 100 years?

Hey! I'm Dale - a landscape photographer from the Central Coast of Australia.

I write about all things photography, life, the universe and everything.

1 Comment

  1. Craig Pinel

    Thank you for sharing. I love your philosophy and I hope you find lot of other old photos to make these comparisons.
    Unfortunately our simple expansion into nature’s abode is our most destructive path.