Aerial Photography and Visualisation for Built Heritage - PhD Portfolio by Kieran Baxter
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Monday, 20 October 2014

White Caterthun hillfort: Work in progress on a speculative reconstruction for my research film "The Caterthuns"

I've been sketching up some ideas of how to show a speculative reconstruction of the lost structures at White Caterthun hillfort. Here is a work in progress, where I have roughed in a series of palisaded enclosures and the large timber-laced wall. I've left the surrounding landscape as it looks in the current day.

A speculative reconstruction of the enclosures at White Caterthun hillfort.
A kite aerial photograph of the current day monument.
The image represents my own reading of the excavation report and RCAHMS record (linked here), with a good deal of added conjecture! I'm really keen to hear any thoughts and suggestions on this, particularly from the archaeologically-minded. I'm working with Alice Watterson to realise this speculative reconstruction into a three-dimensional visualisation as part of my upcoming research film "The Caterthuns".

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Kite Aerial Photography on the Isle of Skye

During a weekend away on Skye I managed to fit some kite flying around the temperamental hebridean weather. Relatively remote and undeveloped, the island offers some fantastic built heritage from prehistoric to modern.

A brief moment of evening light illuminated this shot of Dun Beag broch near the village of Struan. The two layers of drystone wall would have helped to support a much greater height than stands today. The upper portion has collapsed and remains as a pile of rubble visible at the bottom of the frame while the Cuillin mountain range can be seen in the distance.

Neist Point lighthouse was another superb location fro KAP on an exposed peninsular sticking out into the Sea of the Hebrides. To get this position a little maneuvering around the sea cliffs as shown in this shot looking back down the kite line. I'd like to say that this was very much safer than it looks in the photograph!

We also visited a onc of the clearance villages of particular research interest to my PhD colleague Kiera Shackleton, who arranged the trip. Low angled sunlight revealed the traces of rig and furrow field systems around the ruins of a farmstead in the photo below, taken near Ramasaig.

With no wind for kite flying on this occasion this is a place that, along with similar highland clearances sites, I would like return to and work with in future.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Big Dig: Excavations and kite photography workshops at East Lomond hillfort

As part of the The Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership (website here) the Big Dig, a community excavation, has been investigating the south slopes of East Lomond hillfort in Fife. A series of hut-circle-like structures, which first showed up in geophysical survey, have been uncovered and appear to form an extensive settlement area annexed to the hillfort.

The two trenches with the distant West Lomond hill behind.
I was commissioned to demonstrate kite aerial photography (KAP) and to record some aerial views of the site by Dr Oliver O’Grady of OJT Heritage on behalf of the Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership as part of the Discover the Ancient Lomonds Project (project blog here). The event was supported by Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and New Park Educational Trust.

A near vertical kite aerial photograph of the main trench.
Situated high above the relatively flat Fife, East Lomond offers fantastic views in all directions from the Bass Rock in East Lothian all the way to the Grampian Mountains to the north. The excavations themselves were just as captivating with some enigmatic structures and stone settings accompanied by many interesting finds. While I was on site one of the student diggers came across a well preserved spindle whorl, part of a device for producing yarn for fabric, within an Iron Age context.

An orthographic view of the east side of East Lomond hill.
I used a rotating KAP rig and structure from motion (SFM) photogrammetry to build this topographical model of the area around the dig and the summit of the hillfort. This is a composite of a colour orthophoto and orthographic rendering of the structure data with low-level lighting used to pick up the topography.

In high wind those marquees could have almost served as big extra kites!  
As well as site recording I spent the morning delivering talks and workshops to school groups who were keen to learn about how aerial photography is used by archaeologists, but a little more interested in having a go with the kite. This is one of the shots taken by the students as another group works on excavating the trench. Extra KAP kits were very kindly donated by John Wells of the fantastic Scottish National Aerial Photography Scheme (website here).

The Big Dig with East Lomond hillfort behind.
Many thanks go to the organisers and volunteers who made the Big Dig happen. Events like this are great for raising awareness of the fantastic landscapes which hold the stories of our past, and with any luck we have gone a small way in inspiring the next generation of archaeologists and aerial photographers!