Tag Archive: Google Earth

Jocassee Falls – A Preview


Houston at Whitewater Falls

My brother, Houston, recently informed me that he starts feeling anxious when I don’t update this blog often enough. I’m afraid I’ve given him ample reason to be irritated over the last week or so. I just haven’t had much about which to write. The usual excuses apply – work has been nightmarish, Laura’s sister and mother have been visiting, and a massive heat wave have combined to keep me away from any explorations this week. OK, so maybe those aren’t so usual.

Regardless, I’ve still got several projects in the works. So, to allay Houston’s anxiety I’ll provide a sneak preview… (more…)

If you build a dam here…


Lake Union 1

While kayaking on Parr Shoals Reservoir last Saturday, Alan and I started discussing lakes in general. Specifically we were talking about the placement of dams and the hydrology of water backing up to fill in the space. We laughed at one of the last scenes of “O Brother, Where Art Thou“, where the lake comes flooding in as a torrent, rather than rising gently as it should. As far as movies go, “Deliverance” was a more realistic view of how lakes are created.

As the conversation proceeded, I reminisced about the time I participated in the SC-MAPS project when I was a teacher. This was a three-day workshop where we learned how to use topographic maps and satellite imagery in the classroom. This was long before the days of Google Earth, so the ability to look at overhead images of where you live was still a novelty.

One of the activities they had us do was to draw a line across a river connecting contour lines at the same height. This line would represent a dam. Then we were to trace the contour line at that level all the way around, outlining the area that would be inundated by the new lake. It was a tedious process, but the results were fascinating. The lakes always turned out much larger than we expected.

As Alan and I talked, we wondered if there was some automated way to do this using Google Earth, so when I got home I started searching for a method. The automated systems I found were complex, requiring advanced knowledge of ArcGIS, hydrology, and GIS techniques in general. Even so, I think I’ve found a simple way in Google Earth. Here’s how… (more…)

Local Paddling Venues


Lily Fields

After a spring full of multiple paddling trips, some on consecutive Saturdays, we finally had a weekend to ourselves with no paddling trips planned. Well, actually, I could have gone with my Lowcountry Unfiltered friends to Little Tybee Island on Saturday, but Laura and I really needed a weekend to ourselves at home. Even so, paddling still entered the picture.

I got a call from a friend saying that she wanted to take her boats out for the afternoon, and was looking for some good local venues. She had paddled Lakes Saluda, Robinson, and Cunningham, and was looking for something else. As I described some locations for her, it occurred to me that I don’t have a good collection of local venues. That started another quest.

When Laura and I got our kayaks nearly 15 years ago we would often take off up to Lake Cunningham above Greer. We could be there and on the water within 30 minutes, so it was a great quick escape. However, there are others about as close.

So, describing a few places to my friend on the phone, I set out to to make a list of local paddling venues. My locations had to have the following criteria:

  • Close – within an hour or so from Greenville
  • Easy access – a boat ramp or some other easy way to get to the water, no steep throw-ins.
  • Out-and-back – in other words, flat water.  Simple is better, and a shuttle requires more than one vehicle.
  • Suitable for solo paddling – This also eliminates shuttles.  Although solo paddling isn’t really a safe thing, I was still looking for simplicity.

I created a Google Map showing the locations of various access points.  I came up with quite a few, some I had paddled, and some that I haven’t had a chance to explore.  I haven’t listed all of the boat ramps on Lakes Hartwell and Keowee, but there were a couple that bore acknowledgment.  These venues included the following:

  • Saluda River
  • Lake Lyman
  • Lake Cooley
  • Lake Jocassee
  • Lake Oolenoy
  • Lake Adger
  • Parr Shoals
  • Monticello Reservoir
  • Lake Croft
  • Lake Julian
  • Lake Greenwood
  • Tugaloo River

…and several others.

The map is editable by the public.  I’m taking suggestions for other locations I might have missed.  Consider this a work in progress.

View Local Paddling Venues in a larger map

Also see Paddling South Carolina’s Rivers.

Google Earth and Google Plus


I hadn’t realized how far behind the times I’ve been with Google Earth until I ready on Frank Taylor’s blog that there is an update out for a version beyond the one I’m using. That means I’m two versions behind.

Version 6.2 makes some changes to the overall appearance of the map, with a “pretty Earth” effect. At wider zoom ranges, the surface of the map appears uniform, unlike older versions that showed rectangular swaths that mirrored imagery acquisition and satellite routes. As you zoom into the surface, more details emerge.

While this is all looks nice, the more functional improvement is the addition of enhanced sharing features in Google Earth. You can log directly into your Google Plus account, which opens lots of options for sharing GE data.  In the top right part of the screen you can now find a Share Button and a button to log into your G+ account.

GE Google Plus

From the drop-down menu you have five options:

  1. Share a screenshot in Google Plus
  2. E-mail an image
  3. E-mail the current view
  4. E-mail a placemark (one must be active to use this function)
  5. Share with the Google Earth Community

You can still save screenshots as JPG files.  That’s what I had been doing, uploading the images to Flickr when I wanted to share on this blog.  Now I’ll just pop them into G+ and link from there.

GE Google Plus

Google has acquired the online image editor Picnic. That product is being phased out, but the service itself is being incorporated into other Google products. If you open your Google Earth screenshot (or any other image, for that matter) in the Lightbox view, you will see a link to the “Creative Kit”, which is what Picnic has become.

GE Google Plus

Unfortunately, not all of Picnic has been ported over to the Creative Kit. I couldn’t find any of the shapes, arrows, and lines that made image mark-up a breeze in Picnic, so I had to draw lines manually (and rather squiggly, I might add.)

GE Google Plus

Still, it’s a nice, quick way to share Google Earth data, and I’m looking forward to doing more with it.

Matching Reality to Google Earth


In Flight Photos-2

No matter how many times I’ve flown, the concept of this massive machine lifting into the air still strikes me as weird. I’m still fascinated. And unlike those jaded fliers who prefer the aisle seats, I still like to look out the windows at both the ground below and at unique cloud formations.

This summer I took a couple of trips across country, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to look out windows. On the past several trips it’s struck me how similar the view is to Google Earth, and I began to wonder if I could match up locations with the same spots in Google Earth.

So, I grabbed my camera and started snapping out the window, trying to see if this could be done. Turns out it’s much, much harder than you might think. (more…)

Quick Update


I really hate these kinds of “weekend update” types of posts, and only do them as a last resort.  I feel that little blurbs about my day-to-day activities are best left to Twitter, Facebook and the like, where I would deeper explorations here.

Regardless, the last week of July is always a nightmare, and I haven’t had much of a chance to catch my breath, much less write a long blog post.  Here, then are a few things that have happened recently, for those that might be remotely interested… (more…)

Where were you born?


Dear Twitterites, Facebook Friends, Google Plussers, and RandomConnections Readers:

I need your help with a project.  This summer I’m doing several workshops for SCETV on Google products, including Google Earth and Google Docs. I’m hoping to include some information on Google Fusion Tables as part of the workshop, and in order to do that I need to collect some data.

I’m trying to show how a simple data set can be displayed on a map. If you have a minute, please complete the form below, filling in your city and state of birth, plus the city and state where you currently reside. I promise I’m not trying to steal anyone’s secret password phrase, and that the data will be kept anonymous and secure.

Here’s the form…

Thanks in advance for your help, and I’ll post the results in a later posting.

More on Elevation Profiles


A couple of posts back I wrote about discovering Elevation Profiles for Paths in Google Earth. I’ve spent a little bit more time working with this, and came up with another neat activity for a classroom.

In the last post I created a path with only two endpoints – basically a straight-line cross section. I also did this across fairly large areas of land, entire states, in fact. This activity focuses in on the details a bit, and uses the directions section of Google Earth.

First, go to the Directions tab and input two locations. These can be addresses, lat-long coordinates, or any other type of locator. For this activity, I suggest keeping the distances fairly short, probably within about 50 miles. Here are some suggestions:

  • From your home to your school, workplace, or church
  • Between two cities
  • Between your house and your best friend’s house

In the example below, I used Greenville and Spartanburg.

Screen shot 2011-04-27 at 6.17.33 AM

When you hit Enter or click on the magnifying glass search icon, you get driving directions between the two cities. For some strange reason Google Earth chose Wade Hampton Boulevard instead of I-85. I guess it went with the shortest route rather than the quickest. No matter – I can still illustrate the point. (more…)

Elevation Profiles in Google Earth


File this one under “How the heck did I let this one slip past me?” I’ve just discovered Elevation Profiles for Paths in Google Earth. I have no idea when this became a part of Google Earth (years ago?) but I came across this feature as I was plotting my river routes for my Backyard to Ocean post.

For any given path in Google Earth, you can select Elevation Profile and it will display a graph showing the rise and fall of that path from sea level. This works for ANY path, regardless of length or the number of anchor points. For demonstration sake, though, I like to use a path with only two anchor points – a beginning and and end.

Let’s say, for example, that you create a straight line path across the continental United States. You have two anchor points – one on the west coast, and one on the east coast. Your path would look something like this…

US Selection

Once you have saved that path to My Places, you can right click on the path and select Show Elevation Profile from the menu. That would give you a graph like this…

United States


Old School Charm


Old Shiloh School Textured

Perhaps it’s that I’m the son of a school principal, and had run of the various schools that I attended growing up. Perhaps it was the many reunions and covered dish suppers our family attended in various country community centers. Perhaps it was even because I spent college summers working maintenance – painting and waxing all of the schools in our district. It might, in some small part, have something to do with my own long career as an educator. Whatever the reason, I’ve always had a fascination with school architecture. Just about any school can be interesting, but what catches my attention most are the old wooden framed country schools.

Driving through the country these are easy to spot. The architecture is distinctive. The buildings tend to be squarish with hipped roofs. If it’s got an old bell tower, all the better.

Wheeland SchoolFish SchoolGowensville School HDR

Well, OK, they don’t all have to be white frame. There are some cool old brick schools, too.

Recently I was doing some research on the South Carolina State Archives website. There is a marvelous collection of photographs of old schools taken between 1935-1950 for insurance purposes.

Browsing this collection got me thinking about these old schools. They are great subjects for photography, and an excellent symbol of a bygone time. I wanted to see if I could find more of these old schools, and that meant making a list of potential targets using Google Earth. (more…)

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