Maps and Mappers of the 2022 calendar: Carl Churchill, Back Cover

Q: Tell us about yourself:

A: I am a cartographer working for Woodwell Climate Research Center. I came to GIS from a very humanities-focused background, with a history degree and even brief training as an archeologist. I have dabbled in a lot of things over my brief professional career – including a few gigs as a stand-up comedian. Currently I handle maps for our scientific presentations, communications releases, and projects with 3rd party clients. I also continue to do freelance work, where I enjoy helping organizations and individuals tell their own stories with a bit of a design leg-up from my end.

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 was deep in the #30daymapchallenge and running low on ideas (as it happens), and was browsing random datasets. The Spilhaus projection had just been released for ArcGIS Pro, and I knew I wanted something that could showcase it. Spilhaus is best used to showcase the connectivity of the world’s oceans. I stumbled on a dataset showing chlorophyll concentrations. A few things drew my eye here – first it was sufficiently high resolution enough I knew global features would be easily identifiable in it, it was complex enough to be visually interesting without turning into noise, and it was obviously a relevant dataset to oceans.

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

A: Normally, when you are trying to take a raster from Pro and drop it into Blender, you want to convert it to a 16bit image and do some calculation to max out the range of pixel values to avoid terracing. However, here the values in the raster were so complex, and the final image was not going to show anything necessarily ‘realistic’ (unlike terrain where terracing creates an obvious difference with what you would expect), I merely projected it into Spilhaus, cranked the dpi, and exported it as a .tif like any ordinary image. I set that up as my displacement layer in Blender, converted the raster in Pro to a colored gradient with a scheme I liked, and then layered the two. I also exported a layer of grey ocean areas which I rendered without displacement, and then in Photoshop I combined everything with masking. After that, the map was done with some minimal labeling and creating a legend.

Daniel Rotsztain to Geohipster: “The pandemic made us all urban geographers”

Daniel Rotsztain is the Urban Geographer, an artist, writer and cartographer whose work examines our relationship to the places we inhabit. The author and illustrator of All the Libraries Toronto and A Colourful History Toronto, Daniel’s work has also been featured in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and a regular column on CBC Radio’s Here and Now. As a frequent patron of libraries, malls, and strip malls throughout the Greater Toronto Area, Daniel’s projects seek to understand and support the diverse settings of the city’s public life through walking tours, residencies, and landscape interventions. He is a project manager at ERA Architects and is the co-lead of plazaPOPS, a community-lead approach to transforming strip mall parking lots into comfortable, safe, and accessible gathering places in Toronto’s inner suburbs.

Daniel was interviewed for Geohipster by Natasha Pirani

Q. Hi Daniel, please tell us about yourself as The Urban Geographer, an artist, writer, and cartographer, and, I daresay…geohipster?

Thank you for welcoming me into the geohipster fold. I come by my designation as a geographer naturally – my sense of space and place is so deeply embedded it’s instinctual. Wherever I am, I am creating an internal map and maintaining orientation. And it has been a lifelong sixth sense. I recall being 4 or 5 years old, in the back seat of my parents’ mini-van on some roadtrip through the midwest. My parents were hopelessly lost, but I knew exactly where we were and kept trying to chime in to offer directions. But they wouldn’t listen to me, even though I was right, understandably because I was 5!

Q. I appreciated hearing you mention in a talk that your “expertise depends on admitting when you don’t know something”. What do you mean by that?

I’m tired of the cult of the expert. No one knows everything – it’s just not possible – and admitting you don’t welcomes others to contribute their perspectives and insights, toward a greater understanding and truth. It also is more productive to admit you don’t know something than to pretend you do. I liken it to welcoming failure. Failing – and not knowing – is taboo, for some reason, but it shouldn’t be. You learn from failing as you learn from asking questions when you don’t know something. My expertise depends more on my curiosity than if I pretend to know everything.

Q. You’ve expressed that art is a way to communicate the world emotionally to scale, and that maps can be windows into emotional geographies. How does this perspective guide your mapmaking and use of art and cartography for city-building and civic engagement campaigns?

The way we experience the world is hardly objective, and you can use logic and argument to manipulate facts to prove any point. Through my art, mapmaking, and campaigns, I often intentionally and explicitly exaggerate, emphasize, and distort to make a point, because that’s the power of art. I often say, “I’m an artist, not a scientist”, because art gives you greater latitude to go outside of “objectivity” to explore things in a way we actually experience them. I often think of Michel Gondry’s film “Is the Man Who is Tall Happy”, where he describes seeing the full moon versus taking a photo of it. The full moon is never as big in your photo as it seems when you look at it hovering huge in the night sky. When we look at the moon, it is meaningful to us, and we exaggerate its objective scale. The same goes for maps. “All maps lie” as the saying goes, since the cartographer has to select and simplify in order to make a map effective and communicable. A 1:1 scale map would make no sense, it would be an abstraction, and so distortion becomes necessary for communication. I apply the same logic to my city-building and civic engagement campaigns.

