3D Maps

Welcome to our Birds Eye Views of areas we’ve mapped. These images link to an interactive version on this website, and printed versions are included map sets.

Why do a 3D map? When I was a budding cartographer doing GIS, 3D maps were the big kahuna and a lot folks spent countless hours making clunky renders of their favorite patch of earth. Today, they are more easily made and it’s a trivial assignment with available apps like Google Earth. Virtual reality is closer than ever, but a well-designed, scientific illustration of the landscape is still an important focus for me.


Big South Fork 3D View, 2008
View map
Red River Gorge 3D Map, 2009
View map

Great Smoky Mountains 3D Map, 2009
View map
Sheltowee Trace 3D Map, 2011 (in progress)
View map

Some caveats should be mentioned. These 3D maps are not true bird’s eye views, because their lines of perspective don’t converge, instead they are parallel. Their horizontal and vertical (x,y) scales are different, but they are still uniform throughout map. You can use a scale measure on these maps, which is something you can’t do with a bird’s eye view. The illumination comes from different directions in each of the maps. In the beginning of making the maps, I illuminated the model from the southeast, much like reality. However, this created terrain inversion for many viewers, so in later maps, I moved the illumination source to the northwest, which is not reality where I map. But, it makes it easier for most folks to read.

Visit our archive to see other 3D maps and cartography from our early days.

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