Category: Visualization

Test Flight

Ever since I backed the balloon mapping Kickstarter project, I have been thinking about what to do with the matched pair of visible and infra-red cameras I will receive next month. I’m intrigued by the idea of making NDVI images by combining information from the two cameras. NDVI maps of vegetation can reveal new ecological patterns, but I still have no idea what I might learn with this tool. I have also been thinking about how to deploy the cameras to take aerial photos. The level of my Kickstarter pledge entitles me to a kit with cameras and other things, but it is not yet clear what other things will be included. So when it was 50° a couple of weeks ago and tolerable to work in the garage, I started playing with a piece of one of the aluminum storm window frames that were thrown behind the shed. The goal was to make a cheap, lightweight, self-leveling rig to hold two cameras pointing in the same direction: down.

My Flying GigaPan

It took a couple of weeks for Jeffrey Warren’s message to sink in.  At first I thought his workshop on balloon aerial photography at the Fine gigapixel conference in November promoted a fringe pursuit – lofting cameras on tethered helium balloons to make better maps than were currently available.  But this pursuit emerged from the elegant convergence of modern camera technology and traditional lofting methods (balloons and kites).  It was now possible for anyone to make good, current “maps” from stitched, low-elevation vertical photographs.  Jeffrey is committed to inventing workarounds to the technological and financial obstacles that would otherwise put this process out of reach of the communities that might benefit from good maps.  This was the focus of his thesis at MIT, and he has had great success bringing communities together around these new map images and the experience of making them.  He has made the objective so compelling, and the process so simple and inexpensive that I soon realized I had to try it.

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.)