Q. I recently came across this quote in a MapLab interview: “both maps and novels are partial, in that they rely on readers to fill in details. You can’t have a map that describes everything or a novel that is the same as consciousness, so how do you productively draw or articulate something that allows that filling in to happen?”
For you, as a writer, what are your thoughts on parallels between your writing and cartography?

I love this quote and these ideas! In terms of my cartography, I often make maps knowing that the first thing everyone does when they look at a map is try and place themselves in it – the unspoken “you are here” that all maps contain. I apply a similar approach to writing, as most of my writing takes a spatial lens. The power of geography is that it’s something we all experience. Despite the lack of objectivity and all multitude of viewpoints we have, we have a shared geography: landmarks, streets, iconic buildings, beloved parks. A shared geography becomes that unspoken “you are here”, an affirmation of being alive. I think I mostly write for people who already know a place, so that my geographic writing is a foundation for readers to fill in their pre-existing associations with those places. However, I’d like to think that my writing is also accessible to people who aren’t familiar with the places I write about, the same kind of satisfaction that comes from poring over a map of a place you’ve never been.

Q. And do maps influence our relationships with places by allowing “that filling in to happen”, or contrariwise (just learned that word, had to use it)?

They certainly do, and maybe too much. Smart phones and google maps have radically changed our relationship to space. There are so many ways to know a place – relationally, narratively, through personal landmarks and things that change seasonally, for example – but the dominance of google maps has elevated one kind of spatial literacy — the ability to get from point A to B as efficiently as possible – above all the others. And with that comes a kind of distortion, and a dismissal of more subjective forms of orienting ourselves. Looking at Toronto’s ravine system on a google map diminishes their power and the awe that they evoke; the region’s rivers become pithy blue lines that are barely visible. But standing in a Toronto ravine, by one of its rivers is a profound experience. With my maps and writing, I want to encourage other forms of understanding space, in ways that are “emotionally to scale” rather than objective.

Q. Early in the pandemic, your social distancing machine was a hilarious and pointed, yet round, way to demonstrate inadequacies in Toronto’s infrastructure to prevent the spread of the virus despite public health guidelines. That video also went viral, so I’m wondering: how do you define the success of a project? Do you seek to resonate broadly/deeply with urban peers and strangers, and/or endeavor to be heard by decision-makers and authorities?

At the outset of a project or campaign, I like to define was success means, and often do so pragmatically in terms of what audience I want to reach. (I often think that the key to happiness is setting attainable goals). By setting a pragmatic goal, it helps direct a campaign’s message, tone, which sharpens the focus of the campaign while allowing for the project to reach bigger audiences, including policy and decision makers. With the Social Distance Machine, which was created as a campaign with the Toronto Public Space Committee, my collaborator Bobby Gadda and I decided that if our video was posted on 6ixBuzz, a popular if not problematic social media platform, that would mean success. Selecting 6ixBuzz as our audience sharpened the tone and messaging of our approach. And it worked! But since we were so focused, the campaign had a cohesive tone and reached the ears of Toronto mayor John Tory, several city councillors, and many bureaucrats. I’d like to think that the campaign was part of the City’s endorsement of ActiveTO and slow streets.

Q. Despite the city’s obvious shortcomings, has the pandemic given you even more to appreciate about where you live? You appear to be a constantly curious observer with your Atlas Obscura-esque hyper-local, niche geographic knowledge of your surroundings and in-depth urban undertakings like All the Libraries.

I loved how the pandemic made us all urban geographers. During the depths of the first few lock-downs, my social media was full of people making the most of their restrictions on travel by getting to know their own immediate neighborhoods more deeply. And of course I did the same, going on a series of walks, and posting them as Instagram stories, where I would share info about the city and invite my followers to contribute. The pandemic confirmed my commitment to Toronto and to urban life. While the early pandemic motto “we’re all in this together” turned out to be hollow pretty fast, the level of engagement I witnessed and participated in, especially through the Encampment Support Network and Toronto Tiny Shelters, affirmed my belief in urbanity as a force of good, despite the official culture constantly undermining community efforts in favour of private property owners. The legacies of organizing from the pandemic will continue to shape Toronto for a long time. 

Q. What do you make of the fact that googling “idealistic urban geographer” leads only to your blog?!

Wow, that’s so sweet! I often call myself “naïve and optimistic”, which is a necessary counterbalance to my innate cynicism and pragmatism. Despite it all, I still believe in a brighter future.

