Maps and Mappers of the 2022 calendar: Jessica Baker, July

Q: Tell us about yourself:

A: I work at Ordnance Survey which is Great Britain’s national mapping agency, as a Technical Relationship Consultant specialising in GeoDataViz. My 9-5 essentially involves using geospatial data to make maps and visuals for all sorts of things, from national park anniversaries, to big sporting events, and supporting the public sector with responses to national events such as covid.

Outside of work I am also an artist, which is pretty relevant to this map! I make art using all sorts of mediums but especially love printmaking. I picked it up about 2 years ago as a way to get creative outside work and have since launched an online art business which I absolutely love.

I find mapmaking combines two of my favourite things – the outdoors and art – into a lovely geography sandwich. Tasty…

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: My main inspiration for mapping Antarctica in lino was my passion for protecting the polar regions from the climate crisis. They’re warming at drastically faster rates than anywhere else on earth, and as a result are passing environmental tipping points we didn’t even know existed. It’s pretty scary to be honest.

But on a lighter note! I wanted to make this map to show the beauty of Antarctica – which one of my university lecturers described as ‘Earth’s last true wilderness’ owing to its extreme remoteness and lack of human influence. There’s some incredible plants, animals, and geographical processes occurring there and I wanted to highlight them all together and emphasise how much of a unique place it is.

There were two things which tipped me from having the idea to make a map of Antarctica, into actually doing it. The first was a book given to me by my mum, of paintings of Antarctica done by an artist called Edward Seago. The paintings are all quite monochrome, with lots of blue and grey shades. I’m very partial to a monochrome map too, hence why I just used blue ink for this one.

The second and probably most influential factor in this map was a handmade scrapbook I found in the back of a 2nd hand bookshop a few years ago. It was made by the mother of an explorer who went on an expedition to Antarctica, and it’s full of pictures, drawings, letters and scientific reports from the expedition. It’s a very cool book and includes a lot of anecdotal stories which spurred me on to create this map.

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: As I’m sure you can see, this isn’t your typical GIS export map – but the geographer in me wanted to make sure it was still as accurate as it could be. I used data from the website Quantarctica, as well as historic maps of the continent to trace the central map which sits in the middle of the design. As a result it shows real data, and even geographically accurate contours.

In terms of tools used – I used a relief printmaking method which involves carving away from a piece of rubber-y lino using a sharp gouge tool. Because of the level of detail I wanted to include, I knew it would have to be fairly big, and so the design is carved as A3 size and then printed onto A2 paper. The carving was really fiddly at times, but I find the process quite meditative – you can see it being done in action here.

Once the design had been fully carved out of the lino block, I ink it up with a hard roller. It is then hand-printed onto the paper by applying pressure onto the back of the block. It’s quite a manual process, but I haven’t shelled out to buy my own printmakers press just yet! 

Maps and Mappers of the 2022 calendar: Samara Ebinger, June

Q: Tell us about yourself:

A: I’m a GIS Specialist at the City of Worcester, Massachusetts. I just recently started last November. I’ve been in the GIS field for a long time but in different capacities, working for a consulting firm, non-profits, state government, and now local government. I love learning new things and trying out new techniques in mapping and GIS. And I have to say that I’ve learned so much just by being on Twitter the past few years and coming across tutorials that the good folks in the geospatial community have put together – this was an important factor in the creation of my calendar map.

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: For the past few years, I’ve been interested in different ways to visualize topography and in New Hampshire (where I used to live until recently), you have the White Mountains in the northern part of the state, so that’s been my place of choice to map as of late.

Lately I’ve also been drawn to the aesthetic look of fantasy maps – they have that magical and ethereal quality that I was going for in this map – trying to convey the beauty and magic of a real place (the White Mountains) in that way.

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: I made this map using QGIS and the technique to visualize the topography is based on a tutorial by Robin Hawkes to create hachures, which I tweaked for a combined hachure & contour line effect. I created the background shaded relief layer using a combination of Blender, GDAL, and QGIS.

Data sources I used are:

  • Elevation data: NASA SRTM; US Geological Survey
  • Trails: National Park Service Appalachian Trail Park Office and Appalachian Trail Conservancy; U.S. Forest Service
  • Shelters: National Park Service Appalachian Trail Park Office and Appalachian Trail Conservancy
  • Water features and park boundaries: OpenStreetMap
  • Roads: New Hampshire Department of Transportation
  • Mountain peaks: I created this point dataset myself using a combination of sources including USGS GNIS data.

Maps and Mappers of the 2022 calendar: Inge van Daelen, Cover

Q: Tell us about yourself:

A: I started working in the cartography field about 2.5 years ago. I started part-time at Red Geographics as I had a full time job on the side. I studied Chinese and Tourism Destination Management, so I didn’t have a background in GIS at all. Luckily, my friend (and boss) Hans van der Maarel helps me out and I’ve learned a lot. I now provide training in (geo)software packages, give presentations about field-related topics, take on cartographic projects and recently became an FME Certified Professional and Trainer.

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: We used to have Friday Funday at the office, where we would try new things. Things that aren’t necessarily productive, but fun and related to what we do. Hans found a tutorial online, made by Tom Patterson, on editing raw satellite images. I immediately became hooked. We decided to create our own webshop selling products with the prints we’ve made, because we wanted to share what we created. I usually go for bright colors, not true to nature per se. Sometimes though, you don’t need to edit them at all, our earth is absolutely stunning as it is! I also make my own accessories, use the images as a background for phones and computers, and we print our images on the notebooks and business cards we hand out during training. Choosing which image I want is often the most difficult part.

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: The data is downloaded from the USGS website and then edited in Photoshop. I merged the red, blue and green band together and started the editing. I added two more layers to be able to edit the water and land separately and enhance the quality with another layer. By then, the images were around 16K in quality, so I reduced them to 6-8K, otherwise the files were too big to handle.

Maps and Mappers of the 2022 calendar: Jonathan King, January

Q: Tell us about yourself:

A: Originally from New England in the U.S., I’m a second year student in the International Master of Science in Cartography degree program, which takes place in Europe at the Technical University of Munich, the Technical University of Vienna, the Technical University of Dresden, and the University of Twente. Probably like most people reading this article, I’ve been interested in cartography for a long period of my life. Since elementary school, some of my favorite things to do have included perusing the content of globes, atlases, and maps and making maps (or at least attempting to) of real and imaginary places. For my undergraduate education, I completed a B.A. in geography partly because I like maps, but perhaps more than anything because I like a lot of things and geography seemed like a sufficiently broad and synergistic discipline to allow me to pursue a lot of interests. Following graduation, I completed two cartography and geospatial analysis internships and then spent about ten years working in a few jobs that often had little to do with geography – a fact which might be considered hipsterishly ironic because I spent the majority of that time working for National Geographic. I also occasionally did work with maps in volunteer and recreational contexts. 

At some point a few years ago, I decided I wanted to pursue more formal education in cartography and geoinformatics and spend some time living in Europe (my Europhilia is nearly as strong as my cartophilia), so I enrolled in my current program. In addition to maps, I really like reading, traveling, attempting to learn new languages, playing the bassoon, and trying unusual foods. I’m honored by my map’s selection for inclusion in this wonderful calendar alongside the amazing work of other cartographers. Its selection helps me confirm for myself that I’ve likely taken a step in a good direction by studying cartography at the master’s degree level.

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: I made this map last spring for a class called Project Map Creation, which is a degree requirement for my current study program. It is taught by professional cartographer Manuela Schmidt, to whom I’d like to express strong gratitude for the help she gave me while I worked on the map at the Technical University of Vienna. Students enrolled in the class are required to spend a semester creating an analog thematic map about a topic of their choice. In past years when this course was offered, many students made maps showing cultural features of the places they’re from. I decided I wanted to do the same thing. The thought struck me that Maine’s lighthouses might be an interesting focus for my map: They are culturally iconic of the place where I’m from and have a large number of spatial attributes suitable for visualization on a map and ancillary infographics. 

I often kayak along the ocean coastline of Maine’s Midcoast region in the early evenings when lighthouses first begin to flash their lights. I’m curious to learn the geographic locations of the lighthouses associated with the lights I see, as well as general information about the lighthouses’ histories and how they can be used for navigation. I thought other kayakers and casual boaters might be similarly curious, so I created the map with these people in mind as target users. The map shows the geographic locations of Midcoast Maine’s lighthouses, the colors and flash patterns of the lights’ primary lights, and the oceanic spaces where each light is generally visible for an observer two feet above sea level (such as a kayaker) during a night with good weather conditions (meteorological visibility of ten nautical miles).

As is the case with all maps, this one excludes information about the geography it depicts, including some I’ve come to think is important. In addition to the primary lighthouse lights the map provides information about, small sector lights, whose colors, flash patterns, and visible ranges differ from those of the primary lights, shine from some of Midcoast Maine’s lighthouses. When making my map, I decided not to include information about these sector lights, since I couldn’t quickly figure out how to do so in a legible and aesthetically pleasing way. I considered their exclusion an appropriate generalization for the map’s scale. However, in retrospect I’ve questioned this decision because lighthouse sector lights help mariners avoid dangers to navigation. My exclusion of this information likely means that while the map is appropriate for use as an art object published in a calendar, it should not – despite its title and original intended use case – actually be used for navigation.

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: My sources include:

I carried out geoinformation pre-processing in ArcGIS pro and cartographic styling Adobe Illustrator.

Maps and mappers of the 2021 calendar: Kate Berg, September

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: 👋 I am a GIS lead at the State of Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), where I wear many hats including web GIS administrator, open maps and data wrangler, geospatial educator, and project consultant. When I’m not wearing those hats, you can find me in the water scuba diving a local Michigan shipwreck (I wonder where the idea for this month’s map came from!) or at the desk dabbling with my latest carto- creations. I am known on Twitter by my alias @pokateo_ because my idea of a perfect day is being surrounded by yummy spud dishes. Another hobby I enjoy is making and sharing geography/geospatial memes under the tag #mappymeme on Twitter.

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: As an avid scuba diver, I’d been playing with various Great Lakes shipwreck spatial layers and knew I wanted to do something fun with them but didn’t know what. It wasn’t until I came across this article and saw a painfully sad Google Maps + Microsoft Paint map for the “Bermuda Triangle of the Great Lakes” that I had a lightbulb moment. I played with two versions of this map: a messy conspiracy theory board (akin to this Always Sunny meme) and an antique pirates map you see on this month’s calendar page. There are various Easter eggs on the map including a faded list of all the ships that have gone missing in the triangle over the years, a reference to a Stonehenge-like structure recently found under Lake Michigan as a possible correlation of the disappearances, a remnant of old maps where cartographers would put the phrase “Here be dragons” in unknown areas with potential danger, and a simple map monster that’s apparently factually inaccurate (should have checked out Michele’s Lake Monsters of the world :p).

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: I used ArcGIS Pro to complete this map. The majority of the artistic flair credit should probably go to John Nelson (as per the uzh), as I adapted some of the styles, textures, and bathy he’s shared on his national treasure of a blog. The triangle’s location is from the previously mentioned article, and the shipwrecks were a combination of datasets from NOAA and this most excellent story map by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. This map was originally made portrait with north straight at the top, but to submit to the calendar I adjusted it to make it landscape and I am pretty happy with the funky tilt of the map. I am humbled to be in the 2021 calendar. Thank you for all GeoHipster does for our special spatial community!

Maps and mappers of the 2021 calendar: Ron Halliday, July

Q: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF.

A: I am a professional cartographer, a graduate of the Cartography: Digital Mapping program at the College of Geographic Sciences in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada. At the time it was one of the only mapping courses in Canada, and – fortunately for me – I grew up a mere 60 kilometres (~40 miles) from the campus. As a child I loved perusing and drawing maps, but it was only at a career fair during my final year of high school when I discovered that I could make them for a living!

At the start of my career I worked in Calgary as an independent consultant, creating maps for biologists, ecologists, geologists and the like. Since moving to South America in 2004, my work has focused on aerial surveying, environmental protection, transportation, tourism and board games (yes, board games).

Q: TELL US THE STORY BEHIND YOUR MAP (WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO MAKE IT, WHAT DID YOU LEARN WHILE MAKING IT, OR ANY OTHER ASPECTS OF THE MAP OR ITS CREATION YOU WOULD LIKE PEOPLE TO KNOW).

A: In 2020, these population flag maps were all the rage. I didn’t come across any, however, that included vexillological information! Nor did I see any that could match the level of detail possible with population data from Statistics Canada. So I downloaded their 489,676 dissemination block polygons and went to work carving up Canada into the same proportions as the flag.

The two outer red bands were fairly straightforward, but it was difficult to find a spot in the rest of Canada with nearly 5 million residents where the maple leaf would fit, and with small dissemination blocks so that its shape would be recognizable. But through trial and error I eventually found one! Then it was just a matter of (de)selecting a few polygons here and there in order to get the population/proportion accurate to four decimal places.

Q: TELL US ABOUT THE TOOLS, DATA, ETC., YOU USED TO MAKE THE MAP.

A: This map was made using QGIS 3.14.15. Population data came from the 2016 Statistics Canada Census Program, and the blurb about the flag was taken from the 1964 royal proclamation by Elizabeth II.

Maps and Mappers of the 2021 calendar: Barry Rowlingson, April

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I’m a Senior Research Fellow in the CHICAS group of Lancaster University’s Medical School. We’re a bunch of statisticians and data scientists who mostly work on spatial aspects of epidemics, so we are quite busy now. I’ve been doing spatial statistics and GIS for over thirty years. Outside of work I like to bike, hike, play music (bass, guitar, drums, keys), and drive my rattly old Land Rover around.

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: As a bit of a puzzler and prankster I’ve always been fascinated by the island of San Serriffe – perhaps the greatest April Fool’s prank ever. The effort put into the original newspaper supplement amazes me – not just the maps but the articles, stories and adverts. There were a few digital versions of the map on the internet – some very different from the original publications – but I wanted to create something close to the original, in a vector format, and to release the data so we had an open-source digital San Serriffe. Everything on my map is derived from the original map published in the April 1977 Guardian newspaper. I’ve never really done polished cartography like this before, so I learnt a lot about QGIS, especially its fine control of labels. I think I lost more than a few hairs adjusting things to stop labels suddenly disappearing when they got just a tiny bit too close to another feature!

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: First I took a few images from the original article and approximately geolocated the archipelago, and then digitised the borders, railways, roads etc all using QGIS. My original plan was to do a map in a modern OpenStreetMap style, but the hand-crafted style of the original drew me back, and I got to thinking about how that could be replicated in a modern GIS. Back in 1977 the maps look like they were made with old-school Letraset transfers, with icons hand-drawn and lettering cut up and pasted to fit curves – all things we take for granted in a modern GIS. Replicating that hand-made feel is much like trying to make synthesizer music sound human. Perfect beats sound cold and robotic, we need humans in the musical loop to add emotion and “feel”, and adding this kind of thing to a map using a GIS was an interesting challenge.

I’ve since created some elevation data for San Serriffe. Although there’s few explicit elevation points on the original map (two mountain elevations and a coastline at sea level) I used other cues to create an elevation surface. Rivers have to run downhill. Train lines can’t cover steep gradients. The Woj of Tipe is a flat swamp. Although this data didn’t make it into the calendar map it will find its way onto the Digital San Serriffe site at some point!

Maps and mappers of the 2021 calendar: Valters Zeizis, cover

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I work as an Oceanologist for the Latvian met-office and work with meteorological and marine data. I have experience working with various spatial data, but I guess my favorite source is Satellite data. I tend to experiment with various sensors and processing methods and often share my results on social media. I think in a nutshell it’s also how I became engaged with the makers of GeoHipster calendar.

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: The image that is on the cover of this year’s calendar shows suspended sediment in the Gulf of Riga. The image shows suspended sediment that is poured into the sea during springtime river runoff. Relatively stable marine currents form beautiful patterns, while the coloring is related to optical properties of water – the density and size of the suspended matter. The inspiration behind the image is purely aesthetic, but in a sense it’s also analytical. It is also a rare occasion of a cloudless Satellite overpass during a very interesting and large scale natural event.

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: The image is made using Sentinel 2 data that has been processed by a script which enhances NDWI (normalized difference water index). The image came about while I was playing with the script (https://custom-scripts.sentinel-hub.com/custom-scripts/sentinel-2/selective_enhancement_based_on_indices/) and looking at the phenomena in a familiar area. After I was satisfied with the capture I also did some post-processing in GIMP.

