Musings about Robert N. Colwell

I am working on a retrospective of remote sensing of forests in California for the centennial. I am trying to highlight some of the pioneering work done by remote sensors that focused on Californian forests from the 1960s through the use of lidar today.

Oblique aerial view of Berkeley Campus of University of California taken with Camouflage Detection film. Robert N. Colwell

Of course with this topic you must begin with Robert N. Colwell. Dr. Colwell was an internationally renowned remote sensing scientist; he was former associate director of the Space Sciences Laboratory at the UC Berkeley, and he was the instructor of remote sensing in our own Mulford Hall from 1947 until his retirement in 1983. He was NASA co-investigator for Apollo IX, and his research in the 1960s on reflectance and multispectral reconnaissance were the primary basis for selecting the type of sensors and the spectral bands implemented in Landsat. Neat guy, and we all benefit from his intellectual legacy.

Anyway, for this paper, I am going through some of his work as he transitioned from aerial photography to digital imaging, and I came across this picture. Mulford is just off the scene in the upper left corner, and Hearst Gym pool is visible in lower part. In his caption he says:

"Oblique aerial view of Berkeley Campus of University of California taken with Camouflage Detection film." (That is what they used to call color infrared.) "Such photography is superior to any other for certain photo interpretation purposes as indicated by some of the preceding examples. Note in this photo how color values for each species of tree tend to remain uniform from foreground to background because of the superior haze penetration offered by this film. The relatively long wavelengths to which this infrared-sensitive film reacts are scattered but very little by atmospheric haze particles, thus accounting for the uniform color values and for excellent image sharpness." I dig this part: "The original color transparencies have the same color values as seen here and consequently make very attractive panels for lamp shades, although certain of their colors fade upon prolonged exposure to light."

The trend for using map products as kitchy home decorations PRE-DATES 1970! Take that hipsters!

Article source: Colwell, R.N. 1964. Aerial photography - A valuable sensor for the scientist. American Scientist, Vol. 52, No. 1 (MARCH 1964), pp. 16-49

Some more about him here: