As having just moved to St. Louis for graduate school, I joined the Public Lab River Rat Pack class as a way to get to know St. Louis and the Mississippi better. I had heard of the Chain of Rocks and Chouteau’s Island but I had never been to either, or any of the sites we visited, before. It was through this class that I gained a greater understanding of significance of where and why St. Louis is where it is along the Mississippi and its importance in water control and transportation as everything makes its way down river to the gulf.
This class also gave us an interesting perspective on the use of aerial photography compared with Google maps. With our basic technique of a balloon and camera we were able to discover more than Google could ever reveal because of the possibility that we could return to each site multiple times and compare the changes in the river over time, especially with the flooding that happened here in St. Louis over New Years.
For the exhibition that we displayed I focused on the stream of photos and highlighting the oblique images that we got. Aerial photography with a balloon and camera is not perfect, especially on windier days when the camera was bouncing all over the place we got blurrier images, but it was the imperfections with this technique that revealed more to us. From these oblique photos we would get images of the site we were at, but with the arch in the distance or when we were at Columbia Bottom and the wind wouldn’t carry the balloon far enough out over the water but with the oblique photos we were still able to get images of the confluence of where the two waters met. But this is also the flaw with Google maps, to show us a single moment from directly above, and what made the use of the balloon and the oblique photos that much more exciting.
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