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Ç'kemi from Albania

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Paul Mastin

Paul Mastin


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Hi All,

I am currently a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Albania. I am a sort of computer generalist. I have been taking them apart since I was about 5 years old, and have stopped since! I was recently graduated from the University of Virginia, with a degree in History. I worked as a web developer through college, starting a company with some friends to build a employee recruitment and management application, for which the client is currently pursuing a patent. While this was something I could have made a future out of, my wife and I decided to go out and join the Peace Corps. So, now I can add Albanian to the bottom of my resume.

Having said all of this, my interest in cartography comes out of a lifelong (I am only 25, but by my reference, a long time) love of maps. (We even have a nice "map room" in our "pallati" (apartment building or flat, literally translated, palace). As a general computer guy / web developer / database developer, I have some skill as a graphic designer (mostly doing layouts for web sites, etc.) and some skill with more technical / mathematical tasks. I think this is why web application development / databases and web design appeal to me. Its not full out PC Application development, and its also not art class. So, in the time that I have been in Albania (about 1 year) one of the projects that I have is working to create park brochures for some of the "national parks" that exist in Albania. I use this in quotes because it is mostly in name, there are often times illegal buildings / logging / just about anything you can think of, that actually go on inside the parks. One of the goals for this project is to provide a means by which awareness can be raised. People might start to see the natural beauty of these places, its potential for tourist revenue, and the need for government investment to support tourism in these parks. I hope that something as simple as a well done brochure can accomplish this.

Now that I have started to work on researching how to make these maps, I see that this is quite a complex process; nothing near simple. I have spent most of the last three months reading and learning about GIS (which appeals to the more technical side of my nature) and Cartography (which appeals to that artistic side). I really like cartography because it is not simply art. It has a mathematical base that can be enhanced through art. (That statement is simply my opinion, and I was on some other forum where someone made a similar statement, and, well, diplomatically stated, it was not well received, but then I guess that generalizations usually aren't.)

I have also been working to amass the necessary data to make such maps. I have the nicely corrected SRTM tiles done by Jonathan de Ferranti for Albania, and have interpolated the remaining voids in the data using Black Art. I have the European Environmental Agency's Corine land cover dataset. I have all of the landsat7 images for Albania, as well as a nice set of 1:50,000 russian topo maps that have been digitized. Political data has been obtained from USAID, though about 300-500 meters off. Finally, I have a Garmin GPSmap 60csx, for which I have been able to successfully generate a crude Albania basemap with elevations and basic political data. My next goal is to work on my abilities to generate nice looking hillshades. I would love to be able to make something like member Lui produced. His hillshades of Lake Bohinj in Slovenia are splendid. There is stunning natural beauty in Albania, and I have yet to find something that truely does it justice, in terms of mapping.

OK, this is getting kind of long now... need to do some more reading, hope this finds anyone reading it well.


Hans van der Maarel

Hans van der Maarel

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Hi Paul, and welcome to Cartotalk!

Lui certainly is a very skilled artist when it comes to hillshading and I won't say I can compete with him, but I've been working on some techniques myself. I can't show them here just yet, but if you're interested please email me privately and I can show you what I've been working on. Would certainly be willing to discuss using it for your projects too.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
Email: hans@redgeographics.com / Twitter: @redgeographics

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