Aerial Photography and Visualisation for Built Heritage - PhD Portfolio by Kieran Baxter
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Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Noltland to Newcastle: Visualising travel and arrival at Links of Noltland and the Further North conference

Links of Noltland is an archaeological site that is defined by its remote island location as much as by the intriguing material culture and stories that are emerging from the excavations. Following on from my previous post on the Links of Noltland collaborative project, one of the challenges is to move away from a representation of the site which is fixed like a map or site plan and instead give an impression of a place that is constantly in flux and has its own transient sense of place. While photogrammetric survey carried out over the last two years using kite aerial photography (see below) provided a useful and revealing spatial model of the site (viewable here on GigaPan), during fieldwork in 2014 our focus was on incorporating other visual elements from beyond the site boundaries.

A second KAP rig was used to get this view of camera, electronic rig and operator on site in 2013.
With this in mind, and drawing upon Aaron Watson's "Trans-scape" animations, we explored the use of time-lapse photography on and around the site as well as from the ferries on the way to and from Westray. We used the Gentles GentLED device as a intervalometer, neutral density filters to allow for longer exposures and handlebar camera mount to shoot securely from the ferry railings.

The ferry time-lapse set up and running. Time to sit back with a coffee and wait.
We wanted to use the analogies of travel and arrival to introduce the site in our animated visualisation. While we considered that the remoteness of the site has changed context between present day and prehistory, where long distances where perhaps more likely to be traveled along coastal routes making the site a potential "hub", it is still a place that for most lies at the end of a significant journey.

A slightly "bumpy" crossing on the Hamnavoe to Stromness.
With these ideas in mind and with a draft version of the animated film (which is still in the works) I set out on another journey to present a paper entitled "Approaching Links of Noltland" at the Further North conference at Northumbria University, the closing event of the Norther Peripheries research network. I found the sessions of a very high standard and it was great to be amongst a truly interdisciplinary debate around Northness, marginality and the identity of place. The session that I presented in was chaired by Orkney-based archaeologist Antonia Thomas who also presented her work alongside Dan Lee on their Archaeology Residency at the Papay Gyro Nights Arts Festival.

Speakers ranged in subject from walking as performance art to heavy metal music and Norse mythology.
Now back at the office with a lot of inspiration I am currently working on bringing together the visual material gathered at links of Noltland, with the help of Alice Aaron and John, to form a short film that introduces the site and begins to explore its archaeological interpretation. 

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