Aerial photographs

• Taken from an aircraft to capture a series of images using a
large roll of special photographic film. The film is then
processed and cut into negatives.
The common size of negatives: 9" x 9" (23 x 23 cm).
The basis for aerial photography: light-sensitive chemicals in
the film emulsion.
These chemicals may react to ultraviolet, visible, and/or near
infrared portions of the spectrum, from 0.3 μm to 0.9 μm
• Often used as data source for updating vector data in GIS.
Air photos are especially important for applications that
require the data of very high spatial resolution

Cameras and Aerial Photography
• Cameras are simplest and oldest of
sensors used for remote sensing of
the Earth's surface.
• Cameras are framing systems which
acquire a near-instantaneous
"snapshot" of an area (A), of the
surface. Camera systems are
passive optical sensors that use a
lens (B) (or system of lenses
collectively referred to as the optics)
to form an image at the focal plane
(C), the plane at which an image is
sharply defined.

Cameras can be used on a variety of platforms
including ground-based stages, helicopters,
aircraft, and spacecraft.
The ground coverage of a photo depends on
several factors, including the focal length of the
lens, the platform altitude, and the format and
size of the film. The focal length effectively
controls the angular field of view of the lens
(similar to the concept of instantaneous field
of view discussed earlier) and determines the
area "seen" by the camera.

Focal Length & Angle of Coverage
Focal plane and Focal Length
• Focal plane: the flat surface where the
film is held
• Focal length: the distance from the
lens at which parallel rays of light are
focused to a point. Distance from the focal
plane to approximately the center of the
camera lens.
• Thin-lens equation:
1/f= 1/o +1/i
• f: the focal length of the camera
• o: the distance between the object and
the camera
• i: the distance between the lens and the image plane.
• In aerial photography, o can be considered infinite, so aerial cameras
are manufactured with their film plane located precisely at the fixed
distance f from the lens, namely, make i=f.

Angle of coverage increases as the focal length
Angle of coverage

Vertical Aerial Photographs
• Characteristics
•Tilt no more than 3 degrees from the
•The scale is approximately constant
throughout the photo.
•Within limitations, a vertical air photo can
be used as a map substitute.
•The most common format is a 9 by 9 inch
(approximately 23 cm * 23 cm)photograph.

Vertical Aerial Photographs
• Frame Cameras used along flight lines or flight strips.
• Nadir line directly beneath the aircraft--and traced on the ground
during acquisition of photography
• Endlap usually present in successive photographs
– Ensures total coverage along flight line
– 50% is essential for stereoscopic coverage
• Stereo-pairs
– Adjacent pairs of overlapping vertical photographs.
– Two different perspectives of ground area, which results in the
perception of a three dimensional stereo model

Vertical Aerial Photographs

Vertical Aerial Photographs
Example of stereopair
Remote Sensing and Image
Interpretation, Lillesand et al.

The advantages of an oblique aerial
1. Can cover a much larger area on a single photo
2. Hasmore natural view and makes man made objects more
3. Some objects not visible on vertical photos may be seen on oblique
(e.g., caves or objects under the edge of a forest cover).

Basic Principle of Photogrammetry
Science and technology of obtaining spatial
measurements and other geometrically derived
products from photographs.
Main topic:
• Photographic Scale
• Horizontal ground distances
• Area Measurement
• Relief Displacement of Vertical Features
• Object heights from relief displacement measurements
• Image Parallax and determination of object height and terrain
• Stereo Images
• Stereoscopic Plotting Instruments
• Flight Planning and Mapping with Aerial Photography

Geometric Elements of a Vertical
(Airphoto Geometry)

Vertical Aerial Photographs
Fiducial marks
Are optically projected geometric
figures located at either the four
corners of a photograph, or on the
four sides of a photograph.
•They define the coordinate axes and
geometric center of a single aerial
•The x-axis most nearly defines the
direction of flight.
•The y-axis most nearly
perpendicular to the line of flight.
•The intersection of the fiducial
marks represents the “principal
point”of the photograph.

