The Flathead Valley’s Leading Independent Journal of Observation, Analysis, & Opinion. © James R. Conner.


1 August 2012

Smile: you’re on Trailhead Camera

Updated. Glacier National Park is conducting a visitor use survey that uses trail cameras to photograph objects moving along the trail. Triggered by infrared sensors, and probably employing IR illumination at night, the camera provides the information needed to distinguish critters from hikers.

This technology has been around a while. Because much less visual information is needed to separate humans from animals than to identify humans, the cameras can be defocused so that faces are not recognizable.

In a letter in yesterday’s Daily InterLake, West Glacier resident Rich Mandl, who encountered a member of the research project, said:

I contacted [University of Montana] Prof. Wayne Freimund, the head of the project, to express my out-rage. Since cameras are everywhere, he said he feels it’s no big deal. Security cameras in Walmart, however, are a lot different than cameras on Glacier’s trails. I love this park and resent having my privacy invaded in this manner.

I sent Freimund an email asking if the images were defocused; if so, at what point in the imaging process the defocusing occurred; and whether the defocusing could be reversed by deconvolution. He replied:

1. Yes the cameras are defocused at the time the image is taken so that faces cannot be recognized.

2. The blur is applied when the pictures are taken.

3. I don’t think you could fix it with sharpening software but I have not tested it.

4. I will keep the photos until the data is analyzed and then delete them. I only need the counts from the photos to verify the trail counters, I do not need the pictures after I have those.

So there you have it. The images are defocused from the gitgo and there is no evil intent.