Small-Format Aerial Photography : The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art with downtown Kansas City, Missouri, on horizon.
Photo taken with Canon S70 camera
June 10, 2008


Prepared by Matt Unruh

ES 555 Small-Format Aerial Photography Emporia State University

Summer 2008


Table of Contents

Introduction

Kite Aerial Photography – An Overview

Kite Aerial Photography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

About the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Flight Weather Conditions

Image Processing

Conclusion

References


Introduction

On June 10, 2008, the Emporia State University (ESU) ES 555 Small-Format Aerial Photography (SFAP) class utilized kite aerial photography (KAP) at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. This field trip was the second and final field trip for the class, with the first taking place at the rural setting of Cheyenne Bottoms north of Great Bend, Kansas. KAP techniques used at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art allowed for the students who were present to gain firsthand experience using KAP in an urban setting. This web presentation will highlight the use of KAP by the ESU ES 555 class at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art during the summer 2008 semester.



Kite Aerial Photography – An Overview


Aerial photography has always been a valuable resource for site investigations. Used for analysis of biological, cultural, and physical aspects of Earth’s surface environment, these images provide viewers a different view of a particular place that is not possible from ground-level. Typically taken from airplanes, conventional aerial photographic images are collected from several thousand meters high at a resolution of 1-2 meters. Images taken in this manner can be expensive to collect, meaning that many areas do not have recent aerial images.

In recent years, kite aerial photography (KAP) has grown in popularity as a method of low-cost aerial photography that allows for collection of low-height, large-scale, and high-resolution imagery of a particular site. Originally collected on 35- and 70-mm film, KAP has evolved with technology and moved towards digital photography. The use of digital photography allows for photographers to immediately view images acquired at a photographed site.

The use of kite aerial photography requires two items; a camera rig and a kite. The camera rig is normally suspended a distance below the kite so that vibration and sudden movements are minimized. Two types of camera rigs can be utilized for KAP. One type of rig is a simple camera rig which has the camera position set before each flight, along with an intervalometer to take pictures at a preset interval. The other type of rig is a radio-controlled rig which allows for pictures to be taken and camera position adjustments to be made in-flight.

Figure 1: Schematic illustration of kite aerial photography (KAP) rig in flight. In this example, kite is 500 feet (150 m) from flyer, so KAP rig is about 225 feet (70 m) above surface.
Aber, J., Sobieski, R., Distler, D., and Nowak, M. 1999. Kite Aerial Photography for Environmental Site Investigations in Kansas.
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 102(1-2), p. 57-67.

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Kite Aerial Photography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

On June 10, 2008, the ESU ES 555 class utilized kite aerial photography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. Graduate students Lida Buster and Matt Unruh accompanied professors James S. Aber and Susan W. Aber on this field trip. The objective of this site visit was to obtain KAP images of the museum, specifically the recently completed Bloch Building. Inconsistent winds near the surface restricted use of heavier camera rigs, so only the Canon Elph and Canon S70 rigs were used for this exercise. These two rigs are two of the lighter rigs that the ESU Earth Science Department possesses. Images were viewed on site by those present and loaded onto the course FTP site at a later date to allow all students enrolled in the class to view pictures from the field trip.

Image 1: Bloch Building, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
KAP taken with Canon Elph camera rig.
June 10, 2008.


About the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

First opened to the public on December 11, 1933, the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art and the Mary Atkins Museum of Fine Arts combined the ambitions of William Rockhill Nelson and Mary McAfee Atkins to provide a showcase of fine arts for the general public to enjoy in Kansas City, Missouri. Nelson was convinced that for a city to be truly civilized, art and culture were necessities. Because of this, the founder of what is now The Kansas City Star newspaper used a good portion of his estate to establish the William Rockhill Nelson Trust. These funds, when combined with land provided from the million-dollar estate of school teacher Mary McAfee Atkins, gave birth to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Located just northeast of the Country Club Plaza area of Kansas City, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is internationally renowned as one of the best general art museums in the United States. Home to recognized collections of ancient art, European paintings and sculptures, decorative arts, American Indian art, American art, modern and contemporary art, photography, prints and drawings, African art, and Asian art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art might be most widely known in the Kansas City area for its signature shuttlecocks that occupy the museum grounds.

