Deep learning + cartography

Read More
Tyler's world map plus Mercator's = Deep learning re-painting styled map

A couple years ago you may have read this great post from boredpanda talking about a research paper that took deep learning algorithms and applied them to art.  This opened up the possibility of, say, taking a photo and having it re-imagined as being a painting from an old master.

It’s actually pretty easy to do this now using a site called  I’ve done quite a few experiments on the site using a variety of images from the web and found it pretty fun.

I’ve also started to download some of the deep learning toolkits (e.g. Berkely Caffee) that are available, hopefully I can do higher resolution work with these in the future.

But for you today I thought I’d take a basic QGIS map using Natural Earth dataset and have it “re-cartofied” as Mercator – and show you how I did it.

Step 1 – Make a world map with QGIS

Using the awesome data from the Natural Earth website I put together a very simple world map.

Very basic physical map of the world

Step 2 – Grab an old map

The way this deep “dream” imaging site works is that it can use a second image as, what they call, a style.  So I first just grabbed a basic Mercator map of Scotland.  Lots are available on David Rumsey’s awesome map library site!

Mercator wall map of Scotland

At first I used the full basic image without any processing, but it produced weird artifacts – lines, etc. in the resulting map.  Here are a few of my test images.  If you select them from this page you can see the input/source images.


Step 3 – Deep Learning Cartography Magic – Voila!

The final version of my map turned out good enough, though there are several more settings I could tweak. Note, those are not compression artifacts – they are mountains! Yes, in the ocean 🙂

Tyler world map plus Mercators = Deepdreamgenerator re-imagining
Tyler world map plus Mercators = re-imagining


To get this far I had to also crop the Mercator source map to remove page borders, legend, surrounding text, etc. This helped reduce the set of input style items to things like mountains, water, and of course CASTLES! 🙂 Here is the image I used for styling.

Detail of Mercator wall map of Scotland
Detail of Mercator wall map of Scotland

I hope you found this interesting, if you make something similar please share it with on Twitter/1tylermitchell.

Make Stellar/Star Data Maps In GIS

Read More

I have a latent interest in stargazing but haven’t done much about it for a long time until the past weekend when I had a bit of time and wondered if I could create a star map using QGIS. I found a couple tutorials and stackexchange questions that referenced David Nash’s HYG Database from Some of the tutorials showed equations for computing latitude and longitude from the star position values – ascension, declination specifically. However, I found that there is already an X and Y column in the latest version of the dataset which makes it easy to map, here’s how.

Download the Star Location Data

From the HYG Database page, grab the HYG version 3.0 dataset:

  • HYG 3.0: Database containing all stars in Hipparcos, Yale Bright Star, and Gliese catalogs (almost 120,000 stars, 14 MB)

The resulting 34MB CSV file contains about 20 columns and 119,615 rows.

Import CSV File into QGIS

  1. Launch QGIS (I’m using 2.10.1-Pisa)
  2. Select Layer -> Add Layer -> Add Delimited Text Layer
  3. Browse to the file location, select File Format radio button as CSV and the rest should take care of itself

Form importing the HYG Database star map CSV file into QGIS

Tweak the Map

If you use a typical WGS84 projection you’ll get a ton of points oriented in a circle.  I took a few minutes to zoom into a meaningful scale (for me it was around 1:5M), change the background colour and then use the LUM attribute to change the relative size of the stars.  I also changed the colours to be shades of white.  Here is what I was able to produce.  It’s not all that meaningful to me but I know that when I need to dig into the data further it will be available!


I’ve attached my project file here so you can get started quickly.

I’d love to hear what you would use this kind of data for and if you have any tips for making it more useful or better rendered.

Day 1 – Building a 3D Game using Geo Data (Hobby project)

Read More

We are a team of three guys (so far) with a design idea for a simple yet challenging racing/strategy game based on real-world geospatial data coupled with a 3D gaming engine. Tonight we started building it together in Unity after downloading a bunch of public geospatial datasets. Here’s a summary of what we’ve done and some basic screenshots. The goal is to make progress every couple days to show we is possible with a little work and a combination of creative, technical and group management skillsets.

First Images

Day 1 - Unity 3D real time rendering of geodata

Starting with Geography

The landscape of our 3D game is built using real world geographic information – aka geospatial data. We wanted this so that we could build games around real locales and market the game to local users. One side benefit is the players will learn a little about Canadian geography!

We’ve got a great collection of geo data for all of Canada available through the government Geogratis website. After we’ve decided what map tile numbers we needed, we grab the CDED data which is a TIFF elevation image file with geographic coordinates included.

We also found a BC provincial shaded relief map layer that was pretty nice as a starter. As both these data files are geolocated we can load the data into GIS (geographic information system) software from and combine it with any other data we have for the region. In our case we have a “populated places” point file from that we show as stars on top of the shaded relief map.

Then we export the elevation data and the relief data (including the stars) into two files for Unity to ingest. The result is one PNG that is going to be our texture and the other will be the heightmap for the terrain.


Loading into Unity

We created a terrain object with some pretty huge dimensions and height. There are mountains in the region we are working with, so it’s pretty cool to see. We apply the heightmap using a commonly used Unity script (I’ll have to put the link here when I remember where I got it!).

Then we add the shade relief map as a texture to the terrain et voila! We threw in a plane of basic water and raised it to the level where it filled the main river valleys. As our game is going to first start as a river racing game, we want to start with water from the very beginning.

We added a car, parented it to the camera and were racing down our waterways within 2 hours of starting. We spent a lot of time adjusting sizes of terrains and texture so we could try to match real-world scale. There are some further ideas we are going to try to optimise this as well as nail down a workflow for easily ingesting new geodata for other regions (as we had to manually export and adjust things in the GIS).

Reposted from our Indiedb blog, hence writing for a slightly non-geo audience:


PDF Map Hack – Remove Embedded Image

Read More

Need to remove an embedded image from a PDF file?  You can easily chop out parts of it as needed with the PDFtk command line tool and a little bit of text editing.  Here’s how… Continue reading “PDF Map Hack – Remove Embedded Image”