June 20 meeting: PHOTO RECONNAISSANCE
Mike Clayton speaks on “The Rochester
Connection to the National Reconnaissance Program.” He can address recently declassified information from the 1956-1985 program. Projects just declassified in 2011 include SAMOS, CORONA and GAMBIT. Clayton began working for Kodak in 1965 and retired in 2007 from ITT. He is presently writing a book on the program and the people involved. He believes that the engineering miracle prevented WWIII.
AUGUST 3: PICNIC AT THE HAVILANDS
Save Saturday, August 3 for a picnic at the home of Dick & Joan Haviland, who live in an old sawmill at the falls in Honeoye Falls. Bring a dish to pass and eat about 20 feet from the falls, which may be rushing or whispering, depending on the rainfall. Details follow.
Review of March Meeting
Pictometry: Smile, Earth! Subhead: Company Takes 33,000,000 Photographs in a Year
“We are the best at oblique space,” noted Stephen Schultz, Chief Technology Officer and cofounder of Pictometry International Corp. He drew a respectable crowd at the April TPHS meeting. The company, begun in 1994, now takes 33-million images each year, storing 210-million aerial images in its online library.
Pictometry’s photos are regularly shown in newspapers, showing locations at the Boston Marathon, Haiti earthquake or the devastation of Hurricanes Sandy, Ike or Katrina.
The company uses 73 aircraft and has photographed 85% of the households in the United States, recording 20-30% of the landmass. The 250-employee company recently merged with Eagle View Technologies, adding 150 additional workers.
The aerial views help first responders, insurance adjustors, and real estate tax assessors. He noted that most of the counties in Florida use its services. The back taxes owed by a single mansion well-hidden within an orange grove on the intercoastal paid for 12years’ worth of Pictometry image capture for the county’s use.
Pictometry is very careful about privacy issues and has had favorable rulings from the ACLU. The resolution of the imagery is such that you cannot recognize people or license plates. Schultz notes, “When first starting, one particular actor sent us an email saying that Screen Actors’ Guild rules state we cannot take his picture without his consent. We wrote back saying ‘Here’s when our planes are going to be overhead; stay indoors at that time.’ But otherwise, we’ve had no real issues.”
The company captures both oblique images (at an angle) and vertical images (straight down) that are then rectified to create orthophotos – these are images that have been warped to fit a mapping grid. They simultaneously capture the vertical image as well as an oblique image in all four cardinal directions. Successive shots along a flight line and look-in shots from neighboring flight lines provide complete coverage with a 360-degree view of the properties and structures within the images.
Thanks to a patented process, Pictometry is able to extract 3D information from a 2D oblique image. The images are left in their natural perspective and are viewed and measured using Pictometry’s patented software, both desktop and online versions. Every pixel in the image is georeferenced, allowing for the overlay of geospatial data such as street centerlines or property boundaries. Pictometry’s capture process also deals with the unique issues of oblique image capture such as varying path lengths, major color differences when the camera is pointed toward or away from the sun, and with the extreme “building lean” that is a natural byproduct of perspective.
Pilots who fly for Pictometry are looking for hours of flying experience to be able to get a commercial license. They fly from October to May. Pictometry’s patented capture system provides a heads-up display that gives the pilot the desired course and altitude and the pilot then flies along these paths. The system automatically fires the camera at predetermined intervals to ensure complete coverage. As an avid hockey fan, Schultz pointed out that the most efficient capture pattern is modeled after the pattern a Zamboni takes when resurfacing an ice rink.
The idea began with John Ciampa. who had run into issues creating “street view” imagery in the late ’80s and early ’90s. He filed a patent on the idea in 1992. When it was issued, he asked his Rochester Institute of Technology connections for someone who had the ability to bring his dream to reality. Several people recommended Steven Schultz. After building the prototype, Pictometry was ready to get started.
Dick Kaplan was brought in as CEO in 1999. Other key employees, such as Scott Hill and Frank Giuffrida, soon followed.
The first four counties to sign up for their services were Ontario County, New York; Arlington County, Virginia; Lee County, Florida; and Orange County, California. Most counties capture on a two-year basis. In addition, if a disaster strikes, Pictometry typically flies the post-event imagery and provides it for free to the first responders while then selling the before and after imagery to insurance companies, who are able to use the imagery to reduce fraudulent claims.
