Ask A Cartographer

Understanding your landscape

June 22 2010 | 0 comments
Categories: Symbology

When I walk around my local area, there are certain hills that I can navigate by because they stand out and are visible from lots of different viewpoints. These hills aren't necessarily the tallest, nor the steepest. It may just be that they're isolated from other hills, or that they have a particularly unusual shape. If I want to create a map of such hills - a map that helps other people understand what stands out at them from viewpoints in the area, and helps them to orientate themselves - can you suggest any good techniques?

I've tried using hillshades together with colour gradients for height - as with advice provided on your resource centre, but of course this does more to pick out upland areas and steep slopes, rather than "hills that stand out in the landscape". I'm looking for methods to pick out hills that are likely to stand out from their surroundings and be noticed, so that the emphasis on the map corresponds to real emphasis in landscape views. I can see that some manual intervention may be required (e.g. to identify hills that only stand out because of their shape) but it would be good if having identified these hills, I could then run an automated process that accentuates them.

Mapping Center Answer:

You might try combining the output of the slope tool with the output of a hillshade.  Geologists making surficial geology maps have found this to be very useful, particularly with LiDAR data.  This technique has been presented for the past few years at the USGS's Digital Mapping Techniques conference (DMT).

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