Levels of Confusion

Occasionally, when I’m asked to do a HABS HAER or HALS documentation especially when it is a “HABS-like” project, it is specified as to being to one of the following Levels. As far as the photography aspect, there is basically 2 items that differentiate the various levels. Levels I, II, and III all require large format, distortion correcting cameras, anarchically processed black and white film. The difference is in the addition of “photocopies” of drawings and/or historic views. Photocopies as defined by the Secretary of the Interior is a photograph, with a large format negative, of a photograph or drawing.

To further confuse, a “historic view” is a photograph taken a long time ago. Therefore, Level I includes historic photographs and drawings, if available, Level II includes historic views, if available and Level III does not include either. And to get further into the weeds, both are considered “available” if they actually exist and are either copyright free (in the public domain) or the copyright holder has given permission for it to be in the pubic domain. It is up to each contributor to determine the copyright status of all submitted items.

The second differentiator is the use of a scale within the photograph(s). Level I requires that each view contain the scale and a duplicate view without the scale. Thus, the number of deliverable views is doubled.

Level II and III require that the scale be used in a minimum of one view, usually placed at the principal façade. A duplicate without the scale is also required.

Level IV is not considered adequate documentation for HABS HAER HALS and is used as an inventory tool prior to a full documentation.

Level I
Photographs: photographs with large-format negatives of exterior and interior views; photocopies with large format negatives of select existing drawings or historic views where available.

Level II
Photographs: photographs with large-format negatives of exterior and interior views, or historic views, where available.

Level III
Photographs: photographs with large-format negatives of exterior and interior views.

Level IV
Documentation consists of completed HABS/HAER/HALS inventory cards. This level of documentation, unlike the other three levels, is rarely considered adequate documentation for the HABS/HAER collections but is undertaken to identify historic resources in a given area prior to additional, more comprehensive documentation.

How to get started? To get started all we need is a copy of your mitigation requirements pertaining to your HABS HAER or HALS documentation. Federal, State and cities interact with historic preservation mitigation requirements through a number of avenues including National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Section 106, National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Environmental Impact report (EIR), and mitigated negative declaration (MND). We will talk directly with the Planning Dept. to confirm exactly the items needed to fulfill your obligations and move your project along. We have been creating historic documentation for 20 plus years. We are based in the Pasadena area of Los Angeles and have extensive experience creating HABS HAER HALS in Pasadena, Los Angeles, Southern California (So Cal), Northern California (No Cal), Nevada (NV) and Arizona (AZ).

Photography Guidelines

Transmittal Guidelines