Weather and Small Format Aerial Photography

Created by
Lacey Dreyer

This webpage was created to fulfill the requirements for ES 555, SFAP (Spring 2005)
in the Earth Science Department at Emporia State University.
 


Image by Lacey Dreyer


Table of Contents

What is Small Format Aerial Photography?
Good vs. Bad Weather
What is Weather?
Imagery
Weather Factors in Small Format Aerial Photography
Conclusions


What is Small Format Aerial Photography?

Small Format Aerial Photography (SFAP) differs greatly from traditional aerial photography.  Traditional aerial photography uses large format films with very large cameras.  This type of aerial photography is expensive.  It ranges from $10s to $100s of thousands to aquire traditional aerial photographs (Aber, 2003).  SFAP, on the other hand, is based on light weight cameras with small format films, usually 35mm.  Compact digital cameras can also be used in SFAP.  The advantages of SFAP is that it is low cost, typically ranging from $100 to $10s of thousands for the whole rig.  Cost is a big plus when it comes to SFAP because almost anyone can afford it.  Accessibility is also an advantage of SFAP.  Low height and large scale imagery is easier with SFAP and it can be acquired in situations that would be impractical or risky for traditional aerial photography.


Image by Lacey Dreyer

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What is Weather?

"Weather affects everyone.  It is our constant companion-as tranquil, as turbulent, as wondrous and sometimes as unpredictable as life itself."
John W. Zillman

Created by the heat of the Sun, the weather is a system of cycles and forces within the atmosphere that envelops the Earth.  This definition came from a book by Time Life Books called The Nature Company Guides, Weather.

Another definition of weather is the condition of the atmosphere at any particular time and place (Ahrens, 2003).  There is several types of weather including thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail, hurricanes, blizzards, droughts and heat waves.

Most people use the term weather to describe the day to day variations that happen in the world that we live in.  The weather is recorded as measurements of temperature, humidity, cloud cover, wind and precipitation.  In SFAP we are mostly concerned with wind and cloud cover.


Image by Lacey Dreyer

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Weather Factors in Small Format Aerial Photography

In SFAP, the weather plays a major role in the images that we take.  There are two types of SFAP platforms that we used during the ES 555 class field trips.  First we learned to use the kites and second we used the blimp.  We have to take in consideration the weather to know which platform needs to be used.  The factors that are involved in deciding if a kite or blimp should go up is wind, cloud cover and precipitation.  These weather factors will decide which if anything will go up.

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Good vs. Bad Weather

The table shows the wind speed and whether it is a good idea or bad idea for SFAP.
 

WIND (mph) SURFACE EFFECTS GOOD OR BAD TO SEND UP
<1 smoke rises straight up Good
1-3 smoke drifts, wind cannot be felt, smooth water  Good
4-7 wind felt on face, leaves rustle, ripples on water Good
8-12 leaves and twigs flutter, small flags extended Good
13-18 wind raises dust, branches move, small waves Good
19-24 small trees sway, many whitecaps, some spray Good/Bad depending on what you want to do
25-31 branches move, whitecaps everywhere Bad
>32 large trees move, walking difficult Bad/ Dangerous

In SFAP good weather would consist of wind speeds between 0 and 24 mph.  From 0-10 mph the blimp may be used and from 10-24 mph a kite may be used.  Any wind speed greater than 25 mph could cause damage to the equipment and be very dangerous for anyone involved (Aber, 2004).  Cloud cover is also important in SFAP.  A good image will have little to no cloud cover.  Whereas a bad image will have lots of cloud cover or is 100 percent cloudy.  These types of pictures are hard to work with.  Precipitation is bad when it come to SFAP.  It can cause the equipment to not work properly.  It also makes it hard to hold the line for the kite or blimp.  SFAP is not advised in this kind of weather.

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Imagery
**Pictures taken by Lacey Dreyer.
All other images are provided by Dr. James Aber.  These pictures have been enhanced in some form with Adobe Photoshop.
 
 
This side shows BAD Weather Images
This shows GOOD Weather Images
**This image was taken at Lake Kahola.  It shows the wind speed.  The winds that day were to the point that it was too dangerous to fly the kite with out causing damage to the equipment. **This image was taken at the Nelson-Atkins museum in Kansas City, KS.  This image shows a perfect day to the blimp.  There was clear skies and little to no wind.
This was taken at Cheyenne Bottoms on a cloudy and rainy day.  You can see the cloud cover and they the image does not look so good.  It is hard to enhance a image like this. This is the new add on to the Nelson-Atkins museum.  You can tell that there was no cloud cover and the wind was not blowing. 
This image was taken at Cheyenne Bottoms.  You can tell that it was a cloudy and rainy day.  There is precipitation on the lens of the camera. Nelson-Atkins museum new add on.  This image was taken with the blimp.
Cheyenne Bottoms on a very cloudy day.  The Nelson-Atkins museum will be beautiful once the new add on is finished.

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Conclusions

In SFAP weather is always an important factor when trying to get good images.  Everyday is a different day when it come to weather.  Be prepared for all types of weather from clouds to sunny skies to some precipitation like at Cheyenne Bottoms.  Hopefully some of the images that I have shown will help in understanding what weather works best for SFAP.

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References:


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Created by Lacey Dreyer on April 26, 2005.
Last Updated: May 3, 2005
Copyright 2005 © Lacey Dreyer.  All rights reserved.