Summary

Aerial photography shares many common attributes with ground-based photography. However, the bird's-eye view afforded by small-format aerial photography opens new vistas for image composition. Most important is a consideration of toplighting for illuminating the ground scene as viewed from above. For high-oblique views, generally the horizon should be nearly level and little sky should be visible. For vertical views, shadows are often critical; for best effect, shadows should fall from the upper-left toward the lower-right corner of the image.

FIGURE 5-20 High-oblique view across an ephemeral lake and prairie landscape. Dry Lake, western Kansas, United States. Kite aerial photo by JSA and SWA, May 2007.

FIGURE 5-21 Vertical shot of raised bog displaying autumn color. This picture won the photography award in the Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge from the U.S. National Science Foundation (AAAS/NSF 2005). Field of view ~ 100 m across. Mannikjarve Bog, Estonia. Kite aerial photo by SWA and JSA, September 2001 (see Aber et al., 2002).

FIGURE 5-21 Vertical shot of raised bog displaying autumn color. This picture won the photography award in the Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge from the U.S. National Science Foundation (AAAS/NSF 2005). Field of view ~ 100 m across. Mannikjarve Bog, Estonia. Kite aerial photo by SWA and JSA, September 2001 (see Aber et al., 2002).

Linear features, both straight and curved, draw the viewer's eye into the picture, and the placement of linear objects has a strong influence on the overall visual impact of the image. Patterns, especially at different scales or combined with other elements, may be an important aspect for making an image interesting and enjoyable to the observer. Color is the fundamental basis of image recognition, and much quantitative research and qualitative evaluation have been done on this subject. In general, people react more favorably to warm (red, orange, yellow) colors than to cool (blue, green, violet) colors; warm colors stand out and may create a pseudo depth perception. The combination of multiple visual elements creates the most dramatic photographs from an aesthetic point of view.

Photographs differ in several significant ways from human vision. In general, humans have greater field of view, latitude (light to dark), and color range. Furthermore, humans normally perceive the world in stereoscopic vision from ground level. Small-format aerial photographs represent a permanent image record, whereas, human vision is stored in memory that cannot be reproduced fully or accurately for analysis or sharing with others.

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