I was enthused recently – last Sunday to be exact, to learn that we have some very good forensic photographers in eastern Canada. People who are objective, thorough, and interested in what they`re doing – trying to get those perfect pictures that portray a traffic accident scene exactly as it is.
(Forensic terrestrial photographers to be exact. In engineering we distinguish between aerial and terrestrial photography, between aerial and land or ground-level photography. The distinction is important because I’m certain that low level aerial photography with drones will soon be in the traffic accident investigator’s tool kit).
This came out – my learning about the photographers and how they do their work, during a meeting Sunday in Amherst, NS, of CATAIR, the Canadian Association of Technical Accident Investigators and Reconstrutionists. They have members in Canada, the USA, Singapore, Australia, and Brazil. Visit www.catair.net
As their website states, CATAIR was “formed in 1984 initially to provide all accident investigators a professional and affordable mechanism in which to meet and share experiences and ideas”. I experienced that sharing in the Amherst meeting as well as a good talk by one member on forensic photography, Ed Goodfellow with the Miramichi, NB police department.
I`ve been trying to attend a CATAIR meeting for about a year and a half because of my work in forensic engineering investigation. I also rely on good and thorough photography. And more recently because of my enthusiasm for the usefulness of low level aerial photographs taken from drones of engineering failure and accident sites. (Ref. 1 and 2)
CATAIR also use a test method in traffic accident investigation that is identical in principle to one that can be used in slip and fall accident investigation. This is the “drag sled” method for testing the skid resistance of floors. I`ve been investigating slip and fall accidents.
Why is a blog on CATAIR important to you?
I’m blogging on this topic because I think it’s important for you to know about CATAIR. Their investigative and photographic standards appear to be very high, way up there. Members get good training, and, sadly, lots of practice considering the frequency of traffic accidents. Investigating and reconstructing accidents is a big part of their work and good photographs are essential.
I also want CATAIR members to know about getting aerial photographs of a traffic accident site from a camera mounted on a drone. Members can get an idea of what is possible with this aerial photographic technique from the photographs inserted in the references accompanying this blog. These cost my client a few hundred dollars for 2.5 to 3.0 hours on site.
Many of CATAIR’s members are existing and former police officers, but engineers in private practice, civil servants from different levels of government, and others also belong. I was invited to join by both their Atlantic regional director, Ken Zwicker, an original member, Nova Scotia, and their current president, Terry C. Lolacher, ACTAR #1297, Alberta.
Ed’s comments indicated that they try very hard to get the pictures that portray the accident scene exactly as it is. To take pictures that capture the evidence. The truth is all that matters; the facts. Forensic photographers don’t process with Photoshop at all. They keep their pictures in digital format, and don’t reduce the size. If too large they send to Dropbox and let the client download from there. I gather this is done in the interest of a client being able to zoom in on a small detail in a photograph and see it clearly.
Apparently, the Holy Grail in forensic photography at accident sites is getting a night picture that shows the scene as an observer would see it. It’s not easy, and I’m not sure they’ve got it yet - the Holy Grail.
I think the Holy Grail’s days are numbered though based on what I experienced in Amherst last Sunday. I also think that CATAIR’s members are going to take traffic accident site photography to another level – no pun intended, when they start taking aerial photographs from drones. And readers are going to want this standard of site photography when its applicable to the investigation of engineering failures and personal injury accidents.
- A picture is worth a 1,000 words, possibly many 1,000s … http://www.ericjorden.com/blog/2014/01/15/a-pictures-worth-a-1000-words-possibly-many-1000s-in-forensic-engineering-with-a-new-aerial-photographic-technique/
- New forensic aerial photographic method … http://www.ericjorden.com/blog/2015/01/30/new-forensic-aerial-photographic-method-proving-extremely-valuable/