The Daily Render


A Digital Scrapbook for the Past, Present, and Future


Postmodern Cartography: You Are Probably Not Here
|| 8/8/2009 || 2:56 pm || 3 Comments Rendered || ||

You Are Probably Not Here with pushpins

Just click!

You’ve probably seen a map sometime in your lifetime that proclaims YOU ARE HERE. Well what if you are looking at a random location? You could actually be there, but you are probably not. I first came up with this postmodern cartographic concept back in December of 2007 when I made the first graphic. Yesterday I decided to expand the concept by adding new graphics and making a webpage dedicated to the concept. It currently features only 8 different foreground graphics that are randomly displayed over two folders of map ‘zoom-ins’ (146 close up & 136 far away) originally used in “American Stereography #3.” I hope to add more foreground graphics over time and I would also like to update the background image folders with newer imagery because the page currently shows only maps that I made in 2006.

Total number of visual combinations: 2256 = (146 X 8) + (136 X 8)

Just click click click to cycle through the images

Related Lost Series Entries:


Google Maps: Add the Contour Interval to the Legend of your Terrain maps
|| 8/6/2009 || 3:56 pm || 5 Comments Rendered || ||

Nearly every printed topographic map I’ve ever looked at has the contour interval, otherwise known as the distance between contour lines, listed in the legend. Depending on the scale of the map, the contour interval ranges from 1 foot to hundreds of feet between each successive contour line. The contour interval allows the map reader to instantly know the relative steepness & flatness of the topography in the map at one quick glance. Because of this crucial information, a topographic map is considered incomplete when it does not disclose this information to the reader.

Enter the Terrain feature of Google Maps. Released to the public in November of 2007, the contour lines were subsequently added in April of 2008. I hadn’t really given the feature much use until last week when I was planning my weekend excursion to the Shenandoah mountains. I was trying to figure out the altitude variation on my friends property by finding where their property line started & ended and calculating the elevation change. Since their property lies on the side of a mountain, I wanted to know the altitude at the bottom of the property and the altitude of the highest portion of the property, and subtract the difference to find the total elevation variance.

What I found out instead was that Terrain function of Google Maps was lacking the contour interval declaration in the legend. As with all their maps, the lower left-hand corner showed the units of distance on the map, but was missing the topographical information provided by the contour interval declaration.

In lieu of ever getting a response from Google Maps after previous queries, I decided to send a tweet to Google Maps:

Screen grab of my tweet to Google Maps

I wasn’t really expecting a response, but a couple hours later I received this response on Twitter:


Dear Yahoo! & Navteq, it’s not the National Msm of the American Indian!
|| 7/13/2009 || 3:49 pm || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

Back in March of 2008 I discovered that Google Maps was incorrectly displaying the official title of the National Museum of the American Indian on their maps. They had truncated the word museum to MSM. A friend of mine who works at Navteq, the supplier of the data, confirmed that the length of the title was too long, so they shaved off a few characters by truncating the word museum to msm. This lexical error was eventually corrected on Google Maps….

However, last night I had someone in India do a Yahoo! search for National Msm of the American Indian and ended up visiting my page. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that Yahoo! Maps was also doing the same type of truncation with Navteq’s data. I think NavTeq should to change it’s dataset so all the museums names are spelled correctly.

Note: the links in the images in this entry go to the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden because it was the closest result for my query “National Msm of the American Indian”

[Closing Today] Photocartographies: Tattered Fragments of the Map
|| 7/3/2009 || 9:38 am || 2 Comments Rendered || ||

Photograph of “10 & 110 Quilt” and “5, 10, 60 & 101 Quilt” by Noah Beil

For the last month I’ve had two maps on display in Los Angeles at the exhibition Photocartographies: Tattered Fragments of the Map and today the exhibition closes. I wish I would have budgeted some money to attend the opening in May, but thankfully photographer and participating artist Noah Beil attended the opening and took some photos that I have republished here. Click on any of them to be see the rest of the photos from the exhibition.

A big thank you goes to curators Adam Katz and Brian Rosa for organizing the exhibition and for Noah Beil for letting me republish his photos here. The commemorative artwork and the book of essays from the exhibition are still available.

Front Range Quilt #2
|| 6/20/2009 || 10:15 pm || Comments Off on Front Range Quilt #2 || ||

: rendered at 18,000 X 12,000 :
Front Range Quilt no.2 by Nikolas R. Schiller

Using this portion of Front Range Quilt, I created this derivative map. I sampled that portion because I like the nature of how the shadows of the ridge presented themselves and I wanted to include the tarn at the base of Andrews Glacier. I opted for the Dodecagon Quilt Projection because I felt it that it would work nicely since I am not trying to capture any specific buildings or streets in the source imagery (there are none!).

