I started this page as a result of a project that I worked on during the Fall semester in 1999 at Murray State University in Murray, KY. We were given an assignment to write a program to generate a script file for the ray tracing program POV-Ray. This exercise introduced me to the world of 3D terrain modeling using POV-Ray's height field capabilities. My work with POV-Ray allowed me to combine my interests in cartography, programming and 3D Graphics.
In order to create my terrain models, I needed data. This caused me to write my first conversion program to convert USGS DEM data to .tga graphics format for input to POV-Ray. I soon became interested in the bewildering proliferation of file formats that mapping data is presented in, and resolved to gain a greater understanding of some of these formats. I created this page because I felt that others might benefit by my efforts to "mine" this data and convert it to forms useful for the creation of digital terrain models.
The articles presented on this site reflect my personal progression through the world of digital cartography and are presented in chronological order. Since the GIS world in general is changing rapidly, some of the initial sections are dated and do not represent best practice, but I leave them up in case some may find them interesting.
The site emphasized free data sources, general technique (as opposed to specific applications), and the demystification of this field. The discipline has been dominated by the scientific and research community, which was not an open society. I believed that the layman could benefit from the work of the elite, and that GIS would impact our world the way desktop office applications, networks and CAD systems did a decade or more ago.
My interest expanded to include free sources of satellite imagery in addition to high resolution DEMs. Both are required to make high quality digital terrain model overlays but multi spectral satellite images offer a particularly rich source of data for other purposes as well.
Over the years I posted many free applications, mainly command line file format conversion utilities. In 2005 I released an application called BLACKART. This program extended the work I conducted for my Master of Science thesis under the direction of Dr. Randolph Franklin of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, NY USA. This application was designed to convert raster contour maps to digital elevation models using the Franklin Approximation algorithm. It also found wide application for a time filling in the gaps in the then newly-released SRTM DEM data.
In June, 2010 I decided to launch a commercial venture with my PANCROMA satellite image processing application. Many of the more recent articles describe the features of this utility. Please visit the website as there is a considerable collection of information related to satellite image processing at that site, including a White Papers page.
I appreciate the many emails (many from distinguished professionals) that I have received with questions and suggestions as they have greatly improved the content of the page.