ceafinney > benchmarks > FAQ

Photographic Survey of Benchmarks
in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Introduction and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Simple concept: The United States Geological (and Geodetic) Survey placed reference markers of known elevations (“benchmarks”) throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I have a camera. I like to hike.


Are you weird ?
Yes. So is the horse I rode in on (thanks, George).

Are you crazy for doing this ?
Yes. But it's all for a good cause. Documenting our nation's topographical heritage for posterity is one of my greatest contributions to humanity. That, and not procreating (yet).

Don't you have anything better to do ?
Yes. I should be studying for my Ph.D. exams, but graduate students generally are lazy and relish opportunities to take on new adventures unrelated to their field (in my case, chaos engineering). Please don't tell my advisor I've been out hiking.

Are benchmarks hard to photograph ?
Yes. Okay, so usually they are anchored in concrete anchored in solid rock. They certainly don't run away. Finding them is another question. But I tend to get very emotional when I confront an object of such beauty that it's hard to hold the camera still. In theory, though, it doesn't take much talent (which is why I've flubbed it up only a few times).

How did you get the idea to do this ?
Yes. This is a long story. In 1994 December I was talking with my roommate. I think we were discussing haiku. Why ? That's a good question. Anyway, I had this rare flash of brilliance, call it benchmark Zen, when I realized that a wonderful book opportunity awaited in the form of a photographic compendium of all the benchmarks in the GSMNP. I would strike it rich from the royalties ! My original concept was to publish a book. Each benchmark would be centered on a separate page, and four other photographs, one in each compass direction (north, south, east and west) as seen from the benchmark would surround the center photograph. At the bottom of each page would be a haiku expressing my emotional state during the specific photographic excursion. Pure genius !

Does the National Park Service know you're doing this ?
Hopefully not.

Do you think the National Park Service would mind if they found out ?
Maybe. I rather think any Rangers who found out would just ask me why I was doing this, though. I'm not sure about the opinions of higher-level administrators.

Where will the proceeds from your book go ?
To the Park, of course.

Will there ever be any proceeds from your book ?
Probably not. But you may send me money for the privilege and pleasure of viewing this e-book. Please don't tell the University I said this. OK, OK, I'll waive the fee if you won't tell.

Do people really ask these questions (frequently), or did you just make them up ?
Do the voices in my head count as people ?