Any quantitative measurement on a
photograph involves the use of scale to
convert the photograph's measurements to
the actual ground measurements
Without knowledge of scale, it is impossible
to relate the distances between 2 points (or
the size of an object) to an actual distance
(or size) on the ground.

Representative Fraction (RF)
Ratio of the distance on a photograph to the same distance on the
ground, and expressed as a simple fraction.
Example: 1 / 2000 (the photo distance is 1 / 2000 times the ground
Units are the same, thus the Ratio is unit less

Variation in Scale
Variation in Scale
• Scale is probably not constant across a photograph.
• Within a single photograph, scale is a function of tilt
and topography.
• Therefore, RF can be re-defined as:

Variation in Scale
Variation in Scale
Assuming flat terrain, increasing the focal length by 2
decreases the RF by half.

Variation in Scale
Variation in Scale
Tilt causes variation
within a single
Scales are different on
either side of the

Photographic Scale (Continued)
b´ o´ a´
L (Exposure station)
Negative film
Positive print
a o b
h (Terrain elevation)
Sea level
flying height)

Example 3.2, page 139:
 Camera equipped with
152-mm-focal-length lens
to take vertical photograph
from 2780 m altitude.
 Terrain flat at elevation of
500 m.
 What is the photograph
15000 : 1
500 2780
152 . 0
or Scale
h H

Ground Coverage of Aerial
• Ground coverage is function of camera format size.
– 230 x 230 mm format (240 mm film) has about 17.5 times
(from (240/70)
) the ground area coverage of an image taken
with a 55 x 55 mm format (70 mm film).
• As with photo scale, ground coverage of photography is a function
of focal length and flying height above ground (H').
• For constant flying height, width of covered ground area varies
inversely with focal length.
• Photos from shorter focal length lenses have larger areas of
coverage (i.e. smaller scales) than those taken with longer focal
length lenses.
• There is a tradeoff between the ground area covered by an
image and the object detail.

Area Measurement
• Area measurement accuracy is a function of:
– The measuring device.
– The terrain relief and tilt.
• Simple scales can measure simple shapes.
• Example:
– Rectangular field image is 8.65 cm by 5.13 cm with 1:20,000 scale.
– Ground area = 0.0865•0.0513 •20,000
= 1,774,980 m²

Area Measurement

Area Measurement (Continued)
• Simple technique to measure irregular features employs
transparent grid overlay of rectangles or squares of known area.
• Grid placed over photograph, then rectangles or squares counted in
the irregular feature.
• Dot grid perhaps the most widely used.
– Inexpensive and requires little training, but is very tedious.
• Coordinate digitizer or digitizing table another method, interfaced
with computer.
– Traces around boundary of region and gives area readout

Vertical Aerial Photographs
The three photo centers
Different types of distortion and
displacement radiate from each of
these points.
Principal point:
geometric center of the photograph,
and the intersection of the X and Y
Lens distortion is radial
from the Principal Point
Ground P Point Source

Vertical Aerial Photographs
The three photo centers
Nadir: The point vertically beneath
the camera at the time the photograph
was taken.
Topographic displacement
is radial from the nadir
Usually difficult to locate on a single
aerial photograph

Vertical Aerial Photographs
Isocenter:The point that falls on
a line halfway between the
Principal Point and the Nadir.
Tilt displacement radiates
from the isocenter

Vertical Aerial Photographs
The three photo centers
On a truly vertical aerial photograph, all three
photo centers will be located in the same place.
This place can be located by drawing lines
between opposite fiducialmarks (as when defining
the Principal Point).

