If there was ever a cache that everyone should try once, pict-o-caches would likely be near the top of the list. They take aspects of several different types of caches and join them together to make a cache that everyone can participate in and enjoy. But how do they work? First, we need to establish what they are…
Pict-o-caches are a class on their own. Taking cues from multi-caches, on-site puzzles, and visual puzzles, these puzzles definitely require an observant eye. Given a location to start at, you are basically guided through a multi-cache not by finding hidden stages with coordinates inside, but by finding things right out in the open. The clues are pictures. Follow the pictures and find the cache. It sounds simple enough.
Let’s look a bit closer. There are two basic methods of doing a pict-o-cache. For the first one, we’ll use a pict-o-cache that 8601 and I both liked. We thought it was a good example of this method. It is the Hastings Pict-O-Cache located in Hastings, NE. In this method, you are given a starting location, usually the cache coordinates themselves. Standing in that location, you have to scan around the area. Somewhere, within your field of view, you would find this:
Obviously, this image shows a brick wall, so you would want to scan for brick buildings. It could be on a building near to you or one in the distance, but it will be in your view. One thing to consider is whether the object is close to the ground or not. If you find a building in your view that has other objects masking it, like vehicles, bushes, or trees, you’ll need to take that into consideration. Once you find the object in the picture, you need to go over to it. Stand next to it, and begin searching for picture number two:
Examining the photo, you at least now that it is near a window. Second, you can also guess that it is at least a second story window based on the ledge. Third, even though it also appears to be on a brick building, don’t assume that it is the same building. So make sure to scan every building in your view. Okay, over there. That’s the window. Let’s move over to it. Time to find number three:
Now, you can be certain that this is the corner of a building, and along the roof. Again, start scanning around, this time paying attention to roof corners that have this style of decoration on it. Wait…over there. Nope, it doesn’t have the streetlamp object visible along the edge of the photo. But, if you look at that other corner of the same building, it does have it. Time to go to stage four.
This is the overall idea of this type of pict-o-cache. It’s nothing more than following the pictures. A few words of advice before you go out after one. First, make sure to print off the pictures, or at least import them into your PDA if you do paperless caching with a PDA that can display images. These caches are next to impossible without the images. Second, consider the weather before going out. You’ll be outside for an extended period, likely more than an hour at minimum, so weather might play a factor. Third, these caches are great caches for group caching or family caching. Everyone can get involved with finding the images, including kids.
But I said that this the above method is just one type of this style of puzzle cache. So what’s the other method? For the other method, I’ll use Krypto Kache, found in Omaha, NE. While still looking for pictures, you are instead given the coordinates for the pictures. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s not. The coordinates are just a list of coordinates with letters assigned to them, and the pictures are numbered. Go to each of the coordinates and figure out which of the photos is found there. Match each coordinate to a picture and you’ll get numbers for the letters. Then fill in the numbers in the provided final coordinates based on the letters and you’ll get the final location for the puzzle. Go to that location and find the cache.
I have not actually gone after one of this method. The one time I came across one I was with 8601 and TC on a weekend trip and we didn’t have the time to spare to go after it as we were more focused on the Delorme/County challenges at the time.
Either method provides an interesting caching experience. But, what if you want to make one? Before you do anything, you’ll need a few things. Obviously, a GPSr to mark coordinates and a ready to go cache container to hide. And duh…a camera to take the photos with. I would also recommend bringing a notebook to keep track of note only the order of the photos, but to match the photos to coordinates and to write notes about the photos. Both of those last two will make sense in a bit.
First, decide which method you want to us. The second method has a bit wider range of options for where you can set it up because you aren’t following images to the hide, but matching images to get numbers to build the final coordinates. Your images can be in a confined area of a few blocks or they can be spread out over a mile wide area. You just need to keep track of which images go with which coordinates.
However, for the first option, there’s a bit more that goes into preparing this. First, you’ll want to find a place to hide the cache. Many of the pict-o-caches I’ve seen are usually found in vibrant urban environments. Urban areas provide a lot of different options for photos that you just won’t find elsewhere. Whether using architecture, window, window displays, vents, signs, lamps, etc., you should have a pluthra of objects to use for photos. Out in a park, you have trees, bushes, plants, trees, bench, lamp, trees…imagine looking at a photo of a tree then looking around you to find a hundred trees that all look like the photo. Case settled.
Once you find a location, grab the coordinates. Now, you have two options. You can find a random starting location and work your way along a path to the final location, taking pictures along the way. Or you can do the same thing, only working backwards through the route. Either way works, but it might be easier to visualize if you work your way forwards through the route. I’ll describe the rest as if you are doing it forwards.
Find a random starting location and grab the coordinates. Then, scan around and find something to take a photo of. Remember, your path can be whatever you want, so don’t feel like you have to always be getting closer to the final location. Also, your photo can be at a distance, or it can be closer to the object you want to photograph. Feel free to mix it up to increase the difficulty, just make sure that what you see in the photograph is at least big enough to see from the previous spot. Another way to increase the difficulty is use only a portion of the photo. For example, instead of using a photo of the entire statue, crop it so that you only see a small portion of it. This also helps to reduce the chances that someone spots stage nine and rushes straight to that spot in the puzzle before they’ve done stages one through eight. This is where the notebook can really come in handy, as you can write down notes about each image in case you want to mess with the images on the computer.
Once you have your photograph, move to that spot. Before you continue, make sure to grab coordinates. You will want to add waypoints for each picture when you list your cache online. This helps the reviewer in two ways. One way is to help them see what route you are having the cacher go. They may see something you hadn’t thought of based on where those stages are that may require fixing. Second, each picture is techniqually a stage in a multi-cache. Multi-cache guidelines require posting the waypoints for each stage. Some reviewers may see it as a puzzle cache and not require the additional waypoints, but trust me that it will be appreciated. Some reviewers will actually require them for the above reasons.
After you have your coordinates, repeat the process until you reach the final location. Now, about the last two photos. The last photo should be close enough to narrow down where the final location is. It doesn’t have to give it away, but definitely get you within 10 – 20 feet. The second to last photo should get you close enough that the last photo makes sense. If the final location is hidden in the skirt of lamp post, and your final location is of the skirt, the second to last photo should not have eight lamp posts in the image. Figure out a way to narrow it down to no more than two, maybe three if they are closer together. You’ll get complaints from cachers if you don’t.
Now that you have all your photos, coordinates for each photo, and have placed the hide, you’re ready to go home. At home, you’ll need to take some time to get everything organized. Hopefully, you took notes of the coordinates for each photo and a description so that you can quickly match things up. Load up your images and start preparing them. I recommend numbering your final images so that you can get them arranged properly. Once you do have them prepared, you’ll need to do one more thing.
When you post this online, you’ll have an easier time displaying the photos if you create an image file that has the photos arranged in order that can be displayed online. Check out both of the linked caches listed earlier to see examples of this. It will make setting up the cache page easier. Also, don’t forget to create additional waypoints for each image. They can be hidden from public view if using the “follow the images” method, or they can be public if using the “match the images” method (you have to list the coordinates anyway for this one). Get everything ready to go and submit.
Congrats, you’ve made your very own pict-o-cache. If you’ve put some time and energy into planning it, and find a great area to do it in, a lot of people will appreciate the work.
PS: A thanks to reviewers *gln and Heartland Cacher for their input on how to submit a pict-o-cache and to Still Searching for letting me use some of the photos on his pict-o-cache. I probably SHOULD say thanks to Team Kryptos, but I didn’t use any of their photos so they’ll just have to be satisfied with their cache being used as an good example of that method. 🙂