Image 2: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art with signature shuttlecock in foreground.
Taken with Canon Elph camera rig at ground-level.
June 10, 2008

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Flight weather Conditions

According to hourly weather observations from June 10, 2008, recorded at Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Missouri, the early to mid morning sky conditions ranged from clear to mostly cloudy. These clouds were mostly low-level cloud cover that cleared off as the morning progressed. The 10:54 am observation noted clear sky conditions, and these clear skies lasted the remainder of the day. The lack of cloud cover present during the period of KAP produced optimal lighting conditions for aerial photographic activities.

Wind direction varied from south to west-southwest through the early to mid morning, but during the time KAP was taking place (approximately 11:00 am through 3:00 pm) the winds were consistently observed from the south to southwest. Wind speed during this time period was steady around 15 to 20 km/h, with gusts over 30 km/h. Although these winds were recorded at the nearest National Weather Service observation station to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, conditions matching those of the weather observations were not necessarily the ones experienced on the museum grounds. Being located in a true urban setting, winds were variable throughout the period of KAP. This variability of wind speed and wind direction occurs as a result of the turbulent wind patterns that are produced when air moves through an urban area. This variability of wind speed and direction resulted in some difficulty keeping camera rigs airborne for extended periods of time.

Image 3: ArcMap file with MODIS Terra visible satellite image, June 10, 2008.

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Image Processing

After the kite aerial photography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art was complete, the images collected for the day were loaded onto the ES 555 FTP site. All images were downloaded from this site and then went through an initial screening process. From this initial screening, select images were loaded into Adobe Photoshop for image processing. Image processing of KAP allows for the enhancement of the aerial photographs. The images shown below show the original image and the enhanced image for comparison.

Image 4: Before image processing:
Vertical view of one of the shuttlecocks on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Taken with the Canon Elph camera rig, June 10, 2008.

Image 5: After image processing:
Vertical view of one of the shuttlecocks on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Taken with the Canon Elph camera rig, June 10, 2008.

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Image 6: Before image processing:
High-oblique view of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art with the Kansas City, Missouri, skyline in the background.
Taken with the Canon Elph camera rig, June 10, 2008.

Image 7: Post image processing:
High-oblique view of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art with the Kansas City, Missouri, skyline in the background.
Taken with the Canon Elph camera rig, June 10, 2008.

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Image 8: Before image processing:
Vertical view of The Thinker, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Taken with the Canon Elph camera rig, June 10, 2008.

Image 9: After image processing:
Vertical view of The Thinker, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Taken with the Canon Elph camera rig, June 10, 2008.

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Image 10: Before image processing:
High-oblique view of the Bloch Building, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Taken with the Canon S70 camera rig, June 10, 2008.

Image 11: After image processing:
Image processed view of the Bloch Building, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Taken with the Canon S70 camera rig, June 10, 2008.

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Another method of image processing involves the use of computer software to generate stitched views of more than one aerial photograph. This type of image processing allows the user to produce a mosaic image that was not captured in one image during KAP or other SFAP activities. Using PTGui software, a stitched image consisting of three seperate images was created from KAP at the Nelson-Atkins Musuem of Art. This stitched image allows for the Bloch Building to be seen completely along with the original museum building.

Image 12: Stitched image of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Processed with PTGui software.

Conclusion

The use of small-format aerial photography is a cost-effective method of producing high-resolution, large-scale aerial photographs for site investigations. The use of kite aerial photography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, produced a variety of useful pictures of the museum grounds. Image processing software can be used to enhance the visual appearance of aerial photographs produced during a site investigation as well as to produce stitched or panoramic images of a site that cannot be produced by one single photographic image. These enhanced images can produce higher quality images to aid in the analysis of the photographed site.



References

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Last Updated: June 27, 2008