The Blue Mountains Revealed

In October 2011 I presented a paper at the SVG Open conference (Cambridge MA) describing a web-based terrain visualization interface. This exploratory prototype was an illustration of how a web browser can render a high quality vector-based depiction of an area of land that the user has chosen from a familiar 2D map interface. Various depiction styles were explored and the ability to move between differing zoom levels implemented.  The prototype used a UK (Ordnance Survey) mapping API and data recently released under the UK’s Open Data Initiative (headed by Sir Tim-Berners Lee and Prof. Nigel Shadbolt). The aim of the project was to reveal the form of the land in the most aesthetically pleasing and communicative way (and to test browser rendering options).

Given my current location in Sydney, the recent release of Geoscience Australia’s elevation data set, under Creative Commons Licence, and the popularity of the Blue Mountains National Park near Sydney I am busy exploring future developments of this concept.  This project has timely significance given the fact that 2013 is the bicentenary of the first recorded European crossing of the Blue Mountains by Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth in 1813, an event significant in the development of the Sydney area.

Below is a raster screenshot of an initial output, rendered in the browser (Google Chrome) from a set of vectors. As this is parsed set of vectors, they can be restyled and transformed on the client side or printed locally at a high resolution or large format.

The view is of a large area centred on Mount Solitary. The image shows projected profiles overlaid with a set of vector cross-sections tinted with respect to distance.  This aerial perspective is similar to the approach adopted by cartographic depictions of terrain such as the incredible panoramas in Baedeker’s 1893 guides shown below.

Source:  Baedeker K. 1893, Switzerland, Dulau and Co.

Further test outputs can be seen on Flickr as can photographs taken on a research trip earlier in 2012. More outputs from the project will be posted here until a project site is established.