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Learn More About Aerial And Satellite Photography

Aug 4, 2008
Aerial photography is defined as the capturing of an image from a camera which is not supported by a ground based structure. This can include anything from an aircraft, helicopter or air balloon to a kite, blimp or miniature plane.

The history of aerial photography is diverse and began nearly as soon as the camera was invented. Gaspar Felix Tournachon was a French balloonist and photographer who spent three years perfecting a technique to capture a small village in France for surveying purposes.

Unfortunately his photographers did not survive so the oldest aerial image is one of Boston taken from an air balloon in 1860. As air balloons were expensive and cumbersome to operate other more accessible techniques were developed including kites and even carrier pigeons.

There were obvious drawbacks to these methods including the flight paths not being reliable however it was not long before the first images were capture from a plane. It was in World War I when the photographic discipline really took off with both sides using planes so capture images of the opposing lines of defence.

Following the end of the war the developed techniques were put to non-military use with consecutive aerial photographs being linked together to create maps. These maps were put to many different uses and were found to have significant commercial value.

Today the images are not just used for mapping. Many industry sectors benefit from aerial photography, from commercial real estate to the film industry. Images are used for property assessment, water utilization, archaeology and safety planning, to name but a few.

Today as in many photographic disciplines digital photography has replace celluloid and now satellite images are extremely popular and accessible. The Satellite pictures offer a similar use as its predecessor however each has their respective benefits.

Aerial photographs offer an analogue of images at higher resolution which have a 3D stereo effect and are easier to in interpret due to a higher understanding of the image. However Satellite offers a greater areal extent with exclusively digital data and repetitive coverage of a greater wavelength, the data is also easier to analyse.

There are some problems highlighted by a comparison with non-aerial photography. Often images will be taken at an angle to the subject creating a distortion in perception with nearer objects being larger in relation with subjects further away. Certain providers of satellite images solve this problem using software packages, correcting distortion and creating 3D images of terrain.

Although the uses of aerial photography have become increasingly commercialised its military routes have not been forgotten. Aerial photographs appear regularly in the news and airspace is carefully restricted due to massive advances in spy technology, descendants from the original World War I reconnaissance aircraft.

Satellites have been synonymous with reconnaissance or spying as it is otherwise known. High resolution photography can be obtained from satellites and the information can be used in detecting anything from small military manoeuvres to missile launches. Most of the US Satellite programmes post 1974 are still considered highly sensitive and are classified.

Today aerial and satellite photography is a lucrative industry. The Professional Aerial Photographers Association or PAPA is an international trade organisation for the industry and more information about the history and ethics surrounding aerial photography can be obtained from their website.
About the Author
Shaun Parker is a leading aeriel photographer with many years of experience in aeriel photography.
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