Some Sources for Free Images

Although these companies are the big commercial players in the field, they're not the only source. Not surprisingly, NASA has a very large collection of images of Earth from space shuttle

FIGURE 2.4

An image of Oklahoma City after a major tornado, taken by a SPOT satellite and displayed on SPOT's Web site

FIGURE 2.4

An image of Oklahoma City after a major tornado, taken by a SPOT satellite and displayed on SPOT's Web site missions. Shuttle astronauts take images of Earth, either of preselected regions or of whatever strikes their fancy, when they are not busy working on their regular jobs during a mission. They have amassed over a quarter million images of the planet.

A subset of this collection, about 30,000 images in all, is available at Earthrise from the San Diego Supercomputing Center at http://earthrise.sdsc.edu. The site lets you search for images of Earth based on a particular region (such as your home state) or on a specific geological formation. A search of the Earthrise database for images of Massachusetts turned up over 120 different images, such as the image of the city of Boston and Boston Harbor shown in Figure 2.5.

A similar selection of Earth images in Europe, a collection of AVHRR images, is at http://shark1.esrin.esa.it. As with Earthrise, you can search this database for images of a particular region of the globe and come up with many different possibilities. You'll have to

FIGURE 2.5

An image of the Boston area taken from shuttle mission STS-53, from the Earthrise Web site

FIGURE 2.5

An image of the Boston area taken from shuttle mission STS-53, from the Earthrise Web site pick through them carefully, since the database returns all images of the region, including those where clouds completely obscure it.

You don't have to be online to view great images of Earth. A number of software packages include collections of Earth images with descriptive information. One example is the application Endeavour Views the Earth, published by the Excellence in Education project at the Space Telescope Science Institute. This package includes dozens of images taken in 1992 by the space shuttle Endeavour on its maiden mission, complete with information about what's visible, even pointing out specific features in the photographs, as shown in Figure 2.6. More information about this free software package (Macintosh and Windows) is at http://marvel. stsci.edu/exined-html/endeavour.html.

There are also some low-cost commercial options. Colorado-based ARC Science Simulations provides very high-quality, high-resolution simulated images of the Earth. Its Web site, at http://www.arcinc.com/, includes information on its Face of the Earth Global Image Project. The site includes some samples to show how the quality of satellite images varies based on the angle of the Sun and atmospheric conditions (Figure 2.7), as well as samples of the company's own simulated images, including those for sale.

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