Author: Chris Fastie

A clipboard-free zone

After it warmed up a bit yesterday, I tried out my new digital field protocol on a wildlife tracking transect behind my house. My goal was to record the identity, quantity, and location of large animal tracks in the snow which crossed the path I was walking (my “transect”). I am trying to develop a protocol for purely digital collection of these data.

Three types of data must be collected: date, location, and observation. The date (and time) is easy because most digital data has a time stamp. Collecting location data requires  a GPS enabled device. To collect the wildlife observation information in digital form requires manual data entry (keypad or touchscreen) or audio or video collection. I have seen some smart phone apps which could be bent to this purpose, but I don’t have such a phone, so the easiest route for me is audio, although this will require later translation to textual data.

[Update: I abandoned this three-device protocol after a few trials and now use only the GPS to make waypoints for each observation. The new method is described here.]

Linking the GPS data with the audio observations is the hard part. There are mature protocols for attaching GPS coordinates to image files, but not to audio files, although it should be easy to implement this on a smart phone. I used a digital photo as a link between the GPS data and the audio file. A key component of my protocol is a program which attaches GPS coordinates to photo files and can also associate an audio file with each photo. The program can also create a KMZ file or GIS shapefile which includes the georeferenced audio files. The program is RoboGeo which costs $80. This is the program that I use to georeference photos that I have taken while the GPS is recording a tracklog.

It’s a flock! A crowd! No, a herd!

A few days ago the Wired Science blog at Wired.com embedded the gigapans from the juried gallery show at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The same content also appeared at the Wired Science Japan site, so I used some online translators to see what had been written in Kanji about my hummingbird gigapan.

Here is the text that first appeared at the Wired Science blog:

Don’t let the 40 or so hummingbirds in this panorama fool you. There are really only two. Photographer Chris Fastie called it a “perplexing distortion of reality.” He took 78 photos over the course of a few minutes, then selectively merged them to capture multiple feeding and flying positions of the birds. “Rarely will the local male allow birds other than his mate to use a food source in his territory, so a feeding flock like this is impossible,” Fastie wrote on GigaPan.org.

This caption is a bit of a “perplexing distortion” because: (1) there are only 28 hummingbirds in the image, not “40 or so,” and (2) the 78 photos taken by the Gigapan imager did not include any birds.  An additional 28 photos of hummingbirds (and two of insects) were pasted onto the stitched panorama. This misinformation is partly my fault because my original caption at gigapan.org was not very explicit.  So the people hired to do the translation were already at a disadvantage, like the third person in a game of “telephone.”

Fine Conference

The Fine International Conference on Gigapixel Imaging for Science is winding down and I am really looking forward to the cocktail reception when today’s poster session ends. There is also going to be a raffle for a Gigapan Epic Pro, so there is still much to look forward to.

It has been a real joy to meet lots of people who I knew only through their work online at gigapan.org, many others whose work I hope to know soon, and all the media people who might be incorporating gigapans into their work. It was tremendous fun to see dozens of members of the gigapan community whom I met 18 months ago at my first Fine Outreach for Science Workshop. I have really enjoyed interacting with many people who are more obsessed with gigapixel imaging than I am.

The proceedings papers are now online at http://gigapixelscience.gigapan.org/. A higher resolution PDF of my paper is here. All the presentations were videotaped, so maybe they will be online at some point so I can see the concurrent talks I missed. [UPDATE: Video of my presentation at YouTube.]

The Prezis for my conference talk and the one for my Fine Outreach for Science talk are available online at Prezi.com. These are somewhat sparse in the sense that they are not very self-explanatory, but you might glean something from them if you attended my talks.   Here is the motion bubble chart of my gigapan history that I used in the FOFS Workshop. And here is the kml file of Miss Pixie so you can see the Google Earth verification of the map I made of her locations. Here is a pioneering paper by Adam Dick et al. about mapping trees from 360° panoramas.

Thanks to the GigaPan teams for the tremendous effort they put into this event. It was a huge success.

Roaring Brook

Reese, Leah, Doug, Lindsay, Emily, and Audrey evaluate the old growth status of the surrounding forest.

I joined the University of Vermont Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning graduate student field trip yesterday to the 22,768 acre Giant Mountain Wilderness area in the Adirondacks. The trip was led by Alicia Daniels and focused on the plant community response to a dramatic 1963 landslide and outburst flood which deposited a mile-long debris flow in the Roaring Brook valley. The debris flow and successional puzzle were intriguing, but I was stunned by the old forests on the valley sides. There were hemlocks, red spruce, and sugar maples everywhere that appeared to be 300-400 years old. One increment core of a spruce and one cross section of a hemlock across a trail confirmed 350 year-old trees, but it looked like many others were that old. I have never seen such a majestic stand in Vermont.

Ledge

I never heard the term “ledge” used as a synonym for bedrock before I moved to Vermont. But I once heard a guy in Maryland confirm it was bedrock by saying “Yeah, I think that’s a piece of the state.”

