Aerial Photography and Visualisation for Built Heritage - PhD Portfolio by Kieran Baxter
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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Jarlshof Broch KAP Featured in Antiquity Photo Competition

My kite aerial photograph of the Iron Age broch at Jarlshof is one of two winners of the photography competition in the current issue of Antiquity: a quarterly review of world archaeology.

Jarlhof broch from above features in this quarter's Antiquity photo competition

For this vertical shot the camera was positioned directly above one corner of the relatively modern Laird's house to reveal the half circle of the broch remains, which have been partially lost to coastal erosion. If you haven't quite gotten hold of your copy of Antiquity yet, here is the image that was published.

The broch is disguised from the ground by the remains of later structures
From ground level the broch architecture is confused by later a wheelhouse, cells within the thick walls as well and the later Laird's house which cuts through the wall. From above the meticulous engineering and drystone craftspersonship is immediately apparent. This shot was made possible with the assistance of Sumburgh Airport Air Traffic Control who oversaw kite flying so close to a busy airport. The property is in the care of Historic Scotland who also kindly accommodated for the project.

More images and the story behind my interpretive visualization of the spectacular site of Jarlshof are compiled on this page:

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

East Lomond Hill Fort, Glory and Shadow

An early start and a short hike saw me on top of East Lomond Hill just as the sun began to rise, ready to get some kite aerial shots. Approaching the distinctive profile of the hill - which can be seen right across Fife and a good distance beyond - I could see wisps of cloud forming off of the hilltop, visible in this photo.

Approaching East Lomond Hill on foot at dawn
Once the kite and camera were in the air and I was surprised to see this circular "glory" created by the sunlight hitting the low cloud (see this Wikipedia article on the optical effect). This one was particularly striking as the camera rig is too small to cast a shadow on the unbroken circle.

A 'glory' reflected in the low cloud with kite line to the right of frame
The cloud soon cleared to reveal a view looking down upon the earthwork remains of the hill fort (RCAHMS site record here) with West Lomond hill behind, still shrouded in cloud. Also visible in this shot is is the enclosed hillock Maiden Castle (site record here) rising behind the trees (above and to the left of the near summit of East Lomond).

East Lomond hill fort kite aerial photograph
In not-so-perfect conditions this brief window of sunlight picked out the relief and shadow of the site nicely, leaving dramatic skies in the background. I like how the distant shadow provides extra information about the topography, rather like in this high altitude shot of the same site which I took back in March.

East Lomond hill fort photographed from higher altitude
In both images the shadow defines the characteristic profile of the hill, which largely disappears otherwise when seen from above. While the prehistoric earthwork embankments which circle the summit are visible in the low light, I think these images have more to say about the way in which the enclosure dominates it's surroundings.

Good views making up for cold hands
Shooting out of the open window of a fast moving Cessna 172 offers a fleeting (and breezy) vista of the land below. This portrait was taken by photographer Kieran Duncan who assisted on that aerial photography excursion and, it must be said, bore the brunt of the icy cold air flow.