Jennifer Maravillas: “Finding orientation in a place through movements of my hand gives me a feeling of empathy and wonder at the world. “

Born, 1983 Salt Lake City, UT. Resides in Brooklyn, NY. Jennifer Maravillas is a Brooklyn based visual artist. She creates portraits of our land in media ranging from found paper to watercolor. Her aim in this work is to capture universalities and connections across disparate communities by studying social structures from histories, landscapes, and visual design. In 2015, she completed 71 Square Miles: a map of Brooklyn compiled from trash she collected on each block to represent the cultures and voices of the community. She’s continuing her mapping work with her long-term project, 232 Square Miles in which she will walk the remainder of New York City while collecting trash as well as exploring connections throughout historic maps and data. Her background includes studies in anthropology, painting, graphic design, cartography, and mass communication. Jennifer also works as a freelance illustrator creating color-filled works about life and the world. For artwork sales information, please contact the artist through her website. Visit the artist’s website:  www.jenmaravillas.com

Jennifer was interviewed by Jonah Adkins

Tell us about yourself

I’m a visual artist currently residing in Brooklyn, NY, though my passion for exploring has led me to live all over the U.S. My art practice is centered around the land and can take many forms- as large painted or collaged maps, landscape paintings, and increasingly in book format. Exploring both the world and artistic media are correlating passions that get me out of bed in the morning.

How’d you get into mapping?

I rekindled my love for maps while working on a personal project in about 2010. It was a now unfinished children’s book about a little girl that learns to fly planes inspired by a good friend. She flies above San Francisco and I decided to color each block as an homage to the psychedelic city. I was hooked. After that I painted a few similar works and realized the physicality of creating a map by hand was an exercise in meditation on that space and history. Flying in planes or staring out of car windows was my favorite thing to do as a kid and this reconnected that love for really appreciating and seeing the land. It’s now become a mode of operating in the world- in my everyday practice as well as travels. These maps have sometimes taken the format of cityscapes while under commission but in my personal work the goal is to connect the medium to the place conceptually.

Over on instagram, i was fortunate enough to see you create your 2018 election map project. How’d it come about?

I created a map called Party Line for BallotBox https://www.ballotboxart.com/ – a show curated by Skylar Smith exploring voting rights that was intended to exhibit in Metro Hall of Louisville, KY but now is on view at 21C Louisville. The open call asked artists to explore voting rights to celebrate 2020 as the centennial of the 19th Amendment, the 55th Anniversary of the Voting Rights, and the presidential election. 

images from https://www.ballotboxart.com/

Since this is also a census year I decided to celebrate the right to vote by learning about one aspect of voting which has yet to evolve: the drawing of our congressional district maps. Party Line is a 99” x 55” map of the United States painted in watercolor. Each county is colored in hues of reds, blues, and yellows representing three datasets which show the two methods of gerrymandering- cracking and packing. These colors represent total votes from the 2018 congressional election in each county represented by reds or blues and the system of redistricting by state represented by yellows. Two congressional maps from 2011-2017 are then drawn over the the watercolor in lines.

Here’s my artist statement on the project:

“The United States of America is a country of borders and divisions, though the demarcations between places are often abstract and fluid. This is a concept reinforced by our centuries old tradition of redistricting in which politicians draw lines that represent us as citizen voters. These maps, often drawn behind closed doors, are a work of art to be considered. These lines tell the stories of our country through the imbalance of power and evolution of norms. They represent the redlining of votes and tools of authority wielded in the interests of politicians working toward staying in office, as opposed to representing their constituents. One person, one vote is an ideal we have never attained in the election of congress.”

It was mesmerizing to watch your technique throughout the process. Can you elaborate on your technique and methodology?

This was the first map I’ve ever painted that is quite this rich in data. This process was 100% a learning curve. Viewing the end product as more of a pastiche and compilation of maps instead of an infographic gave me a bit of confidence. My goal was to show county results contrasted with lines of the congressional districts to highlight cracking, packing, and also more generally- the entire country as this network of divisions and connections. 

I compiled all of the 2018 election data onto county maps of each state for reference in determining the hue and value for each.

I scaled the US Gov county map in QGIS and then Illustrator, printed it on a large format printer, and traced it all onto a 99” x 55” roll of watercolor paper.

