High Altitude or Low Altitude Aerial Images? Or the Big Picture versus the Little Picture

At the bottom of this page is a slideshow "Desert Drainages" containing images of various erosion and drainage features, rills, found around the bootheel of New Mexico that have been photographed from an open cockpit weight shift control light sport aircraft at very low altitudes, anywhere from about 20 feet (low pass) to 200 feet. These features have have a number of things in common but he most important commonality is the lack of discernible scale to help the viewer interpret the size of individual features in the photograph. These images are primarily oblique view low level aerial photographs, as opposed to ground based horizontal views, and the lack of scale and camera angle leads to confusion as the brain tries to fit the image into a known category.

Since the start of the space age in 1957 the public has been fascinated by views of the earth from above and NASA has complied with the publication of satellite imagery, first as black and white images and now as false color images. The USGS maintains a website that is devoted to displaying Landsat-7 images of the earth. The Earth as Art has a number of satellite images which are in and of themselves are art.

Compare the following image pairs, in the 4 sets the first image is a landsat-7 or space station image taken from orbit and the second image is a low level aerial photograph taken from less than 200 feet AGL. Note the lack of scale in the low level aerial image creates the impression the low level images were taken from high altitude. Without suitable references the brain interprets the images placing them in a familiar category, namely high altitude images. Fifty feet or 150 miles it's all the same, it's turtles all the way down.


Low level aerial photograph View On Black


Low level aerial image

West Fjords, Iceland

Low level aerial image

Seoul, South Korea

Cities from Space, a low level aerial image

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