The journal Science and the National Science Foundation have announced the winners of the 2005 Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge. The entries spanned five categories–illustration, informational graphic, photography, interactive media, and non-interactive media. First place for photography went to James S. Aber of Emporia State University for his image titled "Autumn Color, Estonian Bog."
In the peat bogs of east-central and southwestern Estonia, autumn works a change in the color scheme: Cotton grass turns gold, hardwoods in surrounding forests turn orange and red, and pine trees remain silvery green. The bog water, in sharp contrast, stays an acidic brown. Geologist James Aber of Emporia State University in Kansas recognized the potential beauty of the landscape when he was collaborating with Estonian colleagues to study the glacial geomorphology and geotectonics of the region. But to capture it, he knew he'd need to get off the ground–or at least, his camera would.
Aber used a conventional digital camera in an unconventional setting: He attached it to a kite and operated it from the ground like a radio-controlled model airplane, an early type of remote sensing that has been around since the 19th century. Aber has used the technique for 8 years and has even taught it in courses at Emporia State on aerial photography.
Kite photography "gives us a scale and resolution that are difficult to achieve in other ways," Aber says. The kite flies between 50 and 150 meters above the ground, too low for a conventional airplane and too high for a boom or tower structure.