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Terrain Modeling

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Virtually any GIS available today comes with some sort of terrain modeling capability. Digital elevation data has also become increasingly available on the Internet free of charge. Terrainmap.com is a good place to start, with information and links on SRTM, Aster and USGS data. It also hosts a paper by the Alpine Mapping Guild entitled Free and Low Cost Datasets for International Mountain Cartography that discusses the “the relative merits, limitations and sources of errors associated” with many of the freely available sets. For those interested in Canadian elevation data, Geobase hosts a set of 1:50,000 and 1:250,000 DEMs. The 1:250,000 DEM covers the entire country but the 1:50,000 DEMs do not (and probably won’t for a long time).

For finishing touches to DEMs, it’s worthwhile to check out Tom Patterson’s comments at Retro Relief. Here are some tips on using a Wacom Tablet and on cleaning up digital elevation models in PhotoShop. Another website that features some of Tom Patterson’s ideas is Relief Shading. Here you will find more PhotoShop techniques as well as examples of relief shading, design tips, and software comparisons.

If you are looking for still more web sites on the topic of terrain modeling and relief shading, the International Cartographic Association’s Commission on Mountain Cartography hosts a web page with a variety of links on related topics. They also have a poster on the Commission with a very cool image. On a more academic note, the Commission has also posted papers from the proceedings of the past ICA-CMC sessions.

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