Vertical Aerial Photographs
Radiates from the isocenter of a photograph.
-Caused by the aircraft not being perfectly
horizontal at the time of exposure of the film.
-If the amount of tilt is known, photographs can be
rectified (expensive).
-The best solution to the problem of tilt would be
to take tilt-free aerial photographs.
Tilt Displacement

Vertical Aerial Photographs
Topographic Displacement
Displacement Units in feet or meters:
h = height of the landscape feature.
A = altitude of the aircraft above sea
E = elevation of the landscape feature.
H = Flying height abovethe base of the
landscape feature at nadir
R = distance from the nadir to the
landscape feature

Vertical Aerial Photographs
Topographic Displacement

Vertical Aerial Photographs
Distortion and Displacement: Topographic Displacement:

Relief Displacement
An increase in the elevation of a feature
causes its position on the photograph to be
displaced radially outward from the
principal point.
Hence when a vertical feature is photographed,
Relief displacement causes the top of the feature to
lie farther from the photocenter than its base. As a
result, Vertical feature appear to lean away from
the center of the photograph.

Displacement of Object Features
Cameras for aerial photography provide
instantaneous "snapshot" view of Earth
from directly overhead.
 Primary geometric distortion in
vertical aerial photographs due to
relief displacement
 Objects directly below center of
camera lens (i.e. at the nadir) will
have only their tops visible
 All other objects will appear to lean
away from the center of photo so
that their tops and sides are visible
(Relief Displacement)

Object Height Determination from Relief Displacement
• Increase in the elevation
of a feature causes its
position to be displaced
radially outward from the
principal point.
• When a vertical feature is
photographed, the top of
the feature lies further
from photo center than its
• When considering relief
displacement of a vertical
feature, datum plane often
placed at base of feature.
• Flying height must be
referenced to same datum.



Object Height Determination from Relief Displacement
Measurement (Continued)
• From similar triangles,
D / h = R / H
• From scaling of photograph
d / h = r / H
h = d H / r
• Where
d = relief displacement
r = radial distance on
photograph from PP to
displaced object point
h = height above datum of
object point
H = flying height above same
datum for reference h



Object Height Determination from Relief
Displacement Measurement (Concluded)
Another example:
Photo relief displacement for Tank B
d = 9.5 mm
Radial distance from principal point to top of
Tank B
r = 127 mm
Flying height above terrain
H = 914 m
Height from relief displacement
H d
h 3 . 68
914 5 . 9
= |

| -

Impact of Variations in Terrain Elevation
• The principal point (PP) is on
ground surface directly below
the camera lens.
• The higher the elevation of an
object from the average
elevation, the farther
horizontally its image will
appear to be displaced from its
actual horizontal position away
from the PP of the photograph.
• Conversely, the lower the
elevation of an object, the more
it will be displaced toward the
principal point.
(Relief Displacement)

Flight Planning
• Objectives of photographic remote sensing project can
often only be met by procurement of new photography.
• Available photography could be outdated or in the wrong
• Available photography could be at the wrong scale or
using an unsuitable film type (i.e., need color film rather
than black and white).
• The requirement of new photography often necessitates
that the interpreter be involved in flight planning.
• Weather is beyond the control of even the best planners.
• Only a few days a year could be ideal for aerial

Flight Planning (Continued)
• Many jobs flown in a single day at widely separated locations.
• Flights scheduled between 10:00 and 14:00 hr. for maximum
illumination and minimum shadow.
• Mission planner provides computations and flight map to the crew,
detailing such items as:
– Flying height.
– Location, direction, and number of flight lines.
– Time interval between exposures, exposures per flight line, and
total number of exposures.

A study area is 10 km wide in the east-west direction and 16 km long in the north
south direction. A camera having a 152.4 mm-focal-length lense and a 230 mm
format is to be used. The desired photo scale is 1:25000 and the nominal end lap
and sidelap are to be 60 and 30 percent. Beginning and ending flight lines are to be
positioned along the boundaries of the study area. The only map available for the
area is at a scale of 1: 62500. This map indicates that the average terrain elevation is
300 m above datum. Perform the computations necessary to develop a flight plan
and draw a flight map.
(a) Use north south line.
(b) Find the flying height above datum
(c) Determine ground coverage per image
(d) Determine ground seperation between photos on a line for 40% advance per
(e) Calculate time between exposure assuming an aircraft speed of 160km/hr.
(f) Recalculate the distance between photocenters using the reverse of the above
(g) Compute the number of photos per 16 km line.
(h) Calculate the separation between flight line
(i) Find the number of flight line required to cover the 10 km study area
(j) Find the spacing of flight lines on the map
(k) Find the total number of photo needed

Flight Planning (Concluded)
• Specifications spell out requirements and tolerances for flying the
mission, such as:
– Form and quality of the products.
– Ownership rights to original images.
– Mission timing.
– Ground control requirements.
– Camera calibration characteristics.
– Film and filter type.
– Exposure conditions.
– Photographic quality.

Image Parallax
• Applications of photogrammetry use the principle of parallax to
incorporate stereo pairs.
• Parallax is the apparent change in relative positions of stationary
objects caused by a change in viewing position.
• These displacements form the basis of three dimensional
viewing of overlapping photos.
• Parallax displacements occur parallel to line of flight.
• Image centers of preceding and succeeding photographs called
conjugate principal points.
• Line drawn through principal and conjugate principal points defines
the flight axis.

Parallax Fundamentals
• Method of measuring distance called parallax.
• Example:
– Hold pencil at arm’s length, and close each eye in turn.
– Each eye looks at pencil from slightly different direction.
– Brain determines object’s distance from slight change in
• For distant objects, small distance between eyes means parallax
angle too small to see change in direction.
• Military rangefinders use binoculars with lenses one meter apart to
increase perspective.

Parallax Fundamentals
• Observing distant stars the distance between the two viewing points
must be even larger.
– Can use opposite sides of Earth’s orbit

Parallax Fundamentals
Distance from star to sun
γ = parallax angle
r = radius of
Earth’s orbit
d = distance to the star
d = r / tan γ = 150,000,000 km / tan 1ª = 150 Gm / tan(1/3600
) =
31 • 10
km = 3.27 light-years.

Distance When not a Right Triangle
(Nick Strobel)
( ) ( ) a
sin sin
From law of sins:
( ) b a + ÷ =
180 ¸
( ) ( ) a
sin sin

Parallax Displacements on
Overlapping Vertical Photographs
• The parallax of any point such as
A in terms of flight line
coordinate system:
= x
– x

– p
= parallax of point A
– x
= measured x coordinate of
image a on left photograph (x
– x
’ = x coordinate of image a´ on
right photograph (x
’ positive)
a b a´ b´
L L´
o o´
a b a´ b´
+x +x´
o o´ o o´
+y +y´

Parallax Measurement
(Working with Aerial Photographs)
Stereoscopic Parallax
Washington Monument (Rutgers)

Stereo Images (Continued)
• Several methods can be used to ensure that each eye sees only one of
a pair of images.
• Early 3-D movies relied on the use of anaglyphs.
– To see movie in 3-D, audience was required to wear glasses with
red and green lens.
– Colored lenses filter out different colors, so each eye sees a
different image.
– Brain reconstructs into a perspective view.
• Polarized light projectors operate in a similar way.
– By projecting each image in different polarization, e.g., vertical
and horizontal polarization, each eye with appropriate filter lens
sees a different image.

Seeing in Three Dimensions
(Red / Green Stereo Imagery)
Hurricane Emilia
Hurricane Andrew
Hurricane Luis
To view in 3-D, use red/green glasses with red lens on right eye

Stereo Images (Con’t)
• Overlapping airphoto pair is viewed
through lenses that force each eye to see
only one image.
• Brain reconstructs three dimensional view.
• Stereoscopic viewing usually assisted by
use of pocket or mirror stereoscopes.
– Pocket-stereoscope limited by
approximately 5 cm dist between eyes.
– Mirror stereoscopes have advantage of
being able to view larger images than is
possible with a pocket-stereoscope.
(Airphoto Geometry)
(Airphoto Geometry)
Pocket Stereoscope
Mirror Stereoscope

Stereo Images (Concluded)
• Depth perception is a function of the parallax angle.
• Parallax angle is the angle between the eyes and an object in a pair of
stereo images.
• Parallax angle decreases with distance from the object.
• Radial displacement of objects in an image makes the top of an object
appear to be at a different depth than the bottom of the object.
(Airphoto Geometry)

