2016 in Review

Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine National Park

It is more than a year since my last post – I’m clearly not cut out for blogging so this time I’m going to write an annual report of sorts and list some highlights from 2016 – projects that I worked on, places I visited, and events I attended. If I write in the first person it is because Geographx has been a one-man operation for the past 3 years.

It was a rewarding year and full of interest, even if I had to run at times to keep up.

Most of my time was spent designing and drawing maps (custom cartography), mainly maps focusing on wilderness, recreation/adventure sports and tourism in New Zealand. Signboard maps were produced for sections of the Te Araroa Trail, and Department of Conservation projects included new maps for Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park, signboards for Arthur’s Pass National Park, wall maps for the new DOC Visitor Centres at Franz Josef and Queenstown and a map table for the new DOC Visitor Centre in Christchurch. A series of maps featuring New Zealand’s gazetted Wilderness Areas was produced for Federated Mountain Clubs, and a further series illustrated acquisitions by the Nature Heritage Fund. Other projects resulted in maps for cycleways, for privately-operated walks, for NZ Fish & Game, and route maps for fixed and rotary wing scenic flight operators. In 2016 I also produced feature wall maps for iSITE visitor information centres and tourism company offices, and was commissioned to design feature maps for a number of private homes.

As with previous years Geographx contributed map graphics for publication in NZ Geographic magazine, and in 2016 the company contributed its 100th Wild Range map to NZ Wilderness magazine.

The New Zealand Wine Industry proved to be a good patron in 2016 with mapping services provided to NZ Wine Growers, the NZ School of Food and Wine, and many vineyards in different parts of the country. Maps were also contributed to Warren Moran’s book on New Zealand Wine, published by Auckland University Press.

2016 marked the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, and I followed up previous work on the Ministry of Culture & Heritage WW100 projects by drawing the maps to illustrate Ian McGibbon’s new book on New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign. The historical military theme was extended to the Maori land wars with maps too for Vincent O’Malley’s book “The Great War for New Zealand – Waikato 1800-2000”.

There was a variety of other cartographic work, including some for clients offshore. During the year I found myself working on maps of Israel, France, the Basque country in Spain, the Ivory Coast in Africa, of areas in Australia and on the east coast of China.

I found no time to produce new print maps of our own in 2016. However we did release new editions of the nine Geographx New Zealand Great Walk maps, and an updated edition of “Tramping in New Zealand” was published by Potton & Burton. The Geographx Tararua 3D print map is now out of print, and a priority in 2017 will be to produce a new replacement (a companion map of the Ruahines is also planned).

As in the previous year, I received several enquires in 2016 for digital moving maps, to be rendered as zoom-in or fly-through video. One of the more interesting projects I worked on was ‘The Journey to Lan Yuan’, a documentary produced for the Toitu Otago Settler’s Museum about the migration of early Chinese miners to New Zealand.

On the data side, the 30 billion pixel Geographx raster New Zealand Digital Basemap was extensively revised and updated in 2016 to incorporate new releases of NZTopo50 from LINZ, and the Land Cover Database (LCDB) from Landcare Research.

In 2016 Geographx continued as New Zealand distributor for Skyline Software Systems. The year saw increased interest from regional and territorial authorities in SkylineGlobe 3D earth visualisation software and further buy-in from the New Zealand Defence and Intelligence community.

In 2015 Geographx curated “Unfolding the Map”, an exhibition at the National Library on the cartography of New Zealand. The exhibition continued to run throughout 2016 (the International Year of the Map) and remains open at the date of writing. I had the privilege of escorting several groups through the exhibition hall during the year, including the Executive Leadership Group from LINZ in February, the NZ Geographic Board in April and the NZ Institute of Surveyors at their annual conference in October. In late August the New Zealand Cartographic Society leveraged the exhibition by successfully hosting Geocart ‘2016 , (the 8th National Cartographic Conference and the 4th ICA Regional Symposium on Cartography for Australasia and Oceania) at the same venue in Wellington.

There were also opportunities during the year to show the giant Earth Platinum World Atlas to a number of special interest groups. The National Library holds a copy of this atlas which Geographx had a major role in producing.

In February 2016 I attended a 3 day summit meeting in the United States on the Future of Mapping along with 40 other invitees. This event was hosted by ESRI at Redlands in California. The discussion was wide-ranging, it produced no earth-shattering conclusions but it did help clarify my own understanding of the fast-moving map industry and my own small role within it.

In April I travelled to Austria for probably my favourite forum, the biennial workshop run by the ICA Commission on Mountain Cartography. This was held in a mountain hut on the German-Austrian border at Berchtesgaden (a 20 minute trudge through the snow from the top of the nearest cable car). The forum, as expected, provided a rare and valuable opportunity to catch up with old friends and learn from some of the best mapmakers in the business.

Other forums where I had opportunity to present last year included Geocart ‘2016 in August, and as guest lecturer to VUW/AUT/Canterbury University MGIS (Masters of Geographic Information Sciences) students in September.

In October I hit the road to visit South Island clients, particularly some of those in and around Queenstown, Te Anau and on the West Coast.

And in November 2016 I travelled to Chile to advise a private company there and share some Geographx-style mapping techniques. As a pilot project we together created a new trekking map for Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, a fabulous assignment which involved on-site data collection and fieldwork, followed by several days piecing it all together in a Santiago office.

2016 was the year I first started to consciously share my own ideas about mapping, and the various tricks I have learned, borrowed or pinched. This included one-on-one mentoring which I hope to continue.

And fingers crossed that 2017 will offer an equally diverse mix of interesting projects and challenges.

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