Q. I am very intrigued by your geomancy practice! How do you give a reading, and if you told your own fortune, what would it be?

Geomancy is an ancient practice, a very old form of fortune telling. When I first heard of the term, I took a deep dive into its history, but it was totally confounding, and I couldn’t make any sense of how it was done! And so, I created my own approach. The fundamental concept is that our subconscious is affected by the geographies we inhabit, and so taking a macro view to analyze the geographic features forming the settings of our lives would give us insight into the thoughts and feelings that inform our daily decision making. So, for example, let’s say you take a subway to work everyday, but there’s a bus that follows the same route, but a bit slower. If, during a Geomancy session, you expressed a feeling of being stuck, I would suggest taking the bus, as it would lead to feelings of openness and expansive possibility, given its overground route. Other examples include the effects of living by the water, on hilltops, crossing train tracks, going into valleys – these all affect us, and Geomancy is an invitation to untangle that. Another name I have for it is “route therapy”.

My own fortune? I live on the edge of two watersheds. Despite most of my activities being in the Don watershed, which I describe as electric, productive, and urbane, I live in the Humber watershed, which is slower, stiller, more bucolic. My fortune is: be aware of this division in my life. My home is in the calmer watershed. Embrace that as a refuge. And when I’m ready to dive into the Don watershed, know that I can always come back to the Humber.

Q. Is there a there there?

Of course!

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: Kate Berg, May

Kate Berg's Happiest States Map

Q: Tell us about yourself:

A: I am GIS lead at the State of Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). I’ve been in the field for almost 10 years since my first GIS class at UCLA in 2012. Since then, I’ve taught GIS at the university level and worked in the non-profit, private, and public realms. I currently act as outreach chair for URISA’s Vanguard Cabinet of Young Professionals. You can find me on Twitter (@pokateo_) hosting the weekly #GISchat conversation as well as creating and sharing original map-related memes (#mappymeme) as ways to unite and uplift the geospatial community.

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 for the 2020 #30DayMapChallenge for Day 4: Hexagons, and then modified it slightly to work better for this calendar. I had found this dataset prior to the Challenge and was looking for an excuse to make something with it. The data tries to identify the happiest states in America based on several indicators, including emotions, “physical-ness”, work, and community. 

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

A: I used ArcGIS Pro to create this map. The data comes from the Happiest States in America by WalletHub and I also used the US Hex Cartogram by John Nelson (download here). There was so much information in the happiness dataset (an overall rank as well as emotional and physical well-being rank, work environment rank, and community and environment rank) that I had to get creative on how to show it. It couldn’t be as simple as one hexagon per state…it needed four overlapping hexagons. I ended up playing with offsets to get the desired effect and I’m pretty happy with it – though apparently I live in a pretty averagely happy state (Michigan).

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.

Raluca Nicola: “The community profits from everyone’s knowledge.”

Raluca Nicola

Raluca Nicola works at Esri as a Product Engineer for ArcGIS API for JavaScript. She enjoys creating maps and data visualizations using the latest web technologies. Most of these maps are in 3D and all of them live on the web. 

Raluca was interviewed for GeoHipster by Ana Leticia Ma.

Q: Can you tell me about your journey as a web cartographer? 

A: My journey started with me being clueless about what I want to study and generally what I want to do in life. I started studying math in college because that’s what I liked most during high-school. In my second year I realized it was too abstract for me, so I quit math and started studying geography. I found it interesting to learn how the world around us works. I soon discovered GIS and enjoyed analyzing and visualizing data to explain real world phenomena. Then I got more and more drawn towards the visualization part, and in my Master’s studies I focused on cartography. During those studies, I had a web cartography course and I was hooked. I like coding and the web is a great environment: I can create beautiful, interactive visualizations and it’s so easy to share them with others. 

Q: What do you like most about being a cartographer?

A: I love the data exploration part. It feels a bit like detective work to process and visualize a dataset in various ways and extract important information from it. And then the part that I enjoy the most is figuring out how to convey that information to others in a good way. In recent years I discovered that the magic in visualization comes when you combine concepts and ideas from different fields in novel ways…and I love to apply that to cartography. 3D cartography for example, makes use of 2D cartography and classical data visualization concepts, but it’s also heavily influenced by architecture, games and art. And like everything else nowadays, it’s also heavily influenced by technology. 

Q: Where do you get your inspiration to make maps? 

A: I try to take it from everywhere: maps and visualizations I stumble upon (mostly online), movies, commercials, articles I read, ideas I discuss with colleagues and friends. I think inspiration can come from the most unexpected places! 🙂 

Q: How’s your experience working with 2D and 3D maps? Do you have a preference for one over another?

