This week in aerial images: top-down typography and killer whale watching

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We have been in love with the Eames for a long time Powers of ten short film, which is as much an introduction to aerial photography as it is to the mathematics behind astronomy and biology. Just as everyone now takes beautiful images (and retina screens to view them for granted) for granted, there is also a sense in which we are collectively GPS-enabled: after all, digital mapping may be the app. the most convenient of constant connectivity, and we can thank a company for the ability to zoom out to God’s eye (or satellites) with a pinch of the fingers.

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Benedikt Gross & Joey lee go even further with Bold aerial, the “first map and font of the earth”.

The project literally involves “reading” the earth in search of letter forms or “written” alphabets in the topology of buildings, roads, rivers, trees and lakes. To do this, we will scan all of the planet’s satellite imagery and develop the tools and methods necessary to map these features hidden in plain sight.

The entire letterform database will be made available as a ‘usable’ dataset for any of your art / design / science / textual projects and the selected letterforms will be transformed into a truetype / opentype font format that can be imported into your favorite word processor.

Photo credit: NOAA, Vancouver Aquarium.

Photo credit: NOAA, Vancouver Aquarium.

Likewise, the availability of the equipment also opens up new perspectives, and I was interested to see news of the first use of an “unmanned aerial vehicle to photograph orcas from above.” According to NOAA Fisheries:

The main question scientists are trying to answer is: do whales have enough to eat? To find out, they fly the hexacopter at an altitude of over 100 feet, high enough that the whales wouldn’t notice it, but close enough to get some incredibly revealing photographs. Scientists have taken aerial photographs of killer whales from a helicopter in the past, but these photos are taken at a much higher altitude, and the cost can be prohibitive.

More than you ever cared about what orcas look like 100 feet in the air:

If you can’t be bothered by the eye pod, here is the TL; DW version:

[NOAA science writer] Rich Press: You know, from my perspective as a non-scientist, one of the reasons these images are great examples of scientific photography is that in science a lot of data wouldn’t be visible or interpretable. by non-specialists, right? I could maybe tell she was pregnant, but I can understand exactly what you are saying and I could see the data in the picture while you talk about it.

[Population Ecologist] John Durban: I like it, and you’re right. You know, you look at these pictures and anyone can become a scientist. You know, you can see the comparison between these whales, and I think that’s what is so powerful. I mean, I don’t think science needs to be complicated to be powerful. What we are actually doing is we are using technology, but to answer a very simple question: can we learn anything about these whales from their form? And it’s simple, but I think we can learn a lot.

Going through Gizmodo & Quartz


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