Natural Scene Designer

Working with Natural Scene Designer, I have produced a number of images of the city of Boston, or at least the land underneath it. I have to admit, choosing a subject for this project was more than a little difficult for me: I have not done very much small-scale work of the kind that lends itself to maps of this nature, and that which I have done comes in 3 types, flat, flatter, and pancake. I picked Boston more due to side interest from a game I occasionally play.

My first image is taken looking north at the city center from above the hills to the south of Boston. It is simply the bare terrain with water added to the harbor:

The second image uses an overlay from the USGS site. Unfortunately, the overlay and the elevation files do not match up quite right. The map appears to be rotated slightly, which is unfortunate. The picture was taken from above the airport and shows the inner harbor, showing something of the opposite view of the first rendering.

Now we come to the interesting things. I used a composite map showing the growth of Boston and the surrounding area as land was filled in and the harbor area narrowed. I retrieved this map from Mapping Boston, map #19, though I had to re-size it properly to fit and lost some of the detail thereby. I then positioned my camera above Bunker Hill, to the northwest, and rendered the picture of Boston Harbor, including the old city. Dark green is the original landmass, and as the color lightens the age of the land decreases.

What I would really like to do is use a detailed map of property and land values in Boston and compare it to the elevation and land growth map. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a sufficiently detailed version of any such map. It is entirely possible that the map would first have to be generated using something like GIS before it could be used for the comparison.

Overall, I think Natural Scene Designer and the elevation and overlay maps that it can produce are excellent for allowing an intuitive grasp of the landscape. There are inherent difficulties depending on the availability of accurate elevation maps, the variance in elevation of the area in question, and the size of the region one is working with, but NCD and overlay maps are very good at conveying certain sorts of information. It would be even more useful if one had reliable topographical data from the time period being examined. Combined with architectural reconstruction (the next project) it might be even more useful. Of course, constructing an accurate reproduction of historical architecture can be a daunting task, or at least one better handled by a professional. Reconstructing a historical location might allow us to ask new questions about the history involved, or at least answer old questions in new ways.

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