Tag: Green Mountains

Kite’s eye view

In the late nineteenth century, hand drawn “bird’s-eye maps” were a revelation to earthly New Englanders. When exotic hot air balloons were the only way to gain such a perspective, enterprising artists just imagined what a bird might see. The customers for these maps lived and worked in the buildings depicted, so these are probably placed with some accuracy, relying on existing maps for data. It is the details of the rest of the landscape that were recorded nowhere else. In the 1889 drawing below, cleared fields, orchards, and shrubby growth nearly to the top of Hogback Mountain confirm the wisdom that in 1850 the entire slope, like others all over Vermont, was probably cleared of trees. Today, the young ages of the trees tell the same story, but an old bird’s-eye view is still a revelation.

Unexpected Panorama

KAP over the Kame terrace from Petri's field

Note the Henry's Handle hanging from the belt. The kite line is cleated to that while I attach the Picavet and run through the pre-launch checklist.

The huge kame terraces in my town support a dry-tolerant forest of oaks, beech, and red maple, and as the new leaves emerge it is easier to tell the species apart at a distance. So I have been hoping to fly a kite over the terraces in early May and see if the trees delineated the terraces. The wind was gusty today, but it was supposed to calm down a bit in the afternoon, so I hiked up the hill and launched the nine foot Levitation delta. It was after 6:00 PM when I first triggered the S95 with the Futaba transmitter, and the light was wonderful even if the wind was not. It mostly cooperated until it slowed down enough to send me running upwind barely fast enough to keep the line out of the trees. But I had 900 feet of line out for a while and the camera was well out of the clearing were it could see the tree tops as I never had.

Photosynth Thesis

A couple of weeks ago I took some photos and video from the KAP rig lofted on the Flow Form 16 kite above a clearing behind the house. I did not get far stitching the images into a panorama, and had to move on to other business. Since then I have used Photosynth, which will not only display stitched panoramas, but the multiple unstitched overlapping images. The photos do not need to be taken from the same place, so KAP images should be well suited. Photosynth will create and display a 3D model of the surfaces in the photographs. The model consists of the points that Photosynth has determined are shared in two or more photos, and the 3D plot of those points based on photogrammetric analysis of the images. You can toggle a display of the point cloud in the Photosynth viewer below.

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.

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).

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.

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.)