Working across the United States I painted each range of values at a time.

I completed the painting in a very focused three months.

January 13
January 17
January 30
February 3
February 6

Where can we see it?

The exhibit was set to open March 2020, the opening night was cancelled as the country locked down and was never opened to the public. After the shooting of Breonna Taylor and subsequent marches, Metro Hall has remained closed (it is the seat of the government in Louisville, containing the mayor’s office etc.) Just last month the museum / hotel 21C Louisville generously moved all of the work to their galleries where it will be up until January of 2021.

From 21C Hotel Instagram

What other map stuff are you interested in?

It’s been fascinating to learn more about the culture around mapping- from the technical GIS to those collecting, archiving, and sharing historic maps. Ours is such an interesting time when we have better access to historic maps online and we have never understood the earth so clearly. I’m really interested in all maps as archives of vernacular and viewpoints of self and others. 

My work is in flux at the moment. My main project for almost the last ten years has been to walk around NYC collecting trash to compile onto large scale block by block maps of each borough. I’ve finished and exhibited 71 Square Miles, a map of Brooklyn. The others are now indefinitely paused because of the pandemic. I will finish those but plan to leave and come back another time when I don’t have to worry about not getting sick quite so much. 

71 Square Miles
71 Square Miles
71 Square Miles

I’m not entirely sure what types of mapping I’d like to do next but it will hopefully involve bridging aspects of our communal lives with the land and each other.

The intersection of  art and maps can be tough for people trained in mapping, but not design. Tell us about your experience fusing them, coming from a design background?

The physicality of creating maps is what draws me to the work. Finding orientation in a place through movements of my hand gives me a feeling of empathy and wonder at the world. In a larger sense I find a connection between my art practice and maps in the design of my life. Though I was trained as a graphic designer and use those skills regularly, those principles transcend all of our lives down to what we pay attention to, how we spend our time, and how we move through the world. Mapping has given me the focus to see the world and I’ve been privileged to share that vision through colors.

Any inspirations or advice to give our technical mapping audience on interjecting art into their work?

Visualizing a process or the feeling of an end product is typically where my projects begin, though I think the main aspect of realizing any artistic practice is to be aware of what actions most inspire you. My goal is often to think of the craziest / largest / most difficult / most repetitive way to represent an idea which also utilizes a medium representing the concept. Media is where our ideas meet the viewers of our work and it’s difficult but satisfying to find a connection between the reasons for choosing one over another.

Maps and mappers of the 2020 calendar: Victoria Johnson, August

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: My name is Vicky Johnson, I’m a cartographer in Washington DC. I work on a data analysis team in international development (not trying to be cagey about where I work! I just prefer to keep my professional and personal work separate. It’s probably overkill but I feel better about being sort of a goofball on twitter). I’ve been a geospatial professional for about 13 years, my career path has taken me everywhere from QA on the Census’ road network data to municipal government in New Zealand. Over this time I’ve discovered that I really like local mapping best. There’s nothing quite as rewarding as really getting to familiar with a place and translating that knowledge into geospatial data. In my free time I play drums and make a lot of ice cream.

 

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: This map was created for a role playing game designed by a former coworker. He provided me with a few pages of background and I did the rest – essentially, it’s an alternate, speculative social and geologic history of the American Gulf Coast set in the 1920s. I had great fun both creating situationally cohesive terrain and replicating map styles of the time. One thing I learned while making it is how hard it is to create believable fake terrain! I spent ages messing around in various software programs before deciding to grab some SRTM data and massage it into the existing landscape. Much easier and more realistic-looking than the disasters I created in Blender.

 

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: I used QGIS to get the STRM sized and oriented, ArcMap for the non-faked GIS tasks, Photoshop to blend the new terrain with the real stuff, and Illustrator for the aesthetics, plus a lot of research into how maps were designed and produced in the 1920s. There were two resources I relied on fairly heavily, a USGS Standards Manual available at Project Gutenberg and a Latvian design manual from 1928 posted at makingmaps.net. These sorts of guides are wonderful as reference and creative material, they’re fascinatingly rich documentation of cartographic history and it’s always enjoyable to consider how all of these careful, nuanced decisions were arrived upon by map-makers almost a century ago!