Landscape With Airplanes

The view from 18,000 feet.

The U. S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Copyright Nearmap.)
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In 1860, well before the invention of both the airplane and the modern camera, James Wallace Black took the first aerial images of the United States, using a daguerreotype from a hot-air balloon.

Hot-air balloon and daguerreotype are still options, but wouldn’t provide the results that aerial photography company Nearmap gets today with twin-engine airplanes and sophisticated multi-lens digital cameras. Nearmap contracts with pilots who fly Cessna 310s, Piper Navajos, and other airplanes on a GPS-guided course at the camera’s 18,000-foot optimum altitude. (Other aerial photography companies typically fly lower and slower, and use smaller airplanes.) By selecting points common in adjacent shots—a particular tree or building, for example—a proprietary cloud-based software stitches together the tens of thousands of photographs captured during a single flight. We could spend hours looking at the results. —The editors

The United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

Landmarks look different from the air. As the official meeting place of the U.S. Senate (north wing) and House of Representatives (south wing), the Capitol is one of the most iconic buildings in the world (it’s on the $50 bill, if you happen to have one nearby), and its center divides Washington’s street addresses into quadrants.  To the west—just out of frame—is the National Mall with the Smithsonian museums; to the north and south are Senate and House office buildings; to the east the Supreme Court and Library of Congress.


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