Stereoscopic Plotting Instruments
• Stereoplotters made up of three basic components.
1. A projection system to create the terrain model.
2. A viewing system to enable the instrument operator to see the
model stereoscopically.
3. A measuring and tracing system for measuring elevations in the
model and tracing features onto a map sheet.
• Overlapping images projected onto a traceable table where terrain
model viewed in stereo.
• Projectors translated along and rotated about their x, y, and z axes.
• Allows instrument operator to perform a relative orientation to re-
create the position and angular orientation at time of exposure.
• Done by adjusting projectors until all conjugate image points coincide
in y direction.
• At this point, only elevation-caused x-parallax remains.
• Projectors now adjusted in tandem to arrive at absolute orientation.
• Accomplished by scaling and leveling until control points correct.

The Earth’s Surface in 3D
Continental U.S.
• Shaded relief maps:
– Different shades of gray
on slopes depending on
• Color density slices:
– Elevations color coded
• Perspective views:
– Recreation of surfaces to
look like oblique views
• Draped views: Landsat
– “draped on DEM arrays

Planetary Topography from
Stereo Imagery

Mapping with Aerial Photographs
Photogrammatic Workstations
• Stereo pair showing mature
topography in hilly terrain.
• Slight differences in shape and
shadowing of same hills
because of changed viewing
(Stereoscope would show stereo effect)

Air Photo Interpretation Elements
Aerial photographs need to be interpreted for most purposes in order
to simplify the complex information presented.

The form of an object on an air photo helps to indentify the object.
Regular uniform shapes often indicate a human involvement.
This is a baseball diamond next to a track and field area.

This is an airport. It may not be obviouse at first but there are some familiar
shapes that give us the clue.

Shadow provides information about the object's height,
shape, and orientation (e.g. tree pecies)

An objects shadow often gives us as much information as the object itself.

An objects shadow often gives us as much information as the object itself.

SHADOWIt's easy to see the design of the steel superstructure by looking at the

The building on the left has a much longer shadod and therefore is much higher than
one on the right.

The spatial arrangement of objects (e.g. row crops vs. pasture) is also useful to
identify an object and its usage.

Pattern helps us identify trees. The spoke like branching pattern of western hemlock
is quite different from the branching pattern of pacific silver fir.

The man-made patterns of fields, orchards, and roads contrast with nature's
patterns of river and forest.

It' s an airport because of its shape and because there are airplanes.

The man-made patterns of fields, orchards, and roads contrast with nature's
patterns of river and forest.

It' s an airport because of its shape and because there are airplanes.

Associating the presence of
one object with another,
or relating it to its
environment, can help
identify the object
(e.g. industrial buildings
often have access to
railway, power plants
are often located beside
large bodies of water).
Small airfield. There are no buildings or airplanes associated with it so
perhaps it's a farmers private airfield.

The physical characteristics of an object will change the way they
appear on a photo (e.g. calm water has a smooth texture; a forest
canopy has a rough texture);

There's a smooth textured
area in the middle; it's a
stand of hardwoods.
Above the hardwoods is a
stand of young conifers.
Their crowns are more
pointed than hardwoods.
Such crowns cause many
shadows, giving a medium

House and apartments: Relative size helps us distinguish apartments from
houses even though we don't know the exact dimensions of either.

Colour Tone
Colour, or tone on black and white photos, is another principle of photo

Colour Tone
We can easily separate
conifers from
hardwoods in
winter or early
spring by their tone.
• Areas covered with
pine trees are much

• Photogrammetry is a very large and rapidly changing field.
• Most photogrammetric past operations were analog.
– Physical projection and measurement of hardcopy images.
– Precise optical or mechanical equipment.
• Photogrammetric operations today commonly use softcopy data
(digital files) and employ mathematical modeling and processing.
– Airborne digital camera/satellite data, generating digital reference
and image data.
– Softcopy workstations -- with access to GIS and image processing
software -- often represent highly integrated systems for spatial
data capture, manipulation, analysis, storage, display, and output.

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