Author Topic: Free online historical air photos  (Read 1360 times)

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Dave Schneider

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Free online historical air photos
« on: June 30, 2009, 04:02:14 AM »
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I just discovered that historical aerial photography is now available for free download from the U.S. Geological Survey. In the interest of fair disclosure, I actually work for this agency (in a different capacity), but was unaware of this development until this evening while doing some online research. The USGS houses the national archive of a wide variety of geospatial information and has been working to get this info out to the public. A subset of the the aerial photography holdings are now available online and I suspect that more will be added in the future.

Now the search link isn't the easiest, but can be found at: http://www.usgs.gov/pubprod/aerial.html
Select :Buy digital format on media: Online (but you don't have to pay)
This should lead you to an interface that lets you select your data type and coordinates
Select the aerial photo tab, and then Aerial Photo Single Frames (you can try other types as well).
Select your area and then hit search

The search results will have thumbnails and a download link for those that are available. Trying to find the best image quality is a bit of trial and error, but the smaller the geographical area in the thumbnail, the better the spatial resolution in the downloaded image.

Note the you will have to register to download images, but it is free and relatively painless.

I got results for my area of Milwaukee around the Schilitz Brewery going back to 1955. Here is subset example of the best resolution image that I could find from 23 August 1970. This is a very exciting result for me as I can see which buildings were around, how rail cars were spotted, etc... Unfortunately this was a Sunday so things weren't as busy as they would have been on other days.  On the other hand if I choose to model this day I won't have to buy as many cars to fill the parking lots!

I hope that this resource is helpful to people....I am so excited I may not sleep tonight (man I need a life). I can try to help with questions if people are having trouble with this search.

Best wishes, Dave


If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

Sokramiketes

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Re: Free online historical air photos
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2010, 08:09:31 AM »
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I don't know how I missed this at the time, but this is a fanflippintastic resource.  Thanks Dave!
Mike

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wm3798

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Re: Free online historical air photos
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2010, 08:55:30 AM »
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Sadly, Cumberland, Maryland seems to have evaded the watchful eye of the USGS...  I'll keep looking.

Lee
Route of the Alpha Jets

Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

Iain

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Re: Free online historical air photos
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2010, 10:26:08 AM »
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It seems that all the places I've looked in the era I want have also gone unnoticed.
Thanks much,
Mairi Dulaney, RHCE
Member, Free Software Foundation and Norfolk Southern Historical Society

http://jdulaney.com

Sokramiketes

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Re: Free online historical air photos
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2010, 12:05:42 PM »
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I should have mentioned that USGS filtered out all the places not worth modeling.   ;D
Mike

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Dave Schneider

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Re: Free online historical air photos
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2010, 02:25:06 PM »
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Sadly, Cumberland, Maryland seems to have evaded the watchful eye of the USGS...  I'll keep looking.

Lee
Lee,

How about these?

http://i291.photobucket.com/albums/ll290/djs_ank_ak/AirPhotos/Cumberland_MD_March_1947.jpg
http://i291.photobucket.com/albums/ll290/djs_ank_ak/AirPhotos/Cumberland_MD_March_1966.jpg

These are the original source photos that the USGS used to make topographic maps. If the topo map exists, the photos exist in the USGS archives. Not all of them have been scanned and put online, but I have been lucky so far. These free photos are medium resolution scans (450 dpi) of the 9x9 inch negatives, but it looks like high res scans are also available at 1000 dpi for purchase. A variety of air photo types are available online, but I have found that the large scale photos (like 1:8000 to 1:12,000) are the only ones suitable for my research.

If is amazing to think that every contour on the USGS topo maps were produced by hand using aerial photography and a stereoplotter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereoplotter). These are tied to the earth through land surveys that provide horizontal and vertical control.

Best wishes, Dave
If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

wm3798

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Re: Free online historical air photos
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2010, 03:02:10 PM »
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Gah!  Anything shot from THIS planet?  What I want is a closer look at the brewery up stream from the station.  Something along the order of the shot in the original post.

Lee
Route of the Alpha Jets

Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

Dave Schneider

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Re: Free online historical air photos
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2010, 04:02:12 PM »
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Gah!  Anything shot from THIS planet?  What I want is a closer look at the brewery up stream from the station.  Something along the order of the shot in the original post.

Lee

Lee,

No idea of the time or place of your brewery or where the station is. The easiest way to search for a point is lat/lon. I just typed in Cumberland to get to this point. I just wanted to point out that there was data of your area.

The highest resolution stuff in this area from the olden days is color infrared from the early 1980s. Here is an example of this type of data.
http://i291.photobucket.com/albums/ll290/djs_ank_ak/AirPhotos/Cumberland_1983_example.jpg

There are also higher resolution Digital Orthophoto Quads from the 2000's down to .5 meter resolution. It all depends upon the place and time of your interest. If you want to look at the 1940-1960s most of the photos are around 1:12000 scale. Higher resolution scans of the photos might be the way to go to provide better detail for these older photos. Like any research project using archived data there are jewels as well as frustrations to be found. 

Happy to provide some pointers if you want to look for your areas of interest.

Best wishes, Dave


If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

tom mann

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Re: Free online historical air photos
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2010, 07:47:04 PM »
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How in the world did we all miss this the first time around?  Dave's post is a years old. ;D

Ian MacMillan

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Re: Free online historical air photos
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2010, 06:09:17 PM »
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Man, sucks all the stuff I want is at 12,000' and not worth a damn.
I WANNA SEE THE BOAT MOVIE!

bambuko

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Re: Free online historical air photos
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2010, 05:08:31 AM »
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There is similar resource here:
http://www.pennpilot.psu.edu/