View the Google Map of the Front Range in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

: detail :

View the rest of the map details:


Front Range Quilt
|| 6/19/2009 || 9:40 pm || Comments Off on Front Range Quilt || ||

: rendered at 18,000 X 12,000 :
Front Range Quilt by Nikolas R. Schiller

So I never got around to making a map of downtown Birmingham, Alabama, but I still plan on doing so. Instead I decided to seek out a somewhat new place and try out a new style. For years I have been reticent about making a map that it not composed of an urban area. I always thought that it was the buildings and the streets that gave each map its intrinsic uniqueness, but with this map, I have branched out, tried something new, and am pleasantly surprised with the results.

Years ago I posted a topographic map of Rocky Mountain National Park featuring the first mountains I ever climbed as a child. It was also the first topographic map posted this to this blog, and to continue this line of thought, I was delighted to find that the imagery was available to create the first map of its type. Instead of the aerial photography being too dull to be worthy of a map, I found it interesting that the shadows created by the ridge line added some aerial chiaroscuro. Moreover, upon closer examination, due to the spatial resolution of the source aerial photography, you can actually make out the trails crisscrossing through the forest. While they don’t appear as well as a highway or skyscraper, the trails and shadows help make create a map that I am happy to publish here.

Another striking feature of the imagery is the color tone of the tarn at the base of Andrews Glacier. This blue/green lake adds a unique color contrast to the somewhat monotone yellow hue of the rocky terrain. I do, however, wish there was a bit more color contrast between the east side of the continental divide and the west side of the continental divide that I’ve seen when I’ve stood atop these mountains. I also kinda wish, for once, that the aerial photography wasn’t taken from nadir, rather I wish it was taken at an oblique angle because we’d be able to see more elevation contrast between the various mountain peaks. However, since I have hiked these mountains, I know the continental divide shown in this aerial photography traverses north and south and the shadows are only formed from the ridges extending west from the continental divide. This makes it slightly easier to differentiate where the ridges are, but not where the peaks are. Anyways, I’ve decided to sample a portion of this imagery and will make another iteration of this map shortly.

View the Google Map of the Front Range in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Curiously, the imagery used on Google Maps shows the area during the winter time and covered in snow.

: detail of Andrews Glacier :

View the rest of the map details:


Malfunction Junction Offset
|| 6/16/2009 || 1:35 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

: rendered at 18,000 X 12,000 :
Malfunction Junction Offset by Nikolas R. Schiller

The other week I downloaded the aerial photography of downtown Birmingham, Alabama to make some maps for a friend of mine. Upon closer inspection of the geography, I found that there was a nicely formed highway interchange close to the downtown area that happened to be colloquially named “Malfunction Junction.” While other cities can also claim in having their own Malfunction Junction, this highway interchange is the first one I’ve read about.

When I started working on this map I intended to render a couple versions and recursively sample them to created a fractal map, but I wasn’t happy with the results, so I decided to go in a completely direction. This map did end up using previously sampled imagery, but it does not conform to that regular quilt projection format of a centralized kaleidoscope. Also, this map is not unlike some of my previous maps, like White House Sunrise or Minneapolis Sunset, however, I chose to name it differently based on the position of the kaleidoscope’s focal point, which is offset in the upper left hand corner. I spent a lot of time adjusting this location and as you can see in the last detail below, I was a few pixels off. Up next I’m probably going to work on the downtown area of Birmingham, but I’m really itching to start mapping Europe.

View the Google Map of Malfunction Junction in Birmingham, Alabama

: detail :

View the rest of the map details:


My maps on display at Artomatic 2009
|| 5/29/2009 || 3:10 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Click on the maps to view their respective blog entries

A New & Arabesque Map of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

This antique map mashup is over 400 years in the making. It features the Library of Congress‘ copy of Willem Janszoon Blaeu’s Nova totius terrarum orbis geographica ac hydrographica tabula, which was published in Amsterdam in 1606. I removed the original Mercator-inspired map from the center and kept the highly decorative border similar to my other antique map mashups. The border contains allegorical drawings of the seven known planets, the four elements, the four seasons, and the seven wonders of the ancient world (copied from Dutch painter Maarten van Heemskerck [1498-1574]). This border was used on hundreds of subsequent maps for the next 50+ years by Blaeu and his son on a variety of maps. Interestingly, Washington, DC has a few modern replicas of the seven ancient wonders, but I’ll let you figure out which ones they are! (Anyone want to guess which two I can see from my rooftop?!?) The name of the map is a play on words based on the 18th century naming convention “A New and Accurate Map..” The central portion of the map features modified aerial photography (an arabesque) from the USGS (taken in the spring of 2005) of the circularly-shaped Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Israel / Palestine 1993

This map is derived from a scanned map of Israel & Palestine from the “Atlas of the Middle East,” which was published in January 1993 by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and obtained from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin. At the time of it’s creation I was working at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab studies and my coworker’s vacation to Lebanon had to be cancelled due to an Israeli military incursion. I chose the map because of the way the occupied Palestinian territories were shaded on the map. The CIA chose to use rather ugly black diagonal lines to say “status still undetermined” and when I modified the map something interesting happened. The stripes became the points on a hexagram or Star of David, a recognized symbol of the Jewish state of Israel. To further express my feelings toward the continued occupation & military incursion, I added the iconic image of Palestinian defiance, a cartoon character by Naji Al-Ali named Handala to the lower corner of the map. Until his assassination in 1987, Ali used this character throughout his body of work as means to convey his displeasure toward the way the issue has been handled. The aim of this map is spark dialog so that peace may prevail.

