Photographing Portus

Photography has been extremely important to the Portus Project. The photographic record which has been created as we have been working on the site allows us to re-visit and interpret the excavations at many levels. As well as a vast archive of photographs depicting excavated contexts, sections and objects we also have a substantial collection of images which depict the day to day life of an archaeological excavation.

As part of our October 2012 season at Portus we have been supplementing and expanding this photographic record. As well as conventional photographs we have been using a Gigapan robotic tripod head to capture panoramic views of the site and the excavations. Once processed, these images will allow the archaeological area to be interactively explored by users who will be able to navigate these 3D panoramas. Extremely high resolution images captured at up to 24 megapixels using a Nikon D3X will allow viewers to focus in on the areas and details of the excavation which interest them. This may be a recently excavated building, a wonderfully preserved Trajanic harbour frontage or the tools of the archaeologists or conservators working on site.

Working underground presents a unique photographic challenge: Here we can see myself and James Miles laser scanning a subterranean corridor in the Imperial Palace. The long exposures required to capture a dimly lit scene mean that light and movement take on the form of blurs and shadows.

A lot of the work taking place at the moment has been located in and around the Imperial Palace. This series of buildings (situated at the heart of the Trajanic harbour complex) provides a unique insight into the work and lives of the people who inhabited the harbours and warehouses of Portus. It also represents a fantastic opportunity to document the activities which are taking place at the site today.

Laser Scanning which is currently taking place will produce a unique 3D record of the site. Documenting the laser scanning process in photographs will provide a fascinating insight into high tech capture techniques in the most inaccessible areas of the Imperial Palace.

We have also been lucky enough to witness the efforts of expert conservators, working to stabilise and protect the exposed areas of the buildings. The photographs we are taking will enable us to look back and to see the buildings both before and after this important work has taken place.

The images we are taking will provide an opportunity for people to explore a unique archaeological site for themselves.  As well as allowing viewers to interpret the archaeology we hope that these images capture the character of day to day life on an archaeological site