Overview

People have acquired aerial photographs ever since the means have existed to lift cameras above the Earth's surface, beginning in the mid-19th century. Human desire to see the Earth "as the birds do'' is strong for many practical and aesthetic reasons. From rather limited use in the 19th century, the scope and technical means of aerial photography expanded throughout the 20th century. The technique is now utilized for all manners of earth-resource applications from small and simple to large and sophisticated.

Aerial photographs are taken normally from manned airplanes or helicopters, but many other platforms may be used, including balloons, tethered blimps, drones, gliders, rockets, model airplanes, kites, and even birds (Tielkes, 2003). Recent innovations for cameras and platforms have led to new scientific, commercial, and artistic possibilities for acquiring dramatic aerial photographs (Fig. 1-1).

The emphasis of this book is small-format aerial photography (SFAP) utilizing 35- and 70-mm film cameras as well as compact digital and video cameras. In general terms, such cameras are typically designed for hand-held use, in other words of such size and weight that amateur or professional photographers normally hold the camera in one or both hands while taking pictures. Such cameras may be employed from manned or unmanned platforms ranging in height from just 10s of meters above the ground to 100s of kilometers into space. Platforms may be as simple as a fiberglass rod to lift up a point-and-shoot camera, as purpose-designed as a remotely controlled blimp for vertical image acquisition, or as complex as the International Space Station with its

Radio Controlled Blimp Images

FIGURE 1-1 Vertical view of abandoned agricultural land dissected by erosion channels near Freila, Province of Granada (Spain) during a photographic survey taken with a hot-air blimp (left of center) at low flying heights. The blimp is navigated by tether lines from the ground; camera functions are remotely controlled. Its picture was taken with a compact digital camera in continuous shooting mode from an autopiloted model airplane following Google Earth-digitized flight lines at ~ 200 m height. The takeoff pad at right is 12 x 8 m in size. Photo by C. Claussen, M. Niesen, and JBR, September 2008.

Small-Format Aerial Photography

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

FIGURE 1-1 Vertical view of abandoned agricultural land dissected by erosion channels near Freila, Province of Granada (Spain) during a photographic survey taken with a hot-air blimp (left of center) at low flying heights. The blimp is navigated by tether lines from the ground; camera functions are remotely controlled. Its picture was taken with a compact digital camera in continuous shooting mode from an autopiloted model airplane following Google Earth-digitized flight lines at ~ 200 m height. The takeoff pad at right is 12 x 8 m in size. Photo by C. Claussen, M. Niesen, and JBR, September 2008.

Small-Format Aerial Photography

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Nadir Window

FIGURE 1-2 Artist's rendition of the International Space Station following installation of its nadir-viewing optical-quality window in 2001. Arrow (A) indicates position of nadir window. Image adapted from Johnson Space Center Office of Earth Sciences (Image JSC2001e00360) <http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/>.

Nadir Window

FIGURE 1-2 Artist's rendition of the International Space Station following installation of its nadir-viewing optical-quality window in 2001. Arrow (A) indicates position of nadir window. Image adapted from Johnson Space Center Office of Earth Sciences (Image JSC2001e00360) <http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/>.

specially designed nadir window dedicated to Earth observation (Fig. 1-2).

SFAP became a distinct niche within remote sensing during the 1990s and has been employed in recent years for documenting all manners of natural and human resources (Warner et al., 1996; Bauer et al., 1997). The field is ripe with experimentation and innovation of equipment and techniques applied to diverse situations. In the past, most aerial photography was conducted from manned platforms, as the presence of a human photographer looking through the camera viewfinder was thought to be essential for acquiring useful imagery. For example, Henrard developed an aerial camera in the 1930s, and he photographed Paris from small aircrafts for the next four decades compiling a remarkable aerial survey of the city (Cohen, 2006).

This is still true for many missions and applications today. Perhaps the most famous modern aerial artist-photographer, Y. Arthus-Bertrand, produced his Earth from above masterpiece by simply flying in a helicopter using hand-held cameras (Arthus-Bertrand, 2002). Likewise, G. Gerster has spent a lifetime acquiring superb photographs of archaeological ruins and natural landscapes throughout the world from the open door of a small airplane or helicopter (Gerster, 2004).

The most widely available and commonly utilized manned platform nowadays is the conventional fixed-wing small airplane, employed by many small-format aerial photographers (Caulfield, 1987). Among several recent examples, archaeological sites were documented for many years by O. Braasch in Germany (Braasch and Planck, 2005), and by Eriksen and Olesen in northwestern Denmark (2002). In central Europe, Markowski (1993) adopted this approach for aerial views of Polish castles. Barta and Barta (2006), a father and son team, produced stunning pictures of landscapes, villages and urban scenes in Slovakia.

In the United States, Hamblin (2004) focused on panoramic images of geologic scenery in Utah, and D. Maisel has sought out provocative images of strip mines, dry lake beds, and other unusual landscape patterns in the western

FIGURE 1-3 Closeup vertical view of elephant seals on the beach at Point Piedras, California, United States. These juvenile seals are ~ 2 to 2.5 m long, and most are sleeping on a bank of seaweed. People were not allowed to approach the seals on the ground, but the seals were not aware of the photographic activity overhead. The spatial detail depicted in such images is extraordinary; individual pebbles are clearly visible on the beach. Kite aerial photograph taken with a compact digital camera. Photo by SWA and JSA, November 2006.

FIGURE 1-3 Closeup vertical view of elephant seals on the beach at Point Piedras, California, United States. These juvenile seals are ~ 2 to 2.5 m long, and most are sleeping on a bank of seaweed. People were not allowed to approach the seals on the ground, but the seals were not aware of the photographic activity overhead. The spatial detail depicted in such images is extraordinary; individual pebbles are clearly visible on the beach. Kite aerial photograph taken with a compact digital camera. Photo by SWA and JSA, November 2006.

United States (Gambino, 2008). In one of the most unusual manned vehicles, C. Feil pilots a small autogyro for landscape photography in New York and New England of the United States (Feil and Rose, 2005). An ultralight aircraft is utilized for archaeological and landscape scenes in the southwestern United States by A. Heisey (Heisey and Kawano, 2001; Heisey, 2007).

Unmanned, tethered or remotely flown platforms are coming into increasingly widespread use nowadays. This book highlights such unmanned systems for low-height SFAP, including kites, blimps, and drones. Representative recent kite aerial photography, for example, includes C. Wilson's (2006) beautiful views of Wisconsin in the United States, E. Tielkes's (2003) work in Africa, and N. Chorier's magnificent pictures of India (Chorier and Mehta, 2007). Such imagery has large scale and exceptionally high spatial resolution that depict ground features in surprising detail from vantage points difficult to achieve by other means (Fig. 1-3). These photographic views bridge the gap between ground observations and conventional airphotos or satellite images.

Digital Cameras For Beginners

Digital Cameras For Beginners

Although we usually tend to think of the digital camera as the best thing since sliced bread, there are both pros and cons with its use. Nothing is available on the market that does not have both a good and a bad side, but the key is to weigh the good against the bad in order to come up with the best of both worlds.

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