Mackenzie River Delta, Arctic Circle, Canada

 


Oildale, California

 


Mississippi River Flood Plain, Arkansas

 


Well Pads, Uinta Basin, Utah

 


Nevada Test Site, Mercury, Nevada

Every 16 days or so, a Landsat satellite files over my house in the country, making pictures. When pictures of my house started appearing in public, on the internet, I felt a little like a specimen under a microscope. I visited our county government website and a number of real estate sites. On those sites I saw the family vehicles parking here and there. There was our mowing in progress in one picture. There was our brush pile slated for burning and covered with a blue tarp, now easily visible from space to anyone with an internet connection.

The fact that we can now view virtually any location on the planet from the comfort of home, at no cost, is dizzying. The Blue Marble photograph (Apollo 17, 1972), showed a fully illuminated planet alone in the void of space. This environmental image has inspired many people, astronauts and scientists alike, to comment on the beauty and apparent tranquility of our planet, seen from a distance, with no political borders or obvious warring factions. Higher resolution sensors, however, and more powerful optics have informed that false perception of tranquility, as we begin to get a more accurate view of what is really going on down on the surface of our home planet. The birds-eye perspective provides a context unattainable from ground level or even a mountain top.

My initial attraction to these images was their sheer beauty and elegance. From a distance, the compositions can look like great abstract gestures in color and form. Upon closer examination they reveal fundamental truths about our environment. The compiled document of these events and their chronology emphasizes the extent and frequency of the change we are experiencing.

The large prints in the show are photo mosaics, produced from hundreds of orbits (paths and rows) of satellite images. Oildale, California, for instance, is 132 images assembled and processed into a single, very high resolution landscape. Because so many different interpretations are possible from a single, multi-band, image dataset, it is not uncommon for the same image to look quite different due to the processing objectives of the user.

Imagery source data, data sets and individual images supplied by:

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NASA Earth Observatory
U S Geological Survey
EROS Data Center
Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center
Google Earth
Digital Globe
Landsat.org, Global Observatory for Ecosystem Services, Michigan State University

Grant Johnson