Here is a Google Earth KML file of two ledgey places I visited this week. One was made of Monkton quartzite with some dolomite strata and a rich, unusual plant community, and I accompanied some experts who identified three state endangered species. The other was made of Cheshire quartzite with somewhat less calcium available, and I recently found a lovely grove of pitch and red pines there. A new gigapan of that Pitch Pine-Oak-Heath-Rocky Summit community is included in the KML file.

You can see photos, GPS tracks, and the gigapan by downloading the KML file into Google Earth, or by clicking the link (below the break) to open it in a new browser window, or just use the embedded window at the bottom of the post (Your computer must have the Google Earth browser plugin installed).

Hot list of gigapans

I have been collecting data about the gigapans I upload to gigapan.org ever since I noticed some unexplained behavior in the View counts and Explore Scores of my first public gigapans. Unlike YouTube, Gigapan does not make archival user data publicly available, so it has to be independently collected. Kilgore661 has been doing a great public service by collecting these data for all gigapans for about three years, and you can explore his archive here and use his nifty graphing tools. I have more than a year’s worth of slightly denser data on my own gigapans. Graphs of these data are wildly revealing about the nature of Explore Scores and the inherent differences among gigapans in how they accumulate Views. I hope to show some of these results at the Fine Outreach for Science Workshop in November.

The number of Views and the Explore Score for four of my gigapans for their first three months. Click to enlarge.


Unlike Kilgore661, I wasn’t smart enough to use the gigapan API to automate this process, so I have been screen scraping and I just had to stop. The gigapan API is essentially undocumented, but thanks to Miriam at gigapan and Will at Fastie Systems, I now have a tool that collects the pertinent data on all of my gigapans and makes it easy to paste it into Excel. You can see the tool in action here, and learn how to install it on a Web page to fetch the information about your own gigapans.

Creepy and Cute

In Pittsburgh at the Fine International Conference on Gigapixel Imaging for Science in November, there will be a gallery show in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History of huge prints of eight gigapixel images. One of these will be a gigapan of my backyard patch of bergamot surrounded by an unnatural swarm of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. You can see the gigapan here. The detail included below is about 4% of the area of the entire gigapan which will be printed about six feet wide.

The image integrates moments during three different visits by a male and female hummingbird.


Click the image to enlarge.

Gigapans in Google Earth KML tours

I have incorporated some gigapans into Google Earth KML tours and tried three ways to share the tours with others: embedding, KML preview, and downloading.  There is not a clear winner. An earlier post has examples of all three methods.

A Google Earth KML (keyhole markup language) file can contain placemarks, paths, and polygons, but it can also include a tour in which recorded navigation movements (flying around) and an audio track can be played back. If a gigapan is included in a KML file which also includes a tour, the user can see where the gigapans are on the landscape and see previews of the gigapans. When the KML tour is stopped, clicking once on the gigapan icon (or the translucent panorama) opens a popup bubble with a thumbnail and the entire description from gigapan.org. Double clicking on the gigapan icon (or translucent panorama) flies you into the panorama just as the “View in Google Earth 4.2+” link at gigapan.org does. The recorded KML tour itself cannot include flying into a gigapan; that part does not seem to play back properly.

Town Forest KML tour

Below is an embedded Google Earth KML tour which introduces the relationship between the Salisbury Town Forest and some glacial features. It includes a two minute flying tour with audio narration. Your computer must have the Google Earth browser plugin installed to play the tour.

Click here to open the KML tour in a new browser tab. Then click the “Play Tour” button (upper right) to start the tour. Your computer must have the Google Earth browser plugin installed to play the tour. (Note: If you enter a gigapan, the “Exit Photo” button is partly hidden under the “Terrain” button. Click the exposed edge of it to exit the gigapan.)

The controls at the lower left of the tour window can be used to stop and start the tour, and when the tour is stopped you can navigate around the landscape and view the photos and gigapans. The links within the gigapan popups are not a good way to view the gigapans.

Kame terrace KML tour

Below is an embedded Google Earth KML tour which introduces some features of KML tours. It includes a two minute flying tour with audio narration.

The controls at the lower left of the tour window can be used to stop and start the tour, and when the tour is stopped you can navigate around the landscape and view the photos and gigapans. The links within the gigapan popups are not a good way to view gigapans.

Click here to open the KML tour in a new browser tab. Then click the “Play Tour” button (upper right) to start the tour. (Note: If you enter a gigapan, the “Exit Photo” button is partly hidden under the “Terrain” button. Click the exposed edge of it to exit the gigapan.)

Mount Abe Hike

The Google Earth KML tour below shows the hike Galen and I took on July 6, 2010 to the top of Mount Abraham in Vermont. The tour can be started and stopped using the controls at the lower left. The entire tour lasts 75 seconds and has no audio. When the tour ends, you can fly around the landscape, click on the photos to view them, and double click the Gigapan to fly into it. The links within the gigapan popup are not a good way to view the gigapan in an embedded tour.

Click here to open the KML tour in a new browser tab. Then click the “Play Tour” button (upper right) to start the tour. (Note: If you enter a gigapan, the “Exit Photo” button is partly hidden under the “Terrain” button. Click the exposed edge of it to exit the gigapan.)