How do I find pictures of the earth from above in flyover America?
April 23, 2016 12:09 PM   Subscribe

I have an art project that won’t go away which involves using pictures of the earth from above. I’m having some trouble figuring out how to find pictures that will work. (Google Earth isn't quite right)

A while ago I was looking out the window while in the window seat of an airplane and had an inspiration for a craft/art project. I’m having some trouble finding visuals that will help me do it. What I probably should have done (hindsight is 20/20) is grab my damned camera phone and taken some pictures while looking out the window. But I didn’t.

What I need is high enough quality pictures of earth from above that I can print out with a photo printer. It would be best if I had a lot to select from. I'm focused on America right now and ideally middle America (ie not cities).

The problem with Google Earth is that the pictures are different qualities, watermarked and patched together (different colors), it would be better if they were just one picture instead of several.

I’ve looked at pictures that come from those “Earth from Above" books and they’re just too beautiful. I want to see more conventional pictures that includ roads and rivers and mountains, the farmland, livestock, the fracking sites and the mining or logging roads. I’ve also seen a lot of cities from above - they’re not quite what I’m looking for - though maybe in the long run. I mostly want the between city spaces where you fly over. I want all of what you see when you’re flying over the US and looking down.

Is there any place where such pictures can be found? Are there satellite caches? Maybe are people who take pictures out of airplane windows? Or someone who has collected them? My google fu isn’t helping me find them if so.

I can imagine using several pictures and remixing them and messing with them - so there shouldn’t be copyright issues. But I am also open to places where I might need to ask for permission and explain what I want to do.

Help me hive mind!
posted by mulkey to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I found some interesting images by googling things like: satellite pictures midwest farms

or: drone pictures nebraska cattle.

I think it will help your search results if you stop referring to it as "flyover America" and instead concentrate on looking for pictures of specific regions or states.
posted by colfax at 12:23 PM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

have you looked at the bird's eye view of bing maps?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:26 PM on April 23, 2016

Best answer: Pond5 and Shutterstock both have lots of cheap drone shots of all sorts of things.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:44 PM on April 23, 2016

Best answer: The National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) has yearly aerial coverage over most of the continental US, with a focus on agricultural areas. It's funded by our tax dollars, so the imagery is freely available -- that page has links and instructions for downloading near the bottom. Here are other aerial imagery programs from the USDA, some free and some not.

Local counties, Farm Service bureaus, and other agencies sometimes contract for high resolution aerial imagery, but as far as I know there is no central repository for that and it would be on you to phone around until you found an example. In my experience people are usually very good about sharing that data (which again is tax-payer funded) but I am sure there are counter examples and you might hit some dead ends.

One of the great things about the NAIP imagery is that they have been doing it over many years, so you can easily set up current/past comparisons of the same location, and they are georeferenced so they drop perfectly into GIS.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:01 PM on April 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: NASA's JPL recently made all of its ASTER data freely available to the public.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 1:03 PM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: IIRC, the keyhole satellites have freely accessible imagery, though you might have to pay for higher resolution/specific dates/time of day/etc.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:10 PM on April 23, 2016

Response by poster: You guys are awesome! Thank you, I never would have found these without your help. More ideas welcome, though this looks like a LOT of fun pics to sort through.
posted by mulkey at 1:19 PM on April 23, 2016

Best answer: On this page you can draw a box on the map and it will return images taken from the International Space Station that target that area.

Note: It's a NASA web site and the interface is clunky, and you will get an astounding number of images. (I found nearly 1000 of just Kansas. Uncheck "Include cataloged with no center point" and "Include not cataloged" for better results. And on the results page, click on an icon at the top to see a thumbnail view.) On the other hand, they're all nice, high resolution. (Usually 2Kx4K or better.) The photos are of all kinds of things, often ordinary, though the quality varies. And, as a plus, this kind of NASA photography is in the public domain.
posted by Ookseer at 6:26 PM on April 23, 2016

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