Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nevada Geo-gigapix: The Nevada Geologic Gigapixel Photography Experiment

Yes. I love to name stuff. Let's move on.

I finally made it out into the field to try out the gigapan robotic camera mount. Bottom line....sweet, man. This thing is a cinch to use and a kick to watch the first few times. It went so well that I started a new project that will be intimately linked with my too many other projects.

I have been swamped with many things ungeological at the office and could only make it to a local venue for the experiment...a cutbank along the Truckee River bike trail that I map in my mind each time I ride by it. Was hoping for a bigger splash with my first try, but settled on something simple.

After some basic setup procedures (maybe 5 minutes worth), I watched as my old sony digital camera was forced to take a systematic series of 33 pictures. Note that this is a small number and I could have taken 10s more with a higher resolution lens or a more expansive subject. Explore the gigapan site and you will get an idea of the possibilities.

Using the Gigapan stitcher software, I went from the image above to:

The result is a flawlessly stitched image (yes. I added the goofy deckled edge).

Take a minute to visit the hosted image at Gigapan.org to get a better feel why I think this is a great tool for geology. There you can zoom in and pan around and really check stuff out. The alluvial stratigraphy at this site is pretty straightforward, but you can imagine the insightful fun you could have with a particularly complicated exposure, right? Eventually, I will find out if the white bed is a tephra and get some radiocarbon dates on the organic muck horizons. Once I do that, I will tag the online image with the data.

A database of these types of (geotagged and geoannotated) images would be of great value. I need to ask some questions of others much smarter than I as to how I can add annotations and lines that can be turned on and off, etc.

Want to see some absolutely fabulous examples of what can be shown with gigapixel photography? Sure you do. Then check out the brilliant work of Greg Downing and others at xRez:


The images of Yosemite are amazing. Also look for the images of the Eastern Sierra front and the Alabama Hills. Rumor has it that the Grand Canyon is in the offing. I and a group of like-minded digital geoheads are trying to get Greg to show the xRez stuff at the GSA annual meeting in Portland this year. Stay tuned.

Note also that Dr. Ron Schott has many geologically interesting gigapans that are easily found on the gigapan site by searching on 'geology'. For my AZ pals, he has a lot from your turf...why not check them out and provide some insights you may have?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Geo-R[ec]ant on Dead Tree Maps

I have received a lot of input lately...thanks to those who care. I am still enamored with my recent talk title involving the phrase: '...the death knell, yes the death knell, for exclusively paper geologic maps'. But it may have incited some confusion and ire. Please note the intentional insertion of the adjective exclusively. That is a key term here....look it up on Wikipedia (you know, that online resource you dissavow but use all the time).

Maps that are only available in paper form, i.e., Dead Tree Editions (gotta love that one, no?) are of considerably less utility than those that have a viable digital counterpart that can be viewed, analyzed, and widely distributed. Sure, exclusively paper maps are functional, portable, archivable in traditional ways, and fun to hold, but they have a pretty limited application in the 21st century. I stand by that assertion.

That being said, let me enumerate some points:

1. I, yes I, use paper maps in the field. I do not like carrying a computer around at all. Have tried it, don't like it. Hence my enthusiastic endorsement of new digital pen technology that allows for real ink to be applied to real paper only to later be uploaded into a digital form.

The challenge to the modern cartographer is to create aesthetically acceptable analog / dead tree derivatives of digital maps when needed (which, admittedly, is often).

2. I, yes I, love to put paper maps on the wall of my office and garage.

3. I, yes I, have a degree in Geography and Cartography that dates to the days of the freaking Leroy lettering set and very old school ink pen technology.

4. I, yes I, appreciate that some digital maps are inadequately documented in the domain of metadata, but I would like to stress that I have many paper maps that don't come with any metadata or metadata-like data.

I could go on, but you are already tired of me. But wait! I have recently found a post on the OpenGeoData blog (a blog about a digital enterprise that could not be carried out with dead trees) that illustrates some truly novel applications for printed maps. I strongly recommend the links below:


Talk about a hard copy format with obvious potential for science: http://panamap.com/

Here is a map format designed for fools like me who map in the Mohave in the hot season:


Paper maps aren't dead...they just smell funny...especially if you wipe your brow with one while stumbling through the desert.

Your pal,

Dr. Jerque (thats faux French for Jerk...you knew that, right?)