A: My motto is: choose the technique that helps you send your message across in the best way. From experience, I would say that there are fields where one could be better than the other. For example, 3D is great when you visualize data related to cities or urban planning, and 2D can be better for complex multivariate data visualizations. But even in those cases, I’d first analyze the goal of the project and the audience, and then I’d choose the mapping technique. 

Q: How do you keep up with the latest trends in mapping? 

A: I think social media like Twitter or Linkedin are great platforms to see what people who are passionate about GIS and cartography are up to. Whenever I can, I also try to attend conferences that are specific to cartography like NACIS, Eurocarto or the International Cartographic Conference. 

Q: You live in a country with the most beautiful landscape. What outdoor activities do you like to do in Switzerland? 

A: Switzerland is amazing if you like mountains! I try to go hiking every weekend, and I often bike around Zurich, exploring the surroundings. I also enjoy skiing in winter, even though I’m not the greatest skier. 

Q: What was it like to work in the Swiss Alps and make maps for the Swiss National Park?

A: Such a great experience! It was a one year internship after university and I learned a lot there. I was really lucky to have a great supervisor who gave me some awesome and challenging tasks to work on. The village where I lived was very small; about 1000 inhabitants. And that was very strange for me, because I had only lived in big cities until then. I lived in a shared flat with other interns at the park. We had a really nice time, we cooked together, went hiking a lot, and watched movies. I also participated in my first karaoke there…turns out I can’t really sing, hehe!

Q: Aside from making maps, do you have any nerdy hobbies that you want to tell us about?

A: Not really a hobby, but for sure nerdy: I have an obsession with computer keyboards. At some point I built my own keyboard, but it was probably the worst one in my collection and the one I paid the most for…my fingers didn’t really get along with the layout of the keys. 

Q: One of your maps was featured on our Geohipster calendar in 2020, so you’re ahead of the GeoHipster game. What advice do you give to our users?

A: One piece of advice I try to offer is to share with others what you do and learn 🙂 The community can profit so much from everyone’s knowledge. Even if you think that it’s something simple, I’m sure someone out there could use it at some point, so share it!

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.

Maps and mappers of the 2021 calendar: Zoey Armstrong, back cover

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: My name is Zoey Armstrong and I’m a graduate student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I’m currently working on my Master’s of Geography and my thesis is examining the effectiveness of species distribution modeling using citizen science and herbarium data. Besides researching, I enjoy going out on hikes and improving my field botany skills, making maps, and playing 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: I was initially inspired to make the map because one of my professors who I TA for, and who also knew I’ve made similar type maps in the past, wanted me to create a demonstration on my map-making process as a teaching tool for the students. With that initial push, I started considering some ideas. Pretty early on I decided I wanted to use an antique map as the base map. I had seen similar things done with old USGS survey maps and I thought it was really cool being able to bring an old map to life with new data and technology. So after a bit of searching around online, I found a map of the Azores from 1899 by M. J. Thoulet and was immediately in love with it; I could tell the contour lines in the original map would look really good in 3D and I also liked that I could give the final product a more abstract feel. 

One challenge I didn’t anticipate was getting a hold of a high-resolution copy of the map. I could only seem to find low and medium-resolution images until I found that it was hosted in Harvard’s records collection. I decided to send out an email to the records division to see if I could get a high-resolution download… and it worked! I thought it was pretty cool that I had to interact with Harvard for the project. One thing I learned through this project is that hand tracing bathymetry lines takes a lot of time. I have a new appreciation for everyone who helped digitize old geographic records.

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

A: To create everything, I first found the old map of the Azores, then downloaded a combined topography and bathymetry dataset from GEBCO. I used QGIS to clean up and export the raster as a PNG where I could add it to an Autodesk Sketchbook Pro project. Sketchbook is a free barebones version of photoshop and that’s where I chose a color scheme and hand traced the bathymetry files. From Sketchbook, I exported two images: one in color that represented the final look of everything, and one in black and white to be used as a displacement input in Blender. This displacement input transforms a flat plane into a surface with all the peaks and valleys seen in the final map. Then a light source is added to the scene, giving the final render its accurate highlights and shadows. Overall, I enjoyed making the map, but definitely got a little carried away with it for a bit.

Poll: “Special Days” in 2021 GeoHipster calendar

As this article is being published, our team of judges are looking at the amazing submissions we received for our 2021 calendar. We say this every year, but we think this will be the best one yet!

So while you’re waiting to get a peek at the maps that are chosen, we thought we’d give you another way to build up the anticipation – a crowdsourcing project! So tell us: which “Special days” deserve to be marked in the 2021 GeoHipster calendar? PostGIS Day, obviously, and maybe a few other official holidays. But what else? Help us decide by voting in this fun poll. Suggestions welcome — comment or email to atanas.entchev [at] gmail [dot] com.