Aerial Photography and Visualisation for Built Heritage - PhD Portfolio by Kieran Baxter
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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Grounding the Aerial: Presenting at EVA London 2014

Last week I traveled to London for the 25th anniversary Electronic Visualisation and the Arts (EVA 2014) conference. I presented a paper entitled "Grounding the Aerial: The Observer's View in Digital Visualisation for Built Heritage" (full text here). Suitably enough, and never missing an opportunity, I traveled down by plane.

Our high-wing propeller airplane gave some great views from slightly lower than the normal cruising altitude. Pressed against the window, I got this lucky shot as we passed over the town of Ambleside and the end of Lake Windermere in Cumbria.

From the serene calmness at high altitude to the bustle of central London in the height of summer - on arrival the streets where still heaving in the aftermath of the visiting Tour de France.

EVA was held at the headquarters of the BCS, the chartered institute for IT, just off from the Strand. Amongst the demonstrations where these high resolution 3D printed replicas of marble statues and stone tools, produced with stunningly high fidelity (more about this work here).

Another interesting demonstration was this sophisticated pole-mounted photogrammetry rig for photographing and modeling ceilings for conservation. The four cameras are focused and calibrated for a given distance from the ceiling, which is positioned using two intersecting laser beams (full paper here).

I presented my paper "Grounding the Aerial" during a session on "Visualising Landscapes", which ended with a great panel discussion with Daniel Buzzo and Tessa Morrison. Tessa's research used virtual reality models to "test historical utopian cities on a modern audience", while Daniel adopted a creative practice-based approach, using photography to explore "the theory and actuality of the effects of Time Dilation". 

It was great to see Daniel's high altitude time-lapse and photography used as a visual basis for reflection. Air travel happens in a serene, de-situated state that is neither here nor there but in-transit. For example, this photograph from the flight down shows the Solway Firth - Scotland is somewhere to the left of the estuary and England to the right but from up here the observers isn't really anywhere (no topical politics intended!)

I was reminded again of different view that high altitude can provide when I cam across this Sidney Nolan painting in the Tate Modern (full details and image here), where I spent some spare time in London. It's often been commented that the Australian interior is too vast to really represent. Nolan has drawn from his travels across the landscape, including by plane, to present this aerial impression of the desert.