MapCarte 286/365: Kii – Kinki 360° panorama map by Masaki Oda, 2009


Japanese cartography is renowned for the quality and craftsmanship of their panoramas. The detail is exquisite and the scenes are so well framed with not only landscape but, often, a narrative of and contained within the vista itself. This beautiful example from the studio gTonbi-eye by Masadi Oda is in a full 360 degree perspective and depicts the landscape of the Kii peninsula near the centre of the Japanese islands.

As an area that receives large annual rainfall measures there is a lot of dense natural forest so the image is predominantly green though there are diverse landscapes revealed with plains, mountains and basins on view.


To the north is the city of Kyoto but the impressive design characteristic of this work is the combination of such a macro-level image but which also allows the reader to view the micro detail of different urban or rural regions. Creating a map that supports these tow very different scales and views is impressive. The maps are made by hand which makes their design all the richer since every stroke has been thought through and carefully applied. There’s no analytical work involved to apply equal treatments across similar data types which has the result of making each component just that bit different.


The mountainscapes are shown predominantly as aspect molehills but with a carefully applied hillshade to give added depth. The outlining of each mountain ridge in a darker colour wouldn’t be seen naturally but gives each mountain a presence and clarifies the image. At over 3 metres in length if you wrapped the map around you and stood in the centre you would genuinely see the landscape.

MapCarte286_kinki_detail3Finally, the author has added some realistic haze effects so that distant features seem subdued in comparison to the foreground. Our eyes are naturally accustomed to this in the real world and the map mimics it and makes the reader feel at ease. Even Mt Fuji makes a distant appearance in the distant haze.

Rich in detail, colour and thinking.


MapCarte 78/365: Atlantic Ocean Floor by Heinrich Berann, 1968

MapCarte76_berannIn 1967, Austrian landscape panoramist and cartographer Heinrich Berann painted the first in a series of plan oblique physiographic maps of the ocean floor which ultimately culminated in the 1977 World Ocean Floor map for Columbia University and the U.S. Navy. He worked in collaboration with pioneering oceanographers Bruce Heezen and his assistant Mary Tharp and together they revolutionized the theories of plate tectonics and continental drift. The individual maps were printed by National Geographic (this from 1968) and labels added using the familiar yet unobtrusive NatGeo typeface.

Berann skillfully combined blue-greys to create a topologicallly accurate, though hugely exaggerated, picture of the ocean floor that leads readers to want to explore.  The Mid-Atlantic Ridge and fracture zones appear so life-like with a rippling effect and intricate detail that it draws your eye in and captures your attention.  This creates a strong figural component positioned central to the map page that suggests the page (and fracture zone itself) splitting down the middle. The yellow land and deep grey-blue ocean floor provides a strong contrast between land, shoreline and oceans.


This map is also testament to the outcome of strong collaborations. Berann knew little of the sea floor topography but worked alongside domain experts whose knowledge was key to the end product. This is a lesson for all map-makers in that their designs should be based on sound data, detail and judgement. Cartographers are good at cartography. More often than not bringing in expertise gives the work authority. Of course, the counter is also true and many domain experts could use a good cartographer.

More of Berann’s work can be seen at his web site here.

MapCarte 48/365: Colorado ski country by Hal Shelton, 1965


Hal Shelton’s work for U.S. Geological Survey and Jeppeson Co. in the mid 1900s resulted in numerous innovative and highly realistic works, predominantly in terrain representation. His hand drawn and painted maps depicted relief as detailed satellite images before the technology allowed them to be digitally produced.

Much of his work was in the creation of planimetric terrain but here, Shelton took a landscape panorama approach to mapping the Rocky Mountains in Colorado as a way to showcase and advertise the location of the numerous ski resorts. The work is highly detailed and applies a natural-colour style palette to give the appearance of a birds-eye representation. The map is oriented so the viewer sees across the plain (Denver in the lower left) and across the front range that adds to the sense of drama of the mountains and what lies beyond. The brownish plains give way to green foothills and finally the white snow-covered terrain. Labels are added unobtrusively just for the ski areas.

MapCarte 31/365: Yellowstone National Park by Heinrich Berann, 1962


Heinrich Berann might be considered the father of panoramic style mapping.  As a painter, he used his artistic talent to invent a new way of painting landscapes for the purposes of tourist mapping. His map of Yellowstone National Park, part of a set of four such works for the US National Park Service, captures Berann at the height of his abilities.

His work is meticulous in its attention to detail, uses highly saturated colours and a unique curved projection that mimics what might be seen (though exaggerated) from an aeroplane.  The foreground of the map is almost planimetric which curves across away from the point of view to a horizon depicting the mountains in profile.  The map is immediately pleasing to the eye and creates a unique sense of place that, for tourism mapping, is well suited to the need to attract visitors.

Berann also developed a trademark way of rendering cloudscapes which again, represent the sky in a way that is unlikely to be seen in the natural environment.  In this sense, his panoramas are hidiously distorted in scale and representation but if the art of cartography is to capture a landscape and communicate something of its beauty then here, the distortions do their job superbly. His work has inspired many others…many of which we’ll showcase in MapCarte during the year.

More examples of Berann’s work appear on the web site showcasing his life and works here.

MapCarte 10/365: Tongariro National Park by Geographx, 2013


 Click here to view an online zoomable version.

A large format poster provides the media for this map proving that size sometimes does matter in cartography. Sure, this could be presented on the web but the impact would not be as impressive. Sometimes a map deserves space and to be seen in its entirity at once (the irony here being we’re referencing an online version!).

Geographx have become masters at creating 3D maps based on plan oblique and orthographic oblique projections that create a pleasing end product free from some of the distortions the more usual perspective view creates. The techniques create parallel projection lines and places the viewpoint at infinity. Crucially, they allow features in the landscape to remain figural and work particularly well in mountainous regions. Additionally, the photo-realistic textures and colours used give us a sense of place and the natural beauty of the landscape which is used to great effect here to highlight the snow covered slopes of Mounts Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. The addition of more traditional topographic content (vector lines, point symbols and labels) allows it to go beyond merely the artistic and also serve well as a reference map.