Superdome Quilt – 1st Derivative #2

The day after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sent airplanes equipped with cameras to the gulf region to assess the damage. A few days later they released these high-resolution aerial photographs of New Orleans to the public and I downloaded the two tracts that contained the flooded area around the severely damaged Superdome. Shortly thereafter I made a couple maps based on this imagery and then tried out my new procedure of recursive sampling (a quasi-fractal) to make a highly detailed tessellation of the area. As you can see in the map, the blue hues are due to flooding of the streets and the little yellow blips around the map are what is left of the roof of the Superdome. A genuine question can be asked, if I were to obtain the imagery of the Superdome today, what would it look like? This map captured a moment in time that affected the lives of millions and I can only wonder what will happen when the next category 5 hurricane hits the next urban area. Sadly, the question is not if, but when….

I am located on the 8th floor of Artomatic 2009. Hope to see you!

|| Upcoming Exhibition || Photocartographies: Tattered Fragments of the Map
|| 4/14/2009 || 6:14 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Photocartographies: Tattered Fragments of the Map is a curatorial project materializing in multiple forms: an exhibition, a publication and a series of public programs.

Photography and cartography are entwined in similar processes of subject orientation that structure our experience of social, environmental and virtual landscapes. A map is not a representation so much as a system of propositions. This project reveals mapping itself as a generative process of knowledge creation, a liberatory method for re-imagining and re-imaging our world, its built and natural environments, and the relationship between space and place.

Maps are tied to a history of authority, scientific rationality and practical application, masking the underlying subjectivity and biases of their creation. Satellite-based navigation, the disciplines of geography and, more recently, urban planning, have popularized and proliferated map imagery while helping to cement an aura of unassailable cartographic objectivity. Maps have become ubiquitous tools in our daily lives, and are understandably identified in accordance with a few simple assumptions: they are graphic representations of spatial relations and their creators are technicians bound to graphic systems that reflect a physical reality. However, the true nature of maps is one of distortion, beginning with their projections of three-dimensional surfaces onto two-dimensional frames, and compounded by territorialization, a habit of identifying, naming and claiming. Maps are image-objects in which different conceptions and configurations of time and space are created, not just charted.

In 1858 Gaspard Felix Tournachon executed the first aerial photographs from a hot air balloon tethered above the Paris skyline. In turn, Baron Haussmann employed this omniscient view to redesign the city, combating its perceived disorder. Over the last 150 years, people have used zeppelins, airplanes, and satellites to photographically capture and archive every piece of our globe with increasing accuracy and frequency.

More recently, public access to maps, as well as the access to their means of production, have been greatly enabled by digital technologies—most notably tools such as Google Earth and freely accessible archives like those offered by the USGS. Borges’ story of mapping the entire Kingdom with exactitude may seem improbably complete. And yet, maps can never escape being part of the world their creators try to represent. Like the photographic image, “The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious” by coding power, politics, and aesthetics. All maps are still projections, and all territories are maps.

Mapping and photography are conceptual frameworks, rather than methods, that inform this project. The exhibition features artwork from Anthony Auerbach, Katherine Bash, Charles Benton, Noah Beil, Mike Hernandez, David Horvitz, David Maisel, Adam Ryder, Oraib Toukan, Angie Waller, and Nikolas Schiller.

Exhibition Opening – May 16, 7:00-10:00
Exhibition @ Gallery 727
727 South Spring Street, downtown Los Angeles

If you are in the Los Angeles area please check out the exhibition! It will be up until July 3rd, 2009.

Click here to view photos from the gallery opening

The Daily Render Newsletter
|| 3/11/2009 || 4:15 pm || Comments Off on The Daily Render Newsletter || ||


Its been quite a few months since I sent an e-mail to this list of 2596 awesome people.
Sorry for the delay. Expect another e-mail in about a month!

This e-mail is about:

1) One year anniversary of being listed in search engines
2) Deaccessioning my maps / on-line store refurbishment
3) Books & touring exhibition updates
4) The Colonial Status
5) LOTS of Website Updates

Curious? Good. Scroll slowly….

Continue Reading:


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Nikolas Schiller is a second-class American citizen living in America's last colony, Washington, DC. This blog is my on-line repository of what I have created or found on-line since May of 2004. If you have any questions or comments, please contact:

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