FILM & CAMERAS
The company used film cameras for its prototype captures, because in the late ’90s, “Digital cameras could not keep up with our firing rates,” said Schultz. This involved changing film and processing, using the 250-exposure film backs on a Nikon F4. “Our first digital cameras were built on medium format cameras like Contax and Hasselblad, but the cameras wore out in a month or two after 70,000 exposures,” said Schultz. Pictometry eventually built its own cameras with Kodak sensors. These had custom-designed lenses, no floating optical elements, minimal mechanical parts, a fixed focus on infinity, and the capability of being completely operated by a computer.
Would they switch to drones? He said that while they have tested their equipment in drones, he does not believe they will be widely used in populated areas, but may be used along borders or for forest lands.
However, he points out that right now, the small Cessnas they use are cheaper to purchase and cheaper to operate than drones.
We thank Steven Schultz for a most interesting April TPHS meeting.
For information see http://www.pictometry.com
In memory of Les Stroebel
–by Andrew Davidhazy:
Last year we lost a luminary in the field of photography. Teacher, author, quintessential contributor to the field of photography and photographic technology, he was truly a giant in the field. His work will live long past the passing of film photography!
I met him when I arrived at RIT in the 1960s and all through my undergraduate years to the end he was my teacher and adviser and “supporter and promoter”. I would not have had the opportunities I had during my own time at RIT unless I was looked after by him. He was an inspiration, a gentle man, a role model and a good friend.
Captain Stroebel was a veteran of World War II – a “Geodet” in the Air Force Photo Cadet program sent to map points in such diverselocations as Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Libya andKenya, with exciting stories to tell about each.
He was a teacher who influenced the technical preparation of thousands of students over 44 years at RIT. He was recipient of the 1993 Raymond Bowman award for excellence in teaching given by the Society for Imaging Science and Technology.
He also received the 2008 Ken Lassiter award for teaching excellence from the Photo Imaging Educators Association.
As one former student put it, “An icon of large format photography, he had a large format heart.”
He is the primary author and driving force behind a major teaching text in the field: Materials and Processes of Photography, a text that he co-authored with Dr. Richard Zakia, and Profs. John Compton and Ira Current. This textbook was the premier teaching textbook for students in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology and was also relied on by several other schools in the US and used as a guide by many others. The group also published an abbreviated version of this textbook under the name of Basic Photographic Materials and Processes. The book’s contents consist of photographic concepts based on scientific principles, with an emphasis on concepts with practical applications to picture making. The seventh edition of his book View Camera Technique was published in 1999 and I believe it was translated into 17 different languages. Along with colleague Richard Zakia he was the editor of the Focal Encyclopedia of Photography 1993 and 1996 editions. He also published Stroebel’s View Camera, Photographic Filters: A Programmed Instruction Handbook, the Dictionary of Contemporary Photography with Hollis Todd and Richard Zakia, and Visual Concepts for Photographers also with Hollis Todd and Richard Zakia. As you can see he collaborated closely with Hollis Todd and Richard Zakia in particular. They taught John Compton who later joined them on the school’s faculty. And they were my teachers as well!
I had the fortune of working with him on a few memorable projects. In 1982 we were asked by Dr. Ronald Francis of the Photographic Science department to join him on an instructional program to be given to Polaroid employees in Enschede, Holland, at the plant that is now the Impossible Project plant where certain Polaroid products continue to be manufactured in a small scale. Dr. Francis also asked Les and me to participate with him on a project for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, to examine/verify the photographic work prepared by the government and others related to Harvey Oswald, particularly the photographs of him holding a rifle and a newspaper in his back yard and made by his wife.
He designed several novel approaches to authentication of the camera used for the photographs and also for debunking claims that the photographs of Oswald were faked or retouched to “frame” him.
I owe much to Dr. Stroebel. He was a role model, inspiration, colleague and ultimately a good friend.He invited me to attend the monthlymeetings ofretired professorswhen I was still teaching fulltime. It was a privilege toattend these! I am lucky tohave crossed paths and been connected to such a specialindividual. Les was a kind and gentle man andhighly respected by his students and colleagues.It truly can be said of him that “Les is more”!