Visual Correlation Using Gigapan Imagery

In thinking about how to best apply Gigapan imagery for scientific uses I’ve come up with a couple of ideas. One of the most obvious ones is to take a series of Gigapans of something geological that changes on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly timescale. Tracking glacial advance and retreat is an obvious application of such an idea. Unfortunately I haven’t got any glaciers in my backyard and I strongly suspect that others are already beginning to work on this (e.g., Briksdal Glacier 2 – Briksdalsbreen).

What I do have in my backyard are lots of flat-lying sedimentary rocks – many deposited on the floor of the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway. And since I’m already doing a mapping project in Rooks County, Kansas it would be useful if I could find something scientific to do with my shiny new Gigapan unit (besides showing off confusing faults). One idea that has come to mind is the possibility of using the Gigapan images for what I’ll term “visual correlation”. By putting two Gigapan images side-by-side (see below) each image can be manipulated independently to zoom in on some particular feature and then compared to a possibly correlative feature in the second image. Try it yourself…

Side-by-side identical images of a small normal fault. Zoom in on a portion of the stratigraphy in the footwall in the left image and then zoom in on the same strata in the hanging wall on the right image. Adjust centering and zoom as necessary in order to visually correlate the strata from the opposite sides of the fault. More examples can be found here.


One of the challenges of doing this sort of correlation is finding an appropriate way to add a scale to the images. Up to now I’ve used a tape measure in a couple of Gigapans and the little Mainzelmännchen (Edi and Berti) as a very fun/informal scale. The tape measure is really not ideal since it’s very hard to keep it erect in a stiff (or even slight) Kansas breeze, but it’s what I had handy. I’d much rather have something with metric units, and I’ve contemplated getting a surveyors rod (or two). Another problem is that scale is not constant throughout the panoramas, particularly if you’re showing a wide angle view where things recede into the distance. This presents some real challenges for making quantitative measurements.

I’d really like to get some community feedback on this. Do you think this sort of visual correlation could be useful scientifically? What would make it more useful? Are there better ways to integrate quantitative scale information into a Gigapan? And what other ways do you think the Gigapan imagery could be usefully employed in geology?

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