Those stunning panoramic satellite images you’re seeing lately—Mt. Fuji above the clouds, the skyscrapers of Dubai, the craggy expanse of the Front Range of Colorado, San Francisco taken on Super Bowl Sunday—started with a “what if” idea of long-time DigitalGlobe Technical Fellow John McKune.
When he tasked DigitalGlobe satellites to capture the launch of WorldView-3 in August 2014, the images included not the just the rocket plume as it arced into space; they also showed San Jose, California in the background. That accidental image—of a landmark on Earth taken at an angle, more than 1,600 miles over the ocean by a satellite moving at 17,000 miles an hour—was an inspiration, the starting point. “That sparked the big idea—taking extreme off nadir images that provided a perspective quite unlike the usual overhead view,” John said. “I thought, let’s do that again, on purpose.” While DigitalGlobe satellites had always captured high off-nadir images, we had not focused on pushing the technique to its absolute limit until the launch of WV-3, which has the highest resolution in the industry.
He began to experiment with the how-to. His first subjects were mountains. The Mt. Fuji image was taken November 2014 by WorldView-3, and he went on to fine-tune both his highly manual collection and production technique with Mauna Kea in Hawaii and Mt. Kilimanjaro, and then cities like Dubai and Shanghai.
By Super Bowl Sunday 2016, John had streamlined what once took days to hours. When a colleague asked him to capture San Francisco on what was a special day, particularly to Denver Bronco fans, he delivered this amazing image.
Now, we’ve got a challenge for you. We’ve received so much positive response to these images (see the story in The Atlantic, this Mapbox blog and Daily Overview) we are sharing in a big way and seeking the collective creativity of the crowd. We’ve released the image under an open license and challenging all tech-savvy types out there to play with it, come up with ideas for how this type of imagery can be used.
Download it, explore it, share it, create something